Q: What is the ultimate purpose, or goal, of life?
A: “That’s a big question. I work like a dog all day and watch TV at night to avoid thinking about things like that. In fact, I’m feeling the urge to go to the bar and watch football right now!”
Fundamentally, I would suggest the two basic life goals are meaning and connection.
Extroverts align with the outer world, and so there is a great tendency to quantify meaning as something external: Quarterly results! Number of customers! Cars in my garage! Number of children! Amount of people rescued from starvation! After all, who wants to dwell too long on touchy feely stuff like emotions, values, dreams and the whole human experience? Spreadsheets are much easier.
At its extreme, this orientation paints life as a game to acquire the most “things.” Pursuing this path may be fun for a while, but eventually your Inner World strikes back — and the painful lack of inner meaning erupts as mid-life crisis, divorce, and other forms of woe and self-doubt.
On the other hand, some introverts can be so wrapped up in their internal lives that they end up completely disconnected from everyone around them. They may be an expert on Northern European butterfly mating habits, they may be true to themselves in their esoteric uniqueness, but like a brain in a jar, they may fail to find meaning because they are not connected with the world around them.
Extroverts have an innate sense of connection; introverts an innate sense of the validity of the greater subjective self — soul, human spirit or whatever you want to call it. Its not a Thing, therefore its hard to name.
By defining, sharing and working towards genuine goals, work can help people find meaning, as well as connection, through a framework of constructive endeavours (making things, selling them, etc.).
So, put some soul in your goals and connect with other people around them! You will discover a naturally emerging transformative energy within your organization and maybe even end up loving your job. It will be more chaotic than numbers in spreadsheets… but it will be more real, more successful and more fun.
That’s a small but happy answer to a big question!
And no, you don’t have to go on vision quests, grow a beard and have group hugs if you don’t want to — and you certainly don’t need to come up with a 10-paragraph hyperbolic mission statement.