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What is the Difference Between Having a Purpose in Life and Your Objectives?

Do Better by Being Better

Very often, we find there is a confusion between what we consider to be a purpose and what we consider to be an objective. The purpose is the reason why you exist or why you do what you do. The objective is what it needs to do to achieve its goals.

My purpose in life is to share my knowledge about ethics with the public. I do so through each of my three blogs: “Ethics Sage”, “Workplace Ethics Advice"; and Higher Ed Ethics Watch. I also make many presentations that are designed to encourage others to seek the ethical path in life.

In addition to my writings and speeches, I have taught ethics for many years at a variety of universities and in professional development programs. By reaching out to young adults and the working public through my teaching, I can better influence their goals to seek greater meaning in life.

According to Management Training Specialists, specific objectives can be set using a SMART model, Smart is an acronym, defined as follows:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Time-Bound

Specific objectives are very detailed – you know exactly what you are trying to do.

Measurable objectives are those you can monitor for effectiveness. You can measure the outcome or compare it to a standard to determine whether you are successful.

Achievable objectives are those that make sense. They are realistic and not just backed by hopes and wishes. You can act and obtain an achievable objective.

Realistic objectives are feasible and possible. This means that not only do you have the talent on hand to reach your objectives, but you have the resources (computer software, research materials, etc.) available to make it happen.

Time-bound objectives have a realistic timeline – one that you must follow to be successful. Purpose and meaning

Here are some examples of SMART objectives. Assume you have resolved to lose 25 pounds. That is a specific objective. It is easy to measure the objective. Is it achievable? Unless you have a medical condition, it should be achievable although the challenges are real.

The objective can be achieved by following a specific course of action – i.e., weight loss program. Maybe you decide to go to a Weight Watchers meeting to get started on the process of losing weight. You can set a time limit if it makes sense. For example, if you have a destination wedding to attend in three months then that could be the end goal of losing 25 pounds. Is it achievable? Of course, it is.

To be clear, it does not matter what the objective is, the SMART steps can be used to accomplish the goals you set. You might want to gain a few pounds if you feel it will improve your overall strength and endurance. You can resolve to become healthier through physical exercise where setting realistic goals may be quite challenging. Or you might seek to be a better spouse, worker, or friend.

In my book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning, I discuss how to be a better person. That can be one’s purpose in life. Steps should be taken to instill kindness in all your actions; be empathetic towards others; be trustworthy and reliable.

Ethics is about what motivates our actions. Is it to do the right thing on all occasions? If so, then you need to establish what the right thing to do is. For me, it is to follow The Golden Rule: Treat others the way I wish to be treated.

One thing I have found to be useful is ask myself a question before taking concrete steps to resolve an ethical conflict or dilemma: How would I feel if my decision or action is discussed on social media? Would I be proud of the position I have taken? Can I explain it to my friends and family? Would I be proud of my actions?

Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on March 30, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.