Goals Don’t Bring Happiness

In my role as a coach I frequently find myself having a discussion with my clients about what they hope to achieve through the coaching process

Invariably the conversation begins with them stating what they believe to be their goal, the thing that they really want to achieve for themselves.

 “I want to own a Mercedes.”

“My goal is to lose 40 pounds.”

“My goal is to increase my business by 20%,”

“I want to be promoted to Vice President of Macramé.”

“I want a bigger house.”

“My goal is to get an MBA.”

“My goal is to own my own business.”

“I want a loving relationship.”

“I want to quit smoking.”

And the list goes on.

In each case, and to each person, their stated goal is very real. It represents what they really, really want. Except that it actually doesn’t.

Our goals are not what we want. Our goals are simply a means to what we believe is an end.

What we really want is what we believe achieving our goals will do for us.

We don’t want a Mercedes. We want what we believe owning a Mercedes will do for us.

  • Prestige
  • To be viewed by others as being successful
  • To project a certain image
  • To have a feeling of peace and security

And we believe that losing 40 pounds will do this for us.

We don’t want to increase our business by 20%. We want what we believe increasing our business by 20% will do for us.

  • To feel better about ourselves
  • To feel attractive
  • To gain confidence
  • To be healthier
  • To have more energy                                                                                                  

And we believe that losing 40 pounds will do this for us.

We don’t want to increase our business by 20%. We want what we believe increasing our business by 20% will do for us.

To remove some of the pressure we feel.

To have more cash flow to do stuff with.

To have a stronger sense of being in control.

To make our parents proud of us.

And we believe that increasing our business by 20% will do this for us.

You may have noticed a common thread through all of this.

Accomplishing Goals

The common thread is the belief we have that by accomplishing our goal we will have something we presently do not have, and this will make us feel good.

Ultimately, our goal is to feel good and to be happy, and we have attached an external accomplishment as the catalyst to our happiness.

It seems we have forgotten one small detail.

Happiness exists only in our heads.

It is a choice.

We can be happy without a Mercedes.

We can be happy without losing forty pounds.

We can be happy without growing our business.

Setting Goals

This does not mean we should abandon our goals.

Setting goals is, I believe, essential to our success in life. Goals provide focus and direction. Goals energize us and give us a purpose. I spend a lot of time helping people reach their goals.

But achieving our goals does not make us happy. That is an illusion we have bought into for years, and it is false. If you don’t take the time to acknowledge this before embarking on a journey to reach your goals, you could find yourself somewhat deflated once you reach them.

How To Be Happy

Happiness is a feeling we can produce regardless of what is happening in our lives. If you don’t believe me, do yourself a favour and read ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch.

Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007. He delivered what he titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” which was a popular YouTube video and later published as a New York Times Bestseller.

Spring Goals

In the lecture, he explains in detail how he was able to maintain happiness and a positive outlook despite his grim diagnosis. Although Pausch succumbed to cancer in 2008, his lessons remain timeless.

If you’re going into spring with new goals, congratulations. It’s a great way to start a new season. I recommend that you take the time to acknowledge what you hope the outcome of the goals really is, and perhaps reflect on some of the ways they can and cannot bring you happiness.

Till we read again.

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