Striving Toward Goals = Happiness

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Apr 30, 2012 in , , | No Comments

Life changed her plans…

Writer Erin Zammett Ruddy faced an uncertain future, at age 23, when she was diagnosed with cancer. She states in her piece, “Do You Need A Five-Year Plan?”, Self magazine, “For all my planning, suddenly I didn’t know if I’d be alive in five years.” The good news is, Ms. Ruddy survived her ordeal, and through it all she reevaluated her life plans, “I realized that some of the things I thought were most important to me…didn’t quite make the cut anymore.”

Is it’s time to reevaluate your plans?

Goals Make Us Happy

The happiest people have clear-cut goals, one 15 year study found of 3,500 people by Melbourne University. In the study, people had both short-term and long-term goals, in diverse areas, including friendships, volunteer work and their love life.

“If you don’t devise a plan, you may end up living by default–letting things happen to you, instead of making them happen”, states author of “Creating Your Best Life”, Caroline Adams Miller. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. and author of “The How of Happiness” says, “To become happier in a lasting way, you need to keep working toward meaningful goals.” Ms. Ruddy points out in her article, “Notice she (Ms. Lyubomirsky) says work toward them rather than achieve them. In other words, we don’t have to set a list of goals and expect to achieve every one of them. Rather, it’s about “the job of striving”, and Ms. Ruddy goes on to say that, “Dreaming up new challenges keeps giving us hits of happiness.”

We tend to become set in our ways, comfy in our little daily routines, and yet we feel more alive when an interesting challenge walks into our lives. These challenges help us to look beyond the norm–career, more money–to meaningful, almost tangible positive changes we can make towards a better existence. Sounds good, but where do you start?

Write Your Way to Happiness

A University of Missouri in Columbia study suggests by simply writing down a few dreams, you can feel significantly happier and healthier in a few months.”Writing down an intention puts a nugget in your subconscious, which sets you on a path to achieving it,” reports Kennon Sheldon, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the university.

Some studies suggest that once we make solid goals, we then begin to seek out ways to achieve them. The best goals will usually extract us from our cozy comfort zones, according to the Leadership IQ, a think tank in Washington, D.C. And when we achieve those goals–or at least strive to–it feels great when we eventually succeed.

Here are helpful tips from “Do You Need A Five-Year Plan?”:

  1. Remembering past accomplishments can help you feel more competent and confident, traits that can predict if you’ll lead a contented life.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes, then list everything you want to accomplish in your lifetime–don’t hold back–list even the craziest things! Focus on: if there is unfinished business to complete, classes or skills you want to acquire, or ways you want to give back to others.
  3. Reflect on your list and ask yourself if you’re exactly where you are today, 5 years from now, which of the goals on your list would you have regretted not pursuing? The answer will help you edit your long list to the most meaningful goals.
  4. Try to figure out why certain goals are important to you. Make sure it’s something you want, not what others want for you.

Now, Make it Work!

Approach goals in a positive way, not establishing avoidant goals such as, “I should stop eating cake so I won’t get fat”. Those types of goals will leave you with a sense of dread, not hopeful anticipation. Instead, rephrase that goal: “I am going to start eating healthier”.

And remember, there are times when some goals just aren’t attainable, or need to be revised in some way–that’s ok. Don’t set completely unattainable goals either–those can wreck havoc on your personal health. For example, if you’re deathly afraid of heights, you won’t be putting on your list you want to climb Mt. Everest!

Go out and strive towards your goals!


If you found this blog interesting or helpful, re-tweets and sharing are appreciated!