Distinguishing Purpose and Goals

Activities & Lessons


Purpose-Finding, Community, & Experiential Learning



30 minutes.

Human Restoration Project under Creative Commons-BY-SA.

March 2020

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This activity encourages individuals to reflect on their short-term goals and connect them to a greater purpose or calling in their lives.

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By identifying a purpose, individuals can find meaning and direction in their pursuits, rather than solely focusing on short-term goals without a broader context. This activity also allows individuals to explore different avenues for finding purpose, whether it be through careers, volunteering, family, or other meaningful pursuits.

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List examples of short term goals you’ve had, or currently are pursuing, below. 

E.g. I want to get a job this summer.

E.g. I want to get good grades.

Short term goals are meaningful, as long as they connect with a greater purpose. That’s not to say that we should never have short term goals without purpose, but if we solely focus on short term goals, we will soon find ourselves without direction.

A purpose, or calling, is where we identify a life goal. Beyond small steps, we’re taking part in a search for meaning that impacts the world outside of our individual pursuits. It’s our “ultimate concern.” It’s the “why do I care?” of our life’s journey. Short term goals may coincide with this journey. 

Brainstorm potential purposes, or callings, and how they relate to the above short term goals. These may coincide with your calling, or could be entirely hypothetical.

E.g. I want to get a job this summer, to make money and invest early, so that I can open my own business.

E.g. I want to get good grades, so I can go to medical school, so I can help people and make them feel better.

Although many find purpose in aspirational careers, this is not always the case. Many find purpose in volunteering, starting a family, or even simple jobs where they can make a difference.

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