Tag Archives | goal-setting

Find Happiness by Answering These 4 Questions

Photo courtesy of Vinoth Chandar

Many of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to achieve true happiness in life without even knowing where that happiness lies. It’s a bit like taking off on a roadtrip with no idea where you’re going. You might enjoy the ride and you’ll definitely have an adventure, but where you’ll end up is a complete mystery.

Like a roadtrip, there are many acceptable routes to achieving your life’s goals, but in both scenarios, it’s always better if you have an endpoint in mind before you even begin. It’s ok (and encouraged) to take some roads less traveled on your journey toward inner peace, as long as you know where you ultimately want to end up. Without knowing what your desired destination even looks like, you will likely find yourself driving around in circles, seeing the same sights repeatedly and really, just wasting gas.

Before you can begin moving toward complete happiness and inner peace, you need to know where Your Personal Happiness is located on your map. Find it by asking yourself these four important questions.

  • What is my true self? – The answer to this question is all-important when it comes to moving forward in your life. Take some time to really get to know yourself – the real you, not what you want to be like or what your resume says. Look deep within yourself and really see who you are.
  • What does the real me enjoy? – After you’ve discovered your true self, determine what you really like to do and who you like to be around.
  • When do I feel happiest/at peace? – Remember to be totally honest in your self reflection. Sometimes this one is difficult because of societal pressure.
  • Based on the first three questions, what does my desired future look like?

Write down a detailed description of your perfect future so that you can refer to it often along the way, like a map. It will serve as a constant reminder of where you’re headed and why you’re on this journey in the first place. By frequently referring to the endpoint on your map, you will feel more connected to your desired destination. You’ll find yourself shutting off the auto-pilot and taking the wheel of your own life again. The journey toward Happiness may be filled with twists and turns, and you might get a flat tire along the way, but don’t give up. You know where you’re going, and that’s half the battle.

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5 Tips to Help You Stop Procrastinating – Guest Post

{Today’s post was written by Hollie Butler, a loyal DailyPath reader.}

Photo courtesy of Robbie Howell
We’ve all been there, of that you can certainly take comfort. Who hasn’t had a project, chore, or simple task that sits undone on their To Do list for days, weeks, or even months?

I consider myself a master procrastinator, and I’ve bought far more books on this topic than I’d like to admit to, but in the end I’ve discovered that fooling the mind works better than changing it. Complex mental exercises aimed at changing your tasks into “want to” instead of “have to” simply don’t work. As we all know, there are things in life we don’t want to do, and we have to do them anyway. Pretending otherwise just wastes your time and distracts you further.

A better strategy is to just use a little trickery to get yourself going. Here are my five favorite tips:

1. Put on music, an audio book, the radio, or the television. When it comes to household chores or tasks that require minimal focus, the mind is the enemy. It will quickly list for you all the reasons you hate drudge work, and all the more useful things you could be doing (see #4). Putting something on in the background can shush that voice down and settle us into our work.

2. Ask a friend to sit with you. They don’t even have to be doing the work with you. I have a good friend who will come over and park herself in a chair while I organize a room or finish a project. After a couple hours the place is sparkling, and I feel tired but happy, with a renewed sense of connection.

3. Set a timer.  If the task feels desperately undoable, start with just ten minutes. Before you begin, think for just a moment on what the first necessary action is, and then either keep that in your mind, or, if you’re too frazzled, write it down. Then set the timer for ten minutes, and get to it. Relax, breathe, and don’t think ahead. When finished, calmly ask yourself what the next one is, and then do that, and continue in this way until the timer has dinged. Pat yourself on the back. Whatever amount you got done, even if it was small, think how much energy you’ve spent avoiding this! And now you just put ten minutes toward getting the job done! Do that a few more times and you might surprise yourself.

4. Keep nearby a list of things to come back to. It’s astounding how often we dive into a project only to be derailed over and over in the first few minutes by thoughts of things that are more important that we should be doing instead. If this is you, keep a piece of paper and a pen nearby, and whenever one of those thoughts pops up (“Oh! We need dog food!”), just write it down, and then go back to what you were doing. You’ll be amazed at how well this can help you regain your focus.

5. Create a simple reward. It won’t make you happy about your task, but it will give you something to look forward to when it’s over. I often reward myself with a half hour of uninterrupted reading. Pick anything you love but don’t make time for.

Hollie Butler is a former massage therapist who is now writing her first novel in Seattle. When she isn’t playing the ukelele, she likes to experiment with vegan cooking for her husband and two kids. Find out more about Hollie at saltwater.holliebutler.com.

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How to Play When the Deck is Stacked Against You

Photo courtesy of ccarlstead

During my chiropractic appointment today, I got to talking with the good doc about the condition of my spine and the fact that most of the joints in my body are degenerating prematurely due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. After we briefly discussed my diagnosis, he sat down quite abruptly and said, “I can always tell within 5 minutes of meeting someone whether they are going to let their problems overtake them or if they are going to rise up and live life in spite of them. Adrienne – you are a determined person and you have a realistic attitude toward your condition. Embrace your problems and resolve to enjoy your life anyway.”

Of course, he’s right, but it is easy for anyone to lose focus when any part of your life is dragging you down and it seems like the world is against you. Regardless of the nature of your struggles, there is a lot you can do to move toward enjoying your life again, and it’s not as simple as having a good attitude! Although it can be difficult to stay motivated and engaged in life when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, one thing you definitely do NOT want to do is to adopt the “woe is me” approach. You might not always feel positively thrilled with the circumstances of your life, but try to steer clear of drowning in self-pity. This step alone will keep you afloat while you try to adapt your life accordingly.

Be proactive. Make a clear plan that sets out the goals you hope to achieve, whether personal, physical, emotional, or professional.  Be sure that you have specific goals and a clear plan of action that will allow you to accomplish them. Difficult times test our motivation levels, and staying focused on the end game will push you to persevere even when you really don’t want to.  Choose to spend your time with people who buoy your self-confidence and don’t bring you down further.  Eliminate “problem people” from your life and surround yourself with those who make you feel understood and encouraged during hard times.

As I have learned, sometimes life is less about trading in your cards and more about accepting the hand you have been dealt.  No matter what life has thrown at you, believe in yourself.   Have confidence that you can move through life and enjoy the awesome parts to the fullest. And, instead of battling your inner demons, hold hands with them and invite them along for the ride.

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Why Keeping a Steady Pace Always Wins the Race

Photo courtesy of M Francis McCarthy
I’m all about time management. I’ve discovered that pacing myself works very effectively and allows me to accomplish a steady amount of tasks on a regular basis without stressing my mind or my body too much.  I keep a list of actions that I need to fulfill each day of the week and I cross each item off when completed. Since I work from home, my To-Do list pops right up onto the corner of my laptop to remind me what needs to happen every day/week/month in order to meet my financial and life goals (feed the children, try not to live in squalor, etc). So, yes, my daily list even includes things like “Buy milk” and ”Do 1 load of laundry.” Breaking things down like this helps me to get more done over the course of the week, both professionally and personally.

I didn’t always work my life like this, however, and neither do most other working adults these days. Many of us have spent years attacking each day haphazardly, with few or no specific goals in mind, only to reach 5:00pm to realize that we did everything but the important stuff. Getting off-task is all too easy on any given day of the week, causing us to feel overwhelmed by all of the things we weren’t able to accomplish. Most people bite off more than they can chew regularly by overestimating the amount of time they have available during the week. Although you can’t expect the unexpected, you should leave time for it just in case it happens.

Start by making a list of everything you would like to conceivably get done by the end of the current week. Include all tasks that must be completed in order to retain your employment, and necessary life-sustaining errands like grocery shopping. List actions that will boost your professional life, and things that you need to get done in your private life in order to keep things flowing harmoniously.  Divide your list of actions into daily groupings in order from what needs to be accomplished first, to what can wait until the end of the week. You can make your workload lighter if you:

  • Delegate one item on your weekly list to someone who has the time, ability, and willingness.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed this week, attempt to reschedule one action for later in the month when you’re less busy.
  • Try combining two similar tasks into one or do two tasks at once wherever possible.
  • Move one thing to your “Someday” list or delete it all together if it’s just not that important.

What you’re left with should be a very do-able action list for your week, divided nicely into daily task goals. Remember that there will be days where something unexpected pops up and an item on your list doesn’t get completed. In that case, simply highlight it and move it to another day during the week where it might feasibly get accomplished.  Pace yourself, people. Life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.


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Give Your Brain a Break by Creating Effectual Habits

Photo courtesy of *CQ*

One day my psychologist looked at me and told me I needed to change my habits. I was confused. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol, I eat well, I go to bed at a reasonable time, I don’t use drugs (illegal ones anyway), and I’m trying really hard to stop cracking my knuckles. I told her I didn’t really have any bad habits to break other than biting my nails and plucking my eyebrows too much. She seemed bemused by my naïveté. Oh my dear, sweet patient, ye who has so much to learn. She then shared with me yet another one of her almighty wisdoms that would help me succeed in life.

It turns out that more than 40% of our actions are actually habits rather than real decisions that we put thought and effort into. Understanding how habits begin is the key to being able to break the bad ones and replace them with habits that can help improve our lives. Habits actually form in a three-step process which is known as a ‘habit loop’ – a cue is followed by a behavior which is followed by a reward. The behavior is what we all associate with the habit, but what we need to recognize is that the entire process is important if we want to make significant changes.

Habits and decisions are carried out by entirely different parts of the brain, therefore, as soon as a behavior becomes habitual, our brains slip into ‘automatic’ mode, which allows us to focus mental energy on other things. Studies show that we typically perform behaviors the same way if we are in a familiar environment. Simple acts like the order we put on our shoes or the way we brush our teeth remain habitual as long as we are ensconced in our daily routines receiving subtle cues. By changing our routines slightly, habits are easier to change and create. Breaking or starting a habit is usually extremely effective on vacation for this reason.

By changing some of your decision making acts into habits, you can free up some of your brain power to do other things, like achieve success professionally or be more present while parenting. Regardless of the act that you want to automate, create a cue for yourself that will spark the desired behavior at the same time and place every day. Force yourself to perform the action or behavior routinely, and give yourself a pre-planned reward every time until it becomes habitual. Save decision making for the most important aspects of your life, and leave the rest to HABIT.

For further reading and information about creating new habits and how they are formed, check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

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Create Your Own Paycheck and Cash in on Life

Photo courtesy of blakespot
So many of us spend upwards of eight hours a day behind a desk in an office somewhere, wishing we were free to come and go as we please. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say, “I’d give anything to be my own boss.” However, it’s rare that anyone does anything about it, and instead there are millions of Americans resenting their jobs on a daily basis due to feeling unfulfilled, under-appreciated, under-paid and overworked. Most people are too afraid of the “unknown” to take a dip in the entrepreneurial pool, but what they don’t realize is that unless they are the boss, their 9-5 job is the unknown. In most workplace settings, employees can be fired for virtually any reason, at any time.

I have been on both sides of the job fence. I went from teaching to motherhood and then changed courses after a divorce to pursue a job as a legal assistant. During the motherhood phase of my journey, I discovered my innate ability to be my own boss quite by accident by freelance writing while my children napped. However, like most people, I became concerned about my lack of health insurance coverage after I went through a divorce, and headed back into the corporate world, working eight hours a day and commuting an additional 80 minutes, making the total time I dedicated to my job approximately 9 1/2 hours a day.

Personally, I loved that job, and it is probable that I would have continued working there were it not for health reasons that forced me to re-think my entire life strategy.  I decided that my original intuition about being my own boss would be my new direction, as I was given no other options and had to make it work. I began by making as many contacts as possible in my field, building up experience and clients. It slowly dawned on me that I was branding myself, creating my own job, making my own rules, setting my own income, and working the hours that I wanted to work. I don’t know if I would have been so successful at creating my own business if I hadn’t been forced into the situation, but what I have learned is that anyone can do it.

I would never have described myself as a business woman , and yet I was able to create a job for myself based on my innate talents and skills . I found a niche where I could be successful using what I know how to do well. I  decide what things I want and need and then I set out to make enough money to pay for them.  Rather than letting my boss tell me how much my efforts are worth, I decided to tell my clients how much my efforts are worth, and it turns out that they agreed.

If you’re completely fed up with letting your paycheck dictate what you can and cannot afford, take the time to re-evaluate your view on who you really want controlling your income. If you have a talent or skill that is in demand and want or need to work in a non-traditional setting, take it from someone who made it work: anything is possible.

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Why Learning Goes Far Beyond the Classroom

Photo courtesy of Brian Hathcock

When I was in my final year of high school, I was far more laid-back about studying for exams than most of the other kids. One day I was pulled aside by one of my teachers who told me: “these are the most important lessons you’ll ever learn in life.” I understood that what they were trying to say was how important it was to study, since the outcome of my exams would hold a lot of weight in terms of what I’d be able to achieve in my future career. Nevertheless, this statement always struck me as slightly misguided.

I was constantly reminded throughout high school and college of how important the educational years were in preparing me for the big bad world beyond, but when the time actually came to leave college, I was not so surprised to learn that I hadn’t been given all the answers, and the real world was still a great unknown.

Personally, I don’t think all lessons are limited to the classroom. On the contrary, I believe learning should never stop, not when we’re 21 or when we’re 81. It shouldn’t matter if you’re an apprentice electrician or a Nobel prizewinning physics professor – there is still more that you can learn about your craft and life in general.

If you have a particular job, hobby, or skill you want to get better at, look at ways of doing this that will reinforce the knowledge you already have. Just because you’re not in the classroom anymore doesn’t mean you can’t set yourself new lessons that will help you to make improvements. The world is ripe with free sources of information, and as long as you know where to look (I usually start with a Google search) there’s no reason you can’t follow your own personal plan to get better at anything.

Do you have a skill you’d like to improve upon? Why not set yourself a list of short-term and long-term goals, and then seek out information from your local library or an online source to help you get started.

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Why Now Could Be the Perfect Time to Renew Your Resolutions

Photo courtesy of Ewan MacNeilage

March is not the most typical time of year to make life-improving resolutions, but really, who decided that we can only better ourselves on New Year’s Day? According to a survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. of Princeton, only 8% of the people who make resolutions at the start of the year will succeed in seeing them through, and by the time March rolls around, most of these resolutions are all but forgotten.

We like to use the New Year as a symbol of new beginnings; out with the old and in with the new. But when we tell ourselves that January 1 is the only date we can make these big goals, we’re effectively limiting the amount of success we can achieve over the course of the next year. As absurd as it sounds, I’ve actually met people who live by the outlook that if things aren’t going well in August, they’ll have to wait until January of the following year to do something about it.

If you find yourself setting resolutions on New Year’s Day, only to then forget about them several weeks later, right now could be the perfect time to revisit your personal goals, perhaps by revising your plan and outlining clearer objectives. In the end, January 1 is an arbitrary date. If you have a goal you really want to succeed in, you can renew your commitment to it at anytime. It’s either that or waiting until next year comes around.

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Working in the Present: 3 Ways to Tackle Seemingly Endless Tasks

Flying Kick
Photo courtesy of Umberto Salvagnin

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a task you couldn’t see the end of? A few months ago, I was involved in a project that required a huge amount of perseverance (not to mention several gallons of coffee) to see it through to the end. After the initial excitement of starting something shiny and new had worn off, I began to realize the enormity of the task I had set myself, and somewhere along the way, I lost all hope that the project would be completed at all.

An overreaction? Perhaps. But all too often this occurs with large-scale projects. After weeks of repeating the same tasks without respite, team members can become frustrated at the seeming lack of progress, and the whole project starts to crumble under the weight of its own ambition.

In these situations, we often convince ourselves that everything is far more difficult to complete than it actually is, simply because we can’t see the end. Instead of looking for the finish line, however, we should try to be more concerned with what is happening right in front of us, so as to better manage the task at hand. Here are a few tips for breaking down the monotony:

1. Take each day as it comes. Start each day by making a list of attainable goals to be completed before the end of that day; don’t think any further than that. By only concerning yourself with what needs to be done in the present, even the most gargantuan tasks can seem a lot more manageable.

2. Treat yourself. Reaching particular milestones in your project deserves rewarding. Allowing yourself some kind of treat – be it food, drink, or an entire day off (see below) – can be just what your body and mind need before hitting the work again.

3. Take time off. Seriously, taking 24 hours away from your project can work like a miracle cream for morale. Do whatever helps you to de-stress in that time, whether it’s taking a bike ride or killing zombies with peashooters, and see your productivity return stronger than ever on your return to work.

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Are You Sabotaging Your Projects By Broadcasting Them?

Photo courtesy of Andrew Allio

Common goal-setting wisdom says that you should tell as many people as possible about your goals in order to achieve them. This is so that you can then draw the strength of your personal support network when times get tough, and they can hold you accountable. The theory is that the more people who know about your goal, the more you’ll look like a failure if you don’t follow through, and so you’re more likely to work harder.

I, however, was surprised to hear this perspective, because in my own experience I have found exactly the opposite to be true – i.e. telling people about my goals actually makes me far less likely to achieve them. In the past when I have kept a project to myself, I found myself more determined to work harder to get the job done so that I could brag about it.

Several psychological studies have delved deeper into this topic, attempting to work out exactly how people’s minds behave when they tell other people about their goals. What they found was that test subjects got a great deal of satisfaction in their goals being acknowledged after sharing them with somebody else, so much so that their minds were tricked into feeling like they had already achieved the goal.

Several experts believe this satisfaction felt from sharing plans actually makes people less likely to go out and do them. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, I know. But I can’t tell you how many of my friends have told me about a great new project they’re about to start working on, only for the project to disappear into obscurity within days.

My advice to you would be to look back at some of your past goals. Do you always follow through with your plans, or have you started more projects than you’ve finished? If you’re the kind of person who is motivated about having your family and friends cheering for you, and you’re worried about how you’ll look to them if you fail, then broadcasting your goals might work well for you.  If, on the other hand, you gain greater motivation from the thought of keeping things under wraps and having a big ta-dah! reveal at the end when you’ve actually accomplished something, then do just that. You could find your next project a lot easier to stick with.

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