One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make when setting goals is to confuse emotions with goals.
They make lofty aims like, ‘I want to be happy,’ or ‘I want to be successful,’ without knowing that these aren’t really goals at all.
What we’re talking about here are emotions, or states. These can change all the time. You could be feeling happy one day, and miserable the next, it’s only natural that our moods are constantly changing.
So aiming to achieve an emotional state, and stay like that for the rest of your life, is only going to lead to frustration.
Emotions are only an indication of whether or not you’re going in the right direction towards where you want to be. In other words, they can only show you whether or not you’re doing the right thing, right now.
the key to happiness is redefining it
For example, if you want to ‘be happy’, and you find that you’re happiest spending time with your friends and family, then your happy state is telling you that that’s what you need to be doing. So you should aim to spend more time with the people you love.
If what makes you feel successful is doing something you enjoy and you’re good at, then if you hate your job, you’ve got to aim to find something else.
If freedom, or independence, or travelling, makes you happy, then you need to let go of the commitments and stuff that’s holding you back so that you can do it.
If you’re feeling unhappy or unsuccessful because you’re stressed out about money, all the work you have to do, or the drama that people around you bring into your life, then now you know where to begin to change that. Sorting these out would be your ‘goals’ for now.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with deciding that you want to be happy in life. However, until you realise that happiness itself is just an emotion that comes from the result of your actions, you’re not going to get any closer to it.
You have to define what ‘happiness’ means to you by breaking it down to actual actions that you can accomplish right now. Those actions are your goals, for now.
In summary, here are some action steps you can take today:
1. Think specifically about which emotions, or states, you would like to feel about what
For example, “I want to feel ____ about ____. For example, “I want to feel happy about my job.”
2. Find out what makes you feel that way
For example, “I feel happy about my job when I enjoy the hours I spend working.”
3. Do those things, or avoid the things that make you feel the opposite
For example, “I love working with people, so I should move to a more client facing role” or, “I hate working in an office, I’m going to find a job that’s more hands on.”
4. Keep going
Keep finding new things that make you feel better about that particular area of your life. For example, “Being really good at my job makes me feel successful. I’ll keep working on getting better at it,” and so on.
5. Move onto improving other areas of your life
Once you’ve picked an area to improve, keep it up. Then try the technique in another area, such as improving your relationships, finding a fulfilling hobby, or improving your health. The possibilities are endless.
It sounds so simple, but most people only get to the first step and then wonder why they’re not happy yet. What can you do to redefine your goals?