I read a couple of articles recently about how having a purpose can significantly help us get where we want to be (“Knowing Your Why” Is Good for You), and about how having hope helps us to acheive our goals and deal with set-backs more easily (The Three Conditions for Hope to Thrive). I was left wondering where one starts and the other ends.
Some people have a single, over-riding purpose in life that they are passionate about. Like spreading the word of their chosen religion. Or helping women escape abuse. Or waking politicians of the world up to the realities of climate change. Or indeed retiring early and moving somewhere hot and sunny. For most of us, I suspect that we have a number of less dramatic purposes, but they are no less important for that. Becoming debt free and financially secure. Losing weight and getting fit. Preparing for a healthy and fulfilling retirement. Bringing our children up to be caring human beings. Completing a project at work successfully.
Whatever our purpose, or purposes in life, as we stand at the start of the journey our desired destination can look very far away. Perhaps so far away that we feel hopeless of ever getting there. Recognising that it is generally impossible to jump from here to there in one go is essential. Breaking the journey into manageable chunks, or stepped goals is important, not just in terms of planning how to get from here to there, but also to give us hope that we can acheive each step. It doesn’t matter how big or small those steps are, if we realistically have no hope of taking the next step, we remain stuck, staring wistfully at our dreamed-of destination.
For example, when trying to lose weight and get fit, exercise is important, but we need to set goals that we have some hope of acheiving. It is pointless, and counter productive, to set a goal of going to the gym 5 times a week if work or home life is going to be too compromised for it to be sustainable. Inevitably we will end up berating ourselves when we can’t make, and will often eventually give the whole thing up as hopeless. If we have more hope of making it 4 times, or even only once a week, that is the goal we need to set. In doing so we set ourselves up for success, which gives us the confidence to take the next step. And the next.
Every step taken towards fulfilling your purpose, whatever it is, is a step in the right direction. But in order to muster the courage to take the next step, we need to have some hope that it can be acheived. Not blind hope for something unrealistic. Real hope, because we know that the next step is achievable with a bit of effort and determination.
Without hope, our purpose may never be acheived. With real hope and realistic goals, we can be unstoppable.