Three questions to ask yourself when your goals go off the rails

Three questions to ask yourself when your goals go off the rails

Our lives are not static and our goals can grow and change in the same way we do. They can be influenced by both internal and external factors. So, as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us – our goal journey can require tweaking.

If you feel out of touch with your goal journey. There is no need to worry. The answer to these three questions can help you evaluate and make required adjustments.

Am I still excited about my goal?

Many things in life can stop us from reaching our life goals. Such as: 

  • Being distracted by other priorities
  • Feeling unmotivated to take action
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the process

These are all normal issues we need to overcome as part of the process. But if your goal journey has gone off the rails you should reflect to see if there are deeper reasons to consider.

If you are feeling out of touch with your goals – take the opportunity to check and make sure they are still right for you.

The key to your motivation is to ensure your goal journey still excites you.

Self-reflect on the following: 

  1. Am I still feeling excited about achieving my goals? If not, why not?

Once you reflect on the questions above – you should be in one of two places.

  • Ready to reinvigorate your goal journey: In which case – check-in with your goal plan and make any adjustments you need to move forward.
  • Ready to start again: It is never a bad idea to go back to the drawing board with your goals.


Has my life shifted?

As our life progresses and our experiences multiply and what brings us meaning will naturally evolve as a result. As this evolves – so will our goals.

If you feel out of touch with your goal journey – take the time to self-reflect. Perhaps subtle (or massive) changes in your life require your goals to shift gears.

Self-reflect on the following: 

  1. When I think about what is most important in my life – does anything different come up?
  2. If it does – consider what effect it has on your goals and make any required changes.

Where is my focus?

Sometimes internal factors creep into the way we shape and achieve our goals. These can come from issues such as:

  • Perfectionism 
  • Fear of failure 
  • Imposter syndrome 
  • Self-doubt 
  • Comparison with others

These factors can influence goals and behaviors, and change their focus. 

We find ourselves focusing on these issues and not the goals we need to be working on. We can find ourselves modifying activities to protect ourselves from being uncomfortable. And we can focus on the dark tunnel and not the light we need to reach on the other side.

Self-reflect on the following: 

  1. What am I trying to achieve and what thoughts are stopping me from taking action.
  2. Try to understand why you are having these thoughts. (Continue to ask yourself: But why do I think that until you hit a root cause?)
  3. If required, revisit your goals – and make any changes required.

As your lives evolve – your goal journey will too.

So don’t be afraid to keep re-shaping your goals. Continue to self-reflect and make the changes you need to go full steam ahead.




Living a boring life – You can stop now

Living a boring life – You can stop now

You can stop life feeling bored and… blah.

Research has found that living a boring life correlates with a lack of happiness and meaning. This means – the less we experience feelings of happiness and meaning in our day-to-day – the more bored with our lives we may feel.

Let me start by taking you back a couple of years. I used to have a job that was unrewarding with very few enjoyable interactions in the day. And, I would spend all my free time on the couch – watching shows that were rarely enjoyable. 

I was living a life that was low on meaning and happiness – it was a boring life.

Now, as someone who dedicated years to a boring life. I know it can be hard to identify when you are living one. You get caught up in the routine (moving between a meaningless job and the couch) – and years can pass quite easily without you realising that things should be better.

If you have found your way to reading this – then chances are something here resonates. And if it does, I want to encourage you to start thinking about making changes.

So, if your life is feeling a bit boring… dull…. or, blah… please read on.

(If in fact, you feel like your life is high on meaning/purpose & low on happiness – then you might prefer to read this article: Living a purposeful life is not quite enough)

What is happiness & meaning? 

This is not a straightforward question – but for the sake of this article lets define them as: 

  • Happiness: the existence of positive affect (and therefore the lack of negative feelings). This could be described as Hedonia (an ancient greek term) – meaning striving for joy, excitement, pleasure, comfort, etc.
  • Meaning: feelings of purpose, value and worthwhileness. This could be covered by the term Eudaimonia – meaning striving for purpose and growth.

Both hedonia and eudaimonia have been found as components of life satisfaction.

It should be noted that eudaimonia (or meaning) can ultimately bring happiness into your life as well (often in a healthier and more sustainable way). But, I won’t go on about the benefits here because I covered purpose & meaning in detail in this article: Living a purposeful life is not quite enough.

So, today I am going to focus on the role of happiness (so you don’t have to live a boring life).

Why you need happiness in your boring life

There are a lot of benefits to having happiness in your life (besides the fact that it will make it less boring). 

These can be physical, psychological and performance-based, such as: 

Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, proposes that happiness and a positive mindset contributes to an increase in work performance across the board, including productivity, creativity and engagement.

Do these benefits seem worthwhile to you?

Why your loved ones need you – not to live a boring life

Now that I have put the facts before you. Do you want to work on increasing the happiness in your life? There are many reasons to do it for yourself. 

But, there is another important reason. 

Your happiness has a great effect on the people around you. It only takes a couple of minutes for your mood to be transmitted to another person. In fact, the closer your relationship the easier your mood can be transferred.

So – not only will a negative mood infect your loved ones. On the flip side – if you work on your happiness – not only will your life reap the benefits, the people around you will too, and the people around them, and so on. 

You could be the cure to many boring lives. 

Stop living a boring life

What makes you happy in your day-to-day life – might not be immediately obvious to you.

To put this another way. What brings you joy and excitement might be obvious. But, if you are like me, you may not realise how much time you spend on activities – that you mistakenly think are bringing you pleasure.

As an example – as a natural couch potato. I assume much pleasure can come from watching TV. However, often, I can find myself in front of the box: 

  • Just looking for things to watch
  • Watching re-runs of shows that aren’t really amusing – or
  • Watching shows that make me unhappy or stressed out. 

In fact, apparently our enjoyment peaks at about 30mins – then we slowly turn into a joyless potatos. So, in my world – that is many hours spent without pleasure or happiness.

Sound familiar? 

Living a boring life

When you think about your days at work:

  • How often are you happy?
  • Does your work bring you meaning or excitement?
  • Do you have exchanges with clients & co-workers that bring you pleasure?
  • Do you manage to find enjoyment in breaks? 

If you feel like you have a boring life – then maybe not. 

So – as a first step towards dialling up the happiness in your life. I encourage you to: 

  1. Identify the activities in your day-to-day that make you happy
  2. Identify how often you are doing activities that make you happy in your week
  3. Think about how “happy” you are with this balance.

This will be your (boring life) baseline from which you can build. And obviously, I encourage you to do this.

If not for yourself – do it for me. (Because due to the degrees of separation in the world – eventually, your happiness contagion should make its way to me!) 

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    How to stop being negative

    How to stop being negative

    Tell your inner negativity bias that the glass is half full!

    Are you guilty of being a Negative Nellie? I think many of us can be. I certainly am.

    It can be a struggle to stop being negative. But, for the benefit of your day-to-day (and the day-to-day of the people around you), it is important to try. If you can manage to start seeing the glass as half full and not half empty – it can make a huge difference to how you feel about your life.

    This glass half empty or Negative Nellie outlook – demonstrates negativity bias. Negativity bias is pretty much what it sounds like – a tendency to focus on the negative over the positive.

    From a caveman perspective, this makes sense – because a pessimistic outlook can keep us safe and away from potential danger for reasons of survival. But, in this relatively safe day and age, it can be problematic and linked to mental health issues.

    Being negative can spiral our moods into serious negative emotions (and, the moods of the people around us). When we approach life like Eeyore (from Winne the Pooh) it can impact our relationships, decision-making and general perceptions.

    How to stop being negative

    This is not to say that negativity, in general, is bad. As a hangover from our caveman days – we are more likely to pay attention to and learn from negative information. There are also health benefits from having mixed emotions. And although there can be benefits to suppressing negative emotions – researchers have found negative health consequences for people who fail to experience the emotions of negative life events. 

    So, being purely Positive Polly – is also not the end game.

    The aim should be to approach life with an open mind and be able to focus on the positives. Not continuously dwell on the negatives.

    So, if you are (also) someone that finds the glass half empty all too often. I wanted to give you a list of the quick & relatively easy tips that can help. Then we can then work on these together!

    How to stop being negative – 5 top tips

    1. Self-reflection & Self-awareness

    That old adage “the first step in solving a problem – is knowing you have a problem” – totally applies here.

    You need to be self-aware and understand that you are doing this – if you want to get on top of it.

    When people ask you about something – do you first go to the negatives or the positives? (I am TOTALLY guilty of being a Negative Nellie)

    2. Catch yourself

    So, you know that the glass is mainly half empty? Great.

    Now, you need to catch yourself when you are paying too much attention to the negative – so you can get onto point 3.

    3. Have a word with yourself

    When you catch yourself being negative – take a step back and assess what is really going on.

    Is there a whole lot of positives involved that you are choosing to ignore? Have a word with yourself and focus on the positive that is there too (and probably in a much greater abundance than the negative).

    Take the opportunity to reframe. No – this isn’t a disaster at work that will delay your project – this is an exciting new opportunity and challenge to rise to!

    Is your inner voice telling you there is something wrong with you? Talk to it supportively like you would a good friend. Train that voice to be more kind and gentle. 

    4. Gratitude

    Have you got a good gratitude practice?

    In this world of gratitude journals and affirmations, there are lots of great habits to get into to focus on the positive in your life and savor those positive moments.

    If you are less inclined to build these sorts of habits (like myself) – I recommend you just spend a second after you “have a word with yourself” (Step 3) and give yourself a mental high five for the positive you can find in the situation.

    Also, when you are feeling down practice gratitude by thinking about 3 things you are grateful for today. This will kick your brain into a more positive frame of mind.

    5. Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is a great practice to help keep out the persistent negativity.

    I am all about mindful breathing and yoga when I need to quiet down those loud negative thoughts.

    How to be happier day-to-day

    So, now you know how to stop being negative.

    Once you are up and running with this more positive practice – you can look forward to more positive vibes in your day (and maybe fewer friends avoiding you).

    Remember to approach this process with a gentle and curious mind. The last thing you want to do is send yourself on a negative spiral for being negative all the time!

    Hello Polly and goodbye Nellie!

    First Published: January 7, 2021

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      Living a purposeful life – is not quite enough

      Living a purposeful life – is not quite enough

      Why I advocate for: a package deal; avoiding being a miserable purpose-driven engine; & balancing out the joy-suckers. 

      These days – I feel like everyone is telling us to live a purposeful life.

      Research tells us that living a purposeful life has many benefits. These range from psychological well-being and life satisfaction to physical advantages too.

      But, I believe that purpose is only part of the picture. Especially, at a time when life is busy with work and kids. And today I want to explain why.

      What is purpose?

      The definition of purpose would be a sensible starting place for this discussion. This is easier said than done.

      In literature, the definition and components of purpose can differ. However, research into the psychology of purpose generally agrees that it has three components: 

      • Meaning: Your understanding of what brings personal meaning to your life
      • Goals: The pursuit of personal goals that are aligned to your meaning
      • The benefit of others: A component of your meaning-aligned goals will be for the benefit of others.

      A bit about the research on living a purposeful life

      The topic of life’s purpose has been mused over since ancient times. However, modern research for the psychology of purpose started with Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl

      During the Holocaust, Frankl observed a link between survivors and the presence of a sense of meaning. From the publication of his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) to the present-day field of positive psychology, there has been an abundance of data demonstrating the importance of purpose in our lives.

      Let’s talk about the benefits of a purposeful life

      Psychological benefits

      Research demonstrates that purpose is an important component of psychological wellbeing. This is defined by both an enhanced positive state and a reduction in negative states such as anxiety, boredom, depression, and loneliness. 

      Physical benefits

      Purpose has also been found to correlate to many physical benefits. Including: 

      Why living a purposeful life isn’t all beer and skittles

      I am not disputing that purpose is linked to positive emotions and wellbeing. But, anyone who is a parent knows – it doesn’t always bring happiness. 

      Happiness itself is a minefield term (that I will discuss in detail at a later date). However, let’s define it today – as a sense of pleasure.

      Studies have found that parenting is a highly purposeful experience. However, if you are a parent that finds this experience 100% pleasurable – get in touch – I’ve always wanted to meet a unicorn.

      In fact, the data suggests that primary caregiving is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms.

      Living a purposeful life

      Are you a miserable purpose-driven engine? 

      So – if you are in the business of parenting – you may have found sometimes there is a hole where happiness used to be.

      It should also be considered that research has shown – over our lifetime happiness can be represented by a U curve. According to this model, we can expect a continual decrease in happiness until we reach 49 – when it upturns and increases (so we can expect to be very happy in our 70s). 

      (Am I filling you with hope and excitement? 🙁 – bear with me) 

      For these reasons, I propose life has to be a package deal (for us under mid-50s primary caregivers). To avoid an unhappy outlook day-to-day – we need to concentrate on sprinkling happiness on top of our purpose-driven lives.

      Now, I feel I need to tell you – this sort of happiness or pleasure we are talking about does not have the positive benefits of purpose. In fact, it may have some detrimental effects. (I will also cover further at a later date). But, sometimes – you have got to do – what you have got to do.

      Because – in my mind – to get yourself happily out of bed in the morning – the key is to find the right balance in your life. 

      Behavioural Scientist Paul Dolan proposes we need to find the balance between being a “pleasure machine” who experiences more pleasure than purpose and a “purpose engine” that experiences more purpose than pleasure in the day-to-day.

      How balanced is your life? 

      Now, it may be pretty obvious to you whether your life is striking the right balance. But, if you are wondering. Take a moment to self-reflect on the week that has passed. 

      (If you want to get serious get out a spreadsheet or pens so you can do some math or draw some charts.)

      Think about: 

      • How much time have you spent on purposeful activities? Think about activities that felt fulfilling and worthwhile eg. projects at work, helping family or time exercising
      • How much time have you spent on pleasurable activities? Think about things that have brought you joy and excitement. 
      • Is the balance right between the two?

      What do you reckon – have you got the balance right? 

      The key to living a purposeful life – The package deal

      So, although there is a myriad of reasons that you should be living a purposeful life. Remember, happiness should not be neglected. The very things that are giving you purpose could be sucking the joy out of your life. So, you need to strike the right balance. 

      For example, when the joy-suckers have gone to bed – put on your favourite tunes – pour your favourite drink – and get excited about your 70s… (the real winning age in the happiness U curve)

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      Start living a successful life – filled with the right balance of purpose, value and happiness today.

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