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Set realistic goals now for happiness down the road.


Positive-thinking proponent Norman Vincent Peale is quoted as saying, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Sounds inspiring, but is it really? Setting goals can lead to greater well-being, but only if your goals are attainable, according to research. Researchers surveyed hundreds of adults of all age groups (19 to 92!) about how attainable they felt their life goals were, and then surveyed them again several years later. Those who felt their goals were reachable reported greater satisfaction and well-being. Interestingly, the importance of the goal was less relevant for future happiness than expected. This dovetails with other research linking agency—a feeling of control—to happiness. Assess your current goals (large or small) through the lens of attainability, and make adjustments if necessary. If your goal to “travel the world” isn’t panning out, could you plan for one trip a year? If devoting every Saturday to doing pottery isn’t realistic, maybe carving out two hours is. Maybe running a marathon in three months isn’t realistic, but a 5K is—or simply jogging or walking for a half-hour, five days a week. If you’re struggling to meditate for 15 minutes every morning, consider starting with 5 minutes. Be as specific as you can, and keep track of your progress. Rather than “shooting for the moon,” aim for what you think you can achieve.

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