Setting goals is all very well, but goals without a purpose will perpetuate the cycle of need and greed.

At the start of every new year, attention is often paid to setting new goals. It’s during this time that money and materialism are most prevalent. For some, goal-setting is about continual growth and striving to be better. For others, it’s a desire for more materialism in the hope that it will make them happier.

If economic differences between you and others bring up feelings of guilt or envy; if you feel trapped as if you are giving up a piece of yourself for the dollar; or if you have no idea of how much is enough, you may be at risk of one day falling prey to insatiable need and possibly even greed. And this could destroy not only your money but also your relationships and your life.

Goals without purpose are doomed to fail – either not achieved or even if achieved,  contribute no more happiness.

A symptom, not a cause

Viktor Frankl, the famous German Jewish psychologist and survivor of the concentration camps, explained in his book Man’s Search for Meaning that human beings need meaning. He gave the example of one of his friends in the camps who came to him explaining that he wanted to commit suicide. “Why don’t you do it?” he asked his friend. “I couldn’t do it to my wife,” the friend replied.

Sometimes we live for more than life itself. According to Frankl, without meaning human beings will revert to power and pleasure in the quest for happiness. We try to use these to fill the void, and having grown up in a capitalist society it is easy to be persuaded that happiness and materialism are directly related. Power and pleasure are fuelled by money, but not happiness. Happiness comes from meaning and purpose.

Purpose, goals, commitment and strategy

A purpose doesn’t need to be inspiring to others. It’s not necessarily something that will make you famous or provide admiration. It’s often very simple, and it’s always about being, not having or doing. I call these ‘deep motivators’ and we all have them no matter who we are. For example:

  • “To be the parent I would’ve wanted to have had”
  • “To share my life with a soul-mate”
  • “To contribute to others“To be the best me I can be”
  • “To explore and learn”
  • “To have fun”

A trip overseas could be the goal linked to a variety of deep motivators. Sharing the experience with a soul-mate, exploring or having fun – and knowing the real motivation is likely to not only influence the planning but also the experience of the trip itself.

Typical new year goal-setters begin with ambitious goals and then hope that somehow they will be achieved.  Financial and health goals are often the easiest to set but usually the most common failures.

To be successful, you don’t need special talent, intellect or insight. All that’s needed is clarity around why it’s important (deep motivators), what measurable stepping stones are to be achieved (goals), a strong commitment and the ability to change strategy along the way. Purpose, goals, commitment and strategy – in that order.

Successful people are rare but their talents and abilities aren’t. They know why they set clear goals and they are adaptable but determined. Setting goals is all very well, but goals without a purpose will perpetuate the cycle of need and greed. Goals are stepping stones to get from the present to the destination. Goals are doing and having, not being. And it’s only being that can ultimately satisfy.

As Joseph Campbell said in his book The Journey of a Thousand Faces, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” I would add, “…no matter what stage of your life.”

If you’re not conscious in your life, you cannot be conscious of financial matters.