How to Set Goals That Will Increase Your Happiness

How to Set Goals That Will Increase Your Happiness: Before setting your achievement goals, you'll want to consider these foundation goals first if you want to be happy.

I recently turned 50 and have been reflecting on my life.  None of the previous “decade” birthdays have had much of an effect on me.  50 is different.

In my 30’s and 40’s, I looked to Maya Angelou for inspiration. I felt that, once I turned 50, I would be like her: serene, content, happy with my life.

Amazingly, that’s exactly how I feel now.  I never knew that I could be this consistently happy – not that giddy, once-in-a-while kind of happy.  It’s a content, life-is-good kind of happy.

After so many years of depression, not feeling like I’m enough or that I can do enough, striving for something more or different, never being content with the way things are, I can honestly say that I’m finally happy.

As my mindfulness practice has deepened over the years, I’m more aware of what my heart and soul want for me instead of what society says I should want.

It has also helped me to be more in the present moment, where true happiness resides and where depression, anxiety, and feelings of ‘not enough’ can’t exist.

It has helped me to slow down and notice all that’s wonderful in my life at any given moment and express my gratitude for it all.

The Next Fifty

Thinking about what I want the next fifty years to look like, I’ve been looking to books like The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware and The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.

I don’t want to have any regrets when my time comes, whenever that may be.

The top five regrets from Bronnie’s book are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Living authentically and intentionally, doing what we love, and expressing our feelings with the people we love – these are the most common things people deny themselves of throughout their lives.  I won’t ask ‘why’ because that would lead down a rabbit hole with no end.

Instead, I ask myself and you:  What are you going to do about it?  What are you going to do today and every day to ensure that you don’t have any of these regrets?

The daily practices of people from the Blue Zones (communities around the world where people regularly live to at least 100 years old) may provide some ideas.

The key lessons from the Blue Zones are:

  1. Move naturally (walk more often).
  2. Have a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning.
  3. Create downtime for yourself each day to rest and reflect.
  4. 80% rule: Stop eating when you’re 80% full, and eat your heaviest meals earlier in the day.
  5. Eat a healthier, more plant-based diet.
  6. Have a glass or two of red wine around 5pm each day with friends and healthy food.
  7. Have a spiritual sense of belonging within your community.
  8. Spend focused, quality time with your family, keeping generations together.
  9. Be part of a like-minded community that supports a healthy lifestyle.

Can you see the correlations between the two books here?

A Different Kind of Goal Setting

As I look to a new year and ponder the idea of setting goals or intentions, I think about the lessons from these two books, and I ask:  What would make me happy?  What do I want the rest of my life to be like?

The little choices we make, things we think about, and things we do each day – our habits – make our lives what they are.

Here are my goals and intentions for this year and the years to come:

  • Live authentically at work and at home
    • Remember that I have enough and don’t need to strive for more or different
    • Make choices in alignment with my values
    • Notice when I’m doing something I’m supposed to do vs. what I want to do
  • Do things that align with my purpose(s)
    • Write
    • Spend time with my kids
    • Spend time with my husband
    • Help others live a happier life
    • Do my best at my job
  • Take time to rest on a regular basis, time to simply be
  • Move my body in ways that work for me
    • Walking
    • Yoga
    • Hiking
  • Eat well
    • Continue to make my family healthy, home-cooked meals
    • Eat primarily organic, plant-based foods that haven’t been processed
    • Sit and eat mindfully
  • Spend time with the people I love
    • Eat most meals around the table with my family (with a glass of red wine)
    • Teach my kids how to cook
    • Continue to have “hang out time” every morning and evening with my husband and kids where we sit around the fire in the winter and out on the deck in the summer to simply enjoy each other’s company.
    • Have fun family adventures

As much as society tries to tell us that striving constantly to achieve more is the way to happiness, after fifty years, I’ve finally figured out that’s not true.  Constantly striving only leads to feelings of ‘not enough’ because one achievement only leads to needing another one to chase ad nauseum.

The more I’ve questioned common beliefs, the more I’ve found that there’s nothing of value to me behind them.

As you face the new year, consider how you want to live your life before considering what achievements or goals you want to be able to tick off your list.   Without the things discussed above in your life – your foundation –  the achievements will likely feel empty.

As you write down your goals, consider the following questions:

  • What would your 90-year-old self advise you to spend your time doing?
  • Of the goals you’ve written for yourself, how many are for you and how many are to make someone else happy or to prove something to someone else?
  • How many are achievement-oriented vs. lifestyle-oriented?
  • What will your life be like after you achieve them? What will be different?
  • How will you feel about yourself after achieving them?
  • Will they contribute to a long and happy life?

May you experiment, learn, grow, and love in ways that support your inner happiness.

Joy of Now Journal: Mindfulness in Five Minutes a DayOn the 50th anniversary of my time here on earth, I've released my first book: The Joy of Now Journal: Mindfulness In Five Minutes a Day.  It's a beautiful, full-color guided journal that you can use to better appreciate the beauty of the present moment and “live in the now.”

With insightful questions, inspiring quotations, and thoughtful meditations, this journal is a guide to mindfulness for anyone who spends too much time thinking about the past and/or worrying about the future.

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8 Responses to How to Set Goals That Will Increase Your Happiness

    Elle Sommer
    Commented:  01/13/2018 at 3:51 pm

    I love this line “As much as society tries to tell us that striving constantly to achieve more is the way to happiness after fifty years, I’ve finally figured out that’s not true.” So many people need to hear this Paige. Growth, be it personal or spiritual isn’t about more…it’s about expressing ourselves as greatly as possible. And this requires just about all the things you write about.

    Awesome reading.

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2018 at 9:36 am

      Thanks so much Elle! Societal beliefs try to keep us small, following the pack, doing what we think we’re supposed to do, never expressing our individuality. This is what creates low levels of depression and a variety of “can’t find anything on a medical test” types of ailments. The more we express ourselves without fear, the happier and healthier we are, and the more we grow. And none of that has anything to do with the things we accumulate.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How to Make Sure Your Life Doesn’t Suck (Free Workbook!)My Profile

    Commented:  01/13/2018 at 5:26 am

    Hi Paige,
    Thanks for your wonderful advice! I’m just a few years ahead of you and I’m so enjoying my 50’s! I find myself busier than ever, but in a good way, since my kids have flown the roost. The Blue Zones is one of my favorite books and I really love his TED Talk too. I wrote a post a few years ago about the Blue Zones… maybe I’ll repost it thanks to your inspiration!! I think the 5 Regrets looks like a great book, too. Congratulations on your journal! I’ll add that, too!
    Great post!

    Debbie Hampton
    Commented:  01/11/2018 at 8:41 am

    This post made me think, Paige. I am not big on setting goals because I think they are limiting in the end. If you are so focused on the goal, you might miss other opportunities that present themselves along the way that are even better. However, I like the “new kind of goal setting.” I think I could live with loose, big picture goals.

    I also like that you are planning for the next fifty” years. I’m with you on that one! 🙂
    Debbie Hampton recently posted..5 Things to Quit For a Happier New YearMy Profile

    Cathy Taughinbaugh
    Commented:  01/08/2018 at 6:00 pm

    Happy BIrthday, Paige! When I turned fifty, it was a reminder to take stock of my life as well. Being on the earth 50 years, made me realize that more time has probably passed than what is ahead, so I want to make the years going forward the best they can be.

    I have read “The Blue Zones” and found it quite interesting. I will add “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” to my list. It sounds like a good read. This is a wonderful reminder to take stock of your life and make it the best it can be.


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