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Find your purpose

In my last post, I talked about taking initiative on your 2010 goals. Continuing on with this theme of goal setting...

If you still feel a little uncertain about your 2010 goals, one of the simplest things to do is to interview a few people who have already attained the goal you’re considering. Check out the reality, the bad as well as the good. Believe me, a lot of positions in our profession look glamorous and appealing from the outside, and rather less so from inside... There may also be sacrifices that you’re not prepared to make, for the sake of your family - or you may find that achieving your ambition will routinely require your working more hours than you can cope with! Remember, there are many different ways of being a successful lawyer. Don’t be one of those people who take the line of least resistance and wind up regretting it.

The bottom line is that your goal must be something that gives you purpose, and this purpose matters far more than those extrinsic motivators (like wealth or status) associated with a more traditional definition of success. Without this sense of purpose you’re almost certain to lack enough inner fire to fuel you. Further, there is almost certainly someone among your peers or competitors carrying that same flame, making him (or her) far more likely than you are to achieve and sustain that same goal.

Let me give you an example we’re all familiar with...

Early on in the U.S. 2008 presidential campaign polls showed unparalleled support for Al Gore as the Democratic nominee, even though he wasn’t even running! Now no one can deny that Gore had plenty of backing as the presidential candidate in 2000 (in fact, some would argue that he did in fact win the 2000 presidential election), yet he certainly lacked the passionate following and the wide-ranging clout that he carries today. So what made the difference? My theory is that Al Gore ran his 2000 campaign without a compelling vision. His relentless speechifying about payroll taxes and Social Security benefits just didn’t cut it - either for him or for the voters.

However, the Al Gore of today is miles more impressive, inspiring a significant following as a campaigner against global warming. Many commentators have already noted that if Gore had run for president in 2008 he could have commanded a level of support far superior to that of 2000. The difference? His political raison d’être is now propelled by a compelling and authentic personal vision, which creates both passion for his cause and trust in him as a leader. (This also explains why Gore is probably more effective in his current role as environmental activist than he would be as president - it allows him to focus on what matters most to him.)

The importance of discovering the "right" personal vision is no different for us. When we find the goal that really motivates us, we’re fired with enthusiasm, and this inspires others not only to support us but also to share our dream.

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