There is a lot of discussion about being intentional about living a life of purpose. Most of us are only intentional about working hard and making money, but when it comes to the big picture of a life well-lived, we just hope it all works out. Random hope is not a strategy. To have a life of purpose, we have to live on purpose. Here are three reasons why you should take the bull by the horns and make life happen for you, not to you.
Making Money is Not An Empowering Vision
My first book was titled, Making Money Is Killing Your Business, because people who focus on making a lot of money as their main business goal, rarely make a lot of it, but people who have a reason to be in business that is much bigger than just making money, are more likely to make a lot of it.
Making money is not motivating by itself, simply because money is only a resource, a means to an end, not the end itself. The Industrial Age Factory System taught us the lie that if you just made a bucket load of money, you should be happy. But chasing money is not motivating by itself. We need something much bigger to keep us going, especially during those times where making money is not happening.
A Goal Realized is No Longer Motivating
The dirty little secret in life is that the joy is not in the acquisition, but in the pursuit. When you got your first stereo in high school, you were immediately looking for the next, bigger, better one. The same goes for cars, houses, and stuff in general. Once we have it, we want something else. Some luxury sports cars have an average ownership of under four months--once people have them, they are no longer alluring.
As human beings, we are most motivated by the process of building a great life, not by acquiring stuff. The bumper sticker from the 80's--"He who dies with the most toys, wins", proved to not be motivating. Researchers say happiness is not about having money, but having a good reason to have it. Happiness is very closely related to having something that gets us out of bed every morning that is bigger than making money.
We Are Made to Do and to Be Something Significant
I don't mean we're all supposed to solve world hunger, but we're all motivated by being able to look back and say, "This was a life well-lived." To do that, we need to focus on the few things we value that we can actually impact, and build a story around putting our hand to that, not just paying our mortgage and surviving.
Something You Can Never Check Off As Complete
If making money is not an empowering vision, and a goal realized is no longer motivating, we need something long-term that will motivate us to make even more money and never be completed. We call this your Lifetime Goal, or The Big Why. The one thing that separates a Big Why from any other type of goal you have ever set, is that it can never be checked off as completed.
Being a great parent, working with disadvantaged kids, helping single moms, building a non-profit, encouraging veterans, or yes, solving world hunger; none of these can ever be checked off. And all of them give making money a new meaning. Now you have to make money because it will be one of the resources (along with time and energy) that help you realize your Big Why. It's not really about a Giant Why (solving world hunger), but about a Continuous Why (something that motivates you that you can never complete). Remember, the joy is in the pursuit, not in the acquisition.
Years ago Alan Wyngarden came to me and said, "I know I have my Big Why." I asked him how he knew that, "Because it has me. And I know it has me because now that I'm clear about the big things I want to do in life that I can never check off, I shoot out of bed in the mornings, and every single decision I make is passed through the question, "Will that help me get to my Big Why?"
Alan went on to convert all other short-term goals (business and personal goals for the year or quarter) to "waypoints". Sailors only have one goal--the destination, and all the X's on the map are just points along the way. When you finally articulate your Big Why, all the reachable objectives that you used to call goals now simply exist to get you to that one goal that can never be checked off as completed. Instead of focusing on getting the next bigger house, you are asking yourself how that house will serve you in living out your Big Why. Making money is now a means to an end, not the empty end all by itself.
People with Big Whys have a reason to make a lot more money, and ensure that they have the Time and Energy to live them out. You already have a Big Why, you just need to take the time to bring it to the surface and write it down. And when you do, you will run through Survival, right past material Success, and straight to a life of Significance.
You get what you intend, not what you hope for. Find your Big Why and live it out!