Purpose and Goals

i think we can largely agree that having purpose adds dimension. wether it be a general purpose in life, purpose at work [studies] or purpose in a community, just understanding that purpose adds a sense of satisfaction otherwise unattainable. indeed, we can identify with a lack of purpose contributing to a general state of anxiety. it’s when we understand that we lack purpose we seek to fill that gap. sometimes though, we replace purpose with goal.

the two words are interchangeable. having a purpose or goal can mean the same thing. indeed, most definitions would indicate that they are exactly the same thing. i think not.

it is entirely possible to have purpose, without any real specific goal. maybe it’s just the semantics of what i’m saying and using the word “purpose” immediately loses the point i just made 🙂 but if i define goals as definite outcomes, i can define purpose as a more generalized manifestation. for example: a purpose in life would be to do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. whereas a goal could be to ensure you phone your best friends living abroad at least once a month. here, purpose is more principle-based, where a goal is a result of that purpose. so, with that in mind…

when we sense a lack of purpose in our lives [and it’s uncanny just how able we are to detect that], the temptation to fill that gap with a goal, rather than a purpose is great. the problem is, even if you attain that goal, you never recognise the purpose behind it and the gap will still linger. It’s not that different with the “God gap”.

When recognising this gap in our fabric, we respond with setting up goals. on a religious front, the goals would be: attend church, join a biblestudy, be more “good”. something definitive we can measure. and temporarily, that seems to satisfy the gap. and although those might be good goals, if they never mature into purpose, the goal drops off the radar or is replaced by other goals. the direction it takes is very dependant on the perceived success from the last goal.

now because we are a very goal-orientated society [largely speaking], we tend to focus on the goals without paying too much attention to the purpose. of course, if we use the word goal and purpose interchangeably, we can bluff ourselves into believing that our goals are actually our purposes. we can believe that retirement is a goal, and hence a purpose. cars, houses, boats, labels, anything-material is a goal. and we can subtley think therefore it’s a purpose. and we all have to follow our prupose in life, right?

so even there, the distinction between purpose and goal is quite clear. just sometimes we like to confuse them [for some odd reason] but at the same time we can distinguish between the two. the tricky bit is to recognise which of your pursuits are goals, and which are purposes. which goals support a purpose and which goals are substitutes for purposes. of course, we’re entirely free to live with the consequences of any choice we make. my encouragement would be to examine purpose, understand that and live inside of that boundary. and a life with Jesus does make all that soooo much easier- but that’s just my testimony 😉