Do goals lead to happiness?

“I feel amazing. Enthusiastic, energised, ecstatic!”

I wrote this yesterday morning on my way to work, and wow, so much can change in 24 hours. Yet, I still feel better than I would without a clear understanding of where I want to be.

Photo of me grinning broadly.  There's a lawn and long manicured hedge and mask sculpture in the background, with naked trees

Earlier this week, I witnessed a conversation:

Well, it’s Blue Monday.

The day people realise they haven’t achieved their New Year’s Resolutions and get down about it.

That’s why you shouldn’t set resolutions!

What? No! I disagree.

I often set myself resolutions.

It’s all part of continuous improvement

Last week I set myself 6 goals. They evolved out of the intense reflection I did at the end of last year (over the winter holiday). Aided by daily journalling (Morning Pages).

On Tuesday, I set myself the goal of 6 tasks towards those goals. And I smashed them!

One of my tasks was to write 500 words & to write for 20 minutes.
Instead, I wrote 1233 words and wrote for 1 hour 15 mins (25 mins x 3).

I felt, and feel, so proud of myself.

I used the Forest App, which helps me chunk up my time into productive blocks that make flow possible. I learned they have another app, which will contribute to me achieving all my goals. it’s called Sleep Town. I’ve used it the last couple of nights and slept better than I’ve slept in ages.

I woke up feeling amazing yesterday. And I feel so grateful, because it helped me be more resilient.

So, I’d say, yes, goals for happiness!

But, there’s a caveat.

What kinds of goals I set makes a big difference to me. My attitude to the goals I set has an even bigger impact. Sometimes goals have led me to frustration and a vicious cycle of rumination.

So, what’s important about choosing goals for happiness?

How I set goals, the essentials

Dream. Goals. Tasks. Review. Kindness.

  1. I daydream; I get reflective; I work out wants and needs
  2. I create specific goals
  3. I break down my goals into achievable tasks
  4. I review progress
  5. I’m kind to myself
I'm holding a microphone and gesticulating, the photo is taken side on
Facilitating 80+ people reflecting on chronic issues, curiosity, hopes and dreams by using Spiral Journal at Hacks / Hackers, 23 Jan 2019. Do the same by using the slides

1 – Dream; Reflect

I write at least 750 words daily, more or less. Much of that time I’m doing the thinking that leads to working out what goals I want to set. Lots of things help me do this, I love Tobias Mayer’s writing about VAGUE dreams.

2 – Choose goals I have a reasonable expectation of achieving

I create specific goals: What I’m going to do. When I’m going to do it. What could stop me from achieving it. How I can overcome obstacles. Who can help me. (GROW model)

3 – Tasks

SMART helps me when setting goals and tasks. But 15% Solutions help me more than anything else, and have the benefit of being so simple. Is what I plan to do possible without extra time, money, permission? If not, what would be? That’s all.

Starting the day with: What I could do today to get closer to achieving my goals? Ending the day with: What have I done today to make progress towards my goals? Answering these questions is the best way for me to work out small and worthwhile tasks.

4 – Review

I aim to review how I am and how I’m doing every week. When I don’t achieve my goals, I have the time and space to review what happened. Why didn’t I do what I planned? What do I want to do next? I tend to do this on Fridays, which are non-working days for me.

Next week, I’ve taken a couple of days off. I wanted to give myself more time because I want to do a more in-depth review and plan at the end of each month.

5 – Self-compassion

I practise being gentle with myself, especially when I don’t achieve my goals. I give myself the compassion I need.

I recently read an article that talked about how self-compassion is better than self-esteem. I wish I could find it again, this self-compassion article is great too and has similar ideas.

I love this five minute mediation for self compassion.

Be compassionate

I’ve listed this as Step 5, but it’s continuous throughout the whole process, and beyond.

  1. I’m kind to myself when dreaming and reflecting. I acknowledge the importance of having and realising my dreams.

  2. I’m kind to myself when choosing goals, considering what’s likely to make me happy. Choosing goals that align with what I value, rather than saying ‘I should do this’ or ‘I ought to want that’.

  3. I’m kind to myself when breaking down tasks. I practise not overworking or overwhelming myself.

  4. I’m kind to myself when reviewing how I’m getting on. I give myself care and consideration as I look over what I did and didn’t get done.

  5. I’m kind to myself when I forget to be kind to myself. When I struggle with giving myself what I need, when I stay late at work or work my way through lunch. I give myself empathy. I try again next time. I let myself off the hook. I give myself permission to fail.

My 2019

My word for the year: Connection.
My guiding principle this year: Personal > Professional or Personal is priority
Key areas of focus: Personal, Food & Fitness, Creativity, Travel, Community, Professional

Resources: Summary of useful links

And remember…

It’s never too late for a fresh start 🌱