Goals are the key to achieving anything in life and so it is with achieving happiness. Happiness comes from a steady progress towards meaningful goals which are highly desirable to the individual. Overall goals need to be broken up into specific goals for each aspect of your life e.g. health, career, relationships etc. Goals must be realistic and achievable, but at the same time they should be attractive enough to excite you and make you enthusiastic about achieving them.
The key to understanding your real goals is to ask yourself these three questions.
• What would I want to do if I had only six months to live?
• What would I want to have or do if an angel had granted me one wish which would be fulfilled instantly?
• Would I be truly happy if I actually got whatever I thought I most deeply wanted and what would I do with it?
To clarify these questions – assume that a doctor told you today that you had only six months more to live. What would be the things you would like to do during those six months? These things would be your true priorities.
If there were no obstacles to your doing or possessing anything you wanted – what would that be? You will have think beyond your self imposed limitations and express your true desires.
Is what you think you want most, really what you want most? What are you going to do with it and will that make you truly happy? Say you thought your most ardent wish was to have a million dollars – what would you do with it? Would doing that make you truly happy? Think of some other millionaires and consider if they are truly happy in the way that you want to be.
Identify goals for all the aspects of your life that impact your happiness. These include relationships, financials, career, health, attitude etc. Then you can prioritize these goals so you work on the most important ones first. (Please see Becoming Happier for more information on this). Once you know the goals most desired by you, develop the sub goals which will need to be achieved in order to achieve the primary goals e.g. if the primary goal is to develop strong family relationships, then one of the sub goals could be to develop reasonable financial security so as to afford more free time with the family. For each area you also need to develop intermediate goals – what you will achieve in five years/one year/six months/one month. These goals need to be specific and written down.
Next you need to assess your present status on each one of the areas where you have defined goals e.g. if your financial goal is to have a hundred thousand dollars in five years and twenty thousand dollars in one year, then you need to assess what you have now. If you total up your savings and find that you have ten thousand dollars today, then you need to save ten thousand dollars more in the next twelve months. If that is totally impossible in today’s circumstances, then see if you can change your circumstances e.g. get a second job, or learn a new skill and get a higher paying job or reduce some non critical expenses. If even this is not feasible then revise your goals to make them achievable within the constraints you define for yourself. It is important to get in the habit of achieving your goals. You can revise them upwards after you get more confidence in your abilities. You must be totally convinced that you can achieve your goals.
At the end of this exercise you will have a set of achievable goals which are highly desirable to you. Visualize yourself achieving the goals – having a loving spouse, being rich and famous etc. Then draw up a specific and time bound plan to achieve the goals and fix benchmarks to measure your progress.
Since these goals are achievable and also highly desirable to you, you will discover that a deep sense of satisfaction and lasting happiness will come merely by making steady progress towards your goals.