Goal setting has long been recognized as a powerful tool to enhance and improve our performance or behaviors. When we use the same approach to finding goals for our own lives, it can be extremely powerful in initiating and guiding us down a more meaningful and fulfilling path.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing with finding life goals is knowing what you really want to achieve in life. Our ideas can be vague, or we just don’t know where to start in finding them. But having realistic and purposeful life goals can give us a fresh sense of perspective and, more importantly, help us lead a happier and more contented life.
The following article will discuss what life goals are, why they are important to have, some things to think about when choosing your goals and how you can find your own life goals.
What are life goals?
According to Nair (2003), a life goal can be described as follows:
Life goals are desired states that people seek to obtain maintain or avoid.
To put simply, these goals are things we want to attain or accomplish in our lives and tend to be more meaningful and related to our authentic selves.
Putting these ideas into context, here are some general examples of different life goals:
- Travel the world.
- Get promoted.
- Create my own business.
- Master a language.
- Read once a day.
- Give back to others.
- Exercise regularly.
As you can see from the list, life goals have such a broad scope. They can be associated with relationships, careers, finances, fitness, or health for example. Life goals can also be quite abstract, for example, to find inner peace or become an inspiration to others.
The important thing to remember here is that there is no correct answer. These are deeply personal goals to you and can touch on any of the areas mentioned above.
You may also have multiple life goals. But try not to have too many, as it can take away the importance of your real underlying wants and aspirations.
One of my overarching life goals is to reduce stress in my life. It has kind of been my mantra recently, and I use it as a driver for other areas in my life.
How finding life goals can make you happier
Life goals have often been linked to happiness and subjective well-being. Overall, life goals can be associated with an array of benefits including:
- Improved mental health.
- More motivation.
- Feelings of happiness.
- Increased sense of purpose.
- Better physical health.
This list is endless. Even the process of writing about life goals has been shown to increase mood and wellbeing.
With the wealth of studies that support the benefits of finding life goals, clearly taking the time to think about these goals is important in our lives. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the day to day living and forget what we really value and need in life.
Things to consider when choosing your life goals
Life goals can be extremely broad. But generally speaking, life goals can be divided into two types:
- Goals that relate to things that make you feel good internally such as emotional wellness and self-worth.
- Goals that relate to things such as appearance, financial success, or recognition.
The reason it is important to define these two types is that intrinsic goals tend to be associated with more happiness and a greater sense of well-being.
A study in 2001 found that extrinsic goals were associated with lower self-esteem and quality of relationships with friends and partners. This can be unsurprising, given that extrinsic goals are related to a more materialistic and superficial way of thinking.
As such, life goals would be more beneficial if they are intrinsic.
This isn’t to say that we can’t also benefit from extrinsic life goals. Setting a goal of being better off financially doesn’t have to be negative. Who doesn’t want to have more money and live comfortably? Just make sure it is for the right reasons such as to support my family rather than to receive recognition from others.
8 ways to help you find your life goals
If you would like some support in finding those all-important goals, have a look at some of the ideas below.
1. Create a goal planner
If you are finding the process all very confusing, try and organize your thoughts and ideas by splitting your goals into different areas:
- Making the world a better place.
You may like to create a goal for each or use it as a way of finding which area is the most important to you. You may even find that there is another area you wish to focus your goal upon.
2. Brainstorm about your potential life goals
Now that you have the different areas of life goals, brainstorm things you would like to either do, feel, or experience. Try and think of as many different ideas which pop into your head.
You can even try using these different sentence starters to help give you some ideas:
- I want to be…
- I want to give…
- I want to learn…
- I want to have…
3. Identify whether these goals are extrinsic or intrinsic
To get the full benefits from your life goals, go back to the idea of intrinsic vs. extrinsic life goals. Look at the different ideas you have brainstormed and reflect on whether these are focusing on surface-level aspects.
If they do, try to think about how you can make these intrinsic. As we discussed, intrinsic life goals are more likely to actually make you happier down the line.
4. Frame your life goals as a positive
Try and set positive targets rather than goals to avoid. Not only are they easier to read, but they also tend to state a specific action, so it makes your intention clearer.
For example, instead of saying “I don’t want to have unhealthy relationships anymore”.
Frame it as “I want to enjoy positive, healthy relationships with others”.
5. Make sure they are realistic
We often make New Year resolutions that are unattainable that set us up to fail. Make sure your life goals are more realistic.
For example, my friend once said his life goal was to travel to 10 different places every year. While this sounds amazing, this would be a struggle for most people unless traveling is a part of your job.
If you want to actually complete your life goals, you want to make sure that they are attainable and realistic!
6. Think of some actions you could do to reach your life goals
It is great to see a well-thought-out life goal sitting on your page or computer screen. The next step is to start thinking about what steps you need to take to achieve your goal. These are often known as objectives.
These can be micro-steps at first, just to keep you motivated and positive!
For example, one of my life goals is to make time for myself.
Some of the actions I can take to achieve this goal would be to exercise once per week, go for a walk in nature alone, keep 20 minutes to myself in my calendar every day, or simply meditate for 10 minutes at the end of each day.
Doing this really helps you to make that life goal more of a reality rather than just a dream!
7. Try and involve other people
To help make achieving your goals successful, try and share your purpose with others. Getting other people on board can help you to achieve them and get some well-needed motivation.
This tip is also included in our article on how to stay on track with your goals.
Telling others about your goals can help you to feel more motivated and accountable to achieve them.
In fact, research shows that those who set goals and reported them to their supportive peers were 40% more likely to achieve them, compared to those who kept their goals to themselves.
8. Understand that your life goals may change
Your life goals are not fixed and can be altered at any time. Don’t be afraid to change your goals if they are not working for you. And don’t see it as a failure, see it as a positive that you have recognized this and done something about it!
As discussed in another article, your life purpose can change too.
When this happens, you should go back through your list of goals and reflect on them. Are they still working for you? Could you change them in any way? Or could you be doing any more to achieve them?
Having life goals can give us a new sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. It can motivate us to create new, improved behaviors which bring us happiness and joy. But finding the right life goals that meet our core needs can be difficult and frustrating. I hope the tips in this article help you to navigate your way around finding your life goals, so you can shape the direction of your life in a positive, fulfilling way.
What are some of your life goals? Do you find it hard to determine what your goals in life are? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!