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.
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?
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.
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.
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