Have you noticed for yourself that when you are visited by a feeling of dissatisfaction with your life, you come to the conclusion that you simply set the wrong goals? Maybe they were too big or too small. Maybe not specific enough, or you started doing them too early. Or they were not so significant, so you lost concentration.
But goals won’t help you create long-term happiness, let alone maintain it!
From a rational standpoint, goal setting seems like a good way to get what you want. They are tangible, traceable and limited in time. They give you a point to move to and a push to help you get there.
But in everyday life, goals often turn into worry, anxiety, and regret, rather than pride and satisfaction as a result of their accomplishment. Goals put pressure on us as we try to achieve them. And what’s worse, when we finally reach them, they immediately disappear. The flash of relief is fleeting, and we think that this is happiness. And then we set a new big goal. And again, she seems out of reach. The cycle continues. Researcher Tal Ben-Shahar of Harvard University calls this the “arrival fallacy,” the illusion that “reaching some point in the future will bring happiness.”
At the end of each day, we want to feel happy. But happiness is indefinite, hard to measure, a spontaneous by-product of the moment. There is no clear path to it. Although goals can move you forward, they can never make you enjoy this movement.
Entrepreneur and best-selling author James Altucher has found his way: he lives by themes, not goals. According to Altucher, your overall satisfaction with life is not determined by individual events; what really matters is how you feel at the end of each day.
Researchers emphasize the importance of meaning, not pleasure. One comes from your actions, the other from their results. It is the difference between passion and purpose, between seeking and finding. The excitement of success soon wears off, and a conscientious attitude makes you feel satisfied most of the time.
Altucher’s themes are the ideals he uses to guide his decisions. The topic can be one word – a verb, a noun or an adjective. “Fix”, “growth” and “healthy” are all hot topics. As well as “invest”, “help”, “kindness” and “gratitude”.
If you want to be kind, be kind today. If you want to be rich, take a step towards it today. If you want to be healthy, choose health today. If you want to be grateful, say “thank you” today.
Topics do not cause anxiety about tomorrow. They are not connected with regrets about yesterday. All that matters is what you do today, who you are in this second, how you choose to live right now. With a theme, happiness becomes how you behave, not what you achieve. Life is not a series of victories and defeats. While our ups and downs may shock us, move us, and shape our memories, they do not define us. Most of life happens in between, and what we want from life is to be found there.
Themes make your goals a by-product of your happiness and keep your happiness from becoming a by-product of your goals. The target asks “what do I want” and the topic asks “who am I”.
The goal needs constant visualization for its implementation. A theme can be internalized whenever life prompts you to think about it.
Purpose separates your actions into good and bad. The theme makes every action part of a masterpiece.
The target is an external constant that you have no control over. Theme is an internal variable that you can control.
A goal forces you to think about where you want to go. The theme keeps focusing you on where you are.
Goals put you in front of a choice: to streamline the chaos in your life or be a loser. The theme finds a place for success in chaos.
The goal negates the possibilities of the current time in favor of success in the distant future. The theme is looking for opportunities in the present.
The target asks, “Where are we today?” The subject asks, “What was good today?”
Targets choke like bulky, heavy armor. The theme is fluid, it blends into your life, becoming part of who you are.
When we use goals as our primary means of achieving happiness, we trade long-term life satisfaction for short-term motivation and confidence. The theme gives you a real, achievable standard that you can refer to not every once in a while, but every day.
No more waiting for something – just decide who you want to be and become that person.
The theme will bring into your life what no goal can give: a sense of who you are today, right and there, and that this is enough.