Oh yes it’s that time where goal setting is all the rage as the start of a new year begins. It’s also around this time that those same goals can suddenly seem daunting or lose their shiny allure. While more traditional models of goal setting focus on the “what” of a goal, Positive Psychology studies (“the science of happiness”) have shown us that it is actually much more effective and motivating to focus on the “why”.
Some goals make us happy, while others do not. This is because there are two types of goals. Extrinsic goals which relate to “worldly goods” like money, status, looks or fame, while intrinsic goals, focus inward and tend to relate to “goods for the soul” like physical health, relationships and personal growth. Extrinsic goals often don’t meet our psychological needs while intrinsic goals do. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to want something that may fall into the extrinsic category but when we work with the “why” of a goal rather than the “what” of a goal then once achieved, it will meet our inner needs and create a lasting, happiness. This being different to a goal that might bring us a short burst of glee but soon falls victim to what’s known as “hedonic adaptation” – where we adapt to things which then increases that feeling of wanting more, bigger, better and never being happy with what we achieve or acquire.
For example, say one of your goals reads “I want to buy an expensive convertible sports car where everyone admires me by x date ” you may want to look at re-framing your goal to read “When I drive, I want to experience a fast, smooth ride with the wind in my hair, sun on my face, in control and completely free”. Chances are when you do achieve that goal rather than quickly getting bored of your fancy new convertible once your brain adapts to it, your joy will be longer lasting and touch a part of you that serves your wellbeing and feeds your happiness. This is because rather than a “what” (the car itself) you pursued a “why” (a sense of freedom, a feeling of control yet carefree and at one with the elements while driving etc.).