Tag Archives: Goals

Looking back at my experiences and achievements in 2015

In the beginning of this year, I formulated no less than ten New Year’s Resolutions. For me, the end of the year is the natural moment to look back and review what I experienced and achieved throughout the year.

This is how I did:

  • Live together with the girl I feel in love with last year

Yes! And it is a very special experience. Moving in together comes with some challenges. But these challenges are insignificant in comparison to the wonderful pleasure of being together every day.

  • Track and improve my sleep

Fairly well. Especially in the beginning of the year, I used sleep-tracking apps. They helped me somewhat improve my discipline in going to sleep and getting out to bed on time. But I haven’t systematically used them all year round. And my sleeping habits still can improve.

  • Expand my blog

Not bad. Especially after summer, I’ve opted for a somewhat slower frequency. I’ve taken the chance to take on some speaking occasions presenting my work in this field. But maybe most importantly, I’ve visited two ‘happy countries’ this year: Denmark and Bhutan.

  • Work on my health by running or by yoga

Could be better. I regularly do yoga, but not every week. And while I ran a personal best at the 5k (22 min 20 seconds!), I have only ran in training for that race, not all year round.

  • Celebrate my 30th birthday

Yes! And I celebrated it well, spending a weekend in the Belgian Ardennes with a group of friends.

  • Continue to do well at work

I think so. My role within our team has grown this year. And in the last week before the holidays, I won a new promotion (yeah!)

  • Travel to two new countries: Portugal and Bhutan (finally!)

Yes! I spent two weeks in both of them, discovering different towns and landscapes and learning a lot about their culture. And apart from these two, I also visited Denmark for the first time and made stopovers in Nepal and Qatar en route to Bhutan.

  • Watch at least one new TED talk per week

Almost. I’ve had a good amount of inspiration in watching TED talks this year, with topics ranging from basic income to indoor plants to improve air quality in house and from the strength of Muslim women in peace processes to cold-water surfing. While I saw many, I don’t think I got to one per week. And unfortunately I did’t attend any TEDx events this year.

  • Read novels and books about happiness

A little bit! A quick glance at my current happiness bookshelf suggests there aren’t too many additions: books on the November GNH conference in Bhutan and The Power of Negative Emotions being the exceptions. Still, (un)happiness was also a theme in other books that I read, such as Haruki Murakami’s title Norwegian Wood. And reading A History of the World in Twelve Maps also made me happy!

  • Become a better public speaker

Yes! Two and half years after joining, I finished Toastmasters International‘s Competent Communication programme. And I undertook some public speaking opportunities to talk about my discoveries on happiness.

 

Especially in the beginning of the year, I occasionally took a glance at the list to remind me what I wanted to achieve. But as the year progress, I took more and more distance. And now, I don’t even understand why I needed ten goals.

Goals are helpful to meet objectives and develop yourself. But if there is one goal I have for 2016, it is to have less goals…

Development and happiness II: “There is no plan B, because there is no planet B”

There is no plan B, because there is no planet B (Ban Ki-Moon)

Yesterday I offered some comments on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying that even the UN can learn something from inspiring quotes on the internet. Sometimes they are right: a goal without a plan is just a wish. Today I want to close the story, looking at Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s vision. And I’ll propose some alternative goals, based on happiness. What else did you expect?

 

Can Ban Ki-Moon help us?

Does the UN have a plan to achieve the goals? Some weeks ago I had the chance to listen to a speech by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon in Brussels and find an answer for myself. The speech and the conference were dedicated to the contribution that young people can make in development and in the SDGs.

Ban is about as boring as a diplomat can get, but struck a cool tone at the conference.  He invited the audience to take selfies and  spoke very upbeat about the power of people, especially young people, to drive change. He urged youth to speak up in face of injustice, to make their voice heard, and make opinions clear at the voting booth and the supermarket counter.

He answered a question about the failure of achieving sanitation goals with a personal story about growing up without a proper toilet in South Korea. In the MDGs, enormous progress is being made on improving access to drinking water and sanitation. Still, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to improved sanitation facilities.

On climate change, he also had a good sound-bite to show his confidence that humans will do the right thing: “There is no plan B, because there is no planet B”. As a sound-bite it is great, but one has to hope it’s backed up by concrete action.

 

Are we really doing the right thing?

I wonder whether it is possible to find a better way to set goals and make our plans. Psychology and happiness research may offer some alternatives. The World Happiness Report finds that 75% of the differences in happiness levels between countries is explained by six factors. What if we would use these to shape our policies by six concrete goals instead?:

  • GDP per capita: reduction of absolute poverty and hunger. How? Set targets for the number of people who live from less than a dollar per day.
  • Social support: develop and nurture support mechanisms in families, wider social groups, and via social security. How? Set targets for the scope of social security and other mechanism.
  • Healthy life expectancy: continue investment in improved healthcare, water and sanitation. How? Set new targets for infant mortality, and maternal health, and access to water to sanitation.
  • Freedom to make life choices: work on gender balance and education. How? Set targets for access of women to education, work and decision-making, and targets for primary, secondary and tertiary education rates.
  • Generosity: cultivate generosity via volunteerism and civic life. How? Set targets for volunteering and democratic and social participation.
  • Perception of corruption (operationalisation of trust): develop a community where people trust each other. How? I’ll be honest: that’s too big of a question for me to answer.

 

Maybe by using happiness-based goals, we really can take a step in the good direction. Let me end with another quote, from World Happiness Report co-author Jeffrey Sachs:

“The aspiration of society is the flourishing of its members. [The World Happiness] Report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health. [It] … will be useful to all countries as they pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.”

mdg_graphic_600x464
Source: United Nations

Development and happiness I: a goal without a plan is just a wish

A goal without a plan is just a wish (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

 goal-quote (1)

 

What is the best way forward for sustainable development?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have contributed to making earth a better place to be. From 1990 to 2015, they have helped the international community focus its efforts to improve access to healthcare and sanitation, make progress on gender equality, and reduce extreme poverty and hunger.

But we are not there yet. Low levels of development erect enormous barriers to happiness, and must be lifted. A developed country more often than not is a happy one. It is not automatic though: money does not always buy happiness. The opposite appears to be truer: poverty tends to buy unhappiness.

 

After MDGs, SDGs

To be truly successful in building on the progress of the MDGs, the new development goals, or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be a smart set of goals focused on the areas that make a real difference in people’s daily lives. It is sad to see that the SDGs succeeding the MDGs don’t guide us as well to reach higher levels of well-being as the previous set. Goals require focus.

The SDGs are too broad and lack the focus to reduce the barriers to a good life. As they are negotiated, the current set consists of 17 goals with a large number of sub goals. Whilst all of them are worth achieving, some are not specific enough to serve as a goal:

3.d strengthen the capacity of all countries, particularly developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks

How will the capacity be strengthened? By when?

Others seem to have little to do with real development. Everybody is in favour of sustainable tourism and creating jobs (buzzword!), but should that be the priority in the next 15 years?

8.9 by 2030 devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products

Well-being is only referred once, in a horrible and vague formulation in diplomat speak that has all signs of being negotiated in multiple rounds. It doesn’t cover health, social support or personal development but… sustainable infrastructure. Here is the clause:

“develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

 

Let’s pause there for a moment. Tomorrow I’ll continue with more questions: can Ban Ki-Moon help us to achieve concrete goals? And if we were to adopt goals based on happiness instead, what would they look like?

Guest post: reach your goals and increase your happiness

Guest post by Andrea Taylor, LifeCoachHub

Tips to Reach Your Goals and Increase Your Happiness

Happiness depends on many things. Some factors you can’t control. But you can pick your goals. With the right ones you can influence your happiness. Wrosch and Scheier reported in Quality of Life Research that our choices create 40 percent of our happiness. The researchers added that goals boost your happiness because they give your life meaning and a sense accomplishment.

Simply pursuing a goal can make you happier. Time magazine reported in 2013 that among people working toward a goal 35 percent said the pursuit itself made them happier.

For the greatest effect you have to set realistic goals. As humans, we have incredible imaginations. We can envision great things for ourselves. But when our goals are too grandiose, we get frustrated. Long term gain is hard to get when you confront short term realities.

I'm saying Yes to Happiness Goals in the Happiness Goals Countdown

For example, your goal to organize the house excited you until the clutter overwhelmed your motivation. The solution is to plan small short term goals that lead to the big reward. A promise to organize one closet or cabinet a week is easier to keep. By meeting small goals you will eventually achieve something big.

And for people wanting to get in shape, tell yourself to do the exercise for 10 minutes this week, then 15 minutes the next, and build from there. Your rising health and fitness will reward you and motivate you to reach higher goals.

Although long term goals are challenging, it’s still good to dream big. Just remember to plan manageable steps along the way. Then you’ll gain happiness and motivation more often. This will keep you going.

With the right strategy your goals can give you more success and happiness. Need some inspiration? Check out the Happiness Goals Countdown from Life Coach Hub. We were inspired to start this cause because research has shown that people are pretty bad at predicting what will make them happier. So we might set goals and New Years resolutions with the noble intention of a happier, more fulfilling life, but even when we reach them, our ultimate goal falls short.

The Happiness Goals Countdown seeks to provide a much-needed salve to this perennial problem. We present research about the relationship between goals and happiness, and discuss the types of goals that lead to longer term fulfillment as well as those that not only don’t fill up our happiness banks, but actually make withdrawals from it!

To make it even more concrete, we’re publishing a series of articles about goals that research has shown do have lasting impacts on goals. For instance, happiness goal #1 is about making it a resolution this year to set aside 10 minutes of each day to daydream. Sound strange? Well it turns out that the joyful aspiration and hoping we do when daydreaming is strongly linked to happiness. And that’s not the only reason it’s a happy goal. Check out the countdown and get some more inspiration of how to add happiness to your list this year!

Image via LifeCoachHub.com

Image via LifeCoachHub.com

 

Shawn Achor and the happiness advantage

This post was first published on the blog of TEDxAmsterdam. TED’s library contains about fifty talks on happiness. After the post about the flow of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this is the second article in my series of articles under the title TED & Happiness. In this talk, I want to introduce Shawn Achor, positive psychologist and happiness researcher. His message is simple: happiness works. With humor and self-mockery, he reveals how our mental well-being is linked to a positive outlook on life.

A positive outlook

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor, source: Good Think inc.

Shawn Achor begins his twelve minute happy rollercoaster ride with a simple anecdote illustrating how fundamental optimism is for our happiness. Seven-year-old Shawn was a reckless little boy. Playing war, he happened to throw his five-year-old sister Amy from her bed. Tears began to fill her eyes. But he managed to turn the situation around with: “Amy, you landed on all fours. That means… you must be a unicorn!” he said, keeping her calm and avoiding being punished by his parents.

The mechanism is simple, but it works! Changing our lens changes our happiness. Positive psychologists have shown that the way we experience our lives is a factor that explains some of the variation in our happiness (a scientifically important nuance – it does not directly predict our happiness,  though some people, even scholars, believe that optimism always creates happiness). And a happy, positive outlook in turn has a ripple effect, making experiences of life more pleasant: the happiness advantage, as Achor calls it.

See his short pitch of the idea in this video.

Reverse the formula for happiness

Nowadays, our assumption simply is that we need to do. If we do things well, we are successful. And when we become successful, we should be happy. But there is a problem: we are never satisfied. When we reach the finish line, we move the goalposts of success, and start all over again.

Let’s take a look at an example. When we graduate, what we want is a job. When we have a job, we want a better salary. Then we want more responsibility, etc. When we have achieved a goal, we repeat this cycle and look at the next goal, thus continuously pushing success towards a horizon we can never reach.

Achor asks us to reverse the formula. What if we reach success when we are happy? What if we work well, because we are happy? And what if it is happiness that inspires productivity instead of the other way around?

The happiness advantage: accomplishment & gratitude

Happiness starts with simple things. A feeling of accomplishment. Learning, creativity and developments. But above all: gratitude with the achievements of every little day.

Achor has a simple recipe for that. Spend two minutes a day for three weeks thinking about optimism and success. Everyday, write down three new things you are grateful for. If you do that for three weeks, it will have a lasting effect.

That’s the happiness advantage.

Thanks to Tori Egherman for editing.

Fitter, happier

Fitter, happier
More productive, comfortable.
Not drinking too much.
Regular exercise at the gym (three days a week)

If you are like me, you’ve tried to start 2014 fitter and happier, like in the Radiohead song. Through New Year resolutions, we motivate ourselves to reinvent ourselves or to create a new and improved version.

Fitter, happier, more productive.

Evidently, New Year resolutions have something arbitrary: why would I quit smoking or start reading more often on the 1st of January? I can do that any day of the year. And psychology knows that the dark days of January aren’t the best time in the year to change a habit. Starting new habits just after the summer holidays seems to be a better moment. Still, the start of the year is a natural moment to evaluate personal development in the past year and set new goals.

But damn – does it require discipline to produce that improved edition of yourself! And I guess that by now, three weeks into the year, you might already have hit some of the dark moments. If you do, don’t fall for all the talk about Blue Monday, “the most depressing day of the year”, going around. Blue Monday is a scam, made up with the help of a fake academic to sell more holidays. And Monday is a better day than Wednesday, as I wrote before!

Instead, re-engineer your New Year’s resolutions.

Replace habits

In principle a new year’s resolution should do something very basic: replace a bad habit (like snoozing too long or wasting time on the internet) by a better one (getting up early or productively writing a blog post). But often our methods to attain these goals are unrealistic.

In this article – very much worth a read! – the author makes the analogy with a marathon. If you are training for a marathon, you don’t start your first day of training with a 30k run. You start with a couple of kilometres, and you gradually build it up until you are ready for that marathon.

So why should I suddenly spend one hour every day writing blog posts?

The point is: creating new habits is a tiresome process. You have to start slow. Start doing the activity five minutes a day (or one hour a week), until it’s a solid habit. And then increase the five minutes to ten, and so on, and so forth. That it gets done is more important than when!

In the words of US politician Horace Mann:

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day and at last we cannot break it.”

A pig in a cage on antibiotics

But it’s not only overly ambitious goals that may fail. Often resolutions are too vague, and require further specification. In my case, I’d like to keep better in touch with old friends across the world. If that’s how I formulate the goal, it’s easy to fail. But if I aim to write to at least three people I appreciate every week, it’s probably more effective.

Still, in a way, I actually don’t feel all too comfortable about resolutions. Do I really need all these targets and deadlines? Do they make me happier, or do I feel stressed by all my self-imposed rules? Does all this planning really make me fitter, happier, more productive?

Or do I create, as the Radiohead songs ends

A pig
In a cage
On antibiotics

If there’s one thing I don’t aspire to (apart from losing my enthusiasm and curiosity) it’s feeling like a pig in a cage on antibiotics yet. Therefore, one of the key parts of my resolutions is to allow time for a break in all of them.

Something has to happen every day. But not everything does not have to happen today.

And breaking the rules is just as important as following them.