Setting and reaching goals is a big part of a creating a successful business and personal life. Most of the time when we set our goals, they are for tangible outcomes that are measurable. Maybe the goal is to learn a new language, lose weight, buy a new car, move to a new apartment or home, reach a sales target or see a client satisfaction score improvement. The more specific, the better your chances are that you will progress towards that goal and successfully reach it. However, the specificity is usually very quantitative, like lose 10 pounds by a certain date or make $15,000 in new sales by a certain date. Not very inspiring.
What about the less tangible qualitative aspects of your end result? Have you asked yourself why you want a particular goal or how you want to feel when you reach that goal? Feelings and needs are rarely part of the goal equation. That is too bad because they can make a huge difference in your ability to reach your goal as well as your experience when you get there. When you have a goal, the underlying reason you want it is because you imagine it will give you positive feelings. And the way to get the positive feelings is to make sure that you are meeting one or more of your personal needs. So perhaps the reason you want a new home is so that your need for safety and beauty and shelter and other needs are met and you want to feel energized and rested and relaxed and other feelings in your environment. This type of qualitative specificity and clarity helps to motivate you and make sure that you are reaching for the right target.
When you reflect on what feelings and needs are important to you in various aspects of your life and then create goals to get them met, you may end up with a very different goal list then if you just ask yourself what do I want to achieve. But taking the approach of setting goals that meet your needs and give you positive feelings is the road to fulfillment. Yes, fulfillment is all about joyfully meeting your personal needs or values.
And getting to the heart of the matter, how you experience life is all about how you feel. So why wouldn’t you want to have feelings as goals? When you experience positive feelings about all the areas of your life, life truly is grand. Compared to a dry goal like “buy a new couch”, including feelings and needs like “buy a new couch that gives me comfort and is beautiful and makes me feel relaxed and delighted” is a much more compelling outcome. When the goal is compelling, you are more likely to reach it.
When I speak of feelings, I don’t mean simply feeling good, but something more evocative. The Center for Nonviolent Communication has a great list of positive feelings that includes: affectionate, confident, grateful, amazed, inspired, grateful to name a few. (See CNVC Feelings for a feelings list. These positive feelings are a result of meeting your personal needs that might include connection, peace, autonomy, meaning and so on. (See CNVS Needs for a needs list.)
Here’s an example of how to goal set using feelings and needs. Let’s say that you feel stuck and are unhappy in your current career. If you simply look for another position in your field, you may be setting yourself up for more of the same. If instead you consider what is not working in your current role and think about how you want to feel in your new role and what needs are essential for your well being, you will have a greater chance of finding work that matches your needs. If you are an introvert, perhaps you need a role where you are independent and have autonomy in order to feel stimulated and empowered. Or if you are in need of lots of connection, then maybe you need a role with lots of client facing time in order to feel centered and interested.
I suggest that when looking at your own life that you explore different aspects of your daily life:
- Lifestyle, home, surroundings, travel, free time
- Relationships, romance, family, friends, community
- Career, money, causes
- Physical health, mental health, food, sleep, relaxation
- Personal development, spirituality, intuition, practices
- Creativity and self-expression, hobbies, learning and growing
You can organize these areas however you want, but the idea is to think about your whole life and consider not just what you want but how you want to feel in each area and what needs are important for you to meet. For instance, perhaps in your relationships you want to feel radiant, trusting, energized, comfortable, and moved because relationships are where you satisfy your needs for play, connection, and intimacy. And maybe in your work life you want to feel passionate, absorbed, renewed, inspired, and optimistic because you want work to fulfill your need for autonomy and meaning and self-expression and contribution. Not only will this exercise more clearly define where you are going, but it should also motivate you. Because look at what you will get as your goal: not only a paycheck or new partner—fulfillment and joy!
When you check in with what feelings you want more of in your life and what needs are deeply important to you, you are bound to reveal goals that will truly bring you greater happiness in life.