Redefining Our Ultimate Goals

by Stephen Mills on August 4, 2009


If you ask most people what they are ultimately after they would probably say things like happiness, making a difference, leaving something that outlasts them, etc.  If you ask people what concrete things they want to gain, they may say things like wealth, a home on a beautiful beach, a luxury sedan, etc.  Most of us think that we will be happy when we achieve something particular.  If only I could have…. I’ll be happy when I get my dream home, riches so I can travel and do what I want, and so on.

I want to drive an expensive luxury sedan.  If I work a lot harder so I can have one, will I enjoy it when I get it?  If I’m stressed out, overworked, tired, and unhealthy, am I suddenly going to be calm, energetic, and healthy when I get my car?  Not likely.  I will be stressed, overworked, tired, and unhealthy while driving my expensive sedan in the snarled and chaotic traffic.

I want a big house on a beautiful beach with a lot of glass looking over the ocean.  If I kill myself making money so I can afford it, am I suddenly going to have lasting happiness and peace when I get it?  What is going to change?  If I don’t know how to be happy now how will I know how to be happy then?

I can imagine myself 32 years down the road.  I am 80 years old in my beautiful house on the beach, with my expensive luxury sedan in the garage, and money and time to travel the world.  The only problem is that I’m sitting in my expensive house in my lift chair, breathing from oxygen tanks, and too stupid to know what’s up.  I’m not healthy enough to travel.  My chance of living the way I wanted to live is gone.  My great-grandchildren are playing on the beach and I don’t even know it.

If I want happiness and serenity, I can have that now.  When I’m 80 years old, I want to be able to move like a 50 year-old and have a good 20 or 30 years left.  I want to be able to play with my great-grandchildren on the beach.

If I want long-lasting happiness and well-being, great health, long-life, freedom from obligations and commitments, time to read and write, etc., why do I not just skip the stuff and go for all that now?

I made the decision within the last year to stop working so much and pay attention to my health.  I’m eating well and I’ve started exercising.  I’m calming down and not stressing so much over things that don’t matter.  But I still have these goals or dreams to be able to get all the stuff.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I really may not want all that stuff.  That getting all of  it is going to prevent me from having what I really want.  That when I get it all, I won’t be satisfied anyway.  I’d rather have books than a house on the beach.  I’d rather have time than a luxury car.  I’d rather have my health than money to travel the world.

So I’ve reoriented my goals towards the most important things first.  Things like personal freedom, time, well-being, peace, happiness, relationships, etc.  If the rest of it (the stuff) is available as a bonus then great.  However, I’m no longer sure the view is worth the climb for that stuff.  I recommend you consider the same issues for yourself.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


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{ 2 trackbacks }

A Values-Based Approach to Goals — The Rat Race Trap
December 2, 2009 at 6:03 am
A Values-Based Approach to Goals « A Richer Life – Steve’s Blog
November 29, 2010 at 4:41 pm

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Bud Hennekes August 4, 2009 at 11:26 pm

True happiness comes from being fully present in the now. That is the secret to happiness.. anything else is simply a different version of the same story. Simplicity breads contentment.

Right now, at this very moment, you have all you need to be happy. This current moment is perfect. As soon as you fall into the habit of thinking “if only” you should immediately distrust your way of thinking.. No one thing can bring you happiness. As the old saying goes “Those who are happy are the ones too busy to look for it. ”

Stephen.. I am grateful that you were able to stray from the rat race and indeed begin truly living your life. While what you did took courage and sacrifice in the end it will be worth your time. It’s wonderful to see you taking responsibility for your health and life, because when you do magical things begin to happen.

Remember… Happiness is free. Your thoughts and backbone behind them create your reality.
.-= Bud Hennekes´s last blog ..The Power of Intentions =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 8:34 am

@Bud, I’m really into the being present attitude. It’s done more for me than any other single thing. I love this: “Remember… Happiness is free.” I’m tweeting it.


NomadicNeil August 5, 2009 at 2:29 am

I think it’s been pretty well established that people find it difficult to predict how they will feel at some future stage when certain conditions have been met.

Also the law of dimishing returns applies in that after a certain amount of money / wealth / income has been achieved further increases provide less and less additional happiness.

Read the book Affluenza by Oliver James for an introduction to research done on this.


Valerie M August 5, 2009 at 9:06 am

Good point about the law of diminishing returns. Unfortunately it’s so difficult to tell what that number is on an individual basis. Once someone gets accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it’s hard to cut back. That lifestyle becomes the baseline and the baseline continues to increase. At least as long as people continue to link stuff with happiness.
.-= Valerie M´s last blog ..No, your friends won’t be better if you feed them manure. =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 8:38 am

@NomadicNeil. Thanks for commenting and I like your “diminishing returns” point. Thanks for the book tip. I’ve got it marked now.


Daphne @ Joyful Days August 5, 2009 at 4:38 am


In this post, I think, is the secret to getting out of the ‘rat race trap’. I wanted all those things too – a house on the beach, sports car… then I realised that what I really wanted was time control – to choose how I spend my days, whether reading or with my family. This guided my choices for about 5 years until today I have the lifestyle I wanted – and a little too much time, actually, so maybe I overdid it!

You know what’s interesting? That with a little planning – you can still have those bonuses. When you’re feeling happy, you’re in a good place to plan your finances sensibly to still have the luxuries in life like a dream house, vacations etc.
.-= Daphne @ Joyful Days´s last blog ..How to Give SMART Encouragement =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 8:39 am

@Daphne, I need your problem – too much time! You are probably right about the bonuses, they just aren’t a priority.


Amber November 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I told my gadnrmother how you helped. She said, “bake them a cake!”


Positively Present August 5, 2009 at 6:13 am

If you couldn’t tell by my recent posts, I SO needed this one today. Did you write this for me, Stephen? Haha. This is a great post filled with so many great points. Thanks for writing about it. Just posted a Tweet about it. 🙂
.-= Positively Present´s last blog to start right where you are =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 8:40 am

Dani, Of course I wrote it just for you! 🙂 Thanks for stopping in to comment and for all your support.


James NomadRip August 5, 2009 at 6:29 am

I chased all that shiny stuff for years. Once I got it, I realized the ads never told you how much work was involved in keeping and maintaining it. To me, it wasn’t worth the effort. It was fun, but it wasn’t happiness by any stretch.
.-= James NomadRip´s last blog ..NomadRip: @jdbentley Yeah that part of the plan didn’t work out that way @leawoodward =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 9:37 am

@James, thanks for your comments. I think a lot of people in the end decide it wasn’t worth it or having achieved it just want more.


James NomadRip August 7, 2009 at 4:02 pm

See it all the time. If the shiny stuff is what someone thinks will make them happy, then they are usually looking in the wrong direction. “Happiness comes from within” is a saying for a reason 😉


Diggy - August 5, 2009 at 7:11 am

Heya Stephen!
Really like the picture you used, makes me want to go on holidays!

I think this is a problem that many of us have, believing that happiness and fullfillment comes sometime in the future, while we can have it right now.

Although it has to be a balance, because you can’t go and spend all your money today and really living as if it were your last day, because you never know and might live to be 100 years old.

I’d say the ideal situation is to enjoy every day, work hard and smart to build on your future, but don’t put off things you really want to do just because “they will come in the future”

I’ve had a few near death experiences already, well, situations where I could have possibly died in,hijacked,car stalling on highway intersection and a few others, and the truth is, it happens so quick and unexpectedly that you can’t even think about what is happening.

Thanks for another great post!
.-= Diggy –´s last blog ..Get Rich – How anyone can do it, but not everyone will =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

@Diggy, glad you liked it. It makes me want to go on vacation too.


Diggy - August 5, 2009 at 7:14 am

Oh, I’d like to add, what I think really matters is health,freedom, friends and family, a dry warm place to sleep and food to eat 🙂 Money is useful in allowing you to reach your goals, but should not be the end goal.

.-= Diggy –´s last blog ..Get Rich – How anyone can do it, but not everyone will =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

@Diggy, agree totally.


Vin - NaturalBias August 5, 2009 at 7:59 am

I couldn’t have said it any better. You clearly explained why good health and wellbeing should be top priorities for everyone. Without them, any other priority will suffer.

Once you experience and understand the difference between the drain of chasing the typical American dream and the joy of vibrant health and freedom, materialistic dreams practically vanish.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..How Reading Can Change Your Life =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 10:04 am

@Vin, exactly! Thanks.


Melissa Wood, ND August 5, 2009 at 8:28 am

Great post, Stephen! As a natural health practitioner, I’m constantly trying to remind my patients that true wealth and happiness will come from taking care of their health. It can be extremely frustrating when someone comes in that has obvious health problems, but they don’t want to invest in their health with a $30.00 bottle of herbs, but yet are at a job they hate because they’re driving the latest version of Mercedes (or whatever luxury car you want to insert here) and paying for a house they never get to be in! You’re absolutely right when you talk about living in the great house and having the great car, but being wheelchair bound or having some illness or ailment that prevents you from enjoying it! Being healthy and taking care of yourself NOW, being present and focused NOW is truly the way to health and happiness.
Melissa Wood, ND


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 10:05 am

@Melissa, thank you so much. Your summarized it beautifully 🙂


alex - unleash reality August 5, 2009 at 11:07 am

you can’t turn personal freedom into a goal. it’s binary. it’s a right now or not thing.

all those things actually.

would you rather want them or have them?

if you want a goal – time and a chance to complete it and save the day – then you’ll get more time. and more suffering. and yuckness.

keep well man. it’ll sort itself out.
god – whatever god is – doesn’t need your help 🙂
.-= alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..One Breath at a Time is Acceptable =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

@alex, on this I disagree with you. Personal freedom is not binary. It is a matter of degree. You can have more or less than someone else and you can take actions that increase or decrease your own level of personal freedom. Thank you for stopping in to discuss!


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills August 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Your personal growth is becoming obvious Stephen. As we experience personal development, it is essential that we reevaluate our goals. Self-assessment is the key to continued progress. The more aware we become of our true nature, the more our values and priorities shift. This shifting is a form of alignment. Recognizing the need to make adjustments is a prerequisite to continued progress.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..What Does Midlife Mean to You? =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm

@Jonathan, thanks a lot for your wise words!


Gnomaedh August 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more… but I’m still in the process of dumping unnecessary debt and watching all of my high-end stuff self-destruct faster that the payments are progressing! What a rat-trap is right!

Ever notice that the more income you make, the longer the rope you’re given to hang yourself with? Bigger and better lines of credit, but it’s all bullshit! Yup Yup Yuppers!

Learn to live life simply and things begin to realign themselves quite well.

UBUNTU! My friends!
.-= Gnomaedh´s last blog ..Electric Aircraft =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:32 pm

@Gnomaedh, thanks for stopping by. Love the way you put that!


Zeenat-Positive Provocations August 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Very good point of view. I have always believed that happiness and contentment cant be related to material things like cars and houses etc…Its the feeling inside that fills us with calm…and that calm comes only when the most important things as you said personal freedom, time, well-being, peace, happiness, relationships, etc are attained. Its a process and the realization that we are in the process of self refinement …that makes the decision of giving up or not attaining material things stronger. Thanks for the reminder Stephen. We all need a nudge and this article is my perfect nudge…
.-= Zeenat-Positive Provocations´s last blog ..Expectations or Contentment??? =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:33 pm

@Zeenat, thanks and your welcome for the nudge 🙂


Duff August 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Good! Way to wake up to what’s really important.

Here’s a valuable question to ask: “What do I want, through having this goal [e.g. a luxury car] that’s even more important?”

Keep asking this question until you get to a state of being that you want for it’s own sake, like Peace.

Read Core Transformation for more:



Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm

@Duff, thanks! Great advice. That site you linked looks interesting.


Karl Staib - Work Happy Now August 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Our lives become more abundant when we stop striving and start enjoying what we have. I just had my first child. I feel the pressure to make more money. I realize that I’m the one creating the pressure. The more aware I am of this the easier it is to balance my stress.

Instead of going home tonight and feeling the pressure of working on my blog, I’m just going to hang out with my wife, her parents, and my baby boy and that’s it.
.-= Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s last blog ..25 Weird Breaks for Stress Relief =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:36 pm

@Karl, thanks fantastic! Enjoy 🙂


Mike King August 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Very cool to write about this realization Stephen and it shows how even with so much personal development to share, there are always self-analysis going on as well to change ourselves. A great reminder and a great message here, I could agree more about the shift you are realizing. Go for it, it will be yours.
.-= Mike King´s last blog ..Resources July 2009 =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:37 pm

@Mike, thanks. It does help to follow one’s own advice. Thanks for the support.

Reply August 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Hey Stephen,

Great article. I’m glad that you’ve devoted more time to exercising and living healthier. If I remember correctly you had some serious health problems so I’m hoping that these are gone if not disappearing.

If you need any juice recipes let me know!

Seriously though, I think that you’re very right. Maybe we won’t actually enjoy what we think we will, long enough to generate the kind of fulfillment that is present right here, right NOW.

I think it pays to remember that material phenomenon cannot give us anything that we don’t already possess.
.-=´s last blog ..5 Ways to Generate More Leads with Twitter =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:39 pm

@Clément, thanks a lot for the offer.

“I think it pays to remember that material phenomenon cannot give us anything that we don’t already possess.”

I totally agree!


BunnygotBlog August 5, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Great article Stephen.
Very good point of view.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:40 pm

@Bunny, thanks so much!


Karlil @ PDPro August 5, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I believe true happiness comes from being content. And content comes from caring other beings.
.-= Karlil @ PDPro´s last blog ..How to improve your sense of humor with 5 easy steps =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:41 pm

@Karlil, thanks for joining the discussion and I think you have something there when you talk about caring for others 🙂


Juancav August 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm

The life of a labourer that is content with what he has, shall be sweet, and in it you´ll find find a treasure.This quote of course is not mine,but I make mine.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:41 pm

@Juancav, thanks and that is a great quote.


George Serradinho August 6, 2009 at 12:37 am

People want material things nows and fight and work themselves to death and later on in life, they are not happy. I have also calmed down on what I need and want. I list them down and try to see what is long lasting and then see if I can attain them.

There are things I would love to have, but don’t really need. We need to see ourselves in 10-20 years time and see if we would like ourselves the way we are going now. One of my long term goals is to get my son through school, give him the best education and see him clime the business ladder. If they is achieved then I will be 40% happy with myself.
.-= George Serradinho´s last blog ..Review of AdRotate WordPress Plugin =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:43 pm

@George, great and then what does it take to make you 100% happy with yourself? 🙂 Thanks for joining in the discussion!


Arswino @ Inspirational Quotes August 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Stephen, this is a wise article. As Bud said, true happiness comes from being fully present in the now.
Right now, I have been practicing a life balance. I think goals must include all aspects in life, not just material aspect.
Thanks for sharing, Stephen.
.-= Arswino @ Inspirational Quotes´s last blog ..Are You Blessed? =-.


Stephen Mills August 7, 2009 at 12:44 pm

@Arswino, thank you so much for the support. Balance is a hard thing to find and I didn’t have it for most of my life, but I’m changing that now.


Dragos Roua August 9, 2009 at 10:01 am

I’m totally in with you on this one, Stephen. Redefining our ultimate goals is equal to redefining our life expectancies. Literally 🙂
.-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..Finding Reasons To Agree =-.


timethief August 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I’m truly enjoying your articles and benefiting from reading where your head is at. As a person who faces health challenges every day I found your article to be insightful. When we are self-honest and closely examination of what truly matters, the focus we can put on those things like recognition for our work, status, money and what it can buy the chaff blows away in the wind. I celebrate every small success and I forgive my every failure. I choose not to look as stumbling blocks but as stepping stones, for each one contains all I need to know to re-examine my goals and achieve success in the future. In short I believe that I’m a “success” when I’m setting realistic goals and achieving them. My definition success includes achieving goals in the workplace, however, I believe “success” is applicable to finishing whatever I planned to do in any and every aspect of my life. I will not feel that I have lived a “successful life,” if the amount of time and attention I invest on a single aspect of my life exceeds the investment I make into the other aspects.
.-= timethief´s last blog ..Earthlings seek loving compatible partners =-.


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