If I’d been shown this headline 25 years ago, I’d have laughed and made some sarcastic remark. You see, back then, I thought that the route to creativity and personal freedom was paved with blank sheets of paper. They had to be blank to leave room for anything that showed up.
I was wrong.
The route to creativity and personal freedom is paved with goals. Personal goals.
Not society’s goals. Not your parents’ goals. Not your partner’s goals.
It took me years to learn these two simple truths:
=> If you’re not consciously living your own goals, you’re unconsciously living someone else’s.
=> If how you spend your time isn’t fully aligned with your own goals, then you won’t ever feel self-fulfilled.
The way I thought about goals was also all wrong. It was very narrow, because I had my blinkers on, seeing only society’s view of goals. Society’s goals are all about its interpretation of success – your financial health, your career trajectory, home ownership, car ownership, that sort of thing. And those things never felt like motivating goals to me. I’ve just never been able to get excited about money, per se.
I now know what the problem was. The goals were about the basic me, and not about the whole me.
As Maslow described in his Hierarchy of Needs, our needs change according to our personal situation. Our basic selves have some basic needs. To survive (enough shelter, clothing, food, air, water), and to feel safe and secure (enough money, health, security). Once these are met, other needs kick in. From a place of safety, we seek relationships and feelings of accomplishment. And finally, from a place of love and self-respect, we seek self-fulfilment. We need to achieve our full potential.
Those of you reading this blog post are likely to have your basic needs met. You have somewhere safe to live, enough food on your table, and access to clean water and air. You have enough money to pay for this, and more, and have access to healthcare.
It’s at this point that things start to get less clear. Are your other needs being met?
To find out, ask yourself these questions and be as honest as you can with your answers.
- Do you have deep, loving relationships in your life? Are you spending enough time with these people?
- Do you feel connected to a community? Are you spending enough time with your community?
- Are you learning new skills?
- Are you deepening your existing knowledge?
- Are you attending to your spiritual needs, whatever they may be?
- Are you doing everything you can to keep yourself healthy?
- Are you accomplishing things that make you feel good about yourself? Via your work? Via your personal life? Via volunteer work?
- Are you having fun?
- Are you giving your creative self a voice? What creative projects are you doing?
If you find yourself answering ‘NO’ to any of these questions, then you might want to spend some time digesting this, asking yourself why you have no answer, and pondering how to turn your ‘NOs’ into ‘YESes’.
And then, I strongly recommend that your create some personal goals, based on the whole you. Start with year-end goals, then break them down into quarterly, monthly and weekly goals.
Remember, the richer your personal goals, the more self-fulfilled you will be.
Finally, make sure you spend your time doing things that move you closer to achieving your personal goals. Commit to yourself to live consciously, to know that you’re focussing on what’s important to you.
Your whole self will thank you.