What are Life Goals?
Goals are things that we want to achieve in order to provide you a happier, more secure life. This might sound a little business-like, but it can involve any goal you can conceive. It might be that you want to lose weight (although another goal here could be to accept what your body looks like), or you might want to save X amount of dollars for that holiday, or new car, or to keep 3 months wages spare in a bank account in case of emergencies. In short, goals help us determine what we want to experience in terms of our values.
Why Set Life Goals?
Action for Happiness, an online movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society, make it clear that “Goals big and small can be the stepping-stones to a happier life and the way we set them can make a difference to achieving them”.
So, goal setting is a key aspect in the achievement of life happiness and satisfaction in our lives, because our conscious ideas guide our actions. Essentially, most of our goals are centered around or aimed at happiness or safety, or both.
Consider your life as a journey – a well-used analogy, of course. But if you want to go to a specific place, you would generally navigate a route – these days GPS does this for you. You may want to go the scenic route, and there is great value in that, but if you also have to be somewhere at a specific time and place, you will need to make sure you have enough time: You will need to plan your journey, if you want to arrive on time and take in the scenic route. This is the advantage of planning your life and marking it into goals.
One of the important things to note here is that, whilst it is a fantastic idea to make a plan or plans, things can get in the way of your plan – as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans”. There is, however another relevant saying, but, as another saying goes, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it” (Charles R. Swindoll). So, make that plan, move towards your goal, even if it’s a miniscule amount, and accept what happens in your life in the meantime.
Positive Psychology and Goal Setting
Setting goals sounds like a simple idea in theory. Choose what you want to achieve, go out and achieve, measure your success, celebrate your success. In reality it can be much harder than this once we factor in the elements of time, motivation and measurability, not to mention fluctuation in our desired goals, but setting goals for a better life is achievable and rewarding and, what’s more, it’s based on some solid psychology that is in an admittedly growing field, but has been taken up by people and businesses alike.
Positive psychology is about introducing positivity into our lives in order to enhance our outcomes. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American psychologist and author of the paper ‘Positive Psychology: An Introduction’ stated that “The aim of positive psychology is to catalyze change…from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life”.
The basic idea is that positivity has an effect on your output and goal setting – having something to look forward to – is part of living a positive life. Positive psychology, when matched with setting and measuring goals in life, (whether financial or non-financial), is a great way to increase your personal happiness, self-esteem and to grow as a person.
How Do we Set Life Goals?
The choosing process is about how you choose as opposed to what you choose. This is known as ‘Value-Centered Goal Setting’. Creating goals that have value gives added purpose and serves as a strategic basis for the goal setting process. Your goal setting process might look like this:
Choose a goal > Set it in stone > Tell others > Plan it out > Keep Going > Reward Yourself
- Choose a goal
They key here is to make the goal something achievable and enjoyable or worthwhile – How would you like to improve your life? There are two types of goals that you can set, extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic goals relate to our cultural standing, such as: Weight loss, weight gain, more money, more simple living, getting that promotion or having a career change, starting a family, starting a business, getting outside more often, decorating, moving house, the list goes on.
Intrinsic goals however, are connected to emotional intimacy, helping others, becoming a ‘better’ person, learning spiritual practices, being more independent, finding and giving love. These goals reflect our desire for self-knowledge and more fulfilling relationships and are considered to encourage greater happiness overall.
The choice of goal is yours, but the method of achieving that goal is tried and tested anacronym. S.M.A.R.T is designed to help us create goals in a specific way. If you look at setting goals this way, you will get more out of them. To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
- Set it in stone
Write it down in a journal, put it on the fridge; put it in your phone’s calendar. This will increase your likelihood of success because you are able to remind yourself of the goal when life gets in the way and all your conscious mind is focused on daily life.
- Make it known to others
When you tell someone you trust about your goal, you are more likely to succeed. Yes, it adds a little more pressure, but your friends will offer emotional support along the way too.
- Plan it out
Having a timeframe and a method to achieve your plan is crucial to success. A roadmap will show you where you are, what you need to achieve and, most importantly, how far you have come. All these elements will help clarify the goal in your mind and motivate you at the same time.
Even if you have no idea where the best place to start is, doing anything at all related to your goal will help. If you want to save $5000, then you may well need to work more, consume less or win the lottery, but that extra $1 coin in the piggy bank is more effective as a start than putting no coins in there at all.
- Keep Going
As with any goal, there will be times of energy and willingness and times where you lag. In those lagging moments, slowing down is ok, but do not stop all together. To use the same analogy as above, it’s great to put $100 in that piggy bank, but when you are less flush with cash, is better to put in $1 than nothing at all, because even the tiniest step in the right direction is still movement. Muhammad Ali once said ‘It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe’.
- Reward Yourself
Whether you celebrate at the end of an achievement or take smaller rewards along the way, treating yourself after some hard work (not before!) will go a great way to helping you believe in yourself and to setting the next goal. Thank those who have helped you along the way and praise yourself. Physically doing this in the mirror sounds crazy but is a beneficial way of hearing about the success you have provided for yourself.
One final word
Achieving goals is only a part of the success story. The other parts are twofold: Actually setting goals in the first place, and trying to achieve them at all. If you can do these two, the success will likely come, but it is not necessarily the reason we set goals in the first place.