Here's part of an old letter which illustrates a still common concern of many people.
In the last two to three years, I have devoured many of your books and audio programs. They have educated and inspired me. I'm 31-years-old, a college graduate, married nine years and we're expecting our first born in August. I'm a frontline manager with ____ Corporation.
On good days I feel unstoppable, achieving many goals throughout the day and week. There are other times however, when work-wise I feel very unfulfilled even though I earn accolades, receive awards and recognition. I suppose it falls to the basic "know what you want" mantra. The problem may rest in having too many hopes that are too large.
I enjoy writing and have had a couple of agents but not sold any work. I enjoy the idea of politics and the ability to oversee and improve the lives of a great number of people, but I am not involved in any community activities. I constantly strive to be in a leadership position but, I'm unfulfilled in the journey. Do you have any advice and how to adjust my goals to fulfill them?
Sound familiar? It may if you find even in the moments of greatness in what you do, you still have a nagging sense of unfulfillment.
Certain skills, knowledge and a commitment to do a good job can carry you so far. The author of this letter had vision and limited action, but no passion and therefore was not working on purpose. I know this definitively because this is a draft of a letter I was going to send to one of my mentors eleven years ago. I never did. No passion, remember? It's fun when your future self can give advice to your past self. I wish they had met a little sooner.
The level of dissatisfaction I felt just over a decade ago did kick me into action. In the time since then I earned my masters degree in executive leadership where I developed tools that helped equip me to do battle with the poor leaders I encountered. I gained the confidence to pursue new business skills. The experience led me to write, "How to Stay When You Want to Quit" a small but powerful book that has reclaimed people's careers and improved business relationships. Now I'm running my own business and hopefully in some way helping people improve their lives.
Do I have too many lofty goals? Probably, but that doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I know the difference between goals and wishes and I don't spend as much time wishing things to happen. I find it that making things happen is much more fulfilling and so should you.
If you're not feeling like you're achieving the things you wanted to three, five or ten years ago, start examining why and decide if you still want those goals. If so, are you ready to get serious about achieving them? If not, it's time to eject them and make room for some new ones. Yes, it's okay to do that. It's better to change your mind and be successful than it is to stay on a course that's taking you down the wrong direction.
Start acting on purpose, not by habit.