While I was in Korea this summer, I read Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit. While I thought the book would focus primarily on travel, Pursuit reveled in the joys of setting goals and working towards those goals.
Like Chris, and the others in his book, I am an avid goal setter. I love setting a mark in the future and working towards it. Just like I believe that the act of traveling somewhere is 75% of the fun, striving towards a goal is very similar. I receive immense happiness from planning, structuring, and doing. Maybe it’s my Type-A personality, or maybe it’s that goal-setting is a wonderful habit that I’m addicted to.
On the other hand, lots of people don’t know how to set goals. They don’t know how to structure their days. Some may not even know how to set a goal. Goal-setting brings me immense happiness, so allow me to help.
- Start Small. Good goal setting requires small steps. Want to lose 100 pounds? Try losing 10 first. Want to travel abroad, but don’t know where to start? Try a guided tour to a nearby destination. For example, I am learning Mandarin Chinese. My exposure to Mandarin Chinese prior to beginning my lessons was limited to ni hao and a variety of food names. While I would love to wake up one morning with full fluency, I know it’s not idealistic. Rather, I take each day of Mandarin instruction one day at a time: Pinyin practice, speaking practice, and vocabulary review. I use Yoyo Chinese, and this helps with my scheduling. In just a month, I’ve been able to hold small, basic conversations with my boyfriend. It’s fun, and I don’t stress out because I’m not fluent after three weeks. Small goals = big victories.
- Think Ideal. Goals are even better when they’re ideal. Want to run a marathon, but you’ve never ran a mile in your life? Think ideal: Maybe run a 5K first. Want to climb mountains, but live in Middle-of-Nowhere Flat Prairie, Kansas? Take a vacation and do some mini-climbs. I don’t know anything about mountain climbing, but I probably wouldn’t try Everest first. Another example: I lived in Korea for a year. Within the first week, I wanted to take public transit to the little town where our teacher orientation was being held. I had never used public transit. For this goal, I grabbed a transit-literate friend and we took the bus together. Small and ideal goal = public transit victory.
- Do it! Too often, the hardest part of goal-setting is getting started. Here’s a tip: Just do it. Want to learn water aerobics? Find a schedule at a local fitness club and go. Want to start saving for retirement? Start saving a bit at a time and talk with a reliable financial planner. Want to see Istanbul, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires? Book your ticket and fly. Want to talk to that cute girl in your class? Do it. Want to finish your degree? Talk to an admissions counselor. Granted, “Do It” isn’t a catch-all solution. Can you simply hop on a plane to Tokyo? No, but it takes planning, and you should do the planning as soon as possible.
Goals are great and wonderful motivators. They add purpose and planning to life, and add a sense of accomplishment when we reach the end of our path. I’m not a goal expert, but I enjoy reaching goals and helping others do the same. Have you ever reached a major goal? How did you do it? What’s your strategy? How do you pursue happiness?
See you soon.