Setting goals that make you happy

Goal Settingphoto © 2009 lululemon athletica | more info (via: Wylio)

What motivates your goals?

Most people set goals to gain happiness, have fun and enjoy when they achieve their goals. It is this ‘hope for a happy future’, this carrot at the end of the stick, that motivates them.

I am here to tell you that, if your goals are similarly motivated, you have set yourself up for failure. Any goal that is not keeping you happy in the present moment, is not going to make you happy ever. At best, it will give you temporary, fleeting relief. If you think your goals require you to make a sacrifice today to create a better tomorrow, you are never going to find that happiness. It’s in the future for you right now, it will remain there.

The problem here is in the attitude most people have towards goals. Goals are something we should keep to give us better direction and meaning in this, present moment. If your goal motivates you right now, fills you with enthusiasm, hope, focus and purpose, it is worth keeping. If it doesn’t inspire you, if you need to postpone happiness to a future date, to accomplish this goal, you will do better without it.

A personal example…

10 years ago, I was in an Engineering Institute, studying something that I did not really enjoy. I was afraid I would not get a job and needed to work hard for good scores. I also thought that my life would be perfect once I got a job with a big MNC. Those feelings of fear and greed were my motivating factors. I tried a lot but could not get myself to study well. Those years were miserable, and even after making myself feel so guilty and wretched, and trying every moment to study more, I did not get a good score.

So did I not get a job? I did. How did I get it? Well, I enjoyed programming and became a programmer. My employers didn’t care how I had performed in other subjects, they saw that I was good at programming and passionate about it, they took me. Did it make my life happier? For a brief while, yes. Over the next few months, I found myself less and less inclined towards my work. I slowly realized that the job which I had crave for so many years of my life, did not really excite me. It was frustrating. I had worked so hard, only to find that I was wrong about what would make me happy.

Life keeps surprising us. Just when we think we have figured it all out, some new input turns up. The idea of future that we have is just an imaginary construct, it exists only in our minds. If you are setting goals based on this idea, it’s not a very smart thing to do. But you can be absolutely sure about what makes you feel good right now, what excites you right now. Keep your aim in that direction and you will keep having fun and gaining experience. Soon you will be able to earn your living doing what you love.

Enjoying the journey

If your goal is such that it makes you happy right now, you are going to enjoy not only the end result but you will also enjoy your journey towards it. Sachin Tendulkar liked playing cricket. Of course, he could have taken the safe route of studying to become an Engineer or a Doctor. But that did not inspire him, he took up cricket, something that he felt really connected with. His real accomplishment to me, is not the number of runs he has scored, it has been finding a goal that improved his present moment. I can bet my life that he has enjoyed his work more than most people in this world. I can bet that he is one of the happiest people alive, not because of his achievements after becoming a big sports star, but because he chose something that inspired him and made him happy in the present moment.

Our fears

Our fears have a tendency to blow themselves out of proportion if we don’t check them. If you are setting your goals based on your fears, if they don’t make you feel happy and energized right now, you are just being a chicken, allowing your fears to lead you around while you meekly follow, with your head hanging down, too afraid to face the responsibility that comes with daring to dream. Did you say you are being practical!? Ha, what a joke!

Here are some other excuses I hear from people when I ask them why they are not following their dream goal.

What if my passion can’t earn me money? That’s bullshit. Anything and everything can earn you money. I have seen people earn money playing sports, cooking food, practicing and teaching yoga, writing blogs, taming wild animals on TV, travelling and blogging about it, or doing a TV show about their travels, even writing and talking about sex! Don’t tell me your passion cannot earn you money. That’s a lousy excuse. Get off your butt, do the research, look outside the box and then summon the courage to take necessary action.

What about changing passions. Do your interests keep changing from time to time? Do you fear you might not find the same thing interesting in some time from now? This is bound to happen a lot if you don’t let your screaming inner self be heard. Once you decide to follow your heart, this will happen only for a while in the beginning. Soon you will find a purposeful goal that you stick to, something that is so interesting that you can’t let go. There might still be times when you gain new knowledge and previous goals look unnecessary or unimportant. At such times, it’s best to not hold on. Let go. Don’t hold on to a goal just because you have invested a lot of effort and time in it. Follow your new insights and the directions it takes you towards. This is how lessons come in life. It is good if we just accept the new lesson rather than denying it because it makes us uncomfortable.

What do we do when we loose initial enthusiasm. Even with the best goals, you might feel demotivated sometimes. This is natural. But unlike demotivating goals that you make for the future, the demotivation here is temporary. Discipline is what gets you through in such moments. Such phases pass if you just persist for a while. Soon you regain your original enthusiasm and zeal, and continue like before.


Happiness is a choice we make in life. Don’t believe in the myth that some future goal can make you happy. Choose to be happy now, in this moment. Do what motivates you the most. Don’t aim low. Why expect low from yourself and create shallow, demotivating goals? You are a conscious being, capable of manifesting anything you can think of.


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  • March 18, 2011 - 2:41 am | Permalink

    Dear Rahul
    I agree what you said. i would like to know as in your opinion at what age a child should be left (by his/her parents) in this world to a take a decision of his/her own.

    • Rahul
      March 18, 2011 - 8:53 am | Permalink

      I think the role of parents is that of providing direction. Consciousness and responsibility develop gradually in the child. It is not for the parents to decide when the child is able enough, it’s for the child to realize some day that he/she is capable to handle himself/herself. Parents can direct, motivate and advice, with an aim to provide minimum necessary help to make the child grow and become responsible and capable of taking decisions. If and when the child becomes that, is totally upon the child.

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