Happiness Isn’t the Goal

The most important lesson I learned in 2018 is that happiness is not a tenable goal.

I’m sure that sounds dramatic, but here’s the thing: goals are meant to have fixed endpoints. The entire reason why I set goals is so that I get the thrill of accomplishing them, which means that they have specific and measurable deliverables. It’s the difference between “read more” and “read three books a month” — one is a goal, and one is not.

When a goal isn’t measurable, or when it’s measured against moving goalposts, you never really get to feel like you’ve “made it.” For someone as goal oriented as myself, this also leads me to discount the progress I’ve made towards that moving goalpost. All that matters is that I’ve failed to reach it.

Happiness is a moving goalpost. No matter how happy you are, you could always be happier. And, because joy isn’t quantifiable, it’s not truly possible for me to know if I’m happier now than I was at any other point in time. If I go into 2019 with the goal of being happier, I’ll never really get to feel like I’ve achieved it.

As I set goals for next year, happiness isn’t one of those goals. I can’t aim for happiness, for an intangible and immeasurable thing. What I can do, however, is take on incremental goals that I know will bring me momentary happiness. I love the rush of finishing a good book, so my goal is to read fifty books in 2019. I love the catharsis of journaling, so I plan to journal every day.

Happiness may be a moving target, but there are several concrete steps I can take towards it. The progress that I’m making is what truly matters.

What are your 2019 goals?

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