You wouldn't drive a car without knowing where you're going, right? Before you get in the car to go somewhere, you have an idea of where you're going. You might have the place pictured in your mind. You might imagine the route you are going to take to avoid traffic or construction. You might might have a list of the things you are going to do when you get there. The end of the trip is firmly in mind before you get behind the wheel.
What if you didn't know where you were going, or even have an idea of where you are going? You'd drive around for a while, you might find some interesting things along the way. You might end up getting some place pretty cool. But you might also end up going the wrong way, down the wrong street, into the wrong part of town. Before you know it, you're lost and out of gas, and you have no way out. You don't even know how you got there.
Life is exactly like driving a car. If you have a clear picture of what you want out of life, then your life has clear destination—a clear goal to work towards. Having the picture in your mind is key to getting you where you want to go. Having the picture also often makes it very clear how to get there—the path you will need to take. Even if the path is not clear, at least the guidelines for getting there will be.Each action you take can be evaluated within the framework of getting to that destination. Will it work? Not always. Sometimes you have to try a number of different things. Sometimes you have to change your tactics. Sometimes you have to change what you are working towards. That's okay to do. It's better to have a bad plan today than to have a good plan tomorrow.
Now I'm going to throw around one of those really cheesy business concepts here: a mission statement. A mission statement is, quite simply, something that defines your purpose. In business, a mission statement defines what the business is in business for. Within a business, a mission statement can be used within a division or business unit to give the group a purpose.
In the context of knowing where you are going in life, a mission statement articulates your vision for where you want your life to be. It is "the end," as it were. By having that vision clearly defined, you can begin to evaluate everything in your life with respect to that mission.
For the moment, at least I have determined that my mission statement is four simple words: Share, Improve, Serve, Inspire. It's not perfect and doesn't capture everything I want to become, but it captures the core of what I am and what I want to be.
You might want to have a look at FranklinCovey's Mission Builder to help you craft your own mission statement.