Positive Powerful Goal Setting

“Sometimes we may ask God for success, and [God] gives us physical and mental stamina. We might plead for prosperity, and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace. [God] may bestow upon us conviction and confidence as we strive to achieve worthy goals.” ~ David A. Bednar

From Authentic Happiness To A Theory Of Well-Being

In 2002, Martin Seligman, the “father” of Positive Psychology, introduced the Authentic Happiness theory. The theory can be stated in this “happiness formula”: H = S + C + V where H is your level of Happiness, S is your happiness “Set point”, C represents the Circumstances of your life, and V stands for things under your Voluntary control. According to Seligman, we can influence as much as 40% of our happiness level through those things under our voluntary control. [Seligman; Authentic Happiness]

About 10 years later, in Flourish, Dr. Seligman explains how the theory of Authentic Happiness evolved into a deeper and wider Well-Being theory. Whereas the Authentic Happiness theory was concerned with happiness only, Well-Being theory is concerned with the broader concept of well-being.

Authentic Happiness was used to measure happiness (see the Happiness Formula). Well-being theory measures positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment.

The goal of Authentic Happiness is to increase life satisfaction. This is a difficult thing to measure because it is subjective and is greatly influenced by the mood you happen to be in. The goal of Well-being is to increase flourishing by increasing one or more of the 5 measures = positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment

Dr. Seligman uses the mnemonic PERMA for the five elements of Well-being. Each of the 5 elements contributes to well-being. Each is pursued for its own sake. And each element is defined and measured independently of the other elements. [Seligman; Flourish]

Goals And Well-Being

One way to increase happiness and well-being is to devote yourself to a goal. But what kind of goal?

The type of goals you pursue. even the way you word them, can either increase or decrease your happiness and well-being. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when you are considering your goals.

Choosing Happiness Goals

Choose intrinsic goals. Where does your motivation for working on your goal come from? Intrinsic goals are those that are personally rewarding to you. They bring fulfillment and meaning to your life. Extrinsic goals are chosen for you or chosen by you because someone else wants you to have the goal. Intrinsic goals are inherently satisfying and lead to a larger payoff in terms of happiness; extrinsic goals have been shown to be frequently accompanied by anxiety and interpersonal problems.

Choose authentic goals. These are the goals that you value and “own”, as opposed to goals that you set because of the expectations of others (parents, spouse, friends, society). Choose goals that fit your values and strengths.

Choose Approach goals – working toward a positive outcome – rather than avoidant goals – avoiding a negative outcome. Approach goals promote well-being; avoidant goals can detract from happiness. State your goals in terms of working toward a positive result, rather than in avoiding a negative outcome.

Choose harmonious goals. It may seem obvious, but it is important that your goals complement each other. “Grow my business” and “spend more time with my family” may put you into conflict. You may be able to change your method of pursuing each one, so that they are in harmony overall. Or, you may need to give up one or the other, or run the risk of losing both.

Choose activity goals. Seeking to improve your circumstances (bigger house, bigger car, bigger TV) has been shown to be a difficult route to improved happiness. It can be done, but circumstances are often difficult and expensive to change, and their ability to provide lasting happiness is small. On the other hand, activity goals allow you to meet new challenges, take advantage of new opportunities, and have a variety of experiences.

Better Car Or Better You?

Suppose your goal is to have a bigger, better car? It might sound something like this: “I drive a new S-450 Mercedes with a 3.0L V6 engine and 16-way heated leather seats.”

Or suppose your goal is to make more money? “I earn a salary of $100,000 per year.”

How do these stack up against the happiness goal criteria? Are they intrinsic or extrinsic? Most likely these are extrinsic goals. Are they authentic? Perhaps, but they can also be goals meant to impress others. Are they harmonious with your other goals? Are they activity goals? Definitely not.

If I were your coach, I’d recommend a different approach. How about setting a goal to become the kind of person that drives a nice car or commands a bigger salary? Instead of setting a goal to have more, set a goal to be more and to do more. Concentrate on being and doing and the having will follow.


Check out The Goal Achievement Excelerator at TheExceleratedLife.com. The Goal Achievement Excelerator provides a set of tools, based on research from Positive Psychology and other resources, to create your individualized goal achievement plans.

Guidelines For Healthy Goals

Here are guidelines for seeking healthy goals:

  • strive for enjoyable goals
  • develop both short- and long-term goals
  • seek out goals you value
  • change your goals if they are not working
  • focus on goals that increase happiness and well-being in terms of orientation, content, and motivation

Choosing your goals carefully boosts your happiness levels and brings fulfillment and gratification. And that is embracing the Excelerated Life!

Excelerated goal setting — planning and achieving BIG goals — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.


Seligman, Ph.D., Martin E. P. Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press, 2002

Seligman, Ph.D., Martin E. P. Flourish. New York: Free Press, 2011

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