What is the single most important goal you want to achieve at this stage in your life? Throughout my adulthood, I've asked myself this question on a regular basis. It gives me a sense of purpose and has served as the light at the end of some long, dark tunnels. It also helps me assess whether I am wasting time, which is my biggest fear. Life is short and precious.

When I mentor people, this is where I start. I believe singling out your most important goal provides a framework from which to hang every other decision. Try it. Think hard about what that goal is for you, write it down and then for every other decision you make, ask yourself whether your choice advances you towards that goal or not.

How One Big Goal Changed My Career Path

Seven years ago I decided my goal at that stage was to put myself in a position at a technology company to make the most positive impact I could have on as many people as possible. At the time I was working at Bain & Company as an advisor to the leaders of technology companies and I was doing well. A big promotion was imminent, but I had an itching feeling that I could make a more direct impact as a "decision maker" and "doer" rather than as an advisor. To many people's astonishment, I left a well-compensated and promising career at arguably the best consulting firm on the planet to go to an unknown software start up located in one of the least popular neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

The decision was actually easy. My number one goal was not to maximize my compensation or even lifelong earnings: it was about making an impact. In the company I joined, Velocify, I saw the potential to transform the entire sales profession. The founders had created a great foundation, but were also extremely receptive to me coming in and molding the company's future direction. It turned out to be the right decision for me.

Don't Be Afraid To Change Your Goals As You Grow

After two and a half years at the company, the board named me CEO. It was time for me to reexamine whether I still had the same goal. At that point I decided "maximizing impact" was too broad. I needed a goal that I could easily articulate to people around me, a goal that described how I intended to act as a CEO. I decided that the single most important goal was "to make Velocify a career-defining event for as many employees as possible." I could have chosen things like "grow Velocify into a billion-dollar company," "transform the world of sales through software" or "create multi-generational wealth for my family," but in the end I settled on a goal that described how I wanted to approach the journey.

I believe that if Velocify succeeds in becoming a career-defining event for many of its employees it will not be due to the fact that we built a large and successful business, but because we did so in a way that meant something to the people who made it happen. With this goal in mind, I am focused on making Velocify the best place in technology, where the best people can do meaningful work in every department. It's why we continuously have an eye towards both company culture and the engagement of our people. Rethinking my most important goal has helped guide my decisions as a CEO so that success means more than just raising a mountain of money or growing at a blistering pace. It has also helped us attract top talent and earn recognition from Glassdoor and other third parties as a top place to work, which has helped us attract even more great talent, which will no doubt help make our journey a career-defining event.

So what's your number one goal at this point in your life? It's a hard question but once you answer it, every other question in your life will become a whole lot easier to answer.

Published on: Jan 28, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.