From an early age, we are conditioned to seek big goals. Goals that, if accomplished, will ostensibly result in greater happiness. Like going on The Voice and becoming a huge star. Except that is total B.S. A happy life is more of an evolution. It’s about making small, measurable improvements every day.
And that’s where the story begins.
In case you missed it, the University of Texas last year announced plans for a new, colossal on-campus arena.
The “-horns” also announced that the original super-Longhorn fan, Matthew McConaughey, was given the role as the venue’s “Minister of Culture.” Like you, I don’t have a clue what a Minister of Culture does.
McConaughey graduated from Texas in 1993 before launching his enormously successful film career. In 2014, the “Minister of Culture” was awarded the Best Actor for his remarkable performance in the film Dallas Buyers Club.
In his colorful acceptance speech, he paraphrases a breakthrough conversation he had at the outset of his career. “Someone asked me, “who is your hero?” McConaughey replied, “It’s me in ten years.”
At first, this seemed like a really narcissistic, Hollywood-esque type of response. Then he explained himself more fully:
So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to beat my hero. I’m not going to obtain that, I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.─ Matthew McConaughey
The point is that in 2004, McConaughey started chasing himself; the 2014 version of himself. The version that accepted the Oscar.
In his mind….
….it gives him someone more talented to actively chase every day.
Studies show that there is a significant correlation between goal striving and actual happiness. The connection is enhanced when success is defined as goal progress, instead of goal attainment. Meaning that we get more joy out of the journey than the destination.
Happiness is attained through a commitment to yourself.
C’mon, couldn’t you use a little more joy in your life? See, most people don’t know what they really want. Not cause they’re dumb, but because they haven’t honestly contemplated the question.
First, you gotta figure out what you truly value. When we are younger, it’s typically people & things. As we age we begin to value things like health and friendships and faith and financial security.
So, what do you really want out of life? Do you know? Maybe it’s to get back to your high school weight. And be a better parent. And reconnect with old friends. And improve your spiritual discipline. And climb Mt. Everest. Or, maybe you just wanna be more content with your life.
Since it’s just you and me talking, don’t you agree that some of these things would make you happier?
For me, it’s some combination of all those things, except climbing Everest. Hard pass on Everest. Too cold.
Once you know what you want, it’s simply a matter of discipline. And, making small daily deposits. Progress begets progress.
I’m a big fan of micro-goals. These should be small, daily tasks that can help you reach your bigger goals. Then do those small, daily tasks every day. Every damn day.
Remember, it’s the journey that brings the happy. At the end of each day, you’ll have a report card on the day’s progress. And, you can do your happy dance to celebrate these little victories.
Here’s a sample of 10 micro-goals from my daily list.
1. Read at Night: Each night before bed, I try to read a few pages in a good book. It helps me wind down from the day.
2. Up By 6:15AM: For me, waking by 6:15 am every day means my day is not rushed. I can enjoy some quiet time with my wife and onboard some caffeine. It also helps with number three.
3. Write Every Day: I’ve learned that my writing is better (and easier) when I do a little every day. By letting stories marinate over several days (or weeks) I can reflect more on the message. Stories in progress tend to get richer and deeper with time.
4. Call One Friend: Happy people maintain deep, long-term friendships.I’ve written about the challenge of maintaining these friendships. Each day I select one of my closest friends to call. It’s a great way to stay in touch.
5. Find Mental Nutrition: Each day I try to read or listen to one thing that nourishes my mind and spirit.
6. Improve My Marriage: My wife would say this is my weak point.
7. Write a Handwritten Note: I keep stationery handy. A quick note of gratitude does wonders for the soul. I’ve written thank you notes to everyone from the lunch lady in my office—to the guy who gave me my first real job 25+ years ago.
8 Nix the News: The cable news networks intentionally try to upset you. That keeps you watching. So, stop watching the News or limit yourself to 15 minutes per day.
9. Read One Piece of Scripture: or inspirational text or your choice daily.
10. Exercise: According to Men’s Health magazine, exercising as you age cuts your risk of early death by 46%. That’s good enough for me.
Figuring out what you truly want out of life is important. Nobody can do it for you. It takes honest contemplation.
Once you have clarity on what you really want, you can create your own micro-goals.
Maybe you can become your own future hero…or a Minister of something.
Previously Published on tomgreene.com