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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

Why Setting Intrinsic Goals Can Make You Happier

Why Setting Intrinsic Goals Can Make You Happier

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.

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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.

Understand What Happiness Is

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.

Ask Yourself The Why As Well As The What

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.

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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.

Recognise Your Limiting Beliefs

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.

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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.

Ignore Opinions And Ideas That Don’t Align With Your Own

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?

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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.

Featured photo credit: David Marcu via stocksnap.io

More by this author

Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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