Goal setting

Julys Happiness Club Adventures

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Happiness project - Setting goals

So this months topic for discussion was setting goals and how this can make you happy. I must admit, I was a little concerned that this topic would attract very few people to The Colchester Happiness Project. At first it doesn't seem the most exciting topic to give up your Sunday afternoon for. I imagined conversations such as "Do you fancy a Sunday roast and a lazy afternoon down the pub, honey?"

"Sounds amazing, but there's this group of people I've never met before meeting up to talk about the importance of goal setting, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather do with my precious free time!"

My concerns were exacerbated by the fact that the day before I had hosted my daughters 5th birthday party which was wonderful, but had left my house a muddle of balloons, streamers, the remnants of a piñata, silly string, pirate treasure and bunting. To top it off straw was trampled through the entire house (a consequence of borrowing straw bales from a farmer friend for the kids to play and picnic on).

Somehow I managed to sort the house out just in time for the arrival of the first happiness explorer (mainly by shoving things in cupboards and bolting them shut). my concerns were fast abated as before long ten people showed up and ,most importantly, had brought crisps, cakes and chocolates to share. It's incredible the amount of bonding and joy that is created through the sharing of naughty snacks.

Once we had all introduced ourselves I read aloud the article by Suzy Greaves of Psychologies Magazine which detailed the research around the impact of setting ourselves achievable goals and we discussed the questions posed.

What came out of the discussion was how difficult most of us women found it to stick to a goal we desperately want (for example, eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting on top of our paperwork etc). We examined the devil that is procrastination and how easy it is to find something, anything to do that avoids actually doing something that will help us on the path to our goal. Interestingly, most of the men in the group really struggled to relate to this. For them, they decided what they wanted, planned how they were going to get it, and took one step at a time until they achieved it.

Now this is clearly not a gold standard research project and, of course, more evidence would be needed, but I do feel that in this one discussion we have, after thousands of years of argument, debate and conjecture, proven once and for all that men and women's brains are wired differently.

Wild generalisations aside, this did open up the discussion further and allowed us to question and learn from each other about how to set manageable goals and remain focussed on them, taking small steps and rewarding ourselves for our progress.

Before we said goodbye, we all set ourselves a goal for the month ahead, and made ourselves accountable by writing it down and sharing it with the group. The goals ranged from building a website to completing a CV to maintaining a regular exercise programme.

After everyone had left, I decided to stop procrastinating and post a form I had been meaning to send off for a few months and wow, how good it felt! Let's see what a difference my goal of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week will make this month...(methinks I may have over promised)!!

Zoe Flint

Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Founder of the Colchester Happiness Project, ZoeFlint.com