If you are one of those who like to set personal goals, you may want to know that, according to science, not all of our dreams make us achieve happiness. The road to reach it is not always the most direct. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, from the University of California and one of the great experts in the field, concluded that our challenges must meet six conditions so that they become satisfactory and lasting.
1. Intrinsic. An intrinsic objective is one that is valuable to oneself, allows us to grow as a person or brings something positive to third parties. That is why studying a topic that we enjoy, improving our patience or enrolling in an NGO is much more stimulating in the long term than focusing on extrinsic goals to amaze others, such as achieving fame, getting rich, being more handsome or looking for the power. This is demonstrated by numerous investigations, such as that of psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. It is true that when we reach an extrinsic objective we feel a high, but it lasts very little and is more superficial than the satisfaction of learning or the feeling of helping others.
2. Authentic. The stimulating objectives are those that we realize because we wish so, but also because they are aligned with our values and needs, not because we seek to please others. We can study or get a position for personal pleasure or to satisfy our parents or our partner. In the long run, this last option can lead to frustration.
3. Approach. What we want may be motivated by get closer to something (feel healthy, look for new enriching experiences, make new friends …), or avoid it (not getting fat, not getting bored or not feeling alone). As studies like Andrew Elliot, Kennon Sheldon and Marcy Church show, the approach objectives are much more advisable and bring more happiness than those of avoidance, which make us feel more worried and distressed. That is why it is worth rephrasing what we set out to give it more strength.
4. Harmonics. We all consider more than one goal at a time. The important is that they are harmonic and do not oppose each other. It is difficult, if not impossible, to consider having a child and at the same time pretend that our life is quieter. Or set up a company and have a lot of free time. A priori, there are incompatible objectives. If this is our case, this situation will generate a lot of tension, so it is important to learn to focus on them.
5. Flexible and suitable. We need to update the goals and dreams that we pursue our circumstances. Depending on the age, physical condition or economic situation that we have, we can reach one or the other. That is why it is important to be pragmatic and to face challenges that are flexible and fit our reality. As psychologists Laura Carstensen, Derek Isaacowitz and Charles ST demonstrate in an investigation, Young people seek challenges related to gaining experiences or acquiring knowledge. Instead, adults prefer more emotionally charged goals. Among the dilemma of who to dine with, a 20-year-old person will prefer to go with a famous writer, while someone who has exceeded 65 will choose to do so with his favorite aunt. We all change and our goals have to do it too.
6. Activity. We can define objectives of a single impact or circumstantial (move out of home, buy a better TV), or opt for others that involve an activity or follow a process (sign up for a club or learn art). Science has shown that we get very easy to good, that's why the objectives that imply some activity make us happier for longer than the circumstances. According to research conducted by Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky, circumstantial objectives make us happy for a maximum of six weeks, but those of activity, those that require a process, lead us to feel better for at least 12 weeks.
In short, if we want our goals to make us happy, they must be intrinsic, authentic, approximation, harmonic, flexible, adequate and active. Are the challenges you have set for this year?
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