External Goal Achievement vs. Internal Spiritual Growth

Achieving major life goals is an important element of life’s journey. I enjoy it. I enjoy helping people I work with to achieve theirs.

However, I have a nagging concern about goal achievement, especially as it is presented within the Life Coaching community. My experience is that, very often, perhaps most of the time, achievement of major life goals – external goals – seems to be represented as the fundamental purpose of life itself. Or, at least the sole purpose of the coaching relationship.

I want to reiterate that I LIKE achievement of major life goals. I do a lot of this work with clients. My nagging concern is that the focus among life coaches is almost exclusively slanted toward achievement of external goals such as financial goals, career goals, relationship goals, getting more possessions (“stuff”), and the like. Especially for folks in recovery from addiction or other self-destructive behaviors, this over-emphasis on external achievement is actually dangerous.

The core issue is balance. Around 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth said “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all of these things shall be added unto you.” (Emphasis added.) What he meant is that it’s a major mistake to focus exclusively on worldly attainment (i.e. externals). He is saying that you have to become ready to handle worldly attainment through first attaining internal, spiritual goals and growth.

How many people have you known through your life who have attained great worldly success, but were not emotionally mature enough to handle it sanely? How many times have you seen worldly attainments fall apart because the individual did not know how to handle success? That is what we are talking about here. Recovery from addiction is fundamentally a process of spiritual and emotional growth. Addition of life’s ‘goodies’ (external achievements) is also important, but is completely hollow without attendant internal growth spiritually and emotionally.

So what are some examples of internal achievements? Here are a few:

  • Humility
  • Spiritual growth
  • Personal spirituality
  • Emotional balance
  • Compassion
  • Self-Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Unconditional love
  • Healthy boundaries
  • Flexibility
  • Coping well with change
  • Responsibility

A life founded on enduring spiritual and characterological values is one that has a sustainable foundation; one that can handle the pressures and responsibilities that come with attainment of life goals.

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