Sunday, April 2, 2023
HomeHealth & FitnessSetting Goals Can Increase Happiness, When We Strive for the Right Things

Setting Goals Can Increase Happiness, When We Strive for the Right Things

Trump Bucks Bill 5000

It makes the PERFECT Gift for Patriots who support Donald Trump! An excellent collectible item to honor President Trump's legendary legacy. If you're seeking a gift that will be adored by everyone—and 74 million Americans support Trump—then this is it..

Buy Now

If we want to be happy, our actual selves need to largely overlap with our ideal selves. A significant gap between who we want to be in life and who we are is a reliable recipe for misery. It is in this gap that a host of undesirable emotional states dwell, such as anxiety, depression, disillusionment, regret, and bitterness.

When it comes to closing that agonizing gap between our actual and ideal selves, we have an invaluable tool in our hands: goals. Decades of research reveal that having goals and making progress on our goals is linked with greater well-being. One study found that merely having personally important goals was as strongly associated with positive emotions as actually attaining those goals.

What drives such a strong association between having goals and happiness? How does having goals contribute to happiness?

Trump Bucks Bill 5000

It makes the PERFECT Gift for Patriots who support Donald Trump! An excellent collectible item to honor President Trump's legendary legacy. If you're seeking a gift that will be adored by everyone—and 74 million Americans support Trump—then this is it..

Buy Now

Goals are crucial vehicles for growth. Set rightly, goals can induce us to stretch ourselves, reach higher, and perform better. The ensuing sense of growth, as many can attest to through personal experience, is a cause for joy and renewed vitality. Growth indeed appears to be one of the critical ingredients of a happy life.

We are happy when we feel that we are improving, when we are expanding our horizons and our self-definition, when we are learning new skills and acquiring new experiences. Goals afford us opportunities to grow, which improves our well-being.

A second way in which goals benefit our well-being is by lending order, meaning, and purpose to our lives. Goals organize the contents of our consciousness and the structure of our days. In the absence of personally worthwhile goals, life loses its meaning and urgency, and we feel lost and empty. Without a doubt, the process of pursuing goals is not always “enjoyable” in the ordinary sense of the word; think of training for a marathon or writing a book. Yet ultimately, the hardships feel worth it and serve us in the long run. Because what a human needs, in the words of Viktor Frankl, is “not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”

Goals also make us happier by increasing our performance and leading to more successful outcomes. It turns out that explicitly setting goals can improve the performance of virtually any task, because a clearly defined goal motivates us to allocate more attention and effort toward activities related to our goal, and away from those that are unrelated.

Some of us might avoid setting goals for fear of feeling disappointed and defeated in case we fail to achieve these goals. While this is an understandable concern, it might help to remember that goals are not only an end in themselves, but also a means to get better and to do better. As long as our goals allow us to grow, there is no shame in not reaching them.

Not All Goals Are Created Equal

While it is true that having and pursuing goals brings happiness, there is an important caveat to heed: Not all goals are created equal. Happy people not only have goals, but they also have better goals. What then, makes for a better goal? Which goals are more conducive to happiness? Psychologists point to three important factors:

Self-concordance: Self-concordant goals are goals aligned with who we are and what we really want to do in our lives. They are born directly from our authentic values and interests, rather than external pressures. In other words, we pursue a goal not because other people want us to or because the situation demands it, but because we intrinsically care about it. Studies conducted in several cultures link having self-concordant goals to greater well-being.

The reality, of course, is that few of us can lead lives where we pursue only highly self-concordant goals. Work and family life may present other goals that are important to the people around us. When we find ourselves in situations where our goals are not as aligned with our self-identity as we would like, it might be useful to ask ourselves how we can “own” our goals. Questions like, “How does this goal relate to my deeply held values?” or, “In what ways can I make this pursuit true to myself?” can help us identify with the goal more strongly, thereby leading to greater happiness and success.

Attainability: Even the most self-concordant goals will fail to improve our happiness if we do not make progress on them. Accordingly, it would be a mistake to set unrealistic or impossible goals. That said, we also do not want to set the bar too low. The consensus among those who study goals is that we want to pick difficult but still achievable goals. Picking more difficult goals is desirable, because if we have sufficient skill, they predict greater performance.

It is admittedly not always easy to locate that sweet spot—being as challenging as possible yet still attainable. Nonetheless, the majority are probably capable of setting higher goals than we think. William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology, famously said that most people live in a very restricted circle of their potential being and make use of a small portion of their soul’s resources, “much like a man who, out of his whole organism should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” Unless we find ourselves regularly falling short of our goals, it might do good to be mindful of James’s belief in human potential and set our sights higher.

Goal content: We can all think of people who are very successful and at the same time very unhappy; apparently, all the goals they managed to achieve did not suffice to bring them happiness. Indeed, not only do some goals not bring happiness, they can actively detract from it, even if we reach them. Prominent examples include goals related to obtaining external approval and validation, such as through fame, wealth, or beauty. Disproportionately focusing on such extrinsic goals has been repeatedly associated with poorer well-being outcomes.

A large body of literature shows how materialism—believing that wealth and possessions will bring happiness—is linked to poorer mental and physical health, as well as poorer relationships. The goals that appear most closely linked to happiness, on the other hand, are goals such as having positive relationships, contributing to others’ lives, and becoming a more virtuous person.

Goals are a great tool for a happy and fulfilled life—if we know how to use them. They change us in positive ways, give our lives meaning and excitement, and make us accomplish more. Yet we need to be discriminating about the goals we set for ourselves, because some goals, like con artists, can make us gleefully engage in self-defeating behaviors. And we should keep in mind that the process of striving to achieve goals, rather than goal attainment, is most critical for our happiness. We should remember to enjoy the journey, instead of being fixated on reaching the destination.

Effective Goal Planning

Once we decide which goals to pursue, how can we most effectively plan in order to achieve them? Dr. Kesebir provides a science-backed eight-step plan:

1) Write down your goal in a goal journal
2) Give it a timeline
3) Write down a plan that spells out what will be done—when, where, how
4) Visualize and mentally rehearse the steps that you will be taking
5) Imagine potential obstacles you’ll face in carrying out your plan, and write them down
6) Come up with and write down resolutions to deal with those obstacles
7) Revisit your goal journal periodically (at least once a week)
8) Revise if needed

This article was first published in Radiant Life magazine.

Plated Trump 2020 Coins


Buy Now


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments