What Do You Mean?

Ever been asked the question, “what do you mean?”

It’s a question people ask to seek clarification. Whether about something you said or otherwise expressed, the question comes from a desire to ensure that your intention or purpose in the expression has been appropriately understood.

What you mean, what you intend, or what you desire is indeed important in your communication. We all want to be understood! We tend not to remember that meaning, intent, and purpose is also critically important in the goals we set.

In this season of (re)starting, (re)committing to, (re)setting, or (re)orienting to professional and personal goals and aspirations I’m going to ask you the same question. What do you mean? 

As you set your goals, now at the start of a new year or any time, are you clear on your intent, your purpose, or your meaning with each goal you set out to achieve?

Without this sort of clarity, the setting and checking off of goals becomes not unlike the creation and management of any other “to do” list. It can become rote, mechanical, disconnected, and without meaning altogether.

This is how it ends up that so many goal setters, achieve what they set out to achieve—start a business, get promoted, land a stretch role in a new firm, go on that long awaited vacation, run a faster marathon, etc.—and yet they remain dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Without a clear meaning or connection with what truly matters or means something to you in the goals that you set, it is quite possible that the goals you’re targeting aren’t of any real value to you. They may feel worth something in the recognition and value that working toward and reaching them brings from others, but that’s a far cry from meeting your true purpose or meaning.

Without clarity on what you mean and how your goals support that meaning, your goals may be adopted from others based on priorities, values, desires and meaning that aren’t yours. If you set goals that don’t truly connect with you, what are chances they’ll satisfy you in the end? It’s no wonder so many of us struggle, despite our amazing achievements—professional and personal—with feeling no meaning, purpose, or value in those achievements.

So let me clarify my meaning here. I’m not saying don’t set goals, I’m actually a big fan of goals. I set them myself and I support my clients in setting and working toward them. Goals motivate us and focus our effort with powerful effect. But pursuing goals that are not connected with what you mean or with your purpose lead to misapplication of energy and inappropriate channeling of resources. Worse, it’s a recipe for discontent, frustration, stress, and frankly, confusion about why all your achievement continues to leave you feeling empty.

So as you proceed with setting goals for the new year and honing your aim at your professional and personal targets, use these questions to gain a solid foundation of meaning, intent, and purpose.

  • What do I mean with this goal? What is my intent with it?
  • What does this goal mean to me? Why and how does it support my overall meaning?
  • Is this a goal that supports my broader purpose or what I stand for?
  • When I envision achieving this goal does the satisfaction come from external sources, or is it from within? (I.e. would I be thrilled about achieving this goal, even if I didn’t get to tell my colleagues or post it on LinkedIn or Facebook?)
  • Will working toward this goal give me a real sense of personal purpose and meaning in the sheer pursuit of it, whether or not I reach it?

If your goals are worth reaching they are worth the investment of the additional thinking and feeling about what you mean and how they support that. This effort put in up front ensures that you’re setting the right goals and targeting what’s truly important to you.

Here’s to your most successful, fulfilling, and meaning-FULL 2017.

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