IX. Goal Setting

When I ask people what they want, it’s rare to see them explain it with any passion.  But shouldn’t the opposite be the case?  Shouldn’t our goals be clearer and our wants and needs met as much as we are capable of having them be met?

If people do lead lives of quiet desperation, then for those who cannot sit idly by, goal setting is key.  You have to find a way to blend your passion with your daily life.

There’s always an easy answer to what you want, but deep down we all have one overpowering feeling that halts us in our tracks.  


If someone less capable than you got the job, landed the part, signed the deal, got the invite to an event, etc., it’s hard to think of this as anything but a failure, and a frustration because you think you deserve it more.

And this is the trap with goal setting.  The minute you think you deserve more, the more you will eventually fail because–honestly–you haven’t done enough to gain recognition if your fallback is that people should recognize you because of who you are.

Think about how you judge other people.  You judge them on their actions, their reactions, and a myriad of superficial traits, yet the minute someone judges you, your reaction is to pull out, from deep down, all of the wonderful and redeeming qualities you have that they just haven’t seen “yet.”  

Thus to make yourself part of the conversation, you have to set clear goals.


Here’s how—first write these answers down:

In one year from today, what do you want to be doing?

And what are you actually doing to get there?

In five years, where do you want to be, and by the time you retire, what do you really want to have accomplished?

And finally—when you retire, what will you do with your “free time”?


There is a major disconnect between what we are all doing today and working towards what we want, and an even greater one for what we’ll do when work, family, and finances aren’t as time consuming.

When you read your answers over, can you see your path from this year to five years from now?  Can you see a way to get where you want?


Second:  Now answer the real questions for goal setting—

What are you passionate about that defines you best?  What does no one know about what you love in this world, that would given them a rounder sense of who you are?

What other activities can you explore that will bring you closer to your goals and get you there?


This story of two interns demonstrates why goal setting is so very important.   

Intern #1 wanted to work in “nonprofits” because she thought they had value and she was really passionate about helping people.  When faced with the hard work, she asked when we would be able to get to the rewarding “work.”  After three months at the initial review, she asked for business cards, a new title, and wanted to move on to other work with us, as she was “past” the work she was in charge of.

She left our nonprofit.

Intern #2 volunteered with us for a summer.  She had a goal of learning the ropes of fundraising because she wanted to start her own non-profit eventually and didn’t know much about it.  But she did know she eventually wanted to work with people in foreign cultures, and find a way to help them.  Within this summer, she met people who learned enough about her goals and began to help her achieve them.

It’s easy to see which Intern you’d hire, right?  But believe it or not, both come across well and are awesome people.  The difference was that Intern #2 had spent time working on her goals, and knew that her passion would only be fulfilled when she was ready to fulfill it herself.

When you connect and meet new people, they have to be “taught” how to define you—how to help you when you’re not physically there asking for it.  If you’re angry about being passed over, make sure you’ve really spent the time doing your own internal work enough to present yourself “fully.”

A life of quiet desperation can turn into a life of meaning as quickly as you are willing to realize that one always has to learn, and that the more your passions define your life, the closer you can get to the opportunities you want and desire, not just those you “deserve.”

David Homan

David Homan is a composer and musician, the executive of a nonprofit organization, and specialist in connecting who has built a network of thousands of peers and colleagues internationally. He regularly sits with start-up founders, philanthropists, and business leaders for informal conversations to keep them motivated and to find the strongest and simplest solution to the challenges they face. He has raised millions of dollars through multiple campaigns, put on sold-out events for thousands of people, advised conferences, staffed panels, and still manages to leave work on time--most days.