Purpose-Driven Goals

A letter of the heart by Jon Gordon.

For years I chose Organic Valley milk over other brands in the supermarket. I had no idea why until I spoke at their remote headquarters surrounded by acres of farmland in the middle of Wisconsin.

I discovered a company that didn’t believe in sales and revenue goals. Of course, they forecasted sales for budgetary, planning and growth purposes and measured numbers and outcomes, but they did so with the belief that numbers were just a by-product of how well they were living and sharing their purpose.

Instead of focusing on goals with numbers, Organic Valley passionately focused on their purpose-driven goals: providing opportunities for farmers to make a living; sustainability of the land; and providing families with healthy dairy products that were free of hormones and antibiotics. The result: Organic Valley’s numbers kept growing and growing.

While speaking to an NFL team a few years ago, I had each player write their goals on a piece of paper. After a few minutes, I had them rip it up. You could hear the complaints and feel the anger and frustration while they ripped up the paper they had just spent time and energy writing on. I then asked, “How many of you wrote down win a super bowl, win x number of games, achieve x number of yards, have x number of interceptions, etc.?”

All the hands went up. I told them that every person in every NFL meeting room has the same goals. So, it’s not the goals that will make you successful. Otherwise, everyone and every team would be successful after writing down their goals.

Instead, it’s your commitment to the process, your growth, and your purpose that drive you to reach the goals that will determine what you accomplish.

I then had them write down their commitments and purpose for playing, and had them share with the rest of the team. It was powerful.

The truth is numbers and goals don’t drive people. People with a purpose drive the numbers and achieve goals. Research clearly shows that true motivation is driven by meaning and purpose rather than extrinsic rewards, numbers, and goals.

A study of West Point alums showed that those who had intrinsic goals, such as “I want to serve my country and make a difference” outperformed those with extrinsic goals like “I want to rise in the ranks and become an officer because it’s prestigious.”

Goals may motivate you in the short term, but they will not sustain you over time. Without a good reason to keep moving forward during challenges, you either quit or go through the motions.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure numbers or have goals. It’s okay to have a goal you want to achieve, but once you identify a goal or outcome you will be more powerful and energized if you focus on your purpose.

Your greater purpose will lead to greater performance!

Purpose-driven goals sell more milk, win more football games, enhance performance and lead to outcomes that far surpass your numbered goals.