Emotional Goals: Insights and Real-Life Examples7 min read

Emotional goals are any goals related to our emotions and emotional wellness. It could be the goal of experiencing more of a positive emotional state, greater emotional stability, or overcoming difficult emotional states.

Whether we are trying to increase something we want—such as feeling inner peace, contentment, and confidence—or decreasing something we don’t want—such as anxiety, impulsivity, and anger, emotional goals are an integral part of personal development.

Though these type of goals have been important for millennia, attention to them grew gradually with the development of the concept of emotional intelligence, important for everyone, personally and professionally. Then, with the COVID-19 pandemic, emotional wellness became a hugely important topic worldwide.

The Role of Emotional Goals in Personal and Professional Development

Personal growth is the ultimate purpose of pursuing any goal, and it’s especially true of emotional goals. In order for us to grow into our best selves in the different contexts of our life—social, educational, professional, spiritual—we need to learn how to become aware of our emotions, and how to master our emotions. This is where pursuing emotions goals comes in.

Here are examples of emotional goals that enrich our lives.

Specific emotional states:

  • Staying confident and centered, even in the face of criticism and mistreatment
  • Cultivating personal qualities (such as patience, perseverance, and kindness)
  • Experience positive states more often and more deeply
  • Feeling more joy and contentment
  • Connecting more deeply in personal relationships

Emotional stability:

  • Learning how to manage stress, which allow us to return to calmness after being triggered, so we can respond consciously rather than reacting impulsively, in a way we might later regret
  • Staying true to our values in the face of temptations
  • Learning to tolerate discomfort and build resilience, including learning to fail gracefully

Overcoming difficult emotional states:

  • Knowing how to process states of heightened negative emotions, such as anger, shame, anxiety, regret, guilt, and fear.
  • Create a sense of inner safety and confidence that allows us to let go of our emotional defenses and experience life more fully.

If you’re stalled out in accomplishing something you say you want to do, you may be experiencing an emotional block, and setting an emotional goal could help you break through to success.

Setting and Achieving Emotional Goals: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here are the basics of setting and achieving goals, also applicable to emotional goals.

  1. Find your big why (Aspiration)
  2. Set SMART goals
  3. Establish habits to support your goals.
  4. Make use of self-reflection to learn and improve.
  5. Achieve your goal!
Step 1. Find your big why (Aspiration)

Through meditation and self-reflection, take time to go deep inside yourself and figure out what you care about the most. Discover your core values and aspirations in life. You can use this guide as a starting point:  Essential Steps for Self-Transformation.

Step 2. Set SMART goals

SMART Goals is a well-known framework for helping us create effective goals. An effective goal is a goal that is set up in a way that makes it easier for us to take action. SMART goals are:

  • Specific: You know when you’ve accomplished the goal. Example: Sleep seven to eight hours each night.
  • Measurable: You can track your progress. Example: Do 30 things that scare me.
  • Achievable: The goal is realistic for you. Example: Write 200 words daily.
  • Relevant: The goal aligns with your core values and aspirations. Example: Record an album of original songs and make it available online.
  • Time-Bound: The goal has a realistic deadline.

For example, the goal “Feel better under my skin” is not very effective, because it doesn’t tell you what to do next. It’s hard to take action on a goal like this, or make any progress.

To make that goal SMART, you could re-frame it as “Take my psychological wellbeing from a 3/10 to a 6/10 in the next three months” or “Experience three moments of joy and contentment every day.”

Types of Goals: Short-Term vs. Long-Term, SMART vs. MAD

Your emotional goals could be short-term or long-term.

Short-term emotional goals focus more on immediate results; they are typically less ambitious, but more achievable. On the other hand, long-term emotional goals represent a bigger transformation, but they will take more time and effort. Both these types of goals are useful and important.

For example, if your long-term emotional goal is to “Experience the state of inner peace every day, during at least 70% of my waking hours”, a short-term goal related to that could be “Practice staying in a state of calm and equanimity every time I am driving, for the next three month, until it becomes second nature”.

It is worth noting that there is also a system of goal-setting called MAD, which is an acronym for measurable, achievable, and deadline driven. As you can see, it contains three of the five elements of SMART, and doesn’t really add anything new to the way we think about goals. So I always use the SMART framework instead.

Step 3. Establish habits to support your goals.

Once you have decided on your goals, figure out what are the key habits you need to put in place to support those goals.

In any case, I strongly recommend that you include a meditation practice in your daily habits. Why?

  • Meditation is the single most powerful tool to address many emotional goals. It’s for everyone—students, professionals, and anyone interested in personal growth.
  • It improves our moods, decreases stress, and increases our baseline happiness.
  • It improves motivation and focus.
  • It makes us more resilient, capable of going through life’s difficulties—without procrastinating, giving in to impulses, or needing to distract ourselves.
  • It lets us “zoom out” to get clarity, perspective, and stillness, creating more mental and emotional space inside us for our goals and aspirations, enhancing our willpower to work toward them.
  • It helps us change our stories about ourselves, allowing us to grow beyond our perceived limitations.

For more general information about meditation and mindfulness, see my book Practical Meditation. If you’re interested in specific guided meditations to support emotional goals, try the Higher Mind app.

Step 4. Make use of self-reflection to learn and improve

Another essential habit, in the Higher Mind System, is that of reflection.

Reflection can be practiced in different ways. The minimum practice is doing the GAIA journal at the end of the day, which only takes a couple of minutes. You ask yourself these four questions:

  • Gratitude — How did I take a step toward my aspirations today?
  • Awareness — How did I take a step away from my aspirations today?
  • Intention — How will I do better tomorrow?
  • Alignment — Were my actions aligned with the person I want to be today? Rate yourself from 1 to 10.

Or you can take this practice to the next level by creating time in your life for deeper reflection. To learn more about that, check out my guide on weekly reviews.

Step 5. Achieve your goal

Day by day, build momentum and make progress, until your goals have come to fruition. Accept, in advance, that the path will be difficult, and that some days will be harder than others, and plan for the challenges. Know how you will get back on track, without shaming yourself for imperfection.

Other techniques to support your emotional goals include transition rituals and making changes to your environment. Ideally, surround yourself with people and environments that affirm your goal.

Once you have achieved one of your SMART goals, congratulations! You’ve graduated to a new level of being. Dwell in this new space for some time, feeling grateful for all the effort and patience you put it.

Then consider: What new goals will take you forward toward your aspirations?

Real-Life Successes: Emotional Goals in Action

In the spirit of motivating you to take positive action toward your emotional goals, let me share some success stories from my readers and clients.

“My self-confidence now is unshakable. It is no longer a roller-coaster that depends on how I performed at this task on this date or what this person thinks of me.”

 With some tools, “[w]e can change the way that we feel, instantly, and it’s free. We don’t need anyone else to co-regulate us.”

“I [faced challenges] to believe that who I am is really who am and not what people are making me to be.” Now I have “contentment in my life, all-round, and I’m coping well with it. Before, my anxiety used to take over, and I used to feel sick and really tired.”

“Mindful Self-Discipline, the book and the approach, are so rich in information and practical tools, and these tools are literally changing my life. Now I feel more order, a sense of more control. I feel more satisfied.”

“My old identity, based on accomplishments—or lack thereof!—is slipping away, and my true identity, based on love and service to others, is now blooming. This transformation was painfully dormant until I used the tools of daily meditations and pausing for affirmations several times each day.”

Conclusion

Emotional goals are key parts of personal and professional growth. They help us to cultivate a specific emotional state, emotional stability, and/or overcome negative emotions. Step by step, we can implement them wisely so they can enrich our lives and evolve into who we want to be.

Whoever you are, whatever you want out of life, there are very likely some opportunities for you to grow emotionally, so you can grow in the fullness of your life. What is the most important emotional goal you need to focus on right now in your life?

Try the tools I’ve described, and see where your aspirations take you!

For a deeper dive into these concepts, see my books, here.

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