I look around myself daily and see many, many people who struggle through life. They are unhappy more than they are happy, and their goals are rather simple and (can I say it without offending?) empty.
These people stumble into and out of relationships, stumble into and out of jobs. They might start a family, work for years, make a bit of headway on their mortgage, and then "come to them self" after their prime has passed and wonder where their life went and whether it was worth it. If any conscious direction exists, it has been set with a low bar, and even then it has not always been achieved.
So what is missing?
An ability to set goals? Partly, but everyone can imagine them self as a hero, or just better than they are now.
A sense of accomplishment? Maybe. Significant achievement is addictive and until you establish a pattern here you don't know the feeling you are searching for.
Is it due to a lack of ability? I don't think so - my students do some amazing things and demonstrate some pretty incredible creativity and thinking, though inconsistently.
Maybe it is motivation, inspiration, purpose, and drive - the part of the formula that gives energy to the do-er and carries them through the low times with enough momentum to keep things moving forward. This is a huge part of the puzzle that is missing for many people, young and old, rich and poor, all over the world.
Then, how can it be fixed?
Morality is needed. An understanding of what is good, and what is evil. What could lend more purpose than this? We all want to do good, don't we? That's why we root for the goodies in movies, and feel a sense of happiness and satisfaction when the baddies are overcome. At heart, we all want to be the goody who is overcoming the bad guy.
But how do we know what is good and what is not? As babies and small children, we have strong urges toward selfishness. This is a useful survival mechanism perhaps, leading to getting fed, changed, and cared for. As we grow up that selfishness becomes destructive - we engage in conflict with our surrounding peers, until we begin to understand that other people have a right to things that we want also. We learn that our carers have authority and power that we don't, so we listen to them and learn from them - this usually shapes the rest of our morality. But what shaped their morality? How do we know what is truly right and wrong? We need a lasting authority that cannot be argued with.
God (If you don't believe in God, just humour me for the sake of this). What does God have to do with it? What can a "mythical" being contribute to morality that you can't come up with on your own? Well, a mythical being can't come up with anything since a myth doesn't exist. But if God exists, He lends an enormous weight to any description of what is good.
Consider the attributes of a God...
...and not just any god. Think of one who is truly big enough and powerful enough to make an entire universe.
God is eternal, existing forever into the past and forever into the future. He knows the beginning, the end, and everything that happens in the middle; and He knows this for everything that has ever, or will ever, exist. Put it this way: God can see the eternal consequences of every single decisions that you will ever make, or could make. When you die, there will still be consequences raging on for the things that you have done.
Now imagine that you were given a task to do that would accomplish something good from God (and of course God is the expert on "good", or He wouldn't be God), and something that would have lasting consequences until well after you pass on. What if you had something so amazingly good to put your hand to that it would have positive eternal consequences? Would that give you purpose? Of course it would! And God is the only one who can give you such a purpose because He is the only one who can say what will bear everlasting fruit.
What else? God is powerful, able to create a universe just by speaking it into existence. Let's add power to the mix then. That could mean that God doesn't need us, lowly humans, to accomplish His purposes, but for a moment consider that He made us. That means we are significant to Him in some way, and that He chooses to use us and work through us somehow. So our hypothetical question now becomes, "What if you had a positive eternal purpose to try and accomplish, along with the power from God Himself to help you achieve that goal?"
With such a situation, there is no chance of losing. You are creating something good, something lasting, and something that is sure to succeed. It's never a cheap and easy victory though, because God loves us to struggle along the way, perhaps growing us during the process into something better. But even though it seems hard or impossible at times, we can know that our purpose will never be foiled if God is for us.
If you're not convinced of the need for God, try to think how this works without Him. Where is the absolute certainty that your purpose is good? Where is the power to accomplish it coming from? Where is the certainty of lasting effect? And what prevents you from setting the bar too low and finding too easy victory that is unsatisfying?
If you're prepared to accept that an eternal and powerful being exists (who has a vested interest in humanity's success) then what? How do you learn His purpose or His will for you? Holy writings from God perhaps? But which religion?
If you are considering these things then I suggest you start here. The page leads you through some short articles that build the picture that many already possess.
And if you decide to go your own way, then all the best with that. Even if you don't see the need for God, I hope you can take a few things out of this article anyway. Namely, the knowledge of how to set goals in a way that will give you purpose and inspiration, i.e. Goals that are achievable, have a sense of good about them, and that have a long-lasting effect in your life and the lives of others.
Take care :-)