For many people, January is the time of year to pursue new goals. As the years go on, this yearly goal-setting becomes routine.

Even though you have new goals you're passionate about pursuing each year, your faith in your ability to accomplish them or your awareness about why you're setting goals in the first place may diminish. For example, you might set yourself the goal of eating healthier each year, even though after the first year you didn't give much thought to what is driving you to pursue this goal and whether it's worth it for you.

This January, I encourage you to take a new approach to goal-setting. Before you jot down a list of New Year's resolutions, take some time to reflect on what goals are really worth pursuing based on how you want to see yourself and what will help you increase your happiness.

What goals make you feel enthusiastically engaged and present in your pursuit of them? What projects bring you deep happiness, contentment or even bliss?

The chart below illustrates different types of goals you may be pursuing that don't quite align with your true purpose. Ideally, you should strive to set goals that fit in the top-right corner: Transcendent Goals.

These are the goals to which you devote the highest quality of attention and that give you the most happiness. If the pursuit of your goals does not fall into this "Transcendent" category, you may have goals that are too challenging, not challenging enough, or mismatched with your purpose.

Mismatched Goals

In the bottom-left corner of the chart are the goals that are a poor match for both your talents and your interests. These are goals that are challenging for you to achieve — but not in a good way.

Rather than making you feel inspired and engaged, these goals require you to perform tasks you dread and which do not feel particularly rewarding. Often, the tasks required to achieve this goal will be things you have never done before and are not knowledgeable about.

If you've never accomplished a goal before, it makes sense to research what it would take to pursue that goal to see if you really have the "oomph" to go for it and if there is a payoff for you to do so.


In the chart, as in your life, these are secondary goals that are "all over the place" and distract you from achieving the goals that really matter. These are goals you may feel really excited about doing in theory, but when you sit down to do them, your enthusiasm quickly fades.

These could also be goals you feel pressured to accomplish, but which cause you a lot of frustration and discouragement because you don't currently have the skills and/or knowledge to achieve them.

For example, you may find yourself caught up in other people's "drama" and set goals that are more aligned with other people's interests than your own. You may also have the opposite problem: pursuing a goal that brings you happiness, but which is so familiar and easy for you that you no longer need to be fully engaged in its pursuit.

All of these types of goals need to be recognized for what they are: distractions from your pursuit of the transcendent goals that will bring you lasting fulfillment aligned with your purpose.

Station of Life Goals

In the middle of the chart are what we call "station of life" goals. These are the goals based on what you think you need to be doing based on "norms" for where you are in your life. As you transition from your 20s to your 30s, for example, you may feel the need to set goals for buying a home, getting married and starting a family.

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with these goals. Too often, though, the reason we set these goals is based more on what we think society expects of us than the kind of life we truly want to live.

Transcendent Goals

Rather than settling for "station of life" goals, push yourself to identify goals that align with how you want to see yourself and with your true purpose. These are goals that both align well with your interests and talents, and push you to expand your current abilities at times.

Some of the tasks required to accomplish this goal will be easy for you, while others will be challenging the key is to have a balance between these types of tasks. We like to call these HARD goals: High Altitude, Rewarding and Driven (as in, you'll feel intrinsically driven to achieve these goals).

They may or may not align with what others expect of you and it's just fine if they don’t. What matters is that these are goals that bring your existence into alignment with who you want to be and with your highest good.