To keep your end objective in mind is crucial for conscious living. It can be divided into two phases: 1) Identify your end objective 2) Evaluate everything against your objective.
1) Identify Your End Objective
Whenever you are starting a new task, activity or goal, always be clear on what your end objective is. Why are you doing this? Is it serving some larger meaning? Where does it fall in the larger context?
This is the same as Habit #2 of Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is to Begin With The End In Mind.
There are 3 kinds of end objectives you need to be clear on:
- Life objective: What is your purpose in life?
- Goal objective: What is the objective of your goal?
- Task objective: What is the objective of this task you are doing?
Each objective sets the context for the item below it. For example, your life purpose sets the overall context for your life and your goals. Your goals sets the context for tasks, activities and things you do everyday. Thus, the tasks you do everyday should be a subset of your goals, while your goals should be a subset of your life purpose.
Your purpose is like the grandmother of all end objectives. If you are unclear on your purpose, the other things that follow will be ambiguous as well. You can be pursuing goals, but they will just be set against a hazy context. On that same note, if you are unclear on your goals, the tasks you do will also be directionless. You can be setting a lot of targets for your tasks but they will add up to be a random clump of to-do items.
I have already written about the importance of identifying objectives, so I will refer you to the articles instead:
- Importance Of Having a Life Objective: 5 Reasons You Should Have a Life Purpose
- Importance Of Having Goals: 7 Important Reasons Why You Should Set Goals
On how to discover your life purpose: How To Find Your Life Purpose (series)
When you have your life objective and goal objectives clear, you will be able to identify your task objectives clearly too. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s imagine you are clear on your life and goal objectives and subsequently, your task objectives. Say you are going to a class today (a task). What is your task objective? Is it to maximize your learning? If it is, then do everything within the class to give you the best learning. Sit in the front rows, listen intently, note down all the pertinent points, engage actively in class, ask when you have any questions. Don’t go into the class and day dream, because that is not your task objective.
If your task objective for the class is just to have your attendance marked and you want to do other things, then act according to that objective. Go to the class, sit all the way in the back, take out the other things you want to do and do them while the class is going on. Engage in the class from time to time if you feel it helps ward off the teacher’s guard on you. All in all, act in accordance with your objective. Don’t go half-way because you’re just wasting your time in the process. Either go full-way or don’t do it.
It also applies for activities outside of work-related goals too. For example, let’s say you are going to dinner with your colleagues. What is the objective of doing that? Is it to foster stronger relationships with them? If so, spend the evening with that in mind. Understand what’s going on in their work and lives, provide a listening ear if they need any; at the same time share with them what’s been happening with you and make them a part of your life too. Engage in topics and activities that will help both of you connect better. Don’t get side tracked by other things that may be on your mind. Make the most out of the activity/task you are doing.
2) Evaluate Everything Against Your Objective
As with everything in life, different obstacles will start emerging in your path as you pursue your objectives. Multiple options start getting dangled in front of you, each with its own set of pros and cons. Forks in the road appear. Different considerations start seeping in. As if that isn’t enough, people start giving their own opinions and take on your situation. In no time, you start becoming confused by everything that is before you.
When that happens, just recall what your end objective is – the very same objective you identified in the beginning. Assess everything that you see against it. Evaluate your options in terms of how well it serves your objective. If you find that the option does not meet your objective, throw them away. You will find that decision making becomes condensed into a very easy and simple task.
For example, my # 1 objective running this site is to help others achieve their highest potential. This guides all the decisions related to it. As I run this site every day, I get various different requests. Advertisers contact me from time to time to place advertisements. Program developers request me to do reviews for their software. Other webmasters approach me to write guest posts for their sites.
Without my end objective in mind, it’s easy to get thrown off by the various things that occur. For example, I can ask a truckload of questions to each of the requests. To the advertisers, I can be asking: “How much is sponsorship for the advertisement? How long is the campaign? How many ads are you looking to serve? What is the size of the ads?” To the program developers, I can be asking “How is the incentive for me to write the review? How long do you want the review to be?” To the other webmasters, I can be asking “How much incremental traffic can I get from writing a guest post on your site? How long are your guest posts? When do you need it?” For each of these requests, I will have different considerations, such as time, money, resources, the benefits and downsides.
However, when I’m clear on my end objective, everything becomes very simple. I always start off every decision making process by evaluating them against my objective. Do the advertisements correspond to the theme of personal development? Is the software in line with personal productivity? Do the other webmasters’ sites themes have an overlap with personal development?
If the answer to any of these questions is a ‘No’, I will turn down the request, without need for further thought. Sure, it may give me more money. Sure, it may give me more traffic. But the primary objective must always be met before anything else should be considered.
Some of you may be quick to point out that without earning money, I cannot sustain this blog forever. That’s very true — and this makes earning money a secondary objective that is necessary to achieve my end objective. Earning money is thus a goal that is needed to achieve my end goal of helping others achieve their highest potential, meaning it is the means to my end.
Seeking a new job
Another example which I would like to share and readers will be able to relate to is looking for a job. As you may be aware, I’m planning to return to work after a few months. In the past few weeks, I have been keeping my options open, connecting with head hunters and my previous company to see what’s available in the near term (my ex-company kept the door open for me to return when I left last year).
If we look at what my objective for returning to a day job is, it is to be able to pursue my personal development work (i.e. my coaching/speaking activities) without having to worry about financial considerations. Based on that objective, my top priorities for my day job are:
- Work-Life Balance. This is important since I’ll be managing my personal development work alongside with y day-job.
- Development opportunities. To grow and help others grow is my core purpose and passion, and if I’m going to face something at least 8 hours every day, it needs to have development opportunities both for me as on a personal level and toward other people. Thus, I’ll need to have work that is dynamic in nature and lets me interact/work with a wide span of people.
- Affinity with the industry and work. The nature of the industry and work need to be something I have an interest in.
I didn’t list remuneration/benefits as a priority, since the very act of getting a day job already addresses that.
In the past couple of weeks, there were two extremely good opportunities that came along the way which looked amazing by themselves. However, when evaluated against my objective/top 3 priorities, they did not pass the test. Thus, I made the decision to pass them up. While others may feel that it is a pity, their feelings are a result of looking at the options from their own life/goal objectives. It is important to always keep yourself open to the opinions and feedback from other people, while at the same time remembering that your evaluation should be done against your own objectives.
Update on Mar 2009: I’ve decided to pursue my personal development work full-time and not return to a corporate day job. :) Read: Embracing My Passion
Are You Clear On Your End Objective?
Ask yourself these questions: What is your objective in life? What is the objective behind the goals you pursue? What is the objective behind the tasks you do everyday?
Whatever you do, always bear in mind your end objective. Every time you begin a task, be clear on what the end objective is. Every time you are working on something, evaluate it against your objective. Only by unwavering focus with the end in your mind will you achieve it.