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How to Set Life Goals That Ensure Success and Happiness

How to Set Life Goals That Ensure Success and Happiness

If you want to be successful and happy you have to set life goals. Why? Because life goals give you focus, motivation and vision. They help you to formulate action plans and implement the steps you need to take. Without them you are lost. Moreover, seeing and experiencing yourself achieving the steps toward reaching a goal, can be motivating in itself and builds confidence in your ability to hit your target. Research suggests that setting life goals for ourselves and progressing towards them, also fosters well-being. Perhaps because our happiness is intertwined with having a sense of meaning, hope and purpose in life.

So which type of goals work best and how should you set them specifically?

Studies have shown that there are two types of goals:

1. Intrinsic goals: According to positive psychologist Tim Kasser and colleagues, intrinsic goals ‘are those that are inherently satisfying to pursue because they are likely to satisfy innate psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, competence, and growth’. They depend on satisfying one’s own basic psychological needs rather than relying upon the judgments or approval of others. Examples of these goals include self-acceptance, forming social connections, studying further and physical fitness.

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2. Extrinsic goals: These types of goals on the other hand, are focused on attaining rewards and/or praise from others. They are a means to an end, not inherently rewarding in and of themselves. Examples include financial wealth, fame, or popularity. People often pursue extrinsic goals under the assumption that these goals will bring them happiness, but evidence suggests otherwise.

Researchers speculate that intrinsic goals lead to greater happiness because, in the pursuit of these goals, people have positive experiences along the way that support their happiness.

Now that you understand the significance of setting intrinsic goals to your well-being, ask yourself the following:

# What are my values?
# What do I dream of achieving?
# Who am I really?
# Have I a mission in the world?
# And if so, what do I stand for?
# What would I do to defend my mission?

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Success is about giving the fullest expression to your dreams, your hopes, your aspirations and your values. You need to strive and work in alignment with these things. It is not about living by the measures of: other people, class, race, parents demands and society wants. You have to have a sense of mission. The opinion of others can deprive you of oxygen and the space you need to explore your vision. Each one of us is unique and success is finding that mission, so cut yourself some slack. Think about what you could do other than you are doing now to be the true expression of yourself. What would you do differently, if you had the courage to truly accept yourself?

It can’t be stated enough that the goals of true personal success and happiness can never be imposed upon you by organisations, bosses, family or friends. They must spring from your heart and inner desires. You will know when you are on the right track when you have discovered what you truly want. This is often accompanied by strong emotion and feelings of liberation.

How to Do The Best Possible Self Practice

Take a moment to close your eyes, relax and imagine your life in the future. Visualise your goals. Make them live, give them colour, turn up the volume. If they give you a feeling, where and what is it. What is the best possible life you can imagine? Consider all of the relevant areas of your life, such as your career, academic work, relationships, spiritual life, hobbies, and health. What would happen in these areas of your life in your best possible future? Now for the next 15 minutes, write continuously about what you imagine this best possible future to be.

Remember to always state what you want in the positive. If you state something in the negative, you are running away from rather than truly embracing the message that your heart gives you. You are like a ship leaving a harbour with no real destination. You need to move clearly towards your goals, whether they are short term or long term.

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It may be easy for this exercise to lead you to examine how your current life may not match this best possible future. You may be tempted to think about ways in which accomplishing goals has been difficult for you in the past, or about financial/time/social barriers to being able to make these accomplishments happen. For the purpose of this exercise, however, focus only on the future—imagine a brighter future in which you are your ‘best self’ and your circumstances change just enough to make this best possible life happen.

This exercise is most useful when it is very specific—if you think about a new job, imagine exactly what you would do, who you would work with, and where it would be. The more specific you are, the more engaged you will be in the exercise and the more you’ll get out of it. Be as creative and imaginative as you want, and don’t worry about grammar or spelling.

Why You Should Try it

Sometimes discovering our goals in life can be a challenging task. But research suggests that building optimism about the future can motivate people to work toward that desired future and thus make it more likely to become a reality.

This exercise asks you to imagine your life going as well as it possibly could, then write about this best possible future. By doing so, research suggests that you’ll not only increase your happiness in the present but pave the way for sustained happiness down the line.

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Why This Practice is Useful

By thinking about your best possible future self, you can learn about yourself and what you want in life. This way of thinking can help you restructure your priorities in life in order to reach your goals. Additionally, it can help you increase your sense of control over your life by highlighting what you need to do to achieve your dreams

To set real and tangible goals, always consider them in terms of the impact on others and whether they are capable of inspiring. Ultimately, selfish goals are empty and meaningless. They will not inspire your heart in the long term. Consider what your goals will enable you to offer your fellow people. Do they make sense and help you attain a building block in your life and career and could you achieve more for yourself and humanity?

Goals form your life and create desire. Sometimes realism sets in and you have to readjust. However, you can still hold onto them. If you discover weaknesses simply consider what you can do to turn them into strengths. Never lose sight of your life goals because not only are they achievable, they are what your dreams are made of and we all need to dream, don’t we!

Featured photo credit: BK via flickr.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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