Happiness is what we all strive for in life and our goals can help us get to the level of happiness we want. Going after goals and dreams is what makes life interesting, gives us a sense of achievement and allows us to grow into the person we ultimately want to be.
However, the types of goals we set have a huge influence on whether or not they allow us to become happier in ourselves. It comes down to two types of goals – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic goals relate to external influences such as money, fame, status or anything that requires validation from others. Intrinsic goals relate to yourself; your personal growth, health and relationships with yourself and others.
While we would all like to be rich and admired, having these as our sole motivators does nothing for our subjective well-being and happiness in the long-run unless it happens to be an added outcome to your intrinsic goal.
For example, an extrinsic goal would be someone going to university to get a degree so they can get a good job that pays a massive salary. An intrinsic goal would be someone going to university because they want to learn new things, to get a job they love and make a difference in the world. It’s important to realise your motivations for your goals and whether they are driven by outward influences or whether they come from a passion within.
If this has made you question what your true motivations are and you feel a little confused, then here are some ways to get down to the nitty gritty and find out what your true intentions are.
Many people are disillusioned by what happiness is, how to achieve it and how to make it last. Take money for example, many people believe that having more money will make them happy but this is a big myth. Yes, it may bring relief, more opportunities and happiness, but it soon wears off. As humans we tend to adapt to external things – they may bring us happiness but once we’re used to them we go back to normal and start wanting something more.
This is why external things can’t make us happy – happiness has to come from within. To be truly happy, you don’t need money, fame or status and you don’t need validation from other people. Anything that goes towards your personal development permeates you and changes your being, your thoughts and your mindset. This is why choosing goals that are centred around your growth and what truly makes your heart sing will create the fundamental basis for a happy life.
When you go about setting your goals it’s important to really think about why. Deeply questioning yourself will bring up any hidden thoughts and beliefs that are taking you down the wrong motivational path.
Say, for example, you want to lose weight – why do you want to lose weight? Is it because you want people to accept you? Do you want to appear more attractive to others? Do you have a belief that people who weigh less than you get more opportunities or validation? Or is is because you want to feel healthier? You want to be able to run 10km? You feel it will make you a happier and more energetic person that will positively affect your life and those around you?
Finding out the source of motivation towards your goal by questioning the reasons behind them will give a clear indication of whether it’s an intrinsic or extrinsic goal.
If you find that most of your reasons are extrinsically motivated then consider why that is and if you should really go ahead and strive for that goal. Re-think your priorities and put yourself and your personal growth first.
So you realise your goals may be a bit on the extrinsic side but you’re not sure how to move forward. Sometimes when we have goals that seek validation or are linked to anything external, it often comes from limiting beliefs that we have. Limiting beliefs are those pesky voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough, feelings of low self-esteem or a sense of needing to prove ourselves to others.
These all came from past experiences which we have somehow kept with us despite them being completely invalid in the here and now. The problem with these is that they can be the driving force behind major extrinsic goals. For example, you had a parent that never showed praise or love so you have a sense of need to always prove to people that you’re good enough – you have to keep going for that high-end job that pays the big bucks to show everyone that you can do it.
It’s these ingrained beliefs that need to be examined and shifted. Once you realise that what’s happened in the past is in the past and no longer holds water in the present moment, you can start to shift your perspective on those important opinions of yourself. You will then start to realise what you truly want without the limiting beliefs holding you back.
Another culprit of extrinsic goal-setting is our constant need to be accepted by society. So many of us live our lives in a way that fits in with the world around us. This can stop people from living the life they truly want and instead go after things that are safe, normal and inline with everybody else’s opinions.
For example, perhaps your life goal was to settle down, get married and have children but not because that is what you truly want but because that’s what’s expected in society. Perhaps you went to university to get that degree because that’s what all your friends or your siblings did. It’s important to think carefully about why you’re going after a particular goal – ask yourself, would you still be going after the same goal if it wasn’t socially accepted?
Make sure that your goals aren’t influenced by what others think or expect from you. At the end of the day, they won’t make you happy and you don’t want to wait until you’ve achieved your goal to realise this.
We all deserve to be happy. What we do in life will ultimately create our sense of self, allow us to feel we’ve made a difference in the world (including our own world) and master our personal growth so have a think about your goals, your motivations and stay on your true path to happiness.
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