Why You Need to Set Goals for LIFE, Not Just Work

“How soon they forget…” was the thought haunted me a short time after leaving an organization that I had dearly loved leading. I thought I had forged friendships stronger than collegial proximity, but was barely noticed when I returned for a visit. I had thrown my whole life into growing the organization, eating two or three meals onsite, I even slept there overnight once to finish a presentation on time. Looking back, I realize that I had so prioritized the organizational achievement that I completely ignored my own personal success. I learned in that season that I had to create goals for more than just business or ministry success. I learned to be intentional in the relationships that meant the most to me. I encourage you to be mindful of the same, so I hope you’ll embrace the following reasons why you need to make life goals, not just work goals.

1. Money is not your only limited resource.

Early in my career my goals were often directly or indirectly wrapped around money. Thoughts of “What do I need to do to earn a promotion to get that raise?” or “What extra responsibilities can I take on to earn a merit bonus?” were drivers for my goals. But I’ve learned the hard way (through adrenal burnout) that while those goals may earn money, they cost time, physical energy, mental focus, and emotional stamina – all of which are limited resources. When setting your goals, don’t just ask yourself, “What can I accomplish with this goal?” but consider how much energy, time, and emotion you’ll need to invest to see it successful.

2. Your work can’t hug you at night.

In her book, 5 Things People Regret On Their Deathbed, Bronnie Ware states, “All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.” In fact all five of the regrets that she saw most often in her palliative care patients focused on personal relationships and authenticity, not work or success. Let’s face it, at the end of the day your significant other, children, and even pets, can warm your heart and cuddle. That report you’re working on? Nope, it isn’t going to offer you immediate comfort or future loving care.

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3. Your home needs maintenance.

Your body is your home – the shelter for your soul. As I mentioned earlier, I learned the hard way that you cannot take your health and strength for granted. I think that most twenty-somethings feel invincible. I know I did, and my colleagues did as well. But we are not. One of my friends, in her early thirties at the time, had her body completely revolt on her. She had been burning the candle at both ends as a wife, mom, full-time executive, and graduate student. Within a year’s time, she formed stomach ulcers, developed weekly migraines, experienced sporadic eye-twitching, and eventually broke out with shingles. After much medical treatment and counseling, she implemented stress-relieving activities such as meditating and running and almost immediately saw her physical ailments dissipate. The unanswered stress, fast-food consumption, and lack of rest eventually stopped whispering and started screaming to get her attention. Only by slowing down, saying no to some things, and prioritizing her health was she able to regain the stamina to become successful in every area of her life. Setting goals for your health will help you be successful not only in short term goals, but will help you last as a leader.

4. Your legacy is on the line.

Legacy is more than how you want to be remembered; Legacy is the influence you leave behind. My lovely friend Judy had a practice of sending thoughtful cards when she heard that someone was grieving, recovering, lonely, or she just thought of them that day. When she passed away, the pastor at her funeral asked the congregation of over a thousand people, “If you ever received a card of encouragement from Judy, would you stand?” Nearly everyone in the room stood. I was amazed, as I stood alongside of them, at the influence…the legacy…this stay-at-home mom and wife had made in the world. As you set your goals, it is imperative that you begin with the end in mind. What memories, feelings, and insight do you want your children, friends, and colleagues to have instilled from you? Your legacy is built decade-by-decade, year-by-year, day-by-day, and it is built intentionally. George Eliot may have said it best, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”


Need more harmony in your life and work, but not sure where to start? I’ve pulled together 6 Tips for Work-Life Harmony to help you find your way to more joy and peace in your life and work. Download your tips here:  6 Tips for Work-Life Harmony

Comment below and share your favorite tip for enjoying work-life harmony! 

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