Saturday, August 4, 2018

Achieving Happiness with Meaningful Life Goals

Last week, we talked about guiding principles for achieving life goals, where I stated my life goal is to continuously improve myself to realize my full potential and help others to do the same, so together we can do great things. That took 36 years of my life to figure out, so let's talk about why it took so long and how I finally did it, and hopefully that will help others find theirs sooner. Once there is a life goal, I believe life becomes more meaningful, and therefore achieving happiness.

To understand why it took so long, that is basically telling you my life story, which isn't that interesting and too long, so I will just summarize. I didn't cared about my life for the first 30 years until my first born, so I was just living life one day at a time trying to be happy. Then I was busy for the next 5 years juggling between work and family, and never thought about life until a year ago. That is when I started after learning/embracing compassion with the goal of pushing myself to my limits, learn more about leadership and life, and share what I learn.

I have learned a lot in the past year, and only realized the key to a productive life is simply by doing the right thing a month ago. And then a week ago, my world was falling apart while doing the right things because I was not rock solid. The next day, I concluded that there is a balance between the two guiding principles, and they are simply tools for achieving life goals. My initial life goal is to push myself to my limits and find out what's beyond them, but I was still not happy and my unconscious mind was giving me that tinkling sensation that something was missing or wrong. I realized my life goal was incomplete as it was still ephemeral. I asked myself what am I really trying to accomplish? I want to help others too and there is only so much that I can do by myself. Finally, on 8/1/18, my life goal was complete and that is to continuously improve myself to realize my full potential and help others to do the same, so together we can do great things. I was pleasantly surprised the last part is actually a famous quote by Mother Teresa.

Most people don't think about life goals -- just living life one day at time and mostly trying to stay happy, have fun, and live a normal life (go to school, get a job, get married, have kids), which I did for the first 35 years. Some thought about them, and just gave up after considering our mortality -- what's the point if we are just going to die anyway. Well, I do believe there are several:
  1. While our body will perish, our ideas and impacts live on. Albert Einstein's body is gone, but everyone still knows his name and his contributions are being used every day. Same for Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, etc. Those people, while not living, have greater impact to everyone today than most people that are still alive! Think about that for a moment. 
  2. While we are still alive, we can live like a homeless guy, an average joe, a billionaire, a pioneer/inventor, etc. Each has different levels of accomplishment and comfort. Which do you choose? I choose to accomplish as much as I can so I can live in the most comfortable way.
  3. Don't like mortality? Well, maybe your life goal can be figuring out a way to achieve immortality. ;) Same for anything else that is impeding you from living your life to the fullest, change it.
Everyone actually have implicit life goals, such as staying alive and healthy, getting married and having kids, having a successful career, etc. So most people do live fairly good lives from those implicit goals. I do believe it is useful to make them explicit and ensure they are meaningful, so you get more out of life.

When you don't have explicit life goals, you are not really living your life, but just living for the sake of living. What's the point of living if there is nothing to accomplish? How do you accomplish something if you don't even know what it is? Without an explicit life goal, you are just doing what others tell you and living the minimal of your full potential. With the gift of intelligence, I think we can do better. So if you don't already have one, take some time to figure it out.

When you work, a job has many tasks/milestones/goals that need to be completed. And each goal provides motivation and direction, and satisfaction on completion. Those accomplishments provide meaning and happiness. Life goals have similar attributes but much more meaningful as they are more personal and last longer. Unlike jobs, since it's your own life, they can be whatever that you want that provides the most meaning and happiness. And the best ones are those that include other people.

It's ok to change life goals as we grow. I didn't set a goal until age 35, and changed it a year later after I learned new things, including what a life goal is. The important part is having life goals, so you know where you are going and can do the right things to get there.

The more meaningful the life goals are, the more happiness that you will get. Meaningful means goals that involve other people in a positive way. Since essentially anything we do involves other people, and likely in a positive way, therefore all life goals are meaningful, but they vary in degrees of meaningfulness. I believe there are three different levels of meaningfulness based on number of people involved: one, few, and everyone. The first one involves no one else, which may allow one to be happy temporarily and provides minimal happiness. The second one involves a few people, such as family and friends, which is quite meaningful and therefore allows one to have lasting happiness. The last one involves everyone, and therefore provides the highest level of happiness.

If you find this useful, please share with your friends and family so they can benefit too. Thank you! This is part of Living Life to the Fullest blog series.

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