“Many people confuse the reward with the ultimate goal. This is why so many people still feel empty and lost when they finally achieve their ‘dream’.”
–Elisa Romeo, Meet Your Soul
Research has shown that setting goals based on your interests can contribute greatly to a happy life, but goal setting can be dry work when done by the book. Sure, you are capable of identifying something you want to be, do, or have, and then systematically work your way toward the finish line; however, when was the last time you actually took a look at the content of the goals you set? Do they light a fire inside you when you look at them? Or were they created by the ego, born purely of brain stuff because they sounded good or made sense?
Creating Your Passion List
Life is meant to be lived with soul, and your goals should have soul too. A passion list is more than a bucket list or inventory of things you like to do, it’s a way of clarifying what really moves your spirit on this path of life. And yet many people fall into one of the two extremes, either motivated by pleasure only (what sounds fun now), or by the book of boring, cliché life markers, that have no connection to their unique sense of individuality and delight.
Ask yourself this: what were the last three goals you set, either formally, or informally?
How many of your goals look or sound like these?
- Get a promotion
- Buy a house
- Get married
- Earn a degree
- Travel to Europe
There is nothing wrong of course, with any of these goals; however, they seem to skim the surface. Making a checklist of things that “ought” to be done by a certain age or phase of life can often do more harm than good. Feeling like you are behind the curve or somehow lacking because you haven’t yet gotten your master’s degree, or met the love of your life is a self-imposed falsehood.
You can change how you move through life right now by how you identify your priorities and purpose—and still achieve the things on your list that have meaning for you! The qualifier here is that the goals you identify should resonate with you on a deep level—things to be passionate about.
Dreams that sound good in your mind, on paper, or in your bio are rarely the ones that really satisfy you at the end of the day—or the end of your life. The dreams that really serve your soul are the ones that illuminate the truth of who you really are. If you are not in touch with your passions and the desires of your heart, how can you live a life that is full of meaning and purpose?
Here are some questions to help you discover and explore your list of passions.
What Are You Passionate About?
The first thing to do is ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?” If you can get creative and list your passions right now, write them down. However, if you happen to be like so many people who feel a little lost with regard to what really lights them up, here are a few examples that might get you started.
- Being of service and helping others
- Focusing on health and wellness
- Creating beauty in the world
- Strengthening your relationships
- Raising strong, healthy, and kind children
Consider what you spend your time on and how it makes you feel. If you spend all your free time at PTA meetings and taking your kids to extracurricular activities, it’s possible that you are passionate about being involved in opportunities that ensure a future generation of kind, strong, and smart members of society who will contribute positively to the world around them. You could easily write that off as “Be a good mom”, but the feeling of meaning that comes from what really drives you can take you much farther.
Or consider what you wish you were doing with your time. Dream of going for hikes in the mountains or surfing at the sea, but are chained to your desk for 60-hour workweeks? Or do you see pictures online of beautiful desserts baked at home and wish you had the time? Being in nature or improving your cooking skills might be passions that are left unidentified.
Try not to force this process, and instead keep a patient (but keen) eye out for what gets you excited. Listen to uplifting podcasts, read informative blogs, and watch inspiring documentaries or interviews with people you admire. Write in your journal whenever you can, since getting to know yourself better is a crucial element of living a conscious life.
What Is Your Purpose?
Do you ever feel like you are wandering aimlessly through life? In her book, Meet Your Soul: A Powerful Guide to Connect to Your Most Sacred Self, author Elisa Romeo suggests you identify your life purpose in the following way:
- Set an intention to find out your purpose. Meditate, surround yourself with beauty, and prepare to do some life work.
- Write the phrase “Who am I?” at the top of a piece of paper.
- Respond to this question with the first things that come to mind. Try not to edit, judge, or hold back. Keep writing until you can’t write anymore.
- Review what you wrote for themes that stand out.
- Create a list of “soul actions”, and choose 2-4 that pop out to you. Here are some examples of soul actions (or verbs that reflect the soul’s desire):
- Create a list of “soul values”, and choose 3-6 that most deeply resonate with you. Here are some common soul values:
- Play around with the words until you come up with what Romeo calls your Soul Mission. Try using this template:
My Soul’s mission is to Soul Action, Soul Action, and Soul Action to create Soul Value.
Her example is, “My Soul’s mission is to motivate, educate, and inspire to create connection to Soul.” Add words that came up in your Who Am I? exercise, and see what you come up with.
How to Turn Your Purpose and Passion List into a Set of Actionable Goals
Now that you have some things written down, it is time to turn these lists and words into actionable steps. Inspired by Locke & Latham’s 5 Goal-Setting Principles, here is how you can turn what you have identified as crucial elements of who you are into goals with soul:
- Be clear about what you want. If you discovered that nature is a passion for you, get clear about what exactly you would like to bring into your life. Writing “get into nature more” as a goal is not clear or specific enough to bring about positive change, but “take two long walks through the forest each week with the dog” is specific and measurable.
- Be sure your goals are appropriately challenging. If fitness is your passion, and you want to run a marathon, be sure you give yourself enough time to train. People sometimes aim so high for their goals out of excitement, they fail to realize the elements of logic and reality that are required to complete their dream.
- Assess your commitment level. Once you are sure you have come up with goals that you enjoy, commit yourself wholeheartedly to achieving them. Tell a trusted friend or your spouse. Ask for support and accountability. Rearrange your schedule and daily routine to following through on what you want to do.
- Be open to feedback. Enlist a support team and ask for feedback along the way. Whether you are building a nonprofit for at-risk youth or writing your first novel, you will want feedback and direction from people you trust. Connect with mentors, teachers, or colleagues who will be honest and supportive with your progress.
- Break down your goals into achievable tasks. Some goals are habits (like cook one meal from a new recipe each week), and some goals are huge milestones (like move to Paris and attend culinary school). Either way, you’ll need to break down your vision into bite-sized chunks (no pun intended) so as not to get overwhelmed. Proceed steadfastly on your course one day at a time, and you will move in the direction of your dreams.
If you just skimmed this article without actually putting pen to paper, ask yourself why. Perhaps uncovering what would really delight your soul scares you a bit—in which case, congratulations, you’re human! The best goals are ones that make you slightly uncomfortable because they are asking you to learn and change. Humans are meant to expand, so you can either grow in a safe (and let’s face it, boring) way, or you can grow into the person you are truly capable of becoming. Be brave, take some risks, and listen to your calling.
Hear this now: start to do the work! It could possibly be the most exhilarating and life-enhancing work of your life.
Take the first step towards following your passion by signing up for The Quest: Spiritual Solutions for Creating a Life You Love, our online course led by Deepak Chopra and Martha Beck. Learn More.