The Life Goals Approach and our Fulfillment
The “Life Goals Approach” can help chart a clear course with purpose in our life. The first life goal is to elevate our personal strengths, skills, and maturity. It’s finding our inner harmony. The second life goal is developing loving and enriching relationships, especially in the context of our family. Our associations affect the environment we activate. The third life goal is to enhance the lives of others through our unique contributions. The “Life Goals Approach” pursues and achieves objectives that point the way to valuable and productive lives. Achieving these life goals provides great personal satisfaction as it enriches the lives of others as well.
The first life goal is to become a mature person with an honorable character. Our goal of maturity is to become someone who altruistically loves others. Heart is the fundamental impulse for relationships. It’s what prompts us to long for the joy of loving and being loved. The satisfaction of valuing others and being valued by others is what makes our life worthwhile. Love and relationships are indispensable human requirements as strong as our need for food and shelter. Love in its truest sense intensifies altruistic action such as giving, serving, and sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our cherished interactions.
Our heart begins to develop from the moment we are born. It is not an automatic process like the growth of our physical body. Instead, we need to strengthen our heart just as a plant needs to be cultivated with love and care to become healthy and beautiful. We thrive on experiences of love that encourage our heart to open and to make connections with others. Positive reinforcement and love from our parents, teachers, and mentors nourish our hearts and our desire to do more.
The second life goal is to develop the capacity for ethical and loving relationships. We learn how to relate with others. Building upon the first goal, mature character with an altruistic heart, we observe the standards and proper rules for good relationships in our family, at work, and in the community and region we live in.
His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, stressed the importance of the individual and its relationship to the expanding effect on the world:
The question of real, lasting world peace concerns human beings, so basic human feelings are also at its roots. Through inner peace, genuine world peace can be achieved. In this the importance of individual responsibility is quite clear; an atmosphere of peace must first be created within ourselves, then gradually expanded to include our families, our communities, and ultimately the whole planet.[i]
A loving and harmonious family is vital because the central context where children first learn about love is in their family. All persons in the family have a proper role based on their position. There may be an elder brother, a daughter, a wife, a grandparent, etc. We grow to accept the responsibility inherent in our role. For instance, the parents maintain fidelity within marriage and elders safeguard the integrity of the family.
When we have fulfilled the first two life goals, society becomes an extension of our family. The community and the environment are treated with respect and love. Motivated by true love, we interact with society, our work, and the environment, leading to our individual and social prosperity.
The third basic life goal is to contribute to society through creativity and mastery. It deals with the human aspiration to develop our potential for creativity or mastery in some field of endeavor with the intention to leave a legacy for future generations. We can contribute to society by adding to the material prosperity of others or improving their quality of life. Success in the third life goal needs the foundation of a mature character (first life goal) and loving relationships (second life goal). Our character can be likened to the roots of a tree. The trunk and branches of the tree symbolize our relationships with others. Our contributions to society are the fruits.
We long to excel in something -- schoolwork, creative activities, sports, careers, etc. We want the power, money, and prestige that come with success. This requires mastery of our talents and the intellectual, physical, or artistic skills necessary to create something of value. Through our accomplishments, we can gain the approval of our elders and peers. More importantly, we seek the inner satisfaction that comes with being good at what we do and making a difference in the lives of others. Real mastery requires training, effort, discipline, and focus. These are the normal choices in the path to competence and success. Our desire for mastery springs from our deepest heart.