„The purposeless suffers his fate.
The purposeful creates it.“
- Immanuel Kant -
Goals in your life, no matter what kind, are now the subject and the last part of the trilogy "Happiness, how does it work?!" Goals are there to bring you to a certain point or state in life that you want to reach. Without a goal you don't have so much to do and go through life without a plan. When you come home from work and turn on the TV, your goal is to relax or distract yourself from the stressful work. But these are not the goals I want to talk about. We want to talk about the goals that shape your life. I want to show you why you need goals in your life, how they drive you, improve your life and how you can achieve them.
If you haven't read it yet, you can find the other 2 parts of the trilogy here:
Happiness, how does it work?! Part I - Acceptance
Happiness, how does it work?! Part II - Perception
Goals. Why should you even have them?!
Don't just be OK, be SUPER: There are people who have no ambitions at all. They might say things like:"my life is OK". If that was really the case, then everyone who calls their life "OK" would be happy. But in most cases this is just a self-delusion. People shouldn't think that their life is not enough. Quite the opposite. You should value what you already have instead of being unhappy about things you don't have. But if you still want more, than goals can take you further in life. Become an ever better version of yourself. So get yourself some goals and don't stick with "OK".
Goals bring you further in life: Because even you always wanted something. For example a walk over the Great Wall of China, learn Spanish, play Van Beethoven's symphonies on the piano, climb a mountain or simply become a good partner. There are endless possibilities. Everyone has their own preferences. Everyone cares about something different. In order to achieve these things your heart longs for, you need goals. If you want more, then get it.
Without goals, you're gonna miss a lot in your life: You will only be in control of your destiny if you determine your own path. You don't necessarily have to swim against the current, but at least you should decide at the fork whether you want to go right or left. You probably only have this life, so follow the things you have always wanted to achieve or obtain. No matter if material or intellectual. One of the most common things that people regretted on their deathbeds were the things they didn't do rather than the things they did. Don't feel like you are missing anything anymore.
A life without goals is boring: It will always repeat itself and will remain monotonous. Follow your dreams or hobbies. Like a pack of wolfs, without their Alpha, they are only able to act in a limited way. They roam around. Don't be a firefly in the twilight. Just be yourself and listen to yourself. Your inner voice will tell you what you love and light the way for you. And if it is just a new shelf for the cellar that you want to build by yourself. Get your ass up. Do it already!
Goals will motivate you: If you have something clear in your mind, it will motivate you, because you want to achieve it. Your goal, your path, your life. You want to achieve something. It will buzz around in your head. The more you are thinking about something, the more you motivate yourself about it. "I want to run 10 kilometers (6 miles) in one go!" If that is your goal, then you will not stop at 8 km (5 miles), although you do not feel like it anymore. You'll keep it together and tell yourself that you won't stop right before the finish line. This is the motivation you get from a goal you want to achieve.
Not having goals can lead to depression: The best way to get out of depression, or not to get any at all, is to acquire goals in life and dedicate yourself to them. This not only distracts you, but also gives you the feeling that something is going on and endorphins will be released. That's why you feel exhausted after a successful workout, but also very satisfied. A life could seem meaningless to some people. So then give it a meaning yourself. Whichever one suits you best. You are not bound to anything. If you do nothing, the feeling of "I'm missing something" can drive you crazy. And that is overwhelming. So don't let it get that far.
Self-esteem: The most important point in my eyes. That's why goals are also a part of happiness. You gain happiness through self-acceptance, a healthy perception and your goals. If you do, create or accomplish something, then you can be proud of it. Not the kind of evil pride alias arrogance that the Bible speaks of as a deadly sin. No! Here we're talking about being proud of yourself because you've achieved something. It's about YOU taking all the stones out of the way that were placed in your way. YOU have removed them, YOU have continued to move forward, YOU have made it, YOU can be proud of yourself. Don't brag about it. You do it for yourself. If you have confidence in your actions and strengths, then you win confidence in yourself. And that again is called self-esteem.
There are many other reasons for pursuing goals. Which one you choose is up to you. But just start already. Maybe only with very small steps. But it will lead your way to happiness.
Before we proceed, I would like to mention an important matter. And, as the title already says, it's "realistic goals". When people set themselves goals, they set wrong ones or they have too high expectations of themselves. This is mostly due to a lack of knowledge in a certain field. It is not called a challenge for nothing.
If you want to trade stocks, then there's no point in simply taking money in your hand, opening a portfolio and just buying everything that has a cool name. This will certainly backfire. So you need to inform yourself so that you can set realistic goals. You don't have to become an expert, but you should be aware of the effort. For example it is unrealistic to gain 10 kilos (20 lbs) of muscle mass in 6 weeks and lose 10 kilos (20 lbs) of fat at the same time. If something just sounds too good, you should at least get a little suspicious.
Even regular training or eating healthy food does not come overnight. When I was younger I was often fooled by shortcuts. Losing weight with this Speed-Diet, building muscle with this Super-Extreme-Ultra-Power-Method, learning a new language in 2 days etc. etc. etc. All nonsense! I tried it and nothing really worked except for the Yo-Yo effect, my body looked like always and i learned how to say "goodbye" in swedish. What a huge progress in my life. My hint: Choose your goal wisely!
Motivation (A little excursion into my life)
You have a completely different motivation, than someone who has no goals. Above all, there is an important difference between desires and goals. If you want something, then it's just in your head. But if you pursue a goal, your body has started to move and supports your mind to achieve it. The simple difference is this: You do the one thing (goal) and you don't do the other one (desire). So turn your desires into a goal.
If you really want to do something, then you are definitely motivated. In the beginning it's pure euphoria and later it's pure willpower whether you pursue your goal any longer, even if sometimes it isn't so much fun anymore. You often notice that when people start something new, they talk a lot about it in the beginning and then after a while a little less and at some point not at all anymore. How you stay on track and motivate yourself through visualization will be explained below.
Back to the subject. You have now chosen something and bought some books and maybe already attended a seminar. Very good, that's how the first steps are. This feels much better than just wishing you would do this or that someday. With a certain goal in mind, you have a picture in your head that you want to achieve. This motivation comes automatically. At least in the beginning.
Hint: A great help, no matter how simple it sounds, are motivational speeches. On YouTube you'll find countless channels that are specialized on these things and even add epic music to the speeches. Certain movie soundtracks can also be inspiring. Whether film scenes from Rocky Balboa, film quotes from Al Pacino, Samuel L. Jackson or real motivation trainers like Eric Thomas (The HipHop Preacher). All these are extremely supportive. Someone who keeps telling you, "You can do it! You can do it! You can do it," actually gives you the positive energy that you sometimes need. Don't look skeptical, try it out on your next workout.
Here's a little example of how l did it:
I've always wanted to run a half marathon. I told myself that one day I would do it. A big one of 42 km (26,2 miles) was clearly too much for me and I thought 21 km (13,1 miles) was just right because my focus wasn't on jogging at all. In no way at all?!
Well, to be honest, I hardly ever went running at all. I had no basis for it. Too much physical stress causes me to have an asthmatic reaction. My lungs start to burn and I get less air until my pulse calms down again. Nothing dramatic, but endurance sport really wasn't one of my strengths.
I talked myself into saying, "Hey I want to run a half marathon sometime". It remained only a desire. But then, one winter, I saw that the annual city run of 21 km (13,1 miles) would take place in summer. Very good, then I still have a good 5 months time to train. But this time it was different. I had a certain date in mind. On the 20. June was this marathon and I was certain to participate there.
Everything was snowy outside, but I didn't care. I bought some running shoes and looked for a 4 kilometer (2 miles) route along the river. And from then on I started, 2 or 3 times a week. Sometimes even 4-5 times. Even before I thought "I'm too lazy today!" and didn't know what to do, I put on my shoes and went out. I started slowly and had to pause very often. But my goal was to run or even walk the distance to the end every time.
My first goal was to run the 4 km (2 miles) in one go, then I wanted to improve my time. When I managed to do this, I chose a route twice as long. I even jogged to the gym instead of taking the bus or the bike. Until 2 months before the city run I started a real "training plan" for jogging. One day slower, one day fast, interval running, etc. etc.
I still remember that I was completely nervous during the event, although nobody controlled me or I did not compete with anyone. And I still remember how exhausted I was the last 4 kilometers (2 miles), everything was worn out because I had accelerated a bit too much in the beginning. But I didn't give up and persevered. It was exactly this event that I had been working on for so long. Giving up was not an option.
I ran the half marathon in almost two hours. Which was maybe a piece of cake for other people, but for me one of the biggest successes ever. I now knew that I could run a half marathon in one go. I am still proud of myself to this day. Without this thought of the city run event, I would never have been so motivated. I proved to myself that as a hobby-asthmatic I could still run longer distances. My lungs and body got used to the physical activity.
Now that you know that you should set yourself a couple of goals (just in case you don't have one or not enough), we're finally talking about how you should do it.
It's quite simple, actually. You decide for something and put it into action. As Demokrit said it 2400 years ago, "The word is the shadow of the deed". So decide for something, something you really want. Maybe a small goal before you move on to really difficult things. It all depends on you and your motivation, whether you can handle something difficult or not.
In any case, there are completely different goals, short-term as well as long-term. Ideally, you should plan goals for about 4-6 months. These can be extended to one year if you need more time. Of course there are things like an evening school, which you will only finish in 3 or more years. You will hardly be able to shorten this period. Still others are very short termed, like the above mentioned wooden shelf in the cellar. You measure the cellar, buy wooden planks and components and then build the whole thing at the end. This takes approximately 1-2 days, depending on the size of your shelf. Such goals create a good feeling for the moment.
But goals which you follow for several months, like 4 to 6 months, have a very positive effect on your whole life. An example would be learning an instrument, a foreign language or building your own business. The whole thing is planned and you set an approximate period of time, how long you will probably need for this. Of course building your business can take longer that just 4 months. But set your first goal "Build my business" and then, as soon as you achieved it, the next one "Improve my business". And so on. All step by step.
To play a couple of songs on your guitar or watch a foreign-language film takes time. You will need a few months, plan about half a year for each goal and then you can dedicate yourself to it. This will help your motivation and increases your productivity. For example, if you wouldn't give yourself an end-date, but no time limit at all to learn the guitar, it can quickly happen that you start to postpone, because you still have a lot of time left. You shouldn't postpone anymore. You want to learn this instrument NOW! Find out what you need for it and concentrate on it.
It's the same the other way around. If you don't spend at least 4 months learning the guitar, you won't make much progress in just 2 weeks. In order for you to master something to your satisfaction, you need some time and patience. No matter how good you are after 2 weeks, after 4 months you are a lot better or safer, things will come to your mind that you didn't even think of before.
Here is a little guideline:
- Listen to your heart and look for a goal you want to pursue for at least 4 months up to one year.
- Find out what you need to reach your goal.
- Set a time period (4 months, 5, 6, or more) depending on the effort. You can then adjust it as you like.
- Start now!
- Get the necessary items (literature, instrument, equipment, etc.).
- If necessary, visit a workshop or school. The best way to learn to dance is with a teacher!
- Pursue your goal!
What's possible in 20 hours
There was a nice TED talk some time ago. I can recommend this website in general. There are always interesting topics and contributions from successful people in different fields (www.ted.com). Just have a look.
It was about someone who had measured how long it would take to learn the basics of something.
The learning curve increased enormously in the first 20 hours, no matter what they learned, until it only rose slowly after about 20 hours. Here on the left you can see a diagram.
TIME stands for the invested hours and XP for the experience you got.
You can clearly see that after 20 hours (the red circle), the learning curve no longer rises as strongly as before. In order to get back to the guitar playing, you need about 20 effective hours to learn the basics. Each additional lesson you invest in will increase your skills more slowly, or you will need much more practice and diligence to make further progress. As with muscle training, the learning effect is usually high at the beginning, but with increasing time the level of difficulty becomes higher and higher.
I am aware that this idea or method cannot be applied to everything. It's just a nice way to see how much you can do in just 20 hours. However, everything that goes beyond that is not pointless, but improves your skills. Even if it goes a little slower then.
If, for example, you spend half an hour each day on something, then you would need 40 days to complete your 20 hours. In other words, a good month and a half to learn the basics, if you don't miss one day. But you want to play in front of your friends, don't you? You need some better skills for that. Don't give up too early! Because exactly when you have exceeded these 20 hours, it's time to get down to business. At this point the situation often occurs that you no longer really feel like it, and you want to let go. The learning curve is not as strong as at the beginning. I'll explain how to stay focused with a simple exercise in the following section.
Follow your goal! It sounds that simple. But it is possible. If you imagine you want to dance tango now, do it. Set it firm in your thoughts. Visualization is a technique which is very often used in meditations. There are a lot of different techniques and we don't have to go too deep into the matter. The following thing is completely sufficient:
Close your eyes, stay calm, breathe slowly and imagine for 2 or 3 minutes that you've already reached your goal.
What does it look like, when you achieved it?
How do you feel?
Exactly. That's it. No matter whether in the morning after getting up or in the evening in bed before you go to sleep. Do this daily! Imagine that you play a song on the guitar in front of your friends, travel to the place you wanted to reach or take part in a small tango competition. Your goal can be anything, that is up to you.
It has nothing to do with esotericism or wish-thinking. It's just that when you see a picture more and more often in front of your inner eye, it gradually moves into your subconsciousness.
Like driving a car: In the beginning you had to take care of the shifting, the gas pedal, the mirrors and then even all that stuff outside the car. Now you drive the car completely without thinking about it. Your subconsciousness has taken over these tasks for you. The processes have been automated. It is also the same thing with your visualization. Your subconsciousness is fed with the same image of your goal over and over again. You manifest this image and your thoughts will circle much more around this goal. This will make you more motivated, because positive signals will be sent back. Your goal is no longer unreachable. In your thoughts you already got it.
Goals are a wonderful thing to give a meaning to your life, despite family and friends. It's something just for YOU. Not only the psychological aspects like depression reduction are in focus here. It takes away the feeling of missing something out. Because that's exactly what you do, when you don't do, what you actually wanna do. It is a huge help against the monotonous everyday life. Something you are looking forward to. You will be less and less bored, if you have a goal, you are committed to.
Happiness hormones and the feeling of following a path in your life are your rewards. You gain self-confidence in your actions and your self-esteem is also strengthened. You learn new abilities that you always wanted, you discover talents that you didn't know about or meet new people. Starting a new hobby, can provide a lot to talk about. It just feels good to have a mission, to work towards something. This one's true: "success makes you sexy!"
You will succeed. Set a goal and just start. I know there are often situations in life where not everything is so easy. Where you can't just do what you really want. Try of course to solve your problems, but don't waste all your time just for it. Then you will never have time for yourself. Take some time for yourself. Only for yourself, whenever it is possible and follow what YOU want. Do it with your heart and soul and you will reach it. It's up to you, if it's your always wanted desire or your little hobby. Everything is possible. I wish you a lot of success and say goodbye for now. I hope the trilogy has given you some good ideas or at least you had some fun reading it. Then I have already fulfilled my purpose. Well then "Adjö! as one would say in Sweden.
I hope the article was helpful to you. If so, then share it, so others like you can also benefit from it. I wish YOU the best!
- LdR -