Goal setting is simply a part of life. In order to accomplish our dreams, we need to set goals and make solid plans to get there. In the past we have discussed the importance of setting SMART goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time sensitive. These qualities turn dreams into actual goals that are more likely to be accomplished. However, they don’t necessarily make goals a joy to work toward.

In her book titled The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses how setting the right goals can increase happiness levels. This week we will be sharing with you some of the qualities which Lyubomirsky argues make goals more enjoyable. If you are interested in learning more about these tips and the research backing them up, be sure to check out Lyubomirsky’s book yourself!

Set Intrinsic Goals

Goals can either be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic means that they are personally rewarding to you. Extrinsic goals are those which are created for the sake of what other people expect of you. There are always going to be goals that you make because someone else wants you to. Obviously, you likely don’t really want to take a test, for example, but perhaps you do want to get good grades. Looking further down the road, you may want to go to a certain university or get a specific career. By focusing on your own desires (or the intrinsic aspect of your goals), even necessary extrinsic goals become much more exciting and enjoyable to work towards.

Make them Authentic

Own your goals! It’s easy to set goals just because someone else wants you to. A common one is to set a goal to reach the career your parents want for you. Some people may want to be a doctor, just as their parents want them to be, but not everyone is going to experience this synchrony of desire. Setting goals that fit you takes some self-awareness and emotional intelligence. However, taking the time to develop these skills is worth it as you are much more likely to accomplish goals you consistently want to strive for.

Approach vs Avoid Goals

Approach goals are goals that are meant to work toward (or approach) a desirable outcome. For example, you may want to learn a new skill or save up to pay for a new experience. Avoid goals involve avoiding something undesirable (such as getting out of punishment, avoiding guilt, or escaping future negative circumstances). This has more to do with perspective than making specific goals. If you want to lose weight, you could view it as simply wanting to avoid being overweight. Or you could view it as wanting to be more fit and healthy. People who create avoid goals tend to do more poorly and struggle to stay motivated. Approach goals are much more likely to be accomplished because new experiences are exciting. Avoid goals tend to feel more like a chore.

Ensure Goals are Harmonious

Each of your goals should complement, not contradict, each other. Setting goals such as “spend more time studying” and “volunteer more at the local shelter” gets frustrating and will likely cause to just drop both goals. Remember that there is simply not enough time in the day to do everything you may want. If you can find a way to make your goals complement each other, do it. If not, drop one. You can reach for that goal at another time, and dropping one is better than dropping both.

Be Flexible

Overtime, our ability to reach our goals changes. Opportunities come and go, priorities change, and needs shift. Be willing to readjust your goals and plans to what works for you. Pursuing goals brings happiness, but what those goals are can change. Accept that and know happiness in pursuing and accomplishing goals can be done at any age in any circumstances.