Three weeks ago, we began our focus on Choosing Happiness. We began with an overview of what the research shows that the happiest people do in their lives. Then we started by teaching you a simple and powerful way to Notice Your Life. Last week we focused on two core practices to support you choosing happiness, Gratitude and Forgiveness. We have heard from a lot of you during this series and clearly gratitude and forgiveness struck a meaningful chord with many of you.
Today we are going to focus on identifying your goals and moving toward them. Or stated more simply, knowing what you want.
When we talk about “goals” people often get quite intimidated. They think that “goals” must be very serious, lofty or sophisticated. Actually, your goals are what you want in life, work, and your world. And, the research shows that people who know what they want (and take action to get more of those things in their lives) are happier.
People who know what they want and take small steps consistently over time are the happiest and the most successful. And that makes sense. If you keep trying to achieve what others want you do to or want for you, your heart will never be in it. And, if you set huge goals and expect to achieve them in short order, you will often get frustrated and give up.
Here is a simple way to identify what you want in your life, work, and world:
What I Want in My Life*
- Grab 10 – 15 index cards or small pieces of paper and write down the people, things, kinds of relationships, experiences, work, travel, etc. that you most want in your life before you die—one thing per index card.
These can be in any order. You may have no trouble getting 15 or you may struggle to get 10, but aim for at least 10.
- Then put them in the order of their importance to you.
Number each card 1, 2, 3, etc. This can be hard, but do your best and don’t take it too seriously.
- Now, remove every third card and put them aside. (ie. card #3, #6, #9 and #12)
This step is because sometimes life does just that—pulls something really important from you.
Take a look at the remaining cards. Are they still in the order of your highest priority, or do you need to reorder them? Write the new order on the cards.
- Now, take out 2 – 3 cards that you believe you will never really have time for.
And again, reorder the cards in the priority that makes sense with the remaining cards.
- Now, spread the remaining cards in front of you.
If you had what is on those cards in your life, would your life be rich and satisfying? Set a timer for 1 – 2 minutes and really contemplate this question.
- Okay, now go back and create your final list of the 10 things you really want in your life.
You can use any of the cards to create your list or you can add new ones that came to mind as you did the exercise.
We would suggest that you write these 10 things somewhere you will see them regularly. After all, they are what you want in your life, work, and world.
Then Pause (because you are a leader in your life!) several times each day to ask yourself: “Is what I am doing in alignment with me creating what I want in my life?”
Take small steps each day (or at least each week) to move toward creating what you want in your life.
Then in about 12 – 18 months, do this exercise again. What you want in your life will evolve and it’s important to catch the changes as they occur. In doing so, you will be more grounded in what really matters to you when challenging times come. And, they will come. It’s the nature of being alive.
The happiest people are not the ones without challenges—no one is without challenges.
The happiest people know what matters to them and what they want in their lives,
and they take small steps consistently over time to reach their goals
—regardless of the challenges thrown at them.
We’d love to hear what you discover.
A hug to you as you choose happiness!
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting
* – This is an exercise adapted from something the brilliant Anna Navarro from St. Louis, Missouri developed for her Work Transitions program.