A life goal is one that permeates all the aspects of one’s life’ at any given time.
To attain it may involve all the areas in one’s life. It may be reached in a short time or never. The important element is the effort to attain, not the attainment. A life goal is based upon and determined by a set of values that govern, bind together, and give meaning to all the activities of a person’s life. It provides a center for the gradual integration of all the physical, intellectual, and emotional factors in life. A valid life goal must take into consideration the worth of the individual himself and his obligation to society. Such a goal is a rejection of the idea that a man’s job is the most important thing in his life arid that all his activities should be centered on it.
A job is not an end in itself but merely a means to a larger and more important goal. This point of view, while generally accepted as an ideal, is often forgotten in practice. The implication of this position is that the life of an individual should be considered as an organic whole, not as a mixture of more or less unrelated and often conflicting elements.
Therefore, in considering the usefulness, effectiveness, or desirability of any job or any aspect of life, the entire pattern of life should be taken into account, not merely one segment of it. One should take into consideration how a given job will contribute to the attainment of one’s life goal. While there are other elements of value that must be considered—working conditions, wages, chances for advancement, etc.—the life goal itself is the crucial element that ties together and serves to complement and give meaning to the job as a part of the life of the individual.
There is, for most persons, no one best, predetermined avenue through which the life goal may be realised. Any one of a number of different avenues may be equally effective and satisfactory in getting an individual to his goal. The particular avenue that we take is influenced by many different elements in our environment. One does not always need to change jobs in order to make his occupation more useful in achieving his goal. In most occupations there is some opportunity for a personal adjustment that may make it possible to use the job in such a way that it will be more helpful in the attainment of the life goal. Life is full of illustrations of men and women who have so interpreted their jobs and so governed their activities as to make them avenues through which they have attained their life goal.
The lives of individual we know—carpenters, plumbers, nurse lawyers—constantly remind us that any job that is not in antisocial may be used in such a way as to contribute to human welfare when making such a contribution is the worker’s life goal. Examples of Life Goals: There are as many life goals possible as there are value systems and different social contexts in which the values can find expression. Some may devote themselves to working for the equality of opportunity for all Americans. Some may think that the highest goal is the achievement of peace and good will among nations. “To make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before” may be a life goal. Others wish to emulate Schweitzer, Gandhi, or Lincoln. These and other purposes can give meaning to life and help the individual make choices of all kinds as they are related to this goal.
Difficulty of Choosing Life Goals: It is often very difficult to select a life goal that is suited to the abilities, needs, and interests of the individual and that has a reasonable promise of attainment. After the choice is made, it is sometimes difficult or impossible to reach the goal. Both choice and attainment often require assistance from others. The process of so clarifying our values that we know what we stand for is a lifelong task. Many live confused, shallow lives unable to differentiate the important from the trivial. While we should not expect most students to have clear and expressible life goals, we should assume some responsibility for helping them to learn the dimensions of this human problem and to have some acquaintance with the major tools useful in its solution. Influences in Choosing Life Goals: A life goal is not a gift from the gods.
It is not inherited but learned. Parents, teachers, and associates may do much to shape an individual’s life goal as May his general social environment with its war, famine, disease, estrangement of parents, or death of close friends. A person develops his life goal slowly, often unconsciously, and may revise it from time to time. Sometimes a religious conversion or a personal tragedy may cause sudden dramatic changes. Although it is usually not fully developed until maturity arid sometimes not even then, the important elements begin to appear in adolescence. It is clear, then, that the period represented by the secondary school and college is of maximum importance in the development of a life philosophy—in the formation of a life goal.
The guidance needed for this phase of development lends itself especially well to group discussion, supplemented from time to time by individual counselling. Here, again, is where teachers can be of great help, especially teachers of English, history, science, music and art. The lives of men and women who have made contributions in these fields can be studied and emphasis given to their special gifts, their purposes, and their motives. The school will influence the life goals of its students whether it wishes to or not. The only question which remains is whether the influence is to be unconscious, disorganised, and negative or whether it will be conscious, systematic, and positive.