on April 4th, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

You’ve probably heard (with some irritation) the expression: ‘Get a life’. Well; research shows that if you want a longer, healthier and more fulfilled life; you should establish a purpose to your life with clear (achievable) goals. This not only applies to when you are in retirement but as an engineering professional working today.

When we are younger we are often overwhelmed with short term goals – getting a career under way; establishing a family; bringing up your kids; dealing with health issues and those of your family and simply paying the bills. As you move into your mature phase of your career and life; there is often more time to contemplate the future and assess what you are currently doing. And to think about goals.

The Research on Goals
The research (from Patricia A. Boyle from the Rush University Medical Center) gives those of us with active dynamic missions in life a 30% slower rate of decline in our facilities i.e. cognitive decline (e.g. Altzheimers). When you are working to achieve a goal you are probably leading a healthier mental life; you are probably more socially involved, connected to other people, physically and mentally active and making decisions and agonizing over solutions to (often seemingly) intractable problems.

Admittedly, I often associate goals and missions with some pain and stress (and frustration – even anger) – trying to get a project finished on time; dealing with an intractable client or supplier or completing a course or an engineering design (or worse – dealing with some government bureaucracy such as achieving accreditation for a program). But that is all part of the overall package of having a goal.

Goals can Range Widely
Goals can range from philanthropic (helping at the local soup kitchen to volunteering at your local hospital). But an enormously helpful area for engineering professionals has to be in mentoring others entering the workforce (not only engineering) or in the early phases of their careers. As an engineering professional, you would have done so much in your career and possess often hard to acquire knowledge and skills. As we know – engineering is challenging and often really hard work (as compared to some other careers).

Alternatively, a goal may be in you acquiring a skill in a new field of engineering or technology (even if you are 80 yo). This can be enormously satisfying. I am currently battling with completing a course on Computational Quantum Mechanics ( a free but extraordinarily high quality course presented the guru in the field).

Encore Careers
An enormous number of people throughout the world are interested in encore careers – putting their skills and passions to work for the greater good. This ranges from social services, health care, religious issues, social justice, arts and culture, at risk youth, environment to education and helping those who are poverty stricken.

Align Your Goals with What is Important to You
You need to carefully identify what is important to you and what you really enjoy doing – what fills you with joy and enthusiasm – and what lights your fire. Then think about setting meaningful achievable goals and most importantly – how do you achieve them (the hard bit).

Obviously You can Ignore All This
Naturally, you can simply ignore this pursuit of goals and simply truck along and ‘Simply Be’ (as one respondent suggested with some peevishness). But I would respectfully suggest that a calm focussed pursuit of goals can not only be enormously beneficial to the (engineering) community but also to you in enabling you to live a far more fulfilled life (and benefit you in retaining your mental faculties in top performance mode for far longer).

Thanks to Diana Cole of the Wall Street Journal for an interesting article entitled: Why You Need to Find a Mission.

As a famous British prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, from the 19th century remarked: The secret to success is constancy to purpose.

Yours in engineering learning


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