Why setting goals is essential on the way to happiness

by | 4 01 2021 | Balance, Slow living

Should I be setting goals for the new year? And if yes, how?
New Year’s Intentions

Entering a new year, many people take some time to set new intentions. Some want to train more often or eat healthier; others want to get rid of an unloved behavior or learn to set boundaries. And no matter if they stuck to last year’s intention or not, they do it all over again. Every. Single. Year.

On the other hand, there are the people who think, setting intentions for the new year is nonsense. Either because they are afraid, they won’t stick to them anyway or because they think, they can start every other day, too.

But who is right? Does it make sense to set goals or will disappointment predominate, in the end?


Setting goals brings a lot of opportunities if you ask the right questions. Think about what is important to you in the different areas of your life, what do you want to achieve and when? Answer these questions honestly and from the bottom of your heart and you have a new tool to structure and organize your thoughts, your fears and your dreams.
This is the first step to a conscious priority setting. And without knowing your priorities, you will never know which goal will make you truly happy. You can achieve something huge, only a few people in the world could do, and still, happiness won’t set in, if this isn’t important to you.

For some people, it’s more important to work hard for a goal. They need to know, they worked hard to be proud of themselves and their achievements. Others just need to reach their goals – no matter how – to be happy. It doesn’t matter which type you are. But life gets a lot easier and happiness and satisfaction will be present more often, if you know it and can set your goals accordingly.

But of course, the disappointment can be enormous, if you fail on your way and that’s not what you want. Nobody wants that, still, everybody knows how it feels. The good thing is: this does not have to be the story of your life.

setting goals for happiness
How to…

Let’s take a closer look at how to avoid the disappointment, the frustration and the downward spiral.

One of the most widely used instruments is the SMART concept, which is commonly associated with the ‘management by objectives` concept by Peter Drucker. You can find different versions, but one is, that the letters stand for the following: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-bound.

I will show you an example of what that means:
Imagine you went to the gym every other week for the last two years and now feel the need to change something.
Instead of saying: ‘In the next time I will do sports five times a week because everybody says I should move more to look better’, try saying: ‘The next month I will go to the gym on Monday and Thursday for 30minutes and do a strength workout. On the weekends I will go on a hike or kayaking for 1-3 hours. I’ll do this because I remember, how good I feel after I moved my body and to give back to it after the long days at work.’
Of course, the things you choose to change and the reasons behind them can completely differ from the ones in the example.


Make sure to make your goal clear, so everybody who hears it knows exactly what you are going to do and when. This gives you the freedom not to think about it every day, but just do what is on your plan. Doing more of something might be measurable – doing better is only in a few cases.

Of course, we all want to reach a big goal. We want to win against the final enemy. But the chance of getting there is far bigger if we take it step by step. Running a marathon next week, if you can’t walk 10km today is very unlikely and therefore the risk of failing and not trying again even higher. Choose a goal that is realistic and achievable for you – not for anyone else.
As I said before – if the goal isn’t important to you, the feeling won’t be as good as it could be when you achieve it. Choose something that means a lot to you – for your own reasons. They don’t have to be the same for your friends, your partner, or your family. You do this for yourself. If not, it’s going to be hard to motivate yourself and the feeling of satisfaction might keep missing.
The last one is to set yourself a timeline. This can be an exact date when you want to have achieved your goal or a time frame in which you are trying out your new habits. This gives you the chance to align your path if it’s not leading in the right direction. Always keep in mind that you can change the goal as often as you need to until it feels a hundred percent right for you.

And last but not least: You have to realize that you achieved something to be proud of and feel good about it. It is okay to be proud of yourself. To tell people, that you worked hard for something or maybe just were lucky and now, have something you really wanted. It is okay to be happy and grateful and satisfied even if others don’t feel the same or are having a hard time.

Just speak with kindness and maybe you can motivate someone else to reach for their dreams.

Find more on purposeful living in our full BALANCE section!

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