From Goals to Gratitude: Finding Happiness Beyond Achievement

From Goals to Gratitude: Finding Happiness Beyond Achievement

In a world where "Problem no dey finish" – a common saying amongst Nigerians that highlights the never-ending nature of life's challenges – how do we, especially the youth, navigate our journey towards a purposeful and happy life? This question, stemming from our innate quest for happiness, deserves a thoughtful exploration.

Understanding Happiness Beyond Goals

For many of us, happiness is often linked to achieving specific goals. This phenomenon, known as 'Destination Addiction,' suggests we mistakenly believe happiness is reached upon fulfilling certain objectives. But, isn't this approach more like an ant tirelessly seeking sugar, never fully satisfied?

Reflect on this: You aim to graduate with the highest grade, and upon achieving it, the initial euphoria fades. The latest iPhone or the trendiest ride – once acquired, they become just another part of our daily lives, losing their allure over time. This cycle of setting and achieving goals, while initially satisfying, often leads to a fleeting sense of happiness.

All the above itself doesn’t justify the vanity of setting goals and achieving them. It is good to attend good schools, have good grades, get a good job and promotion, get to the peak of a career path, be rich, marry, have kids, etc. In this process, some people forget to live Life. They lose their life while still alive. The achievement becomes a liability and a source of high blood pressure for them. We have seen reported cases of professors, high-caliber career men and women, wealthy people suffering from depression, and some eventually committing suicide. Sad!

The Misguided Goals-First Mentality

James Clear, in his book "Atomic Habits," eloquently points out the flaw in a goals-first mentality:

The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: 'Once I reach my goal, then I will be happy.' This continual postponement of happiness to the next milestone not only diminishes our present joy but also traps us in a perpetual state of waiting.... Furthermore, goals create an 'either-or' conflict: either you achieve your goal and are successful, or you fail and you are a disappointment. You mentally box yourself into a narrow version of happiness. This is misguided

An illustrative example comes from a LinkedIn post by Chip Huyen, who recounts the emptiness felt even after achieving significant milestones like publishing a best-selling book and getting admitted to Stanford.

Below is an excerpt from a LinkedIn post by Chip Huyen

“Before publishing my first book, I thought that publishing a book would make me happy. On the day my book was published, it broke multiple records in my country, and I left my own party early to cry. I just felt empty. Now what? Before getting to Stanford, I thought that getting into Stanford would make me happy. That happiness lasted a week."

These experiences reinforce the idea that happiness, when tied exclusively to external achievements, is transient and elusive.

Redefining Happiness

The key to genuine happiness isn't in the relentless pursuit of goals or external validations. It lies in understanding that happiness is not a destination but a state of mind. It's about finding joy in the present, in the small yet significant moments of our daily lives.

Living for Today

In "Don't Be Sad," Dr. Aaidh Al-Qarni emphasizes the importance of living in the present and making the most out of every day. He advises us to engage in actions that uplift others and ourselves – visiting the sick, guiding the lost, and feeding the hungry.

As youths, it's crucial to realize that our happiness isn't solely dependent on the next big achievement. It's about nurturing our relationships, beliefs, and daily actions. It's in the service to others, the pursuit of knowledge, and the cultivation of a grateful heart.


Happiness is a journey, not just a series of goals. It's about embracing the ups and downs of life and finding joy in every step. As youths, I encourage us to focus on building a life that's rich in experiences, relationships, and moments of joy. Remember, today is all we have – live it fully and happily.

If you have read this far, I have a gift for you :1 book recommendation, Enjoy Your Life (This is one very good book I have read essential to living an enjoyable life as a Muslim), and 2 TedTalk videos: You Don't Find Happiness, You Create It | Katarina Blom and How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal.