Activity #10 you can use to boost your happiness as listed in “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky is:
Committing to Goals
Let me start with a little story. When I was in University I had this great idea for a Fantasy novel (series) and over the course of a semester (while still doing my school work – if not quite as devoted to it) I wrote the bulk of the first novel. It took me the rest of the year to actually finish it, but I was committed to getting through this. And finally, late at night on a winter’s night around christmas, sitting in front of the fire at my family’s home in New Brunswick, I finished it!
And felt a sudden and inexplicable feeling of loss and sadness.
I was done, wasn’t I supposed to feel excited and overjoyed that I had finally completed this thing that I had been working on for a year!
It turns out that people are much happier when they are PURSUING their goals compared to when they FINISH them.
So what does this tell us. Well in the words of Aerosmith “Life’s a journey not a destination”. Apparently there is actually some truth to this.
It is the DOING of that thing we love that brings happiness, not necessarily the completion. As we learned in the last post, we rarely take the time to celebrate finishing something, this is part of the reason why (hence why learning to do that is so important).
In the book Lyubomisrsky spends a considerable amount of time talking about this activity because, as she says:
“Committed goal pursuit is different from the other eleven happiness activities that I describe in this book. The reason is that no matter what our levels of happiness and fulfillment, all of us have some kinds of goals. Furthermore, our goals vary from one person to another and across time.”
So the trick with this one is to find the right formula for your goals, whether it be: uncovering your motivation, seeking the right kinds of goals, and ultimately finding and pursuing those things that will make you happy.
Here is just a quick overview of all that she talks about in this chapter:
What Kinds of Goals Should You Pursue
- Intrinsic – don’t be swayed by extrinsic influence (society, media) – telling you that you SHOULD pursue: wealth, beauty, fame, success, etc. CHOOSE YOUR OWN GOALS – and make sure they are things that will be truly involving and rewarding. This involves knowing yourself to a certain degree (and is important enough that I think I’ll do a separate post on this later on).
- Authentic – like intrinsic, this is knowing that it is you, not friends, family or anything else that wants this. Look at your values (again, I think I need more posts on that topic also) and let them dictate what you should be working toward.
- Approach – as opposed to avoidance goals. Goals that are working toward something (building a boat, remodeling your house, to see all seven continents) are MUCH more happy-making than goals to prevent an undesirable outcome (easiest example is vowing to lose weight on New Years to avoid looking “bad” and getting fat). Consider these two examples: working out – because you want to work toward being fit and being able to run a mile each day NOT because you fear what will happen if you don’t. OR fixing that old car – because you love to tinker and make things better and restore things NOT because you’re trying desperately to make it last so you don’t have to buy a new one. It’s all in how you look at it.
- Harmonius – goals that work well with other goals you have, as opposed to goals that conflict (redecorate the kitchen and spend more time outdoors). If you are working at cross purposes with yourself you’ll find frustration more often than happiness. So choose your goals with other goals in mind.
- Flexible – life changes and we want goals that will be able to change with us, and aren’t locking us into certain behaviours that we may grow out of over time.
- Activity – goals that involve activity (learning something new, participating in a fundraiser, working toward running a mile every morning) are much more happiness inducing over the long run than goals to change our life circumstances (move to California, get a new car, get a new house) which lend themselves to adaptation and hence only short term happiness boost if any.
There is a lot more in this chapter, but this at least gives you a starting point to work from. Choosing the right goals to start that meet these criteria will get you a lot more happiness in life than the alternative.
Next time: Practicing Religion & Spirituality
Until then, keep laughing – maybe make it a goal to laugh for an hour a day (if that is authentic for you)