Every now and then we all go through stages where we start to question our lives and start some serious introspection. Usually it coincides with a birthday, an unhappy work situation, a health scare and – let’s be honest – when something phenomenally good happens to friends or family, or colleagues we started out with. That’s not to say we resent their success – but others success can make us re-look at what we perceive we have, or more often, haven’t achieved.
Certainly as I’ve got older, the nature of those questions has changed. It’s not so much about the superficial questions around what I have or don’t have and what I’ve done or haven’t done. It’s more around my purpose – the “WHY” – and for me how does that “why” contribute to my family, friends, community and the world around me. And as one of my mid-life birthdays has just rolled around, it’s questioning time again!
So let me ask you a question? Are you living a purpose driven life? Or are you living day to day, just moving along wherever life chooses to take you? We live in a time and age filed with distractions. We are bombarded by media at all hours of the day and night. It’s easy to lose track of what’s important and what we should be doing.
Focusing on “What” when we should focus on “Why”
One way we cope with this information overload is by focusing on the “what”. What do we need to do today? There’s a reason there is such a huge market for planners and organizers. Take a quick look at my smart phone and there are any number of to-do list apps installed. On my PC my on-screen sticky note is always open with my “to-do” “in progress” and “completed”. And be honest kids – hands up – who hasn’t written a to-do list part way through the day and included the things you’ve already completed so you can cross them off straight away. It gives you that false sense of “look how much I’ve done already”!
There’s a reason why so many of us work with daily to-do lists. It helps us sort through the mess and pick out a handful of things we need to get done today. In other words, these organizers and lists are a way for us to cope with the overwhelm of too much information and too many things we could be doing. They help us simplify a complex life.
While these tools are certainly necessary and helpful, they also hold a hidden danger. They make us focus too much on the “what” at the risk of losing track of the “why”. Here’s what I mean. It’s hard to see the big picture and make sure you are following your purpose when you’re staring at your list of things to do.
Some easy tips to focus on a more purpose driven life.
But there’s an easy way to fix that while still being able to use all those tools to kick overwhelm to the curb. Here’s what you do. Set aside a little time each month, or even each week, to reflect and look at the big picture. If you need it, put it on your calendar to make sure it gets done.
Spend that time reflecting on what you’ve gotten accomplished this past week and how it has helped you move forward in the right direction. What tasks helped you fulfill you purpose and what was just busy work? We all have things we do on a regular basis, just because that’s how we’ve always done it. Examine those things and see if there’s maybe a better way to spend your time. Maybe there are other things you could try that might work better or align more with your big “why”.
As you look through the things you’ve gotten accomplished this past week or month, take note of what’s worthwhile and what you should do differently. Having a journal, a calendar, or those daily to-do lists can be a big help here.
Last but not least, start planning your “what” for the coming week or month. Think about what you need to do to move forward. Always keep your purpose and your end goal in mind.