Live a More Purposeful and Fulfilling Life
By Kristi King-Morgan, LMSW
There should be more to life than waking up, going to work, paying bills, doing chores, and going to bed only to start over again the next day. Many people say they feel as if they are merely surviving rather than living a fulfilling life. If you feel that you are struggling to exist day-to-day and seem to have no purpose other than getting through each day, you are not alone! The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The key is GOAL SETTING and BALANCE. Setting specific goals in seven areas of your life and actively working towards fulfilling these goals will help you feel like life has more meaning and purpose. You will have more satisfaction with your life and be overall happier than when you are just drifting and trying to survive day-to-day.
Take a piece of paper and make a list with the seven areas identified below. Write down your goal for each area, and if you don’t have a goal for a specific area, create one. This exercise will help you identify the areas of your life that you have been neglecting. Once you have identified the areas that you are not working on, begin to think of how you can develop some goals and start working on all of these areas. These steps will help you begin to live a life with more direction and purpose.
- FAMILY – maybe you need to focus more attention on your family.Maybe you need to work on better communication with them, or work on building intimacy with your partner. No matter what stage of life you are in, there are goals you can set in this area! They will change as your family changes, but change doesn’t mean end. Respecting your elders, caring for children, setting reasonable goals for education, fun, and safety at all ages is important.Young people often find it easy to set goals such as getting married or having children, but as family dynamics change over time, some people have a difficult time changing their relationships with family members to meet the new goals. When children leave home and you find yourself with an empty nest, your goals may change to include in-laws and grandchildren.
- SOCIAL – Often people neglect a social life when they start a family or are focusing on building a career. While it is hard to maintain a social life while fulfilling all your adult roles, it is still important.Your social life will change but it does not need to be nonexistent.Make friends, do volunteer work, plan outings with coworkers - whatever you have to do to maintain a life outside of family and outside of work that is reasonable.Some people like to have weekly card games, or if weekly is too much then every other week or maybe just once a month.Develop a hobby. Remember, the key is balance. You don’t need to completely neglect a social life when you are building a family and a career, but you also don’t need to neglect your family or career to try to keep the same social life you may have had when you were young and single.
- FINANCIAL – I know money isn’t everything, but it is a necessity.What are your financial goals?Are you planning for retirement?Are you already retired?Even someone on a fixed social security income can still have financial goals.Budgeting, planning, and careful management of money is important. Whether it is to save for a vacation, luxury purchase, or making sure you have money set aside for sudden unexpected needs like roof repairs or new tires on your car, you need to have a clear plan for how you handle your money. If you live paycheck to paycheck, have to check your bank balance to see if there’s any money in it when you need to buy something, don’t know how much cash you currently have in your purse or wallet, and are often blindsided by unexpected expenses and have to scramble to borrow money to cover these expenses, this is a good indication that this area of your life needs more attention.
- EDUCATION/PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT:You should never stop learning no matter what age you are.Set some goals when it comes to education.Learn a new word each day, read a book, stay up to date on new studies in your field if you have a job, do word puzzles or Sudoku, whatever you need to do to further your education on a daily basis.
- CAREER – Set career goals.Trying to find a job?Trying to climb the ladder on your current job?Even if you are retired or disabled you can find something that fulfills you that you can do. Do some volunteer work, pick up trash by the side of the road, bake cookies once a week for a different neighbor, or deliver Meals on Wheels.Sign up to teach Sunday School or offer to babysit once a month for a young couple to have a date night.Retirement shouldn’t mean that you don’t have any more work to do. Whether you are getting paid or are volunteering your time, find meaningful work to do no matter what age you are.
- SPIRITUAL – What are your spiritual goals?If you go to church, set goals such as reading your bible on a regular basis, or attending regular services.If church is not your thing, give to charity or find meaning in your life in some way.Meditation and prayer are good options to begin.Get in touch with whatever your higher power is, even if it is simply taking the time to appreciate nature.
- PHYSICAL – Your physical health is important yet all too often we neglect it until we have medical trouble such as diabetes or hypertension.Set goals for healthy eating, exercising, and proper grooming. Don’t skip regular checkups with your doctor and dentist. Becoming out of shape or overweight may cause depression, and this throws your life out of balance. Having to deal with a chronic health issue can also cause depression and anxiety, and can affect other areas of your life in major ways.Many young and middle aged individuals neglect their health while they focus too much of their time on goals in other areas.