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The Paradox of Goal Setting: Shifting Focus from Purpose to Identity


In a world driven by productivity and achievement, setting goals has become the norm. However, in the pursuit of success, we often overlook the importance of purpose and its impact on our motivation and fulfillment. Drawing insights from Simon Sinek's book "Finding Your Why" and Zach Mercurio's "The Invisible Leader," let's challenge the prevailing notion of goal setting and explore how shifting our focus from purpose to identity can enhance our goal attainment and overall well-being.

This concept resonates for personally as for most of my life success or failure was attributed to the attainment of the goal. Often missing the mark and chastising myself as a result. In recent years with a clearer and more in-depth focus on my identity as a karate instructor I’ve had far more success with goals and habits as they aligned with the person I aspire to be. My own goals and habits now align to the future self I'm working towards.

1 The Lofty Concept of Purpose:

The concept of purpose can seem overwhelming and intangible, leaving many individuals feeling lost and unsure of how to define or pursue it. However, if we replace purpose with identity, it becomes more attainable and relatable. When we do the work to understand and define our identity, we gain clarity on who we aspire to be, which becomes a powerful driving force behind our goals.

For instance, imagine someone who identifies themselves as a compassionate leader. This identity shapes their choices and actions, and they set goals aligned with their desire to make a positive impact on others. By anchoring their goals in their identity, they are more likely to remain committed and motivated throughout their journey.

2 Identity as a North Star:

While goals can change or evolve over time, our identity remains largely constant. By aligning our goals with our identity, we establish a solid foundation for long-term success and fulfillment. When our goals reflect who we aspire to be, they become more meaningful and intrinsically motivating.

Consider the example of a writer who identifies themselves as a storyteller. Their identity drives their writing goals, as they strive to share compelling narratives that resonate with readers. By infusing their goals with their identity, they are more likely to persist through challenges and setbacks, as their aspirations are deeply rooted in their sense of self.

3 Resilience and Goal Commitment:

Goals that are not aligned with our identity often lack the necessary emotional connection to sustain our commitment in the face of obstacles. When we set goals without considering our identity, we may find ourselves easily swayed by external pressures or lose motivation when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will.

However, when our goals are deeply connected to our identity, they become an integral part of who we are. This connection fuels our resilience, allowing us to persevere through adversity and setbacks. An aspiring athlete who identifies themselves as a disciplined competitor will be more likely to stick to their training regimen and push through physical and mental barriers, as their goals align with their core identity.

Wrapping it all up:

While goal setting has its merits, it is crucial to shift our focus from a vague concept of purpose to a more tangible understanding of identity. By connecting our goals to our identity, we create a stronger sense of personal meaning and motivation. When our goals reflect who we aspire to be, they become more attainable and enduring.

By embracing the power of identity-driven goal setting, we can navigate the complexities of life with a clearer sense of direction and purpose. Let us recognize that purpose can seem overwhelming, but by focusing on our identity and who we aspire to become, we can unlock our full potential and achieve greater fulfillment along the way.

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