There is one misconception that the achievement of ones goals brings a state of happiness to the goal achiever. This is typically not the case. Some goals take a longtime to achieve and as we work toward the achievement of a particular goal the actual journey to achieving the goal is generally a happier experience than the actual achievement of the goal. This might appear strange, but it is true and if you have ever achieved a meaningful goal you’ll understand what I am referring to.
Earl Nightingale, in his masterpiece course Lead the Field, explains this phenomenon. It is the purpose driven desire to achieve a particular goal that brings happiness because it gives one a purpose. Once a goal is achieved it is simply a product of your thoughts and activities that generated the goal to be achieved over a period of time—time devoted to constructive, earnest, diligent, effort.
A rather simple explanation, Nightingale illustrates that we are happier in the car going to dinner than coming back from dinner. We are happier going on a trip than coming back from a trip. It is the expectation of accomplishment, rather than the accomplishment itself that offers us the greatest excitement, joy and escalation. We are happier in pursuit of a worthy goal than its achievement. This, I can say is indeed true. Since many goals take a long time and a lot of persistent work to accomplish, once you’ve finally accomplished what you have set out to accomplished, you have already accomplished it. The goal, in your own mind has already been accomplished. You saw the end. You knew it would be a matter of time, but you knew the result, you saw it as the light at the end of the tunnel. You already saw it in your minds eye being achieved—being completed, accomplished.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Expanding on Emerson, I would say happiness is achieved by a life with purpose—a life filled with meaningful goals. Happiness is driven with a purpose in mind—a goal, vision, or thought of the future and how you see yourself in it—how you are making, planning now, and following through with those plans to make your life, your world, and the world of others around you, better.
Happiness is not based on the end result or achievement of a worthy goal, but the journey towards accomplishing a worthy goal, a meaningful goal.
Brian Tracy, in his book Maximum Achievement says it this way: “Perhaps 80 percent of all the problems and unhappiness that you experience occur because you are unclear about where you’re going and what you want to accomplish.” He further sites an “old saying”: “Feeling listless? Make a list!” This is sound and simple advice. Make a list of your goals, the things you want to achieve in the next month, year or next five years. The list you make will put you on the right path, right direction and give you focus. And it is this list that will remove your “listless” state. You will become motivated because now you have a plan—something to reach for, something to accomplish. You have that target to shoot at.
But what is a worthy goal? Any goal that benefits humankind, animal kind and you is a worthy goal. Any goal that makes life and the act of living better, easier, and happier for others is a worthy goal. A purpose to do good, to strive for goodness, and to follow a vision of goodness is a worthy goal. Any goal that pleases God is a worthy goal.
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