Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in the 5 signs of a great life series. Click on the introductory post for links to all 5 signs at the end of the series.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all heard that dozens of times as kids, and you may still ask yourself that every now and again.
One thing happy people have in common is a goal. It doesn’t have to be a huge I’m-going-to-change-the-world type of goal, but it usually does involve making some little part of your own world a better place.
Working toward something and feeling like you make a difference can cause a significant spike in your happiness meter.
Goals can be as small as growing your own vegetables for the first time (my goal this summer) to something as big as becoming President of the United States (Obama’s goal last summer).
The planning and execution of a goal keeps your mind engaged. You learn to problem-solve as you work through the steps to reaching your goal, and the feeling of achievement when you do increases your self-confidence and encourages you to try something a little bit harder.
You may be the type of person who has formal goals and plans, or you may be the type who is always working toward a goal almost without recognizing it.
Formal vs. Informal
A formal goal tracker will define an end result, map out steps to reach that goal, and then work each step until he reaches it. You see this often in business or in weight loss or exercise programs.
My parents, on the other hand, are more informal. They have a huge garden every year. They’ve done this for over 20 years and the steps to creating the bountiful harvest are repeated year after year, building on what they learned the previous year. They don’t really think of it as a goal, but it is a significant part of their lives. Mom is proud to be able to serve healthy organic vegetables in the dead of winter as a result of their hard work in the summer.
Which type of goal-setter are you: the formal list maker or the informal I’m-always-working-to-make-it-better kind of person? Do you find list-making essential to reaching your goal or a distraction from living your everyday life?
There is no right or wrong answer, just as there is no right or wrong list of goals to pursue in your life.
The main message is just to have a few goals, small and large, and actively work toward achieving them.
You’ll feel better, the world will be a little bit better place, and you’ll likely meet a few other happy people along the way.