Why your goals won’t make you happy, but you should still set them

My job is to help people achieve their personal and professional goals, using mindfulness and meditation.

I truly believe that it’s possible to create anything you want in your life, as long as you are committed enough to it. I’ve seen it in my own life again and again, and I’ve seen it happen for my clients.

I’ve helped people to get their dream jobs, recover from depression, overcome anxiety, transform their relationships and earn more money in less time.

In this article, I’m going to share some successful strategies to set and achieve your goals this year. But before I do that, a word of warning about the relationship between achievements and happiness…

The ‘success = happiness’ trap

Don’t be seduced into thinking you’ll only be happy and successful when you achieve your goals.

If you do, your brain will very sneakily keep moving the goalposts further away each time you take a step forward and you’ll never feel satisfied with what you’ve achieved.

It’s the equivalent of going on a 10 day trek thinking that you’ll only be happy when you’re taking your rucksack off at the end. It is a cliché, but you do need to enjoy the journey.

Finding balance

This mentality easily leads to thoughts like ‘I’ll have time for friends and family, exercise, meditation, sleep, hobbies… when I’ve achieved my work goals.’ This means that you start to sacrifice other areas of your life that are just as important.

I had a client who was working until midnight every night to provide for his family, without realising that what they most wanted was time with him.

Why goals are important

Goals help you focus, and give you purpose and direction. So many people jump into the river of life and get carried along with no sense of control over where they want to go. They end up feeling stressed, getting underpaid to work with people they don’t like, doing work they don’t enjoy. Then they resent their situation.

When I first start working with my clients, they usually find it much easier to say what they don’t want, than what they do want.

Particularly in the age of email and social media people are becoming more and more reactive and distracted and less and less proactive and focused.

So set your goals, and work hard towards achieving them, but make sure that you’re not sacrificing your health, happiness and relationships along the way.

Why people don’t set goals

Many people resist setting goals, sometimes for fear of disappointment if they don’t reach them, and sometimes because they don’t know what they want.

The first issue can be easily dealt with. Just keep going until you get there, even if takes you 10 times longer than you thought it would. Every time you make a mistake or experience a set back, take it as a lesson learnt rather than a failure.

Easier said than done, I know. But in the past, when I’ve interpreted a mistake as meaning that I am a failure, it’s led to a whole load of self-criticism and very little progress. When I’ve been willing to look at what I can learn from the experience, it becomes more valuable than not having made a mistake at all.

People only become successful by making lots of mistakes and persevering. As Thomas Edison said,

How to create goals

To help you with the second issue I have created a recording that will help you to visualise your ideal 2018 in terms of both work and your personal life.

People often tell me they find this process moving and inspiring and it gives them a lot more clarity about what they really want to create in their lives, rather than focusing on what they’re worried about.

8 steps to achieving your goals

It’s not enough just to you think of a goal, you need to take action to make it happen.

Here are 8 steps to ensuring that you achieve your dream 2018.

  1. Write them down, so they become more concrete.
  2. Pin them up somewhere so that you’ll be reminded of them everyday.
  3. Write down why they are important to you, so that you’re clear what your motivation is.
  4. Share your goals with a friend or coach and give them weekly progress updates. One study found that if you do that, you are twice as likely to achieve them.
  5. Turn your goal into a habit. For example if you want to get fit your habit might be to run three times a week.
  6. Make your habit tiny and build up. If you want to start blogging, make your goal just to write the first sentence. This helps you get over the biggest psychological barrier, which is just getting started.
  7. Decide when you’ll do it. If your aim is to contact 10 new clients a week, you might decide to do this first thing on a Tuesday morning.
  8. Celebrate every step of the way. Reward yourself with your favourite song, a nice coffee or a high five with a nearest person, each time you make progress, to reinforce the feel good factor.

When I reflect with a client over the previous 2–3 months of them taking consistent action and developing positive habits, they usually can’t believe how much has changed. Some even say they feel like they’re a different person.

So download the recording, give yourself some space and time, and start creating your ideal 2018.

My work is all about love. Loving yourself, loving other people and loving the earth. I do that through writing, podcasting, coaching, running workshops.