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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

Embracing Your Inner Drive: The Power of Action-Oriented Goals


State VS Action Orientation: Goals

Introduction: The Pursuit of Meaningful Goals


In our lives, we are constantly seeking validation and purpose, even if we don't actively think about it. Validation, purpose and direction are affirmed through our actions. The actions are determined by our goals. When these goals are unclear or go against what we value, life feels... unpleasant.


Our goals not only define our live's aspirations but also shape the paths we take and our personal fulfillment. However, how we approach these goals can significantly differ based on our personality traits—specifically, whether we are action-oriented or state-oriented.


Understanding Action vs. State Orientation: A Deep Dive


The distinction between action and state orientation is a pivotal aspect of our personality that influences not just our decisions but our entire approach to life's ups and downs. Action-oriented individuals harness a proactive approach to challenges. They are typically decisive, harnessing a drive even under pressure, which not only propels them towards their goals but also ensures these goals resonate deeply with their personal ethics and inner desires. This intrinsic alignment facilitates profound personal satisfaction and success.


On the other side, state-oriented individuals might find themselves in a reactive and emotional stance more often than not. They may struggle with decision-making, frequently feeling stalled or overwhelmed by external pressures, internal conflicts, or emotional chaos. This can lead to a disconnection from their true goals, as they might find themselves chasing aspirations that do not align with their core values or fulfill their deeper needs. The consequence is often a life filled with pursuits that feel less meaningful, which may impact overall happiness and satisfaction.


Both orientations impact life's trajectory significantly but understanding and acknowledging where you stand can lead to more meaningful changes. For those who identify more with a state orientation, recognizing this could be the first step toward cultivating qualities that foster a more action-oriented approach, such as decisiveness and initiative. Conversely, those naturally inclined to action orientation can benefit from this insight by continuing to harness their strengths to achieve deep-seated satisfaction and success in their endeavors.


This deeper understanding of the two orientations provides a foundation for individuals to reflect on their personal goals and strategies, enabling them to make adjustments that align more closely with their authentic selves. This alignment is crucial for not only achieving success but ensuring it feels meaningful and enriching.


It is important to note that everyone practices both of these states - and both states have a purpose and usefulness. However, if those who spend more time in a state-orientation tend to struggle with satisfaction and fulfillment because they are bogged down by the weight of emotions and external pressures.


TL;DR: Action-oriented individuals proactively pursue goals aligned with their values, driving personal satisfaction and success. Conversely, state-oriented individuals often react to external pressures or to internal emotional chaos, leading to pursuits that may not fulfill their true desires, impacting overall happiness. Recognizing one’s orientation can lead to transformative personal and professional growth by aligning actions with authentic goals.


The Impact on Goal Content and Motivation


Research highlights a significant distinction in how these two orientations impact the content of goals and the underlying motivations. Action-oriented people are more likely to pursue goals that are intrinsically motivated—these are goals that resonate with their core values, such as personal growth, meaningful relationships, and community contribution. These goals inherently satisfy psychological needs, leading to greater fulfillment and happiness.


In contrast, state-oriented individuals may pursue extrinsic goals driven by external rewards or recognition. Such goals might include achieving a high status or accumulating wealth. While these goals can offer temporary satisfaction, they are less likely to lead to long-term happiness and may not align well with one’s deeper personal values. This can manifest as depression, anxiety, or even burnout.


Real-life Application: Reflecting on Personal Goals


To bring these concepts to life, consider your own goal-setting experiences. Reflect on a time when you pursued a goal that truly mattered to you personally.


How did you feel upon achieving it? Now, think about a goal you pursued mainly due to external pressures or expectations. Did achieving this goal bring you the same level of satisfaction?


Case Studies: Transformations through Action Orientation

(The below names have been changed for privacy)


Alex's Transition into Environmental Conservation 

Alex found his true calling. Engaged in a bland role on Capitol Hill, he felt something was missing— a deeper purpose. By transitioning into a career focused on environmental conservation, Alex joined a nonprofit organization that influenced policy decisions. This shift not only aligned with his passion but positioned him at the heart of impactful legislative changes, significantly enhancing his professional fulfillment and sense of achievement.


Sarah's Artistic Breakthrough

Sarah loves art but was initially stuck by her fear of public critique. She found that prioritizing her art through connecting with the local art scene to be a catalyst for her change. She embraced her creative goals, shifting her focus from external validation to intrinsic satisfaction. By participating in local art collectives and art show, Sarah not only refined her art but also connected with other artists.


These stories illustrate how aligning one's goals with personal values and motivations can transform mere the day to day into sources of profound personal and professional satisfaction.


Okay, I get it. You think this sounds cliché. These changes took more than a year for both them. Their goals were progressive, meaning each goal was built on the previous goal. We didn’t start out saying “oh, you need to change jobs!” Actually we broke it down to a granular level to determine what Alex and Sarah valued.


With this in mind we began to build a sense of internal culture that was the basis for decision making across the board. When we are connected with our values, life’s choices become more clear. This is one of the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This forward-looking approach empowers meaningful, healthy, and sustainable lives. This concept is a primary component of my Proactive Approach and is fundamental to my care philosophy.


Practical Tips: Fostering an Action-Oriented Approach


  1. Values: If you aren’t sure of your values, start here to clarify this. If you can’t clearly articulate what you value off the top of your head, I suggest you work to understand this before proceeding.

  2. Self-Reflection: Regularly take time to reflect on your motivations for pursuing certain goals. Ensure they align with your personal values and sources of intrinsic motivation.

  3. Small Steps: Build momentum by setting small, achievable goals that lead towards larger, more significant aspirations. This helps maintain motivation and reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed.

  4. Present Moment Practices: Engage in mindfulness to enhance your awareness of the present moment and clarify your goals and motivations. This can reduce the tendency to hesitate and increase your action orientation.

  5. Seek Feedback: Regular interaction with mentors or peers who can provide constructive feedback can help you stay aligned with your authentic goals and avoid pursuing goals for the wrong reasons.

Conclusion: Embracing Action for Deeper Fulfillment


Understanding and applying the principles of action vs. state orientation can profoundly influence how we set goals and what we achieve. By aligning our goals with our deepest values and motivations, we not only achieve what we set out to do but do so in a way that brings genuine joy and fulfillment. This alignment is the essence of living a purposeful and contented life. Embrace your inner drive, focus on what truly matters, and let your actions reflect your deepest self.


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