Day 45: A life of purpose.

Reflections on the value of setting goals.

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“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” ―Robert Byrne

When I returned to university in the fall, I did so with a very clear purpose. The goals that I had set were very specific: learn more about the craft of writing, get better at the practice of writing, and, eventually, earn a degree — all of which tied into my broader intention of becoming qualified to work as a writer. That’s it: just a few very straightforward, very clearly defined goals. Any other number of things were guaranteed to happen along the way, but I would always be able to anchor myself in those goals.

I’ve returned to those goals whenever I was stressed about a deadline, struggling to get through an essay, or panicking about whether or not my grades would be good enough. They helped me realize that, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t about this essay or that assignment — it was about achieving a broader, less immediately gratifying set of goals.

Now, I continually lay out a purpose for every situation that I enter into, from the day-to-day to the 10-year plan. I have broad, long-term purposes that relate to my future career plans and personal goals, but I also outline a purpose for every encounter or experience.

If I’m meeting with a new client, for instance, my primary purpose is to lay the groundwork for a relationship that will develop over the course of our time together. If I’m heading to the grocery store, I commit to a purpose of only buying the few things I need and not getting distracted by impulse buys.

It’s important to note, however, that this purpose doesn’t have to be your ultimate, soul-driving purpose — it’s simply a motivating force that, in this one, particular situation, gives you reason enough to see something through to the end.

Andrew Solomon articulated it well: “We can endure great pain if we believe it is purposeful.” If you’ve been having a difficult time staying on-task, take a moment to reflect upon the ultimate goal of that situation. How will you seeing things through (or not seeing them through) affect the broader purpose you had in mind when you first started?

Jana Marie is a Croatian-born writer living amidst the restorative embrace of the Canadian prairies. Through her writing, she examines the interplay between self and society as she works to both illuminate and explore the power of contemplative thinking. She hopes that 100 Mindful Days, a 100-day project combining teachings from the worlds of personal development, psychology, and spirituality, will soon be her first book.

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