We are 19 days into the New Year and decade. Many of you will be well on your way to achieving your New Year’s goals. However, how do you know if you’ve created a goal that will make you happy, and actually improve your life and well-being? Or whether you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled? Luckily, positive psychology outlines some criteria for creating goals that will improve your well-being.
Not all goals are created equally
It is widely accepted that creating goals, working towards them, and achieving them increases our happiness and well-being. Researchers regard having goals as one of the 10 ways to increase happiness, and the PERMA model of well-being places achievement as one of the keys to flourishing. So, if done correctly you can create goals that will make you happy and improve your life.
However, have you ever achieved a goal and felt empty? You were hoping to feel on top of the world but don’t really feel anything, or maybe you feel worse? That’s because simply achieving goals doesn’t actually bring us satisfaction. We can’t just create any goal and expect it to make us feel better, they have to meet certain requirements.
The reason why you create goals is important
There are two reasons why someone creates a goal. Either for intrinsic reasons (because they want to achieve them) or for extrinsic reasons (society, their parents, their boss etc wants them to achieve it). The reasoning behind why you’ve created a goal has a really big impact on whether it’s going to bring you happiness or not.
Intrinsic goals increase our happiness and well-being levels. They improve our motivation, attention, energy, cognitive functioning, creativity and feelings of direction and meaning. These all contribute to increased feelings of happiness and well-being.
Extrinsic goals actually lead to ill-being, such as depression, anxiety, and physical illness. Not really what you were expecting to come out of achieving something, right? For example, If you feel pressured by your parents to do a certain degree, you’re likely to feel unsatisfied, anxious, or sad when you graduate.
To create goals that will make you happy, do them for you and not someone else. When creating a goal think, “why am I doing this, do I want to do it for me?” If the answer is a definite yes! then you’re wayyyyy more likely to feel happier when you complete it.
Goals that will make you happy are aligned to your values
If you’re really into saving the environment (which you should be!), and your goal is to start a fossil fuel company, working towards and achieving that goal is going to make you feel pretty crappy. This is because it doesn’t align with your core values. The goals we create need to match our values, beliefs and morals otherwise they’re not going to increase our happiness.
When creating goals, ensure that they are in line with who you are as a person. This will make achieving them feel a lot more fulfilling and will give you a sense of purpose and meaning.
Work towards something
Approach-oriented goals are far more likely to increase your well-being and happiness than avoidance-oriented goals. This basically means work towards achieving something rather than avoiding or losing something. Here is an example to make this point clearer.
If your goal is to quit smoking, instead of thinking I want to stop or avoid smoking, think I want to gain health or have more money.
We want to be moving towards something that we will gain rather than away from something. This will leave you feeling like you’ve improved your life rather than lost something, and will have you feeling happy af!
Perfectionism is probably the biggest killer of happiness. As we work towards our goals, things are probably going to change and we will need to change our game plan. If you’re too rigid in how you’ll achieve your goal or what achieving your goal looks like, you’re not going to feel as happy or satisfied. Achieving the goal will start to feel more like a chore than something you want to do.
Be flexible, accept that things are going to change, and understand that they might be changing for the better. You learn about yourself as you work towards goals and might realise you actually want something different than when you started. If you force yourself to stick to a goal it may become unaligned with your values and lead to ill-being.
Create smaller goals that will make you happy
Creating a huge goal may be too hard to do all in one go. For example, if you want to run a marathon but you’ve never run before, the goal is too hard and overwhelming. You will likely lose motivation and end up feeling pretty shitty about yourself.
The key to overcoming this? Create smaller sub-goals along the way. So, if you want to run a marathon, have the goal of running a mile, then 5k, then 10k, etc. until you can run a marathon.
The beauty of sub-goals is each time you achieve one, you feel increased happiness and motivation. By creating sub-goals you are more likely to achieve your bigger goal as well as increase happiness and well-being.
Choose goals that are intrinsic, have meaning to you, and are enjoyable to increase happiness and well-being.
If you need help creating goals or following through will goals, take advantage of the three coaching spots I have available for four hours of free coaching.