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VOL. 37 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 01, 2013

Setting a goal for a life well-lived

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Lately I’ve talked with several people who were struggling with the question, “What is the goal of life?”

Those of you who know me personally might remember that I have a daughter in college. Therefore, you might be thinking I’ve been talking with young students home for the holidays. Nope – most people pondering this question were adults well into their careers.

I was thinking of this when I had a bit of a dental emergency last week. Basically, my dental issue would have helped me qualify for a supporting role in a remake of the movie “Deliverance.” The resulting gap in my front teeth would have made most any deep-woods-dwelling moonshiner proud.

As luck would have it, my dentist was around the day it happened. However, he was headed out of town for a few days and didn’t have the time in his busy schedule to take care of everything in one appointment.

So, being the nice guy he is, he temporarily took care of the gap and we agreed that I would come back when he returned and implement a more permanent solution.

Now, back to the questioning adults. I believe the approach my dentist used might work well for the adults with life-goal questions. In the absence of an immediate and definitive answer to the, “goal of life” question, why not come up with a reasonably sound temporary answer to the question and then work on a more permanent answer as life unfolds?

And, I have a suggestion for what you might use as a suitable temporary answer. Here you go: A good goal for a well-lived life is to joyfully participate in life, and whenever possible, help others do the same.

Years ago I swiped that goal from noted mythologist Joseph Campbell. You see, mythologists study the myths (stories) that humans create to explain how to live, or not live, life. Demographic experts estimate that since the beginning of humankind, about 107 billion people have lived on Earth. As I write this, about 6,973,738,433 of them are still around. Therefore, these mythologies that explain how to live life well (or not) represent the collective wisdom of about 100 billion people who have made and completed the journey of life. Campbell diligently studied all the myths and stories of the 100 billion people and tried to make sense of all of it. When asked in an interview, “Of all you have learned about life, what do you think is most important?” Campbell said, “To joyfully participate in life.”

At a minimum, this goal serves as a great benchmark for anyone. Are the things you are doing on a daily basis taking you closer to, or farther away, from joyfully participating in life? In my case, I liked this temporary goal so much, years ago I decided to make it my permanent goal. You don’t have to do that. All you have to do is use it until you come up with a goal that works better for you.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.

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