Throughout our lives, most of us have aspirations. We may aspire to attain a certain lifestyle, level of success, state of inner well-being or ethical maturity. There is no end to the number and types of things to which we can aspire. Goals and objectives are different from aspirations, though the two sometimes overlap. When we talk about goals, we are usually referring to our desire to accomplish something specific and tangible. For example, we may have a goal of completing a college degree, establishing a career, or starting a family. Goals refer to achievable outcomes; aspirations refer to our ideals.

For example, we may have the goal of completing a degree in psychology, but our aspiration is to become so skillful and intuitive that we are able to help everyone that enters our office. Or we want to have a family, so we do our best to choose a great partner and have children whom we can love and raise to be healthy, happy people. Embedded in this goal are the aspirations to become the best possible partner to our spouse and to embody the qualities of unconditional love, attentive nurturance, and appropriate limit-setting with our children. In other words, we aspire to become the ideal parent.

Aspirations are seldom completely attainable, though some of our aspirations can be actualized. We may think of our aspirations as the qualities of character or states of being we most wish to realize—the directions toward which we point our inner light. Whether we are seeking inner peace, respect from others, or to live the most moral and ethical life possible, we continue to aspire in ways that guide our daily choices and conduct. Our aspirations are worth having, however imperfect we may be in realizing them, and we are worthy of our aspirations.

Questions to Consider:
1) Share with the group one or two goals you have been able to accomplish and the aspirations surrounding or embedded within those goals.
2) What were your most important aspirations in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s? Have your aspirations changed over the decades, and if so, how have they changed?
3) What are your aspirations at this stage of your life?
4) What internal or external barriers have you faced in trying to actualize these ideals?
5) Do you find that aspirations are still relevant to you as you age?
6) Have you been able to achieve satisfaction and realize some of your aspirations? Which ones have you been able to fulfill?