So what is real happiness? Perhaps the best place to start is by defining what it is not. Many people believe that happiness is the excitement of new experiences, the thrill and passion of physical intimacy, or the delights of a fine meal. These are all wonderful experiences but are all essentially short-term. They have a definite beginning and end point. They are not a state of mind. These are all simply pleasurable experiences. If we had these experiences all the time, our brains would adapt and turn pleasure into routine. Once that happens, it takes even more to make us feel good again.
We are constantly searching after happiness, but we often fail in our pursuit. We may get a glimpse of happiness, but it does not last forever.
Goals are the way we can turn our values and dreams into reality. Happiness doesn't just happen - it comes from thinking, planning and pursuing things that are important to us. Scientific research shows that setting and working towards goals can contribute to happiness in various ways, including:
Being a source of interest, engagement or pleasure
Giving us a sense of meaning and purpose
Bringing a sense of accomplishment when we achieve what we set out to (or milestones along the way) - this also builds our confidence and belief in what we can do in the future.
Goals help focus our attention. Actively working towards them appears to be as important for our well-being as achieving the end results we are aiming for.
Goals are most successful when they're something we really want to achieve and when we set them for ourselves - rather than being something someone else wants us to do.
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