It doesn't matter how much money you make or how successful you are. What matters is if you're happy."
Goal setting and happiness.
I never thought I would write a blog post on setting goals and being happy, but after listening to Australian Damien Diecke while cleaning my condo yesterday, my entire approach to goal setting and happiness has shifted.
By no longer setting specific long term, outcome-oriented goals, but rather setting a direction for my life...
An example of this is how often I think or say, "man, I can't wait until I am a licensed doctor of physical therapy. Things will be so much better then."
By saying/thinking this, I'm simply tolerating my life up until summer 2015 when I complete my education.
Dr. Jarod Carter, in his recent podcast on this goal setting approach, described me to a "T" when he discussed the mindset he himself struggles with; achieving one goal then immediately thinking of the next bigger and better goal to work towards.
How the heck are we supposed to be happy if we never celebrate the small life victories & are always thinking "what's next?!"
We end up in this vicious cycle of tolerating life until we reach a goal, and then tolerating life some more until we reach the next goal.
This approach is not conducive to [my] happiness.
After hearing the impact this approach can have on one's happiness, and realizing I myself struggle with this very concept, I decided it was time for a mindset shift.
Two Types Of Happiness
It is mentioned in the YouTube video below that different areas of the brain "light up" when experiencing each of these types of happiness.
This article on CNN discusses the two different types of happiness in more detail.
aka hedonistic pleasures, short term "happiness fix," instant gratification
This type of happiness is what most of us seek when looking for a "happiness fix." This is, for men at least, chocolate cake, beer, beautiful women, fast cars, etc. Any type of "short term" happiness fix. You could also think about this as the life of a cocaine addict (happiness addict).
It's dangerous to continually seek this type of pleasure because it results in MANY ups and downs in our happiness. We achieve something and are really happy... but then immediately want more or something else. Nothing is ever good enough. This type of happiness is sort of manic depressive, but not clinically depressive. Sure, you live some of your life on the high peaks of happiness, but most of your life is spent unhappy. I blame a lot of this unhappiness on social media too- seeing others [appear] to live such a wonderful life doing cool stuff.
aka pursuit, not outcome related
This type of happiness on the other hand deals with being happy when being in the process of going after what you want in life. This is where the pleasure comes from- the more you go after what you want in life, the most you light up the "eudaimonic happiness" area of your brain. Happiness is derived from pursuit rather than from outcomes.
Understand, everyone should experience some hedonic-type happiness, but it is the eudaimonic-type happiness, or the happiness with being in pursuit of something, that we should strive for. Why? Because it results in more time of our life being spent above the "happiness threshold."
How do we experience more eudaimonic-type happiness?
Set a direction for your life, then pursue it.
And also keep reading below...
Setting Specific long Term Goals vs. Setting a Life Direction
I just no longer believe we should be running our lives based on long term, specific, outcome-oriented goals we set for ourselves.
Wait. Don't set long term outcome-oriented goals? Why?
First of all, when it comes to long term goals, we are constantly learning! And when we continually learn, our goals will [should] change. How can we set such large, specific, outcome-oriented, long term goals if we are constantly changing and learning?
Well, this goes against everything we (or at least I) have learned.
I've always been told, "set short term goals, then long term goals, then make your decisions based on them."
Sure, on the surface, this makes complete sense. Set goals, then do the things necessary to reach those goals.
BUT, if you sit and really think about it, when setting long term, specific, outcome-oriented goals, we really don't have control over whether or not we reach our goals.
We don't have absolute control over the outcomes of our long term goals.
Rather, we simply have influence over them.
When we recognize we don't have complete control over our goals, we tend to think we don't have control over our lives.
This lack of control can potentially make us unhappy. Or if not unhappy, at the minimum cause a lot of stress!
Damien gives the following example to demonstrate control vs. influence in our goals:
When attempting to meet women, we set a goal of 'I'm going to get the phone number of three women tonight.' If you think about this goal, we do not have absolute control of whether or not we get those three numbers (someone else, the girl, is ultimately deciding if we reach this goal), but rather we only have influence (if we are attractive, funny, charming, etc.)"
Set a direction.
For example, my "direction" (at this point in my life) is to influence, inspire, and educate as many people as possible, be healthy, be adventurous, and love passionately. Prior to this shift in my mindset, I had specific long term goals (own a business, make X amount of money, etc.) and they were stressing me out!
Understanding the direction of your life gives you purpose for each decision. Knowing and pursuing what you want also makes you attractive to others!
My favorite part of setting a life direction is it can be used as a compass when faced with big decisions.
For example, if I have to decide which city to move to or what job to take, I can ask the questions, "will this move/job help me influence, inspire, educate other people? Will I be healthier? Will it be adventurous? Can I love still?"
I will finish by challenging you to take a moment to think about your life direction... There aren't specific rules to setting a direction, simply think about the things you would enjoy pursuing. To make it easier, use words such as love, adventure, peace, innovative, etc.
It is only the second day of my mindset shift of setting a direction vs. setting long term specific goals, but I have already felt more at ease, not to mention happier. Placebo? Maybe. Regardless, everyone should take the time to reflect and really think about what they want and where they want to be. It doesn't have to be as hard as setting specific long term goals, but simply thinking about the direction you want your life to head and then pursuing it.
At any point in life, the next step in your life is really the thing that matters. Everything else is simply mental masturbation- which is totally useless to you."
Cheers to a happy (& healthy!) 2015.
And as always, let's #makeithappen.