How Your Mindset Affects Your Momentum and Purpose

August 2021 

Originally written and posted on

Joyce Thom M.P.A.

Speaker, Executive Coach, and Catalyst for Change

Many of us long to live purpose-inspired lives but struggle with staying connected to purpose as we go about our daily activities. How can small changes in your mindset help you make choices that are consistent with what is important to you? This blog looks at simple mindset shifts that support ongoing growth and strengthen your link to purpose.

How Do You Maintain Momentum?

It may be surprising, but focusing intensely on achieving your goals is not always the answer. If you view a goal as something to reach, your forward momentum often stops, or you backslide once the goal is attained, and your attention turns elsewhere. Additionally, although concentrating on goals lets you get a lot done, are they the ‘right’ things? Sometimes, we are so busy checking things off our to-do lists that we forget to consider whether those accomplishments contribute to personal growth and align with our larger purpose.

To explore how mindset affects momentum, a Stanford University research study asked participants to reflect on a recent success as either a journey or a destination. Follow-up interviews examined whether the subjects exhibited continued behaviors that built on that success. Although a destination mindset can be valuable in helping us stay committed and motivated while we are pursuing a goal, the research found that the secret to sustaining progress is framing our experiences as an ongoing journey toward a desired outcome rather than as a destination that we reach or hope to reach.1


How Does a Journey Mindset Help Us Grow?

A journey mindset places our attention on a continuing process rather than on a completed event. This perspective helps us to:

  • View our experiences in a broader context of success that includes overall growth as well as the attainment of specific objectives;
  • Learn from challenges as well as wins so that we can strengthen our skills for the future;
  • Stay engaged with what is important to us even after a program or project is completed;
  • Continue making choices and acting in ways that are consistent with our aspirations;
  • Recognize step-by-step changes that motivate and energize our commitment to sustained development.


How Can We Connect to Purpose and Keep Moving Toward It?

The Stanford study results also indicated that metaphors are powerful mindset tools for supporting personal growth. To leverage that insight in order to deepen our connection with the purpose, let’s first distinguish goals from purpose. Goals are well-defined objectives, while purpose is larger and more enduring. A goal can be achieved, while purpose is more aspirational and not necessarily something that we ever ‘get done’ or complete.

If you view your life experiences as being part of an ongoing journey and your goals as intermediate destinations, then the purpose is the North Star that illuminates and guides you throughout your journey. Orienting toward your North Star can help you head in the right direction and stay connected to what is meaningful as you set goals and navigate from destination to destination. And, aligning goals, decisions, and actions with the North Star can make sustaining momentum easier and make the journey smoother because you are moving continuously in the same direction rather than zigzagging or backtracking.


In Summary  

Your mindset influences your ongoing personal growth and helps you align your actions with what is important to you.

  • If you want to sustain and further your growth, think regularly about the successes you have had and reflect on the journey that got you there— what went well and what you want to change as you continue your journey.
  • If you are looking to bring a sense of purpose into your everyday life, connect frequently with your North Star, and consistently choose actions that lead you in that direction.

Give these mindset hacks a try, and see how your life changes.


[1] More About the Stanford Research: It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
Stanford researchers Szu-chi Huang and Jennifer Aaker were interested in how a small mindset change could help people sustain momentum after reaching their goals. They recruited more than 1,600 people from programs with specific academic, fitness, diet, or leadership targets. At the end of the programs, participants were asked to reflect on the experience of achieving their goals as a journey (a process) or a destination (an outcome). In a control group, researchers did not suggest either one.

In follow-up interviews, those who thought about their experience as part of an ongoing journey were more likely to report behaviors aligned with their goals and showed more continuing growth than those who looked at their experience as a destination they had reached. For example, participants in the ‘journey’ group kept monitoring food intake, exercised more, and implemented more organizational changes than those in either the ‘destination’ or control group. The research showed how simple mindset shifts can change perceptions and behaviors