This article explores different ways one can identify their goals. We’ll also explore a step-by-step guide to working towards goals.
We each have different aspects to our lives – family, friends, our social life, work, health, hobbies and interests, spirituality, and so on – in which we have values, and we can have goals related to those values. Thinking about what your values are – thinking about what’s important to you in each area of your life – can help you to set goals. Setting goals and working towards goals helps you to see that you have choices, that you have control, and that you can make progress and achieve.
The aim isn’t to have lots and lots of goals, it’s simply to be aware that you do have these different areas of your life, and each area has values and the potential for goals that can provide purpose and meaning. In other words, each area has the potential to contribute towards your overall happiness and working towards goals to achieve genuine happiness and satisfaction.
So, having started to think about the different areas of your life – what’s important to you in each area and what might improve each area and help you to be happier – the next step is to have some specific goals to work towards, and then finally working towards goals.
When you set goals, you give yourself something specific to work towards; you create for yourself a sense of meaning and purpose – a positive path to follow. The path won’t always run smoothly or be easy, but having goals will point you in the direction you want to go and engage you in the things that are important to you. And that’s all good for your overall happiness!
Your goals can be as big as starting a charity or building your own house, or as simple as growing herbs in a window box or being able to wear high-heeled shoes out in public. The crucial thing is that you identify and have things to work on, make progress on, and look forward to achieving.
I. There’s a process involved in Working Towards Goals. You’ll need to think about and identify:
- The specific goal: be clear about what you want to achieve.
- The benefits: know why it is important to you; what you’ll gain from achieving your goal.
- Your options: the different ways you could work towards your goal.
- The steps: each step you’ll need to take to achieve your goal.
II. Working Towards Goals Step #1: Identify the Goal
Identify something or things you’d like to do that you can work towards and achieve in an area or areas of your life. They could be short-term goals – things you want to achieve in the next few weeks or months; or longer-term goals – things you want to achieve in the next year or years in your life.
You may come up with one or two goals, or you might come up with several. How many you can work on at any one time depends on what else you’ve got going on in your life already; the commitments you already have.
You can’t, though, rely on just one thing in your life to make you happy. That’s putting all your eggs into one basket. Happy people know that they need to have happiness in different areas of their lives so that if one aspect of their life becomes difficult and unhappy, they have happiness in other parts of their life that support them.
You could find there’s some overlap; that a goal in one area extends to another aspect of your life. For example, if you wanted to get more fit and healthy and you also wanted to spend more time with one of your friends, you might find an activity you could regularly do together – for example, swimming or hiking, going to the gym, or dance classes.
III. Working Towards Goals Step #2: Identify the Benefits
Why is a particular goal important to you? In what way will you benefit from achieving your goal? Although to some extent, you may feel that a particular goal presents a challenge, first and foremost your goals should inspire you.
It’s not difficult to be inspired; you simply need to identify the benefits – what you stand to gain from working towards and achieving each goal. Knowing the benefits of achieving your goal can also help keep you motivated when you come across any obstacles and problems.
IV. Working Towards Goals Step #3: How to Work Towards Your Goals? – Identify Your Options
For each goal, you’ll need to think through how it could be achieved. What skills, strengths, and resources do you have that could help you? What further information do you need? And, what advice or help might you need? Who could help you?
If, for example, one of your goals is to learn something new or improve a skill you already have (and learning is an obvious way to see yourself making progress with something), think about how you might learn. Is there a course local to you? Could you hire a private tutor, or ask a friend or colleague to teach you? Could you learn from a book or sign up for an online course? Are there any YouTube tutorials that you could watch?
Weigh up the pros and cons of each option. Think about how you feel about each. If you feel inspired, it’s the right choice.
Here’s an example of someone – Joe – identifying their options:
‘Three years ago I landed a great freelance job in the film industry. It was exciting and glamorous. Everyone was cool and fun. I started buying expensive clothes – designer outfits. And, I constantly went out to clubs and restaurants with my new colleagues. I spent money like water.
I was renting a flat on my own, and the bills started mounting up, and I got into debt. Then I realized that I needed to get a grip. My goal was to be debt-free and stay that way.
I sat down and wrote out what my options were. I could:
- Fix my debts with one big consolidation loan, with a three-year repayment term.
- Work a couple of shifts in a pub at the weekend.
- Get a lodger.
- Stop using Uber and Deliveroo and cancel my gym membership. I could buy a second-hand bike and ride it everywhere. I could swap eating out for inviting friends round to my place for pasta and cheap plonk. Instead of holidays abroad, I could visit family and friends in Devon and Scotland.
Once I had written down my goal and options, I felt a huge sense of relief. I also felt I had regained some control. Even if there were setbacks, I still felt it was going to be possible to be debt-free at some point in the future. Identifying my goals and options gave me the belief that things could improve for the better. I felt hopeful and a lot happier.’
V. Working Towards Goals Step #4: Identify the Steps
Whatever goals you have, the way to make sure things aren’t too hard is for a goal to be broken down into smaller, more doable steps. Taking a step-by-step approach means you set yourself up for constant success by achieving small targets along the way. That means small shots of happiness each time you achieve each step.
So, work out all the steps you think you need to take towards your goal. Just empty your mind; you don’t need to write things down in any particular order just yet.
If, for example, you wanted to change career direction, the things you’d need to do could include talking to a careers advisor or coach, spending time online researching jobs and training in the career you’re interested in, and re-writing your CV. These are all part of the larger goal, but breaking them down makes them easier to think about and to work on.
Now, out of all the steps involved in your goal, decide what the first one will be. And then, what will be the next?
Each step may or may not be challenging in some way. If it feels overwhelming or too difficult, break that step down into a few smaller steps.
By setting goals for yourself you give yourself something to aim for. But, contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to wait until you’ve achieved your goals – until you’ve got the job or career, the friends, the home, the lifestyle, or whatever it is you’re aiming for – before you can be happy.
Happiness comes from working towards your goals. The steps you take towards each goal let you see yourself consistently making progress. And progress equals happiness. It’s like reading a good book – you don’t read a book just to find out what happens at the end, you read it to enjoy each chapter. (Don’t you?)
VI. Working Towards Goals Step #5: Happiness Habit
Keep Your Mind Focused on One Step at a Time Tell yourself ‘this is what I’m going to do next, and then just focus on that one step you’re taking. Set yourself up for constant success by achieving small targets along the way, and you will see yourself moving forward.
You might be concerned about the time it is going to take to achieve what you want; you worry that if, for example, you start to learn a new skill, it could take months, even years, to perfect it. Or, if you want to move to the country, it might be a long time before the right place comes up.
Instead of thinking about how long it will take, know that a step-by-step plan allows you to simply work consistently towards what it is you want to achieve, however long it takes.
Imagine, for example, that one of your goals was to declutter your home. It’s unlikely you’ll do it all in one go. Instead, you might decide to do a different room each weekend. You’ll probably break it down further so that you sort out one cupboard, or one shelf, or one type of thing – books or clothes, for example – at a time.
It might not be easy; you might come across problems along the way – trying to decide what to keep and what not to keep, what to do with what you no longer want – but, and this is the crucial thing, each stage you complete is a small goal in itself.
Each drawer you clear out is a small achievement. And, if you make a point of reflecting on each small achievement and feeling pleased with yourself, then each of those small achievements will help you feel happy!
Doing things one step at a time gives you time to look at what is working and what isn’t, and to decide if you need to change anything. So, as you go through each step, review the outcome. What’s worked? What helped and went well?