Your best chance of being happy when you retire

Having a goal is a positive thing as it gives you something to strive for. However, when you reflect on your life in your final days, would you rather think “I achieved everything I wanted regardless of the cost” or “I’m proud of what I accomplished”?

Alex and Billie are currently attending a social media conference. I just watched a panel discussion on how to increase your follower count tenfold. Alex spent a couple of minutes talking at Billie rather than having a conversation. Alex then handed Billie a business card with a QR code before moving on to the next unsuspecting person. Billie left the business card near the hors d’oeuvres and joined another conversation. Billie engaged in a discussion about growing their content and the challenges they faced. Billie also paid attention to name tags, which displayed Instagram handles.

Later, in their hotel room, Billie followed everyone they met on Instagram using the information from the name tags. They took the opportunity to make insightful comments on posts or send direct messages to express their interest in the conversation. Both Alex and Billie share the goal of gaining ten times more Instagram followers than they currently have. However, Alex prioritizes their time, while Billie values connecting with others.

Goals serve as distant targets, allowing us to set a direction for ourselves. To plan a journey or navigate a map, it’s important to know our starting point. Values help define that starting point and guide our path.

Personally, I enjoy playing video games. Recently, I bought a new console to counter the negative self-talk that arises at the end of a long workday when my brain tells me there’s more I should be doing. Playing video games often involves following lines or arrows that indicate the direction our character needs to move. Mario Kart is a good example of this. If we veer off course, a cloud appears and places us back on track.

In life, we also have a guiding line that shows us the direction we should go. When we deviate too far from that line, we may feel frustrated or annoyed. Sometimes, we are unaware of this and simply come across as grumpy. This occurs when our actions are incongruent with our beliefs. Our defense mechanisms kick in, putting us in fight mode. If we value qualities like patience and openness, we won’t respond defensively when we feel threatened. However, if we go against our values, we may end up criticizing ourselves.

When I examine my values, I prioritize grounding, giving, warmth, kindness, curiosity, and acceptance. When I fall short of these values, I tend to be self-critical. For example, if I’m being selfish or not giving enough time to others, I may give people the cold shoulder. I worry that my words or how I communicate may come across poorly, which goes against my values. When this happens, I need to realign myself, much like finding the cloud in Mario Kart that puts me back on track. It’s similar to mindfulness, where we acknowledge when we lose focus and gently guide ourselves back.

Being goal-driven is often seen as dynamic and ambitious. However, it can also feel outdated, reminiscent of the 80s corporate culture with people wearing blue shirts and white collars. I personally believe we are moving away from that mentality, but it might be because my perspective has changed. Goals do not necessarily align with our true nature; they represent a future version of ourselves that may or may not exist. It’s like the ghost of Christmas yet to come. We may reach our goals and become a different person in the process, just like Walter White’s transformation in Breaking Bad.

Having ambition and something to strive for is important. However, it’s essential to connect our goals with our values. This way, if we miss our goal or get lost, we can follow the thread back to our values. It’s similar to Theseus using a thread to find his way out of the maze after defeating the Minotaur. By connecting who we are now with who we want to be, values act as the guiding thread.

In my podcast, I have a goal for it to become self-sustaining by the end of the year. To align this goal with my values, I aim for authenticity, giving, warmth, kindness, curiosity, and acceptance. I want to share all my ideas and help people implement them instead of keeping them to myself. I also want to consider people’s accessibility and offer alternative perspectives. Lastly, I need to accept that I cannot control how my work is received.

Even if you feel like your work lacks a deeper meaning, it is rooted in your values and beliefs. Take a moment to consider which values resonate with you from the following list: authenticity, beauty, compassion, fairness, happiness, leadership, optimism, peace, recognition, status, and wisdom. Write down your core values, preferably three to five, to commit them to memory. Avoid choosing values based on what you should have or what others possess. Instead, focus on what genuinely resonates with you.

Reflect on your goals and see if they align with your values. If there is a connection, achieving your goals will bring you happiness. Aging with integrity means living a life in line with your values.

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