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How Values and Intrinsic Motivation Impact Achieving Goals and Increasing Happiness

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater.” —Viktor Frankl

We often pursue our goals with a lot of focus on the perceived destination. Viktor Frankl is elegantly sharing that it is healthier for us to focus on being present-minded while also organically exploring our values and what motivates us internally.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Don't just make success a target, enjoy the journey

What Motivates Us in Achieving our Goals?

Of course, having goals and something to aim at is very healthy for us and our growth; we are, after all, goal-orientated beings. However, as Viktor Frankl suggests, when we make success a target, we may miss the beauty around us and neglect what is truly meaningful to us in our everyday lives and on our journey itself.

If we imagine zooming in on a map to our desired destination, we may miss the surrounding beauty and other locations nearby that can bring us happiness and our greatest learnings. If we zoom fully out from the map without a desired destination, we may become lost and lose our motivation. A happy balance would be to focus on our desired destination while keeping a natural exploration of other areas as well.

How can we motivate ourselves to reach our goals? Rather than putting pressure on ourselves to raise the flag on the mountain, it is healthier and more sustainable for us to create an environment that enhances positive emotions and create micro-goals to stay encouraged. Celebrating micro-goals doesn’t preclude having a big end goal in mind, but we are more likely to achieve results and be happier in life as a whole if we enjoy the journey and small steps along the way.

Once we get in touch with our values and intrinsic motivation, we have a starting path and guide for life. When we begin savoring our successes, we create increased positive emotions and growth.

Deep Dive: "How to Get Motivated: Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation."

Core Values are  the Foundation for the Achievement of Goals

It can be easy to chase dreams or follow paths prompted by the media, social media, culture, and other external pressures. This “chase” would be working with extrinsic motivation. These pursuits can drain us by striving for things that are unnatural to us.

However, when we get in touch with our core values, we have a clear direction in our life that is harmonious with our true self and our view of the world. Imagine being in a forest, you may not know what is around the next turn or beyond the river, but when you have values, you have an internal compass at your disposal, and you always know which direction you are going in and why.

Our values are interlinked with our intrinsic motivation, whereby we partake in the process of the activity for the activity itself. This connection relates strongly to Viktor Frankl’s message earlier. Picture our values like an internal compass for our direction in life. Our intrinsic motivation is a process that naturally energizes us regardless of the outcome.

How do we get in touch with our values?

  • When did you last feel truly alive and your authentic self? What invoked that experience?

These questions help us get in touch with what is truly important to us. Walking in nature and being present-minded can help evoke responses and help place us in a more philosophical mindset where we can get more in touch with our values.

  • Explore your Ikigai (or purpose). Ikigai is a Japanese concept on how to live a life of passion and meaning.

Passion: What do you love?

Mission: What does the world need?

Vocation: What are you good at?

Profession: What can you be paid for?

Write your answers down on paper and have fun with this exercise by making a colorful mood board.

The Importance of Micro-Goals

Sometimes we might make sacrifices to reach a desired goal, such as limiting or declining social engagements. Micro-goals can help us create a balance whereby we create small tangible tasks for ourselves that move us closer to our goals and also allow us time to celebrate the small wins and spend time with our friends and loved ones. This process enables us to enjoy the journey more without focusing solely on the end destination and possibly risking missing out on life itself.

Young woman working on her online business

For example, if your goal was to set up an online business, you might set small tangible tasks such as writing one blog post a week. This blog post may require some sacrifice as you need a distraction-free environment, but you can celebrate with your friends and family whenever you have finished a blog. If you enjoy writing or the process of achieving the bigger goal itself, intrinsic motivation may be at play. You’re enjoying the activity for the sake of the activity, rewarding yourself for accomplishing your micro-goal by a celebration with loved ones.

Here we can see an example where we have created an environment for positive emotions to flourish and utilize intrinsic motivation with value guidance. Value guidance in the above example could be valuing family highly or a sense of autonomy felt by starting an online business. Intrinsic motivation is fueled by the sheer enjoyment of writing, not writing because we are told to by an external source.

Related reading: "Mini-Habits to Support Your Growth and Success."

How Savoring Moments Along Your Journey Enhances Your Goals

As we have learned so far, enjoying the process of our journey towards goals is very important for happiness in life and assisting us in reaching our desired outcomes. Savoring those precious moments is very important. Naturally, many of our happiest moments in life will be with other people. Savoring such moments can tremendously increase the meaning of such moments.

Fostering positive emotions with a loved one or friend more frequently and in greater depth will naturally build an environment that supports you and your loved ones in being motivated and hence energized for doing more. This heightened enjoyment will further foster growth around your intrinsic motivation instead of focusing on extrinsic motivation based on what success in life should look like.

The more we savor the positive moments with others, the stronger our connection. We can create this connection in any friendship, with any family member, and more.

Celebrating others's successes enhances our happiness

Sonja Lyubomirsky explains: “The surprising finding is that the closest, most intimate and most trusting relationships appear to be distinguished not by how the partners respond to each other’s disappointments and losses but how they react to good news (2013).”

Healthy relationships often last due to the process of savoring positive moments with our partner more so than limiting the number of negative situations we experience together.

Savoring is a mixture of being present-minded, empathetic, and actively intensifying and prolonging a positive experience. When a loved one or friend tells us some good news, we may, without meaning to, only spend five minutes talking about their good news and then swiftly move on to our day. This interchange is typical, but we can optimize our experiences and increase positive emotions within our interactions intentionally.

Savoring in practice:

  • Tell a friend or loved one that you are proud of them and believe in them. Go deeper into the conversation on why you are proud and what strengths and qualities they have shown.
  • Ask them open-ended questions such as, “how did it feel?” Explore the positive emotions that arise; linger in the positive feelings.
  • Reward their good news with small loving gestures such as a hug, sharing tea and cake, and so on. Celebrate the small wins for yourself and others.

We often hear someone’s good news and pay a compliment, then start talking about ourselves. We can all be guilty of this. Instead, elongate their positivity, go deeper into their strengths, and explore the positive emotions, prolonging the experience. Make the conversation about them and their news; celebrate it with them.

Enlist a Goal Buddy

Having a goal buddy can help motivate you.

And equally important, being a goal buddy for your loved ones is essential. Championing their aims is supportive and when reciprocated, it helps keep each other motivated.

If someone supports your core values and champions what intrinsically motivates you, then this will not only lead to a deeper connection but also give you further support and resources to achieve your desired goals.

A couple supporting each other in their goals

For example, if your goal was to partake in a sporting event for charity, a friend may train with you or may even buy or loan you equipment to support your cause. It is easier to get to where we want to go with the help and support of others. Working alongside others can also bring the most meaningful moments.

Even when we are in touch with our core values and live life with a focus on intrinsic motivation, we can still have days where we doubt ourselves or life throws hardship at us. When we have supportive relationships, we can have the resilience to handle challenges and support moving toward our goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Our core values are like an internal compass and intrinsic motivation is interlinked with our values, whereby we are motivated by what naturally energizes us instead of extrinsic motivation based on chasing an outcome we believe will bring us happiness. It is healthy and positive to have goals, but we must ensure that we are also mindfully aware of our surroundings and capture meaningful moments along our journey.

Creating micro-goals, working with our core values and intrinsic motivation enables us to enjoy the process of our activities for the sake of the activity and make small tangible steps towards our bigger vision. Savoring meaningful moments with others along our journey will create more profound meaning and motivation for our goals. A goal buddy can further champion our cause and result in deeper connections with a mutual value alignment.

Wishing you health and well-being,

David Chorlton / Meaningful Paths

If you'd like customized support to help you get motivated and create a life you love, contact us at support@heartmanity.com.

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Guest Blogger: David ChorltonGuest Blogger: David Chorlton
David Chorlton is a Positive Psychology Practitioner, Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness Teacher. David is the founder of the wellness platform Meaningful Paths and volunteers to create children’s well-being courses in developing countries.

Posted in Brain Fitness, Mindfulness and Perspective, Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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