One of the recommendations that keeps appearing in success, happiness, motivation... self-help liturature is to set goals. Well I have to say that after seven years of studying happiness I have come to the conclusion that goal setting is counter-productive to living a life with more happiness and joy. Does nature set goals? I make this point about nature because
In all the studies of happiness, the planet’s happiest people always turn out to be the people living in the way closest to that of wild ancestral humans - modern day hunter-gatherers, living contented lives on islands, fishing and lounging about. The most miserable people on Earth appear to be the Japanese, and it is surely no coincidence that their way of life is the furthest removed from nature.
I paradoxically took this quote from an essay called "Why we can't find lasting happiness", which you can read here. (And yes, even though it is a very interesting essay, I do disagree with its main claims :-)
But returning to why I am against goal-setting. In my opinion goal-setting leads to too much focus on the goals themselves, judging success based on whether the goal is attained or not, and missing other opportunities that arise -- but we don't see -- while we're pursuing the set goals. In short, goal-setting takes us away from "flowing along with the natural tides of life, actively adapting where necessary or creating where we want to...", which I find to be the best way to live (if we make the conscious decision to live a happier life with more joy...).
Instead of goals, I prefer having a "general direction" or "general directions" in life. For example, one of my general directions is to "inspire people in western civilization to do less and enjoy more", or, to borrow from Jon Kabat Zinn, "inspire people to actually be more like human 'beings', instead of human 'doings'". I will write more about this at some point in 2010...