Aristotle said that what a person wants above all is to be happy. We seek to be happy and every other goal we have, be it to be rich, beautiful, healthy or powerful is because we think that these will make us happy. A psychologist called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi carried out a lot of research trying to find out what actually makes people happy and came up with a term to describe the state of happiness which he termed “flow”. He interviewed over 1000 people to see what made them happy and found that they had five things in common which were:
1. Being intensely focused on an activity
2. which we they had chosen themselves
3. which isn’t too challenging (causing burnout) or not challenging enough (causing boredom)
4. which has a clear objective
5. and gets immediate feedback
He found that people who are “in the flow” feel immense satisfaction and can lose track of time and surroundings as they are so immersed in the activity in which they are doing. So even though people think that they may be happy just by lazing around relaxing and doing nothing it is interesting that he found that it was people like athletes, musicians, doctors and artists who are happiest when they are immersed in a completely exhausting activity. From my own experience I know that I am happiest when exercising, playing sport or researching something I’m interested and get so bored and frustrated when there’s no challenge and after reading about all this now I know why!
To figure out what makes you happy you can use this simple chart – the left axis represents the difficulty level of a particular challenge/activity and the bottom axis represents your capability/skills to complete the challenge/activity. So if you pick a difficult challenge but have a high skill level you should be able to complete this while being “in the flow” whereas if you pick a challenge that is too difficult and you don’t have the appropriate skills or if you pick an easy challenge and you are too skilled you won’t be working in the flow and can then end up feeling anxious, worried, bored or frustrated. Pick the last 3 or 4 challenges you have done, write them down on the graph and then write down how you felt about them. If you realise you’re not happy then switch up your challenges and make new goals.
Once you know what makes you happy it is much easier to set yourself goals. For example if you know that exercise makes you happy then maybe you might decide to pick up a sport, join a class or sign up for a race, if travelling makes you happy you might plan a trip or if you like learning then sign up for a night class. Once you have a goal in mind then you can go about breaking it up in smaller goals, e.g. if it is to lose weight then maybe you might have a number of smaller goals such as clearing out the house of junk food, adding in more fresh vegetables into your diet and exercising three times a week which should all make the final goal appear a lot more attainable. Although personally I’m a huge believer in the anything is possible way of thinking I’m not so naive as to think that if I go on a diet that I’m suddenly going to turn into a 6 foot supermodel with Kim Kardashians ass and Angelina Jolies lips (but in saying that surgery is getting pretty advanced…). But anyway the point I’m trying to make is that your goals shouldn’t be so unrealistic that they are impossible to achieve as this leaves you with no hope but they also shouldn’t be so small that they are not challenging enough and don’t motivate you.
The right goal should be:
- Specific (know exactly what you want to do)
- Measurable (have some way of measuring when you have reached your goal)
- Attainable (as discussed above)
- Realistic (ditto)
- Time-phased (set yourself a time limit – so that you’ll actually do it)
- Positively stated (believe you can actually achieve your goal)
- Challenging (as mentioned above)
- Recorded (write down the steps you are taking to achieve it and what you have achieved so far)
It’s good to have a number of goals relating to different areas of your life, e.g. health, fitness, career, relationships, hobbies, travel etc. One of the biggest tools I’ve learned in the last year from PDF has been the vision board. You basically set your goals and then make a picture collage representing those goals and keep it somewhere that you see it often. You can also show it to people, the point of this being that if you tell other people your goals then you are more likely to stick to them. I made three boards last year, some things were things that I had wanted to do or change for ages but never actually did. I don’t know if it’s the power of the subconscious mind working to make you achieve your goals or that I love ticking off lists but I found that I actually achieved a lot of the goals I had put down. I had the obvious ones like get fitter, eat healthier and travel which are fairly broad but I also had a few small specific ones. One was to get back involved in rowing in some way so I took up coaching, another was to try and start running which I did and am now signing up to do the Dingle Half Marathon in September. One of the biggest ones for me was to speak up more – I had it down on my board as a picture but didn’t really tell people what it stood for. I’ve always just been a fairly quiet, which was fine but I wanted to speak up more so I started this blog which I never would have done if I hadn’t sat down and made a vision board and really thought about what I wanted to do.So hopefully this post was in someway helpful! Going to try and write a few more over the next few weeks with my tips for eating clean, exercising and how I deal with cravings (and now that I’ve written it down and told you I feel like I have to do it! Just like if you write down your goals and share them with people! And another thing I’ve learnt over the last year is that if people don’t laugh at your goals then they aren’t big enough!)👍😊