5 Lessons to achieve your goals and do meaningful work
Times have changed. Geography is no longer a problem and the digital world has made everything more instantaneous and accessible to anyone, anywhere. Furthermore, unlike our parents’ and grandparents’ times when pleasure and work rarely went together, we are closer than before to achieving work-life balance.
However, the challenge now is to be able to find, among so many available options, what is meaningful work to you. And once you find it, manage to keep it up and make a living from it. Whatever it is, one thing is certain: it will be hard. There will be times when you want to give it all up and become a monk, spend the rest of your days meditating and never have to think about it again. But after a while, you are back again because that’s what you believe.
The question then arises: what could we believe enough to embrace the difficulties and overcome all the hard times that will come along the way?
If you still have no idea what that “meaningful” might be (many call it purpose, life mission, or ikigai), don’t worry, you can find out in time. Here, I chose to call it goal because it’s a broader term and avoids entrenching its understanding — but feel free to name it whatever makes the most sense to you.
Regardless of the name you choose to it, it takes a lot of thought and observation to find answers to what we want to do with our lives. But you don’t have to go very far when the real reflection begins “at home”: have you noticed that, although we live with ourselves 24hrs a day, we don’t know ourselves properly?
Who am I? What do I like? What are my priorities?
I would like to share with you 5 lessons I learned, in the hope that they can help you too.
1 — What would you do if you didn’t need to make money?
Before answering, I want you to reflect on the types of dreams that exist. According to Michael Gerber, there are two types:
· Personal Dream — Impacts Only Your Own Life
· Impersonal Dream — Impacts the life of a group or society
Our dreams, when achieved, generate a momentary joy that soon ends. This is because usually our dreams are linked with achieving something physical, tangible.
Our impersonal dreams, on the other hand, generate genuine joy because they are linked to our life purpose. It is the result of attitudes that positively impact people’s lives and makes you get out of bed in the morning.
2 — The two fundamental questions
If you already know what your goal is, one thing is obvious: knowing how to achieve it. You need to define your action plan and, above all, ask the right questions.
“If I only had 1 hour to save the world, I would spend the first 55 minutes defining the questions and only 5 minutes finding the answers.” — Albert Einstein
Whenever I need to make a decision, I ask two questions:
The first question is: what is the next step?
Life changes too fast to plan too many steps ahead. It makes no sense to want to define the tenth step when you haven’t even taken the first. Asking that first question is interesting because it creates an openness to the unforeseen and gives you space to adapt to changes along the way.
Worrying now about the distant steps is a waste of time and energy. You will definitely not be the same person a few years from now, with different desires and thoughts. Set an objective and don’t worry about the next one until you complete it.
The second question is: does this push me away or bring me closer to my goal?
It’s a complementary question to the previous one. With the next step defined, it’s time to understand if it’s the best step to take right now.
However, it is necessary to be careful with this decision. After taking it, there is always a downfall before achieving your goal. This dip can be identified as the feeling that it is not for you, causing discomfort, displacement, and fear, which can pull you back into your comfort zone. It’s as if life asks: is this really what you want?
Stand firm and accept the challenge that, over time, this feeling will pass. Life becomes more interesting when we don’t have all the answers and we allow ourselves to change our mind or path, so allow yourself to slow down and take it one step at a time.
3 — What do you pay attention to?
Imagine that at the beginning of each day, $86,000 is deposited into your account to spend as you wish. There is only one condition: at the end of the day, everything you have not spent is withdrawn from your account without the possibility of saving the surplus.
Okay, in this metaphor money is your time. Every day you get 86,000 seconds to spend however you want. Placing your attention on something is investing time, and your time is your most valuable resource.
“My experience is what I agree to pay attention to.” — William James
According to Maura Thomas, the equation is quite simple: your attention becomes your experiences, which determine the life you live. That is, you become what you pay most attention to.
“There is a more powerful feeling than drawing attention: paying attention.” — Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Setting objectives will bring clarity to what your priorities are, which means, where you want to invest your time. In other words, if you don’t have time for something, it’s not a priority.
With your priorities very well defined, you will not be swallowed up by the anxiety of the world. Protect your space and your time, and that way you’ll be able to dedicate yourself to what really matters. That means learning to say no to sometimes.
4 — And now, what do I do?
There is no magic formula for so many variables. Some several tools and methodologies can help create an action strategy, but going forward it’s basically trial and error.
Life is not a straight line from point A to point B. So how do you know which is the best choice? Well, there’s not much way to know for sure before doing it. Sometimes not even later. It’s what Barry Schwartz called the Paradox of Choice: with so many possibilities and options, we’re never sure we made the best choice.
There will always be that feeling that if we had chosen another course in college we would be more fulfilled and valued; if we had accepted that job offer at another company, we would have been better off financially; if we hadn’t ended that relationship we would feel more complete and loved; if this, if that…
A verdade é que não sentimos as frustações das escolhas que não fizemos. Não conseguimos sentir as dores da vida que não escolhemos viver. Ou seja, nossas escolhas são uma incógnita emocional.
“The past is a lesson, not a sentence.” — Swami Paatra Shankara
It doesn’t matter how successful you become or how many achievements you have on your resume. You will always ask yourself: now, what do I do?
One way out is to create a routine. A daily practice, something you do no matter what happens. Something that will give you security from the chaotic world outside. When in doubt, your routine tells you exactly what to do.
“The true creative journey is one where you wake up every day with more work to do.” — Austin Kleon
I like to think that our daily lives are like the myth of Sisyphus, who rolls a giant boulder up a mountain to start all over again the next day. But maintaining a routine isn’t always easy. It is possible that, at some point, you will feel drowned in the midst of everyday demands. In these situations, I usually make a list. Creating a list allows you to view and organize your tasks, what is most important to do, and in what order to do it. A list also reduces the anxiety that we have a lot to do.
5 — What are you grateful for?
Every time I had the pleasure of achieving great goals, there was always someone who asked me, “aren’t you happy to have achieved that?”, because I didn’t look so happy. Of course, I was happy, but maybe not as happy as they expected me to be. I felt guilty that I did not correspond to their expectation of my joy, and wondered if I did not value my achievements.
However, I understood that every small achievement counts. I have a habit of celebrating every little step I can make toward my dreams. I have already celebrated what I had to celebrate along the way that, in the end, that achievement was already expected, because I know the effort that I put into it.
It is the sum of these small achievements that make it truly great. We do not climb a ladder in a single leap, but step by step. Be humble with yourself and know how to recognize your victories, however small. Besides, you will never get there. There will always be a new goal, a new challenge, a new dream. There is no final destination, there is only the question: what’s next?
But it is good that things are so that we can keep up with them. We want big changes so much, but we can’t handle them. Big changes are sudden and violent and we rarely go through them without any trauma. The subtle changes in our lives are the ones that last because they are at a speed that we can follow, that we can control, and especially that we can pay attention to.
In short (and skipping all the interesting parts), to achieve our goals we need:
1 — Find out which GOALS you want to achieve;
2 — Define the OBJECTIVES (the two questions method);
3 — Pay ATTENTION to what you let into your life;
4 — Stipulate a ROUTINE and stick to it;
5 — CELEBRATE each achievement, especially the small ones.
And now, what will you do to achieve your goals?