The myth that an empty goals list means you‘ll be happy…
We all have goals. Some of us want to change the world, while others just want to get by and be a little better every day.
Turns out, it’s the exact opposite — achieving all of your goals will actually make you miserable. And there’s a simple explanation as to why.
It’s because the secret to happiness in life comes from making progress on the things you care about, NOT actually achieving all of your goals.
If your goals list was empty, there would be no reason to jump out of bed in the morning. You’d have everything you wanted and wouldn’t have any goals to make progress on.
I know that sounds counter intuitive, but think about it for a minute. In life you’re always moving forward or backwards and never standing still, so if you’re not making progress on something that matters to you, then you’re moving backwards.
Ask anyone who has completed all of their life’s goals and they’ll tell you that sitting around and twiddling your thumbs gets old quickly — usually within a few days, maybe a few weeks. Without something to make progress on, we as human beings become miserable. Fast.
If you’re purposely delaying happiness until you achieve some major goal, or worse, achieve ALL of your goals, then it might be a good idea to take a pause and reassess where you’re at.
I personally like to keep this quote on hand and read it when I need a breather — you know, when the world just seems to be getting the better of you and you’re feeling overwhelmed or feel like you haven’t achieved anything important lately:
“Progress Equals Happiness” — Tony Robbins
Three simple words that are profoundly impactful.
Instead of waiting for the perfect partner to be happy. Instead of waiting until you’ve lost the entire 50 pounds to be happy. Instead of waiting for your startup to hit $1M in revenue to be happy. Focus on the continual progress you’re making every day and let that be your source of ongoing happiness.
Making progress on something you care deeply about will make you happy. And if you’re not making progress on something important now, that’s a great place to start.
Just ask yourself 2 simple questions:
- What’s important to me RIGHT NOW?
- What can I do to make progress on that, TODAY?
… then get to work. When you’re done with the work, reflect on the progress you’ve made and realize you’re closer to your goal than you were at the start of the day. Reflect at the end of the week and once a month too.
The impact of acknowledging your progress, no matter how small, will create happiness. No delayed gratification necessary.
Oh and here’s another thing I’ve learned — when you’re 80% through your current goals list, it’s time to think about where you want to take your life next, “level up” and create a new set of goals that will get you there. Remember, the outcome isn’t to COMPLETE all of your goals. It’s to consistently be making PROGRESS on things you care deeply about.