I’m pro long term goal.  I don’t have a problem with a dream that’s going to take elbow grease and time and navigation.  I like big dreams and I will not lie….ahem.  Never mind.  However, life isn’t a long term goal.  One of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail is that we’re setting long term goals and expecting them to be fulfilling and to make us not only believers but enjoyers of something we have never believed in or enjoyed in all our life.  We somehow conveniently ignore the fact that most long term goals are miserable in the day-to-day.  The progress may not be incremental, if so it’s so incremental that we can’t see it, and there is a ton of really difficult, boring, frustrating work that’s involved in achieving them.  Ever listened to someone who has achieved their long term dreams?  Ever heard them talk about how easy it was?  Nope, they are going to talk about pain and perseverance and sacrifice and self-reliance and adversity and “against the odds”…gawd we love those stories.  We eat them up. Oh, wait…weren’t we on a diet?  *sigh*

So here’s the deal.  Life is about living. That’s a daily thing, moment to moment.  It’s comprised in part of long, medium, and short term goals.  Each day, each moment, is a balance of all of these.  Happiness isn’t a reward for achieving a long term goal.  Happiness isn’t a reward at all.  It’s a requirement of life.  If you aren’t happy at least one small moment in each day then the balance is off.  So many people think that they need to sacrifice all of the days between now and when that long term goal is achieved because happiness is a reward.  In so doing they make themselves unhappy and even unhealthy, they set bad habits, are abusive to themselves, and in they end, if they ever reach their goal they are unable to enjoy it because they’ve wrecked themselves.  Again, I’m not anti-long term goal, but I am pro living.  That means recognizing that we shouldn’t be sacrificing ourselves for the goal, the goal is something we want to include in our life.

There should be short term goals that make us happy and feel good about ourselves.  There should be rewards when these goals are achieved.  If you start telling yourself that the accomplishment is the reward slap your own hand.  A bit harder please.  The sting should last a little bit because if you’re going to be abusive it should show and be recognizable.  And that’s what you’re doing, abusing yourself.  You would never tell a two year old that the achievement is the goal, you give them a gold star or a cookie or a hug. Your smile and approval is the reward which makes the activity meaningful and binds it into the fabric of life.  You wouldn’t ask a 5 year old to do something without needing to explain the payoff.  They are savvy enough to not sell themselves for nothing.  We jokingly call them mercenary, but really they have healthy boundaries that haven’t been damaged by low self-esteem and “work ethic” issues.  So don’t treat yourself worse than you would treat a child of 2 or 5 or 10.  There should be a reward for hard work, not later, not a payday, not at the end of the year, not tomorrow, now.  It can be small, it can be simple.  Happiness doesn’t require much most of the time.  But it does require timeliness.  If you think it doesn’t then you don’t mind getting your anniversary present 6 months late, a Christmas present in January, or celebrating Valentines day in April, right?

Goals provide us returns that are equal to the effort and time we put into them (for the most part.)  But life is lived in the minutes between the goals.  Celebrate the moments as well as the mile markers in life.  Don’t wait to be awarded happiness because it’s not a prize for good behavior.  It’s your right because you exist.  Start allowing it in your life every day and by the time you achieve your long term goal you’ll be well able to rejoice in it.