GOALS:101 – Why does not having goals, mean setting up yourself for failure ?

GOALS:101 – Why does not having goals, mean setting up yourself for failure ?

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I hope you guys have had a bash over the year end and wish you all a Happy New Year 2018 – time to get back to work and what better time than now, to begin a discussion on Setting Goals !

Well it was only after I had given up my day job that, I could find the time to sit back and observe people around – only to realize that, for every person with depressing thoughts of self-doubt, there was one who was happy with life and driven enough to achieve more.

I was soon searching for some answers about happiness which is when I chanced upon the work of Daniel Kahneman (Considered by many to be the world’s most influential living psychologist, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics in 2012).

HAPPINESS he says “is what is at the core of every human effort. All the fame and money you get is useless if you feel no happiness at the end of it – in which case, I would say you are a failure”. (How simple but profound)

” We know something about what controls satisfaction of the happiness self”.

“We know that money is very important, goals are very important.

We know that happiness is mainly being satisfied with people that we like, spending time with people that we like. There are other pleasures, but this is dominant. So, if you want to maximize the happiness of the two selves, you are going to end up doing very different things. The bottom line of what I’ve said here is that we really should not think of happiness as a substitute for well-being. It is a completely different notion.”

CLICK HERE for his TED Talk    on how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently.

However, what stuck in my head was his insight – into our need for self-awareness but more importantly that, our happiness was driven by goals.

All I want is a good life !!

When a very dear friend of mine asked his bright son, who had just got his first job after completing a degree in Computer Science: Tell me what do you want in life?” pat came the young man’s reply “All I want is a good life”. My friend, a very successful person in his own right, was left bewildered because, to want a good life he thought, can never be a goal – its just a fantasy. I couldn’t just laugh it off and wondered how many of us could really articulate and communicate what a “good life” actually meant. Not me for sure !

However, for anyone who has just learned that, Goals = Happiness; it was critical to understand what is it that the “experiencing self” was looking for when one wanted to maximize happiness.

The results of the “Good life factors Global GfK survey (2017)”, commissioned by GfK (Germany’s largest market research institute, and the fourth largest market research organisation in the world) are summarized in the chart.

CLICK HERE for the Report    – an interesting and useful read. It can serve as an invaluable tool for guiding you, not only through ‘life goals identification’ process but also in ‘setting them in order of your priorities”.

The GfK Survey’s findings (which incidentally I believe apply universally) of good health, financial security and leisure come to the top; closely followed by a happy marriage, owning a home and control on our lives.

Not surprisingly to me, children and spiritual enrichment came out much lower.

What however, did not surprise me though, were the responses to the statement “I want to enjoy life today and will worry about savings and investments later”?  38% disagree with having fun today and worrying about saving later, 34 percent agree and 25 percent are neutral.

In doing so, they had chosen to put their immediate needs ahead of future needs – As always, our future needs will always be in competition with our immediate needs.

Should we do away with the need for self-discipline ?

The conventional approach has always been to exercise “self-discipline” and force ourselves to push the future needs ahead of the basic.

Interestingly psychologists believe “self-discipline” to be a “resource” which gets used up when taking decisions related to immediate basic needs to feed our survival instincts – which is the reason it becomes difficult to think of making complicated decisions after a hard day of work.

Our primary or immediate needs which are physical (Food, shelter and safety) became our evolutionary priority because they address our basic instincts for survival. It is this perpetual pitting of our survival against some need that seems to be not as critical today – which results in stress. Its also this stress which results in “ambivalence” (a desire to select two opposites and unable to make a choice for not wanting to pay the price for what we like) and “resistance” (we are forced by our habits to act in a particular manner, remember System 1?).

Surely we can recollect, how as idealistic young people we struggled with making a choice between a staid, stable but low wage job (which appealed to our basic immediate needs) and some entirely unstable but creative and ‘potentially’ satisfying job? I have continued grappling with it right through life and this could well have contributed to a lot of the stress I have experienced in my day to day life.

The earlier we learn to tolerate stress (by which I mean not being distracted by it – of course, this will need a lot of practice!), the happier we will be.

Physical fitness activities and meditation for mental health, psychologists say can prove an effective antidote to such stress.

In order to contain stress arising from ambivalence, psychologists however suggest that, we build a process structure and do away with the need to exercise self-discipline when making decisions for long term financial needs.

The entire life planning methodology we will discuss going forward, beginning with goals identification and right up to their achievement – even the automated savings process is an effort to build that structure.

What I had learned by now was that, my entire focus had to be on making a “good life” with happiness being the end goal.

Goal identification is a personal journey

…….. which begins with developing a deep understanding of yourself. This will require some serious introspection on your part – to reflect and evaluate your current state in life, your past experiences, where you want to be and given your resources how realistic are these goals.

In short, we need “self-awareness”.

If you are lucky to find a good Life Coach or a Mentor,  you will get an effective sounding board – a person who has seen success in life, believes in the life planning process and can give you honest feedback and guidance. Such a person could help you reflect through your past and help you develop a vision for the future thereby helping you to identify and prioritize your goals by making realistic choices.

FINALLY – Why do we need to set goals?

“We know something about what controls satisfaction of the happiness self. We know that money is very important, goals are very important.” Daniel Kahneman

Why?  Because for us ordinary humans, happiness in life is a result of, being purpose driven and the sense of accomplishment we get by accomplishing that purpose.

Aristotle (the Greek philosopher) said human beings are ‘teleological’ – which in simple words means that, they are designed through evolution to be driven by goals and their purpose and therefore, derive a meaning (self-esteem follows too) for their lives by accomplishing them.

Basically, if we strongly believe in our goals and the purpose they represent, we will work a way (processes and resources) to achieve them. This adds to our self esteem and sets off a virtuous cycle in our sub conscious that builds super achievers and successful persons.

Psychologists say that, goal setting, their review and accomplishment is a process which reinforces your sub-conscious and greatly influences your living actions that result in the success leading to your happiness.

Which is the reason they also recommend that, we quickly replace a goal accomplished with another.

I wish to leave you with 2 videos of JIM ROHN (Jim Rohn, the man many consider to be America’s Foremost Business Philosopher, shared his success philosophies and principles for over 46 years, with more than 6,000 audiences and over 5 million people worldwide. Tim Robbins calls him his mentor and when you listen to Rohn you can appreciate why)

VIDEO 1 : Setting Goals – Jim Rohn – How To Set Goals For The Life You Actually Want

VIDEO 2 : Jim Rohn – Have A Solid Plan (For Teens and Adults)

In the simple language of a bean counter, all resources are finite and not having goals throws up a very high possibility that, these limited resources get wasted on uses which could well be way down in our list of priorities.

A goal is therefore, not a dream but a well thought out time bound, action plan to achieve it through efficient use of our resources.


GOALS:102 – How to be amongst those 1%, that actually achieve their goals?

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One Reply to “GOALS:101 – Why does not having goals, mean setting up yourself for failure ?”

  1. Rajan : well written. It is very true:’self discipline’ is a resource. Aristotle’s statement is ,perhaps, more relevant today :”Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life,the whole aim and end of human existence.” The so called ‘irrational’ animals & birds seem to be happier & more disciplined than ‘rational’ humans and the reason: they pursue their goals (food,procreation..) without distraction/let-up.

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