Working hard, but still feel like you’re not getting anywhere? Your goal setting is to blame. Here’s how to create better goals — and be happy.
We all know that person.
“What are you going to school for?” I asked the student organizer at a university event I spoke at.
“Oh, finance,” she answered.
“So working with numbers really lights you up, then?” I said.
“What do you mean?” she replied.
“I mean, are you stoked about finance? Do you love that world?”
Blank expression. “Oh, God no. I pretty much hate it. But being an accountant is good money. And my dad wants me to do this. And he’s paying my tuition.” And she just shrugged, as if it all made perfect sense. I saw two things in her future: A Mercedes. And Prozac.
Cut to your own aspirations. You’re hoping, plotting, reaching. You make a plan to get it, a bucket list, the degree, the job, the big goal.
Except you’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re chasing a feeling
We have the procedures of achievement upside-down and inside-out. We go after the stuff we want to have and accomplish, and what we want to experience. (Click here to tweet this quote.) Then we hope and yearn we’ll be fulfilled when we get there.
But it’s backwards, and it’s burning us out. What if first, we got clear on how we wanted to feel in our life, and then we laid out our intentions? What if your most desired feelings consciously informed how you plan your day or your year, your career, your holidays, your life?
You know what’ll happen when you have that kind of inner clarity attached to outer action? You’ll feel the way you want to feel more often. Decisions will be easier to make. You’ll know what to say “No” to and what to say “Heck yes” to.
We can deceive ourselves into thinking that certain things will bring us happiness. Self-deception is part of self-discovery. Inevitably, we’ll do things for the wrong reasons.
Learning to stay close to our soul is an organic process, full of missteps along the way.
Let’s go back to the university student, who, despite loathing accounting, was going to become an accountant to please her father. She could arguably say that pleasing her dad made her “happy.” And she “feels good” about that.
But that’s not whole happiness. In truth, her pursuit is driven by fear. Perhaps fear of independence, fear of disapproval or fear of hardship.
Her focus isn’t on being happy. Her focus is on not being unhappy. There’s a vast and absolute difference.
We can always find ways to justify our behaviors to meet soulless goals. It was the right thing to do. It’s the bottom line. I had obligations. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. There was a lot of money on the line. I was too far in. It’s the way it’s always been done.
I’ve worked hard to hit targets and launch stuff that made me feel flat and less than proud. I’ve joylessly pursued goals I didn’t fully believe in, because I wanted to be successful. That’s twisted.
And it never paid off, no matter how good I looked while I did it, no matter how together everyone else thought I was. It cost me — big time. My definition of success needed a major overhaul.
And that’s what’s required when we decide the journey matters as much as the result and that we want to have a good time: we radically alter our personal definition of success.
How do you create meaningful goals?
You desire map. Here’s a crash course in desire mapping:
- Get clear on how you most want to feel — your core desired feelings.
- Create goals that’ll make you feel that way. Do you want to feel courageous, bold, connected, creative, empowered…? Awesome! Clarity rocks.
- What do you need to do, have and experience to create those feelings? Break it down and those become your goals for the year and your plans for this weekend — and your future.
Danielle LaPorte is the creator of The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul (Sounds True bestseller of 2014), author of the bestseller, The Fire Starter Sessions (with Random House/Crown), and co-creator of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan.