Having goals that work

Having Purpose

So, the New Year is upon us and traditionally it seems that people like to set some goals for the coming year.  However, my personal view is that setting goals is weakened by not having a clearly defined purpose in life from which to hang your goals. Businesses normally have mission statements that relate to their purpose. For example, John Lewis’s mission statement (or purpose) is: Our purpose is ‘the happiness of all our members, through their worthwhile, satisfying employment in a successful business.

I have always been inspired by their mission statement, it is people oriented and talks about ‘satisfying employment’ and being a ‘successful business’. It is the foundation for goal setting. 

Why is having a purpose or foundation for goal setting important?

If you do not have a foundation on which to base your goals you are likely to flip from goal to goal without any clearly defined meaningful outcome. That is to say that your goals may not be consistant. And may lead to win / lose outcomes. For example: If I say that my goal is to get fit this year, or to lose weight, or to be more wealthy. And then I go about trying to achieve my goals, I may succeed or fail at them. If I fail I may feel disappointed and if I succeed I may look for more goals to achieve. And there lies the problem with goal-setting without a clearly defined purpose. Without a purpose we tend to move from goal to goal, either succeeding or failing, feeling good about our successes and not so good about our failures.

Human beings are like a Business

Human beings are like a business, we need to have purpose in our lives and once we have a purpose we can set sustainable goals that help us meet our purpose. Sustainable goals, are goals the relate to your purpose. What do I mean by that? I mean that as long as your purpose stays the same, your goals will likely stay the same or change slightly depending on your outcomes in trying to achieve your goals. In other words what you do may not change but how you go about doing it will. This way of thinking makes goals much more powerful.

Goal tree

Goals trees help you define your purpose and then think about what you need to do to achieve your purpose. (see example below)

Goal tree

Most people know the acronym called SMART for goal setting.






But that should read SMARTS: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Trackable and Sustainable. Sustainable goals are ‘enduring goals’ that help you achieve your overall purpose in life.

Look at the goal tree below, it is powerful because, your goals are linked to your purpose and are therefore more meaningful.


It works something like this

  1. Define your purpose
  2. Decide what you need to do to achieve your purpose (higher level goals)
  3. Set lower level goals (tangible goals / actionable)  that help you achieve your higher level goals
  4. Set targets and measures to achieve your goals
  5. Review and adapt your strategy to meet your purpose.

If you do this your goals will be much more meaningful and you are more likely to achieve them.

Here is a sub-set of the goal tree. Note how you can trace your goals back to your purpose, and how the goals are refined to include when.

Partial goal tree


So as long as your purpose in life stays the same your goals will be similar but your are free to decide how you are going to achieve them and when.

I think this is much more motivating than general goal setting.

Happy goal setting for 2018





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