The Problem With Goal Setting And What You Can Do Instead: The 3 Most Important Questions

Many people struggle to be truly fulfilled in their lives today. Even if we think we’re doing everything right and are working hard to achieve our goals, we’re still not as happy as we’d like to be.

Why is happiness so hard to find?

As Vishen Lakhiani explains in the video above, it’s mostly because we confuse our “means goals” for “end goals.”

Pursuing the wrong type of goals may ruin all of your best efforts to build the life of your dreams.

What makes life truly meaningful, exciting and beautiful to you? And are you setting the right type of goals to get there?

The Biggest Problem With Goal Setting: Means Goals Vs. End Goals


As Vishen explains in the video, there is a big difference between “end goals” and “means goals.”

End goals are the ones that are related to what it means to be human. Goals like being happy, and contributing to the world we live in with the gifts we were given.

An example of a means goal would be to get a certain degree in school, to make a certain amount of money, or to get a good review at work.

Many of us mistakingly think that means goals are end goals. That if we achieve any of these goals, we will be happy and fulfilled.

This, as it turns out, is not so.

Although means goals certainly can be useful, achieving them is not what our life is about.

Life, ultimately, is not about doing good on a certain test, having a certain job title, or driving a certain car.

But instead of getting clear on our end goals, and focussing on those, most of us are obsessed with means goals.

We need to ask ourselves:

What is it I really want?

And what would truly make me, and the people I love, happy?

Why This Exercise Is Getting Picked Up By Schools And Organizations


Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon to experience a mid-life crisis these days.

Even if you live your life by all the rules – you work hard, achieve great results, and continuously strive to improve yourself – chances are,  you’ll still wake up one day feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

So what is it we truly want in life?

School children in India writing down their answers to The 3 Most Important Questions

When your final day has come, what’s gonna be your legacy? What’s the mark you want to make on the world?

If you haven’t given this much thought before, you’re not the only one. Many people don’t ask themselves what it really means to live a good life.

Most of us were “forced to pick a career before we could legally buy a beer,” says Vishen in the video above. So how can we know we’ve made – and are making – the right choices for ourselves?

Organizations leading their employees through The 3 Most Important Questions exercise

Luckily, we do not have to wait for our last day on earth, or for something really bad to happen to start asking ourselves the right questions.

We do not have to wake up one day, thinking: “how did I ever get myself into this job, career or profession, that actually makes me feel miserable?”

And we do not have to wake up one day, thinking: “what if I would have spent more time with my family and friends?” Or: “what would my life have been like if I had traveled more?” Or, “if only I’d been able to create that work I longed to create but never found the time for…”

Don’t postpone asking yourself the most important questions.

Before your final day arrives, what is it you want to experience? What is it that you really do not want to miss out on in this lifetime?

And if there were no limitations and you would presume abundance, what could you honestly do without?

The Complete Exercise: The 3 Most Important Questions


Listen to Vishen as he leads you through this powerful exercise in this video or read on to get a deeper understanding of it.

Growing or developing ourselves and contributing to society are both part of our spiritual needs. And acting on those needs is the surest way to find fulfilment.

These are two of the three main categories or “buckets” we can divide our lives into: experiences, growth, and contribution.

The three most important questions we can ask ourselves are:

  1. What do you want to experience in life?
  2. How do you want to grow and develop yourself?
  3. How do you want to contribute to the world?

Answering these questions will give you a blueprint into your soul, and will make you discover what it takes for you to know you truly lived life.

Important note before doing this exercise: take no more than 90 seconds to answer each of these questions. 

The point is not to overthink it, but let the answers flow through you. This is how you will hear the answers that instantly come to you, straight from your heart.

Keep on writing for the full 90 seconds and do not stop. At some point, your critical mind shuts off and you start writing what matters.

And remember: there are no right or wrong answers here. This is about discovering what makes your soul shine and makes your life a wonderful experience. Dare to dream big.

Download and print this PDF to fill in the answers for yourself.

3 Most Important Questions
Download PDF

1. What do you want to experience?

Think about any experience that you wish to have in this lifetime. Consider your love life, your relationships, your sexuality. Think about what experiences you’d like to have with your friends and family. What would you like your social life to look like?

Assume you have unlimited access to funds.

What type of car would you want to drive? What type of home would you want to live in? Are there any other things you dream of having in your life?

And what places do you want to travel to? What type of activities, hobbies or sports would you love to explore?

Write down everything that you could possibly dream of doing or having that would make you feel happy and joyful.

2. How do you want to grow?

How would you like to develop yourself? Think about your intellectual life for instance. What skills would you like to obtain? What languages would you want to master?

But also: what character traits do you admire in others and which would you like to master? How do you want to deal with stressful events in your life for instance?

What are your health and fitness goals? How long would you like to live? How would you like to feel and what would you like to be able to do in your old age?

Is there a particular aspect of your spiritual life that you’d like to dive deeper into?

Jot down anything you’d like to develop in your life.

3. How do you want to contribute?

Lastly, think about all the various ways in which you want to contribute to the world.

As Vishen puts it: no matter how shitty your life might be, when you think about giving back, this is one of the surest ways to happiness.

How could you contribute to your family, friends, society, city, or even the entire planet? No matter how big or small your ideas, write down everything that comes to you.

What will be your legacy? How will you make the world a slightly better place? Which problem would you like to solve for the planet and humanity?

It could be volunteering or giving your time to specific people. It could be a certain work you’d like to create. Anything you can think of that would be of benefit to others and the world we live in.

Stop living by the rules of the Industrial Age.

Life is about what your soul truly wants. And you can find out what it is, when you answer these three questions.

Is there anyone you know who might be too focused on the means goals in their life? Someone specific who could benefit from this exercise?

Feel free to share this and spread the joy of finding happiness. And if you would like to dive deeper into designing your life around “end goals”, download the Mindvalley Quest App for Android or iOS and try our free course, Extraordinary by Design.


What were your answers? Inspire each other to dream big: Share your favorite answers in a comment below.

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