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34 Steps

This time last year I ordered a Fitbit. Those who know me well thought I’d use it for a few weeks and forget all about it. I’m not known for my love of exercise, but I do love to walk, not on a treadmill, but outdoors in almost any weather. The walking part boosts my physical well-being; the outside part nurtures my spiritual well-being. So a year ago I set a modest goal to walk 10,000 steps a day at least four times a week, and most weeks I’ve met it.

This Christmas Eve I attended a midnight mass. You enter church for the service at 11:00 pm on Christmas Eve and leave about 12:30 am on Christmas Day. I’ve always loved that feeling of entering church on one date and leaving on another.

About halfway through the service I remembered my Fitbit. I was close to my goal of 10,000 steps when I left my house. I was sure the walk from the car to the church would cause me to reach my goal, but I had forgotten to check, so I checked it: 9,966 steps.

“Oh no,” I thought, “I’m so close. Maybe I could just get up and walk to the back of the church before midnight. No one has to know what I’m doing.”

My wise inner voice said, “How about you just be present for this service?” (We have these conversations a lot.) “But,” I protested, “I’m so close. I can’t give up now.” “What was the purpose of the goal in the first place?” my wise voice asked. “Well, to increase my well-being,” I responded. “Ok,” my wise voice said, “So is 34 steps really going to make a difference in your overall well-being? My vote is you just stay here and be present for this service.” My wiser voice won out and I sat right there in the pew and enjoyed the rest of the service.

I started thinking about this concept of goals. Lately I’ve been a little discouraged because some of the goals I created for my business have not been met yet. This conversation with my inner voice reminded me to focus less on the outcome of my goals and more on the purpose of them.

Purpose is what’s truly important. I meditated on this question, “What is the purpose of my business?” I heard God whisper, “to love people.” That’s it, boiled down into three words. I have a wordier vision and mission statement, but it’s really all about love.

Loving people will happen in different ways for different people, but that is my true purpose. I know it sounds like a terrible business plan, but suddenly I was sure that if I focus on loving people, the rest will fall into place.

Maybe the purpose of all of our goals, at least the meaningful ones, can be traced back to one thing: love-love for others, love for ourselves, love for the earth and all her creatures, love for God.

I’m not saying goals are bad or that we shouldn’t have any, but maybe when we get too caught up on an exact number, whether it’s steps or pounds or sales or scores or inches or dollars or miles or hours or whatever, we lose focus of our true purpose.

Maybe if we focus on love, everything else will fall into place. And who knows, maybe we will meet some goals along the way. But even if we don’t, we will find meaning and riches that cannot be measured. I think that’s a lot better than 34 steps.

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