Dr. Andy Yarborough
October 10, 2018
How to Avoid One of the Worst Life Goals Ever
Well...to start this blog...I need to tell you what one of the “worst life goals ever” is…
Yes. You read that correctly. One of the worst goals you can set for your life is happiness.
As a psychologist, I see people for many different reasons. But when I ask people, “What are some of your goals?” they most often say, “I want to be happy.” Let me say that I am not anti-joy. I want people to be happy. Joy is wonderful. However, happiness is a terrible goal because it is elusive. We often do not know what makes us happy, which confuses and confounds us in our pursuit of it. We will even avoid experiences that are good for us or shirk responsibilities that will help us grow solely because it does not make us feel good or contribute to our immediate happiness.
Consider these examples: A teen is glued to social media, waiting for a “like,” while her family is sitting in the same room wanting to connect and hang out. A young adult knows the one-night stand will not help him feel better about himself tomorrow but goes through with it to feel good in the moment. The mid-life crisis of a middle-aged father will not be alleviated with the purchase of the new vehicle, but he buys it anyway and puts his family further in debt. I get upset with a coworker and, instead of calming down and being respectful, I lash out with obscenities and name-calling tactics. Can you relate to any of these? If not, can you think of times in your own life when you have done something like these examples?
Now, you may be asking, “So what then do you suggest I pursue if not happiness?” I’m glad you asked. I recommend that you pursue meaning.
Meaning in life is defined as “the extent to which one’s life is experienced as making sense, as being directed and motivated by valued goals, and as mattering in the world (George & Park, 2016).” This definition includes three key areas:
Comprehension, which refers to the degree that a person perceives a sense of coherence and understanding regarding their lives.
Ask yourself this question, “Does my life make sense to me, or does does my life feel confusing and disconnected?” If it makes sense to you, then you have comprehension in your life. If you feel confused and disconnected from the world around you, you may not have comprehension in your life.
Purpose, which can be defined as the extent to which a person experiences life as being directed and motivated by valued life goals.
Ask yourself, “Do I know what my life values are, and do they guide my decisions OR do I feel aimless and purposeless?
Mattering, which is the degree to which a person feels his or her life has significance, importance, and value in the world.
Ask yourself, “Do I believe that my life has significance in the world OR do I feel that I am just existing?”
If your answers to the above questions point to a lack of comprehension, purpose, and mattering in your life, be encouraged. There is hope! You do not have to wait until meaning finds you. Paul Scanlon, a pastor and leadership coach, notes that “meaning is not found, meaning is forged.”
And please know: mistakes do not disqualify you from forging meaning in your life. In fact, mistakes and failures in life can serve as catalysts for meaning. Think, for example, about a person who sells drugs, is caught, and spends time in prison. Meaning can be found in recognizing what led to the behavior, warning others about the same pitfalls, and encouraging youth to tap into their strengths, gifts, and values to forge purpose in their lives.
So how do you begin forging meaning in life?
We created a great worksheet guide to work through this information! Click the link below to download it to begin the process in finding your meaning in life: