The Power of Intentional Aspirational Goals

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My intention with each of these posts is that you’re challenged to interrupt the noise and routine in your life, just for a moment, to think more deeply about what really matters in life… your relationship with yourself and with others in your professional and personal life.

Action Summary

  1. Set Intentional Aspirational Goals to make life better in some way for the people in your professional and personal relationships
  2. Develop a stronger sense of self-determination

The WHY:

Humans are aspirational goal seeking beings. But what impact might this have on your sense of well-being and the life choices you are making in your professional and personal life?

Each of us, according to researchers Nohria and Lawrence have an innate drive to acquire1. I’ve written about this drive to acquire in a previous post. The ‘dark side’ of this drive to acquire is when we are mindlessly driven to possess more and more ‘things’ and to socially compare our ‘stuff’ with all the stuff other people have in their lives.

So the question is, how do we ensure we tap into and focus our drive to acquire in positive ways that will benefit our well-being?

One way is to become more intentionally aspirational.

To be intentionally aspirational includes consciously aspiring to be the person you need to be to succeed in your professional and personal life. It also includes consciously aspiring to acquire things in your life (the things that money can and can’t buy), that will positively impact your sense of well-being.

If you’re not consciously, mindfully and intentionally harnessing this innate drive to acquire, you might be mindlessly pursuing all the wrong things. And if you’re not consciously aspiring to acquire through setting intentional aspirational goals, there will be an aspirational gap in your sense of self.

OK, a bit academic and theoretical, but what does that mean?

While some people believe in fate and that life will deliver what it delivers anyway, you have the choice to influence what happens to you… at least to an extent. Setting and pursuing intentional aspirational goals is one way to intentionally influence your life experiences.

Of course, you won’t be able to influence everything that happens to you (some stuff in life just happens and you have nothing to do with it at all), but by setting intentional aspirational goals and taking intentional action, you are building on an important element that contributes to your sense of self-determination.

Your sense of self-determination is what researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan2 define as a combined sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness.

Autonomy refers to you having a strong sense of controlling the direction and experience of your life, aligned with your personal values and goals.

Competence refers to you having a strong sense of possessing the skills, knowledge and attributes required to succeed in your personal and professional life.

And relatedness refers to you having a strong sense of supporting and nurturing relationships in your professional and personal life.

Of these three elements, autonomy, competence and relatedness, it is your sense of autonomy that setting and pursuing intentional aspirational goals will positively impact.

While your intentional aspirational goals will include the pursuit of acquiring things that will increase your sense of well-being, they ought to also include goals that have an underlying intention to help you help other people in your various life roles.Your intentional aspirational goals will also include striving to be your personal best – a person of ‘good’ character, integrity, and trustworthiness.

Think about this from a practical, rather than theoretical view point. If you’re not pursuing intentional aspirational goals, you have nothing to strive for. If you have nothing to strive for (even if it is striving to maintain your current life-style), you’re putting yourself in the dangerous position of simply languishing and existing through life, and not experiencing and living and enjoying all that life has to offer.

Let me finish with this elegant quote from Samuel Johnson who said….

“Our aspirations are our possibilities.”

My best to you for now and remember when you intentionally improve the life of others in your professional and personal relationships, you set up the power of reciprocity … what you give out, you get back.

  1. Driven: How human nature shapes our choices. By Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria
  2. For more on Deci’s and Ryan’s research visit
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