Finding Happiness through Goal Setting

One of the pillars of a happy life is to have meaning and purpose, which is where goals come in.  Goals give you a reason to get up in the morning and feel passionate about life.  After discovering what I want in life and narrowing down my goals to those most likely to improve happiness, the next step requires having a plan to accomplish my goals.

There are countless techniques out there that claim to be the best for goal success.  I’m guessing there’s not one magical answer, but more likely that some techniques will work better for some goals and people than others.  I’m exploring three techniques with nifty acronyms: SMART, HARD and WOOP.

The SMART goal technique has become a standard in business and has been around since 1981 in an issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.  The aim of this technique is to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Over the years, variations have developed in the exact words used, but with the same aim. The benefit of this technique is that it helps you focus and set realistic goals.  Others have criticized this technique for being too simplistic, focusing only on short-term goals, and not including a sense of purpose for goals.

Here’s my example of a SMART GOAL:

Specific: Take a photograph daily for 365 days.

Measurable: Post photos on blog weekly.

Achievable: Attainable, but will have to adapt to technological obstacles by having backup cameras.

Relevant: Increase my photography skills, document this time and place, and learn to notice beautiful details.

Timely: One year, starting May 2018

The next goal setting method is HARD, which I honestly don’t find an inspiring acronym!  This technique was developed by Mark Murphy as a way for people to set and accomplish bigger, more meaningful goals.  The steps for this goal setting technique are Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.  One thing I like about this technique is that it focuses on knowing the whys behind your goal, the emotional reasons for pursuing it.

Here’s my goal of starting a community garden with the HARD technique:

Heartfelt: I want to start a community garden to share what I’ve learned about gardening with others, to teach others how to live more sustainably and make the world a little bit greener.

Animated: I imagine seeing the joy on people’s faces as they successfully grow their own vegetables, I will feel a sense of accomplishment for doing something positive in my community.

Required: Due to several factors I’ve observed in my community: not eating healthy, financial limitations driving food choices and lack of environmental awareness or interest, I feel that getting people involved in gardening is essential for the health of the community.

Difficult: I anticipate lots of challenges with the logistics of where to start a garden, how to get funding and how to get people involved.  This will require a lot of communication, which isn’t an easy thing for this introvert!

The last goal setting technique I want to explore is WOOP, which was developed by Gabriele Oettingen and even has an app to go with it.  This method was created to be practical and based on research and was originally used for students.  WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan.  This method focuses on making your wishes come true as long as those wishes are challenging, but feasible.

My WOOP example:

Wish: Write a novel.

Outcome: Best result will be completing it and sharing it with others.

Obstacle: I don’t have experience writing fiction, don’t know what I’m doing.

Plan: If I feel incapable of writing, then I will join a writer’s group for support and feedback.


Pick the technique that works best for you or try them all, download the pdf worksheet here: Goal Setting Methods

Happy Goal Setting!


Goal Setting Methods

2 thoughts on “Finding Happiness through Goal Setting

  1. Pingback: Create a Goal Action Plan | Jules Lea

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