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The Difference Between a Life Goal and a Career Goal

Knowing What Drives You

It's a pretty car, but having a pretty car alone doesn't get you places.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" How many times did you hear that question as a kid? If you were like me, after what felt like a thousand times, you got a little frustrated being asked that question. It is a crucial question though, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly; but perhaps, we're asking the question wrong. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not condescendingly preaching at all those who ask that question and say they should stop asking it; however, that question often carries over in these kids' minds when they have to grow up and take it seriously, and I think it's the wrong question to ask. Instead, I think the proper question is, "What do you want to do with your life?"

Have you ever been asked that question? How DO you want to live your life? We all know, even if we haven't consciously put words to it. We have an idea. We want to live it with kindness, with tenacity, with energy, with love, or whatever other ideals you place in the blank. Honestly, there isn't really a wrong answer, but the answer is often too vague. Kindness how? In what way? To what extent? Directed at who? This is where the actual answer comes in. Let me share my life goal with you. 

My life goal is to help others find their path in life. 

Finding a life goal is a challenge. It takes self analysis, honest conversations with yourself, and some deep thought. What drives you? What motivates you deep down? What brings you fulfillment? I've found that the conversations I've had with people where their eyes lit up and they said, "Hey, that makes a lot of sense. I've never thought about it that way," have been the most fulfilling conversations I've ever had. I realized that's what drove me. It was my engine, if you will. 

So how do you define your life goal? Well, it has to be specific enough that you can attain it in particular instances, but it has to be vague enough that it's interchangeable with any career or job you choose. My life goal is specific enough that when someone says, "Hey thanks I enjoyed our conversation, that really helped me clear my mind." I know I've accomplished my life goal. My life goal is also interchangeable with any job or career I may choose. I can achieve it every day by being a teacher or a life counselor, or I can achieve it by being a plumber and coming home to my kids in the evening and asking them that question and discussing it. I can even work in a cubicle all day, and at lunch, I get to interact with a coworker and have the opportunity to achieve my life goal. 

A life goal is like a knotted rope that never ends. As you climb, every time you achieve your life goal you tie a knot in that rope. If times are tough you can rest on a knot and catch your breath. This is similar to what people mean when they say, "Set small goals." You must keep climbing because that is the definition of life, but if you define your life goal as something regularly achievable, you have set small goals or tied knots in your rope that you can look back on and smile at. 

You may ask why I'm making a distinction between a life goal and a career goal. The answer is this: The difference between a life goal and a career goal is that you achieve your career goal one time, but you can achieve a life goal over and over again. This is why you have a life goal that defines you, not a career goal. Once you've become a lawyer, or become a millionaire, that's it. You've done it. Cross it off the list. But you know as well as I do that a person without a goal is a directionless and unfulfilled person. You must keep your hunger and drive by always having an aim and a goal. This is why you need a constant life goal that you can hang your hat on at the end of your life and say that you've accomplished it; because you have, many times over. 

When people pass on, they often reflect on their lives in the last moments, and their reflection is not on what career they had. It's about the people they influenced or the smiles they created or the children they raised or the spouse they loved. When considering your life goal, imagine what you want to smile at and meditate on at the end of your life. That should be your life goal. 

One last analogy that might help you understand the distinction I am trying to make is this: Your life goal is the engine that drives you; your career or job is the car that carries you down the road. And just like a real vehicle, you need to put fuel in your engine by fulfilling your life goal repeatedly. You need to keep it alive and functioning properly. Continuing with the analogy it is also possible to transfer your engine to a different vehicle. It takes work to change careers and jobs, but if your engine (what's under the hood, what's beneath the surface) is what defines you, then it'll be an easier transition. Have you ever seen a beautiful car with a poorly functioning engine? No matter how pretty it is, if it doesn't run well, it'll burn out, and the driver will be stranded with a beautiful car, unfulfilled. On the flip side, it doesn't matter what car you drive. Even if it's falling apart, the engine under the hood is what powers you along the roads of life. Make sure the engine is a good one, and fuel it regularly.

Jared Benson
Jared Benson

Jared is a 22 year old New Englander who loves to have discussions about life with those from all walks of it. With a passion for listening and sharing ideas, Jared is all about two things: knowing who you are and where you're going. 

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