Have you ever stopped to think about your life goals?
Life goals are the things you’d like to achieve in order to be satisfied with your future and who you become. Your personal goals could range from better relationships, to starting a business, to traveling the world.
Some goals are specific; others are flexible and open to interpretation.
However, without at least one goal to progress towards, you won’t experience much personal development.
Luckily for you, this article is all about how to set life goals that will set you up for a life of success.
What Are The 3 Types of Goals?
There are 3 different types of goals: time goals, focus goals and topic-based goals.
Let’s talk about each individually.
1. Time Goals
These are the goals that are oriented to a specific schedule or deliverable. They fall into short term and long-term goals. If you aspire to learn a new skill, for instance, it can be your short term goal.
2. Focus Goals
These are the goals that help keep you on track toward a larger, ultimate goal. Such goals drive the majority of decisions and impact your life. For example, if your goal is to set up a business, your major decisions will be wired around this goal and drive you forwards. Another example would be improving your health.
3. Topic-Based Goals
These goals have focus on a specific area of your life. It can be personal, professional, artistic, financial, etc.
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All three types of goals aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have short-term topic-based goals or a large focus goal in your career or relationships.
In fact, the best way to set up goals is to have at least one topic-based goal in every area of your life that will have a specific time framework.
But not all goals are equal from the perspective of the impact. One of the most crucial goals that you want to set for yourself are life goals.
What Are Life Goals?
Life goals are what we want to achieve rather than accomplish to get by. They make our life truly meaningful and go beyond our daily routines.
They drive our behaviors over the long run. There’s no single psychological definition for them, and they aren’t strictly a clinical construct, but they help us determine what we want to experience in terms of our values.
They give us a sense of direction and make us accountable as we strive for happiness and well-being—for our best possible lives.
Inherently, life goals need to be meaningful.
According to Kasser and Ryan (2001), there are two types of life goals that relate to certain aspects of life.
- Intrinsic goals relate to emotional intimacy, personal growth, and helping others. They are believed to be aligned with our needs as humans, reflecting our inherent desire for self-knowledge and more fulfilling relationships (Maslow, 1943).
- Extrinsic goals are more culturally defined and less about our nature as human beings, encompassing things like our physical appearance, social standing, status symbols, and wealth.
Research suggests that intrinsic life goals are related to greater happiness, self-actualization, vitality, and satisfaction with life, compared with extrinsic life goals (Ryan et al., 1999; Niemiec et al., 2009).But at the end of the day, evidence also shows that the content of our goals may be less important to our well-being than our reasons for pursuing them. Having the ‘right’ reason for goal pursuit—irrespective of the aspiration itself, that is—has been found to contribute to our well-being, and the opposite applies (Carver & Baird, 1998).
Intrinsic Life Goals
These satisfy the needs that stem from being human—including our psychological and self-fulfillment needs, as shown below in Maslow’s Hierarchy (1943).
Life goals based on the former might include:
- Having a loving marriage or a trusting relationship with your significant other;
- Finding and keeping a healthy work-life balance, with time for friends and family;
- Living with integrity, being honest and open with others;
- Inspiring others through your beliefs and actions;
- Being a great listener so that others can turn to you; or
- Becoming an expert in your field and helping others.
Self-fulfilment needs-based goals could entail:
- Coming up with a new invention that reflects your creative abilities;
- Being a successful entrepreneur and running your own business;
- Creating your own personal brand for your work;
- Graduating with a Master’s or Ph.D. in something;
- Learning a new language; or
- Picking up a ‘hard skill’ and mastering it.
Why Should We Set Goals in Life?
We all have dreams, and we know what makes us happy. But setting clear goals goes beyond wishful thinking and can seriously fuel us towards actions.
The Goals You Set Affect Your Future
All successful people meet their goals by figuring out what they want, creating their vision, and committing to their goals. They break their goals down into smaller sub-goals and make a step-by-step plan for each one. Then, they let nothing stand between them and the life they envision.
In the same way, people who set goals are more successful.
In Locke’s Theory of Goal-Setting, the act of setting goals and the thought we put into crafting them directs our attention to the why, how, and what of our aspirations. As such, they give us something to focus on and impact positively on our motivation.
Goals give us something to commit to.
This is called the “endowment effect” which happens when we take ownership of something and it becomes “ours,” thereby integrating it into our sense of identity.
Cornell University researchers demonstrated the endowment effect with a clever experiment. First, researchers gave participants coffee mugs and offered to trade them chocolate for their mug. Almost none of the participants wanted to trade.
Next, researchers reversed the trial. They gave participants chocolate and then asked them to trade it for the coffee mug. Again, very few wanted to trade.
This is the endowment effect in action. It was about what they already had, not about the actual objects. When we take ownership of something, we work to keep it.
Goal-Setting Can Promote Happiness
When goals are based on values, they are meaningful. Meaning, purpose, and striving for something ‘bigger’ is a key element of happiness theory in positive psychology, and the ‘M’ in Seligman’s PERMA model (Seligman, 2004).
Along with positive emotion, relationships, engagement, and accomplishment (which goals allow for), it makes up what we’ve come to known as ‘The Good Life’.
In other words, life goals represent something beyond daily routines. They allow us to pursue authentic targets based on our own values. So when we choose them and go after then, it gives us a sense of profound self-accomplishment. Even striving to be the very best we can sometimes lead to happiness in itself, according to eudaimonic well-being research (Ryan & Huta, 2009; Huta, 2016).
Life goals are empowering
When it comes to our life goals, in order to achieve them we tend to tap into our inner strengths and passions.
Studies show that knowing and using our inner strengths can increase our confidence (Crabtree 2002), boost our engagement (Sorensen, 2014), and even promote feelings of good health and life satisfaction (Proyer et al., 2013).
How To Recognize, Sculpt, And Achieve Your Life Goals
1. Find What You Love Doing
Most people work a job they don’t like.
They invest all their energy into doing the same thing 5 days a week. They feel like they haven’t really done anything better with their time. In fact, this is one of the biggest regrets of those who never pursued ‘something more.’
At the end of your life, you may look back and notice many things you secretly wanted to do, but never did. You may even realize that you never asked for what you desired, never enjoyed a day at work, and never fully did your best.
And that’s a pretty sad way to end this exciting journey we’re here for. Luckily, it’s never too late to find your true calling and turn it into something more.
If you currently have a hobby that you are incredibly passionate about, then you’re already halfway there.
Invest time into this hobby as often as possible; master it and start sharing your experience and insights with the world. You can write a blog about it, make videos to show people how to do the same or even start a new business.
You won’t be doing it for the money, you’ll be doing it because it’s what you love and can do forever without getting bored.
If you still haven’t found a passion, though, the first of your life goals should be finding one.
Look carefully everywhere around you. Go back to your childhood. Be honest about what you enjoy and what you don’t.
Your calling is somewhere close. Listen to your instincts and you’ll find it.
2. Start Taking Care Of Yourself
Most people never think about self-care. Even if they do have some healthy habits and are purpose-oriented, they neglect their mental and spiritual health. Physical health means nothing without these two.
So, let this be one of the personal goals you set: to finally make more time for yourself. Take it easy. Stop judging, blaming, or expecting too much from yourself.
Start saying ‘no’ when you don’t want to do something. And say ‘yes’ to the desires deep within that you’ve been hiding for so long.
Self-care is a way of life. It can begin by writing a journal and experiencing all the health benefits it brings, or meditating in the evening to empty your mind before bed.
It can daily walk in the park to breathe some fresh air and generate ideas for the next steps you should take in life, or removing some toxic people from your life that make you feel bad about yourself.
Forgive yourself, it’s both a spiritual and liberating practice. Let go of the mistakes from the past and know that they don’t shape your future.
All this will make you stronger and you’ll take action to do better in life.
3. Contribute Beyond Yourself
Another one of the examples of life goals worth setting is about giving because it’s true that the more you give, the more you get in return.
The sad truth is, most of us live pretty egoistically: we make ourselves feel good and do what makes our life comfortable, but that also means putting the happiness of those we love aside, and never considering helping those around us in any way we can.
Giving doesn’t need to mean donating money or even joining an organization. It’s about leaving behind your own wants and needs to see if you can be of help to others.
Also, it’s proven to make us way more satisfied with our lives, rather than when we’re just focusing on ourselves.
Here are some examples of ways you can begin contributing to the world at large:
- When socializing, listen more and respond as genuinely as possible
- Encourage others to try again after failure, be their biggest supporter, and remind them of the potential within
- Love without expecting to receive the same in return
- Share what you have when you can
- Donate things that you aren’t really using
- Be kind to everyone you meet
- Seek opportunities to do good things to others, whether it’s helping an old woman cross the street, giving a dollar to a homeless person, not judging when somebody is sharing their opinion
4. Enjoy Life More
Out of all of the ideal goals to set, this is perhaps the most important one.
As general as it may sound, you can personalize this idea and start enjoying your life more by defining for yourself what that means. If done right, you may realize you want a great family life and everything else is much less important.
So, if you dedicate yourself to being a great partner and parent, you’ll be waking up feeling blessed every single day.
Now, let’s say you have career-related goals. If this is the case, you can challenge yourself by taking up more responsibility at work, networking, taking an exciting opportunity, mastering your craft, and building new skills.
5. Leave Your Comfort Zone
Life becomes pretty boring and lacks fulfillment if you stay in one place, both physically and mentally.
Traveling is one way to get out of the rut and explore more of what’s out there. By traveling, you put yourself in a new environment and see how you react. You learn to become adaptive and grow in countless ways.
Leaving your comfort zone can also mean leaving your job and entering a new field, or ending a relationship in order to get to know yourself as an individual.
Ditching your comfort zone means doing something that you’ve always wanted to but never had the courage to.
Take more risks. Go on an adventure without planning. Take a big decision quickly and make the most of it. Start talking openly about yourself and don’t be afraid to be judged.
This an exciting and fantastic way to live your life.
Set one of these life goals today! Don’t leave it for later. You’ve done that before and it didn’t turn out well.
Now, you’ve learned how to set life goals.
So, write down your goal now. By doing this you’re increasing your chances of achieving it sooner.
Find accountability. Make a plan. Define the first steps and go take action tomorrow, no matter how small. Track progress and feel good when you see you did well. Let that motivate you to keep going.
You should be excited about setting life goals, as that will be a turning point in your journey and the foundation of a brighter future.
The truth is, the life you’ve always dreamed of is well within your reach. You just need a clear vision to get there.