Mar 142012
 

Here is the question that was sent to “Ask Dr. Rempel” at susan@uncommoncourtesy.com : “How do you keep your dreams and goals alive in the face of adversity and depression?”

A Sense of Purpose

          The question from our subscriber is one that is commonly asked of motivational coaches.  Everyone has dreams. You may have formulated achievable goals based upon your dreams. However, you will undoubtedly face stumbling blocks (both internal and external) enroute to realizing your goals.  Therefore, the question arises as to how you can maintain a focus on and move toward your goals when you encounter an obstacle?

From my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the question is that the questioner noted that it is difficult for her to move toward her goals “in the face of adversity and depression.” I have met many people who will encounter an obstacle, feel frustrated and depressed, and then give up. Why do they give up so easily? Most motivational “experts” will talk about feelings of depression stemming from a lack of focus. I suggest, instead, that obstacles may sidetrack a person from achieving his or her goals, and indeed cause a sense of frustration to arise on the road toward achieving those goals, for two reasons. First, the goals you have set are arbitrary, and second, you may not have defined a sense of purpose in your life.

          Most of us have thought about the direction in which we want our lives to flow.  Common aspirations include becoming well-known and earning a significant income. The question is, however, will those goals cause us to have a sense of fulfillment with our lives? One of my favorite authors, Dennis Prager, said in his book Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual

that in order to be happy, a person must have both personal meaning and believe that life itself is meaningful. I agree with that premise and would add that feeling satisfied with one’s life directly corresponds to having a sense of purpose in life and moving toward goals that are connected to the person’s mission in life.

How did you develop the goals that you have set forth for yourself? All too often people develop their goals with the underlying belief that they will be satisfied if they achieve a certain amount of money and power. Consider three titles of junk email that recently arrived in my mailbox:  “Have a six figure income in 30 days”, “earn $100 to $1500 per day”, and “are you serious about making money?” Those ads were designed to appeal to the person who believes that having a sufficient amount of money will give meaning to his or her life. In reality, money can make your life more comfortable, but it will not give it meaning. It’s more than likely that when you continue to search for a sense of fulfillment even after you reach your monetary goal, you will decide that a true sense of satisfaction has eluded you only because you did not set your goal high enough. Unfortunately, It is unlikely that you will ever feel that your life has meaning, no matter how much money you have.

Another goal that you may have set for yourself is to become the president, CEO, or leader of something. This goal may also carry little meaning because you will probably feel only momentary satisfaction once you have reached it.  People who reach this type of goal often go on to aspire to control and direct an even larger enterprise or entity. The problem with both of the goals discussed above is that they carry little meaning in and of themselves. They carry little meaning because they do not enhance your sense of purpose. 

What is your mission in life? The objective of acquiring money and power is no different from a child’s desire to collect and control all the tokens in a game of jacks. Those may be goals that you set as part of a master plan for living a successful life. However, you must also ask yourself what you can do to make a difference for others.  What or who will be changed by your presence after your life has ended? How can you positively impact your family, your community, and the society in which you live? There is no time to lose! Life is indeed a gift that has been bestowed upon you, and it is imperative for you to make the most out of each day that you spend here on Earth.  Now is the time to define your sense of purpose and pursue it to the fullest. 

Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.