Goal Setting

by Arielle Essex

Purpose and personal mission

Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission.

Zig Ziglar

When you’re not sure about your values and what your purpose might be, the benefits of getting clarity will be more than worth the time invested. Your motivation will increase, and any confusion about your direction will diminish. You’ll feel more inspired, centred, aligned and on track, with a distinct sense of purpose. You’ll be able to set goals and achieve them with ease. You can even create your own ‘personal mission statement’ to keep you on track.


Personal mission exercise

Here is a quick exercise that can give you surprisingly accurate insights. Select a minimum of three goals or outcomes you want to think about, large or small. The only requirement is that each one must be something you genuinely want to have or achieve.

Click here for a template to print out for the exercise, or just follow the instructions below.

For each goal, carry out the steps listed below.

1. Write the goal at the top of a page, making sure it is succinct. Then carefully consider your answers to the following questions...

2. Imagine for a moment that you have already achieved this goal. Ask yourself:

What does having this do for me?

Draw an arrow downwards from your goal and write your answer below.

3. Imagine that you have achieved the goal, and considering your answer in 2 above, ask yourself:

What does it give me?

Draw an arrow downwards from your previous answer and write your answer below.

4. Considering what you just wrote down and imagining that you have already achieved it, fully and completely, ask yourself:

What does achieving that allow me to do?

Draw an arrow downwards from the last answer and write your new answer below.

5. Then imagine you are already doing that in just the way you always wanted to, and ask yourself:

What does doing this allow me to achieve?

Draw an arrow downwards from your last answer and write your new answer below.

6. Thinking about having achieved this outcome fully and completely, ask yourself:

What does this allow me to do or experience?

Draw an arrow downwards from your last answer and write your new answer below.

7. Visualising yourself having done this outcome fully and completely, ask yourself:

What does this allow me to be?

8. After repeating these questions for a minimum of three goals, look for similarities and differences in your answers. What do these mean to you? Everything you have written down reveals what you consider most important: your values and deeper purpose.

  • How do feel about these as values?
  • Do they resonate with who you are?
  • Do they resonate with who you would like to be?

9. See if you can put these concepts into a sentence that feels as though it would be a good guiding principle in your life. This purpose statement can become your personal mission.

  • If you have a value that does not seem to fit in, why not?
  • Consider what would happen if you lived this purpose fully
  • What else would have to change in your life?
  • How would this affect others?
  • What would change in your community, workplace, country or planet if you lived this purpose?
  • Think about how you could deliver this purpose through what you are already doing.

Another way to elicit your values is the Values exercise. How do the results compare?

Resolving values conflict

If you imagined proudly announcing your goals to the world, what would that little voice inside your head have to say? Would it mumble ‘Yes, but ...?’ Are there questions about your abilities, doubts about your resources, mutterings full of limiting beliefs?

By listening to your own inner thoughts, you can catch some of the hidden ideas that lurk in your subconscious mind, waiting for an opportunity to surface and cause trouble. Rational awareness allows you the opportunity to reason, reframe or refute the ideas. Often, they are just old habits of thinking. They may even sound like someone else talking.

When there is an inner battle or disagreement going on, it affects your integrity and personal alignment. A conflict between head and heart, between conscious and unconscious minds, or between thoughts, feelings and actions, saps your energy and impedes your success.

A congruent person exudes integrity and inspires trust. When you focus on what you value, it’s easy to discriminate what is helpful from what can be discarded. When your actions are directed by your values, it’s easy to be more flexible about how the outcome is achieved. Rather than insisting that there is only one way to do things, other people’s input can be more easily incorporated. This kind of attitude generates cooperation, teamwork and inspiring leadership. People who have real power rarely set out to seek it. Their power comes from their inner integrity and dedication to achieving their purpose.

Gandhi used to prepare for important meetings by sitting by himself in a room with a table and chairs to represent all the people who would be attending the meeting. One by one, he would sit in each chair, imagining what that person’s agendas, outcomes, needs, values and objections might be. Then he would come back to his own chair and carefully design his presentation and responses for that person. By doing this thoroughly, he was able to be fully prepared with elegant proposals and answers.

If you have some inner disagreement going on, this exercise will help you, like Gandhi, to negotiate a happy solution. The instructions are simple, but the changes can be profound, and you will never know how you could benefit unless you follow them.

Exercise to resolve inner conflict

  1. Create the time in a quiet space to complete this exercise. With your eyes closed, imagine a comfortable, safe, relaxed place with at least six chairs placed around a table.
  2. Think of two aspects or parts of yourself that you really like and enjoy. Each part probably has good ideas and wants to take positive action. Invite them to come and sit down, and welcome them as they take their seats at the table.
  3. Then imagine finding two more parts that you find useful and practical and ask them to come forward. When they arrive, welcome them as they take their seats, and then introduce everyone there.
  4. Finally bring in two other parts that you particularly dislike, because they are so disagreeable. These parts have probably been obstructive, judgemental, doubtful or full of fear. When they arrive, welcome them as they take their seats and introduce everyone there.
  5. Ask them all, ‘Who here feels the most misunderstood?’ Turn to the one who answers and ask, ‘What is your positive purpose, your positive intention in doing what you do and thinking the way you think?’ Listen to the answer. Notice that the others understand and appreciate the importance of this part’s contribution.
  6. Say to the remaining parts, ‘Who among you feels the most misunderstood?’ Ask the one who responds, ‘What is your positive intention or purpose?’ Listen for the answer. Notice that the others understand and appreciate the importance of this part’s contribution.
  7. Repeat this process with all the remaining parts. What usually occurs is an appreciation and understanding of the positive functions that each part plays. This leads to the possibility of negotiation and a balanced solution to your inner conflict.
  8. When all of the parts appreciate what each one offers, imagine that you could bring all of them closer and closer and then merge back into you, bringing all their intentions and contributions into the centre of your being.

Looking into the future

One way to consider your purpose or mission is to do so from the vantage point of the future. Taking a few moments to step into the future and fully imagine your future success has an extraordinarily powerful effect. It increases your energy, emotion and experience of how important your goals actually are.

Choose a quiet space and follow the easy steps given below. The heightened awareness created by this exercise may also bring in intuitive elements that your rational mind may have missed.

  1. Using two chairs, sit in the first chair and jot down a few notes about your current situation, what you want now, whatever considerations you might have, and whatever feelings you are aware of. Also jot down a list of your current goals and objectives.
  2. Leaving that piece of paper (and the you of the present) on that chair, stand up and move to the second chair. This is the ‘time travel’ chair and sitting in it takes you into the future. Imagine a time in the future when you are genuinely living your purpose to the full and enjoying incredible success, happiness and fulfilment. You can visit any age you wish. Maybe ten years from now or perhaps the 99-year-old version of you in the future has some very interesting perspectives.
  3. Really get into your role here. You are in the body of this future you, looking out at the world through those eyes, and listening and sensing as if you were this person. Step into this wonderful experience and enjoy it! Notice how it feels, having the beliefs and values of this future you.
  4. As this future you, answer these questions:
  • What have you achieved?
  • What goals did you have that made a difference?
  • What are your values now?
  • What has been your guiding purpose?
  • What advice would you have for the younger you?
  • What guidance or insights would you offer the younger you?
  • How did you change within yourself over the years?

Bring all your answers back to the first chair and assess what goals you need to set in order to prepare for this future success.

This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

George Bernard Shaw