Setting Goals for a Stress-Free, Fulfilling Life

Yesterday, I watched an interview with Vishen Lakhiani on Impact Theory. The ideas shared in the video are in line with my post called Are Your Goals Your Drug of Choice.

In that post, I shared an exercise to find out the unmet needs behind the goals you set. It’s a simple exercise where you ask yourself a simple question.

“Imagine you have realized your goal, then what?”

Keep asking the same question for your answers until you can’t find an answer anymore.

When we do that exercise, most of the time, we start with a material goal like financial freedom and end up with a basic need like freedom or security.

Our real goal is the basic need, but instead of working directly on that basic need, we work on the material goal.

That way, we don’t take the responsibility to meet our basic needs now and postpone that responsibility.

Means Goals vs. End Goals

Vishen distinguishes between two types of goals, means goals and end goals. We pursue our means goals to realize our end goals.

Most of our goals are means goals. When we question our means goals with the “then what” exercise, we find our end goals.

Vishen says that our means goals are mostly decided by the society for us. These are goals like becoming a lawyer, engineer, or a doctor.

Find Your End Goals

He states that there are other ways of reaching our end goals, but first, we need to find them. The “then what” exercise is one way of finding our end goals.

Vishen explains a complementary exercise. He divides the end goals into three categories.

  1. Experience Goals
  2. Growth Goals
  3. Contribution Goals

The idea is to make a list for each category.

Experience Goals

To find your experience goals, ask yourself the following question.

What do you want to experience in your life?

Here are some examples.

  • I want to visit a different country every year.
  • I want to have enough time to spend with my family.
  • I want to complete a triathlon.

Growth Goals

How do you have to grow to realize your experience goals?

You don’t go for a material outcome with the growth goals. You work directly on yourself. You increase your ability to produce greater value.

Material outcomes are mostly out of your control. Going after them stresses you out. Growth goals are entirely under your control.

Material results come as a byproduct when you work on your growth goals.

Working on your growth goals is a saner approach than working directly on material goals.

Contribution Goals

How are you going to contribute to the universe as you make progress with your growth goals?

Pay attention to the formulation of that question. It doesn’t say “once you reach your growth goals.” It says “as you make progress with your growth goals.”

You don’t need to wait until you reach a certain level to contribute to your fellow humans.

As a matter of fact, starting to contribute right now is a great way to make progress toward your growth goals.

Here are some examples.

  • I’ll publish a book.
  • I’ll reach 100,000 people with my public speeches.
  • I’ll help people to reach their potential.

Conclusion

Vishen Lakhiani argues that most of us adopt the goals that the society wants for us. Those are most of the time means goals.

We need to look behind those means goals to find our end goals. We can do that with the “then what” exercise.

Once we find our end goals, then we can find our own way to fulfill our end goals.

Vishen recommends that we come up with three lists to find our end goals, experience goals, growth goals, and contribution goals.

I suggest that you question your goals to find out whether they are means goals or end goals. If they are means goals, do the exercises in this post to determine your end goals.

Go directly after your end goals, and you’ll have a much more fulfilling life.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.