Are your goals confined to work and career? What about your personal and social ones?

“Where do you see yourself five years from now?” asked the interviewer during campus placement. “I see myself as a manager of a team,” answered Jaspreet boldly. She had practised it for months now and her soft skills trainers had almost put the words in her mouth. “What about personal goals? Social goals?” Jaspreet was dumbfounded.

Narrow focus

Our education is oriented towards making us job-worthy. Though higher academics and pursuit of knowledge should, ideally, be an end in themselves, in practice, our colleges prepare us for the workplace.

When you leave your campuses you will carry with you a one-dimensional approach to life. Progress, growth, development, skills, knowledge, attitude, aptitude, potential, success, goals, tasks, performance, result — you will relate all these words only to career and work. The thought of setting goals for our personal growth does not appear in our horizons at all.

But just think: Why would you stack up degrees and learn skills if you didn’t have to earn? And why would you earn if not to be comfortable and happy in your personal life? If the career is only the means to a larger personal end, then should you not think and prepare for this end?

You will after all lead a personal life, have relationships, and maybe raise a family. You already have siblings, parents, neighbours and friends, and a host of relatives — your circle will widen as you forge new bonds in life. With people come responsibilities, commitments, experiences, emotional tangles, obligations, and challenges.

As a citizen you will vote your government, pay taxes and get familiar with and obey the laws of the land. As a family member you will worry about your family, your finances and investments, and plan your holidays. As a parent, you will be involved in the development of your children.

These are substantial and meaningful aspects of your life and will have profound influence and impact over the lives of others in your life, on the shaping of another generation, on your country’s future and in a sense, on humanity itself. Naturally these dimensions deserve to be treated with more respect than your career.

Social growth

The first small step towards acknowledging this exponential growth potential in your life would be for you to set personal and social goals for yourself. Ask yourself, “What goals hold meaning for you?”

You could start by introspecting. Try to visualise what you would want to be five years, 10 years, and 15 years from now as an individual, as a responsible member of society, as a citizen, a potential parent and a role model for an unborn generation. What would you like to be known for, seen as, and appreciated for? What kind of a parent would you like to be for your child? What kind of citizenry will you help build for your country and humankind? What will give you the utmost satisfaction?

Write down your goals for every dimension of life that you can visualise. Knowing your own strengths, weaknesses, limitations, desires, aspirations, values, convictions and attitudes will help you arrive at your goals. Remember, goal setting is the final step in the entire process of getting to know oneself.

Your goals do not have to be grand, ambitious or fantastic. They just need to be clear, practical and realistic, and reflective of your character, personality and situation. Even a very simple goal can give you great clarity whenever you need to make a decision, small or big. For example, one of your personal goals could be to lead a healthy, disease-free life. Once you articulate it, it will (hopefully) pop up in your mind every time you reach out for that bag of chips or burger, and influence your decision enough to keep you on target course.

However, as we lead our lives in the midst of uncertainties, imponderables and unrealistic assumptions, we can never be sure if our goals are attainable. Many factors that shape our lives are beyond our control. Many of the twists our lives take are unfathomable, and our experiences, unpredictable.

While you set goals and chalk your course, be flexible and open-minded. Emerging circumstances might derail you from your track and even make your destination seem remote or inaccessible. Develop the pragmatism and resilience you need to change tracks and get back on course or set yourself another target.

Goal setting for personal and social growth will help you think of yourself very differently. It will help you see yourself as a cog in the mighty wheel called society, and vital to the wheel’s welfare. In the well being of society is your well being and in your well being lies the stability of society.

The author is writer and editor of children’s books