Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

A Sense Of Purpose Is A Key To Success

April 29, 2001

Goals energize us. They give us hope. Goals channel our choices and bring us the life we desire. Goals are the first step in successful accomplishment. Nothing great happens without a design and then determined effort.

"A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder - a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you." - Carlyle

Too many people lose track of their true goals and priorities. Too many retirees haven’t cultivated meaningful goals for their retirement years. Life experiences are daunting and can block the pathway to goals. Some goals are lost and need to be replaced by new ones. As we travel life’s path, we learn and grow into new goals and dreams. The old ones are no longer sufficient for the person we have become.

Having common goals are the first step in building teamwork and cooperation. Having too many goals or competing goals is self-defeating. The more uncomplicated our vision, the more likely our efforts will be successful. "If you chase two rabbits at once, both will get away."

"It is an old lesson - a worthy purpose, patient energy for its accomplishment, a resoluteness undaunted by difficulties, and then success. " - W. M. Punshon

The pathway to success is marked by constancy of purpose and dedication to long term growth. This means anticipating changes before they reach a level that requires action - to be proactive instead of reactive. Resources need to be committed to long term planning and innovation. Planning is the process of solving tomorrow's problems today.

Planning and purpose. Planning is different than problem solving. Both skills are needed to accomplish goals.

Problem solving is looking for the best or most efficient path to one correct solution. Problem solving presupposes that the problem is known and well-defined. The solution is a short term reaction to environmental problems. Problem solving is solving today's problems today. Problem solving skills involve testing, evaluating, trouble shooting, simulating and analyzing.

A planning orientation looks at what gives rise to the problem or what purposes are served by implementing the solution. Several solutions can serve one purpose. Planning is important when the problem is not well defined.

Planning is tied to human purposes and values. It is a process driven by purposes that lie behind the actual problem. Using a planning orientation helps us consider innovative alternatives and options not immediately obvious. Developing plans is a process of designing, determining and creating with clear and well-defined goals in mind.

Planning is long range, takes into account environmental constraints, and usually involves the cooperation and participation of others. A planning orientation transfers readily from work to non-work problems.

"Don't even think of managing resources without a goal." - Allan Savory

Too many people confuse tools or methods with goals. They may be good at problem solving but not planning. They don't ask why they are doing what they are doing.

Defining your goals. Here are a few exercises that will help you take a long term perspective of your life.

- Write a one page description of your epitaph. How would you like to be remembered? What are the accomplishments that are really important to you?

- Describe your life as you want it to be five years from now. Ten years from now. How can you reach this goal? By what method? What resources, skills or training do you need to get to where you want to be?

- Imagine a capstone position you want for your career or for your ideal quality of life. What is it that you envision as the endpoint for your dreams and aspirations? Develop a quality of life statement that describes purposes and values.

What will you need to know or what experiences will you need to have to enable you to be in that position? What are the obstacles that will prevent you from arriving at your destination? What is the next step? Who else could be useful to you in that quest? What are your talents and skills and how could you use them to better benefit?

- Suppose when you go to sleep tonight, a miracle happens. The problems you have are solved. You are living your ideal life. Since you have been asleep, you don't know the miracle has happened. What will be different when you wake up that will tell you the miracle happened? What will you notice? How would you be different? What else will be different?

Going through these exercises will answer the questions, "What constitutes success?" and, "How will I know when I get there?" They will put you in touch with your basic goals and values.

Our goals can address the environment in which we live - the physical, social and economic environment - to make this a better world for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and for our friends and neighbors. This connects us to our community, government and other people. We can’t do it alone.

We can design a life. Our own! Make your plans and make them happen.

"There is no road to success but through a strong clear purpose. Nothing can take its place. A purpose underlies character, culture, position, attainment of every sort." - T.T. Munger