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Written by Vera Lisa Barroso      Oct 1, 2016

Know how to get what you want.

A desire that is shared by the great majority of us, and that easily grabs people’s attention, is one of reaching our goals and achieving what we want to achieve, as we make our way through life.


To succeed in achieving these pre-defined goals, we need to consider the relationship between ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’, and the fact that being ‘concrete’ or ‘objective’ means having an advantage as far as reaching your goals is concerned. Anyway, now I will share with you the more-or-less universal ‘recipe’ for realising your dreams:


1)      think of a life goal you want to achieve

2)      write this objective on a piece of paper

3)      think – is reaching this objective dependent upon other conditions?

4)      if it is, write around it all the conditions that are necessary for achieving this goal; if not, that’s lucky – you will have an easier job in completing your central objective

5)      analyse your own role in achieving this goal: from 0-100% how much of realising this aim is dependent upon what you do?

6)      what internal and external resources do you need to use to reach your goal?

7)      write down what it’s necessary to do, step-by-step, to achieve what you want

8)      promise yourself that you will believe in yourself and your potential

9)      go out and do it… don’t be scared!


Step-by-step guides like this one are good for mental organisation, and they often help us with the practical achievement of our personal goals. However, not all of us are able to neatly fit in with these stages, or we have life goals that are very much about the here and now, meaning that the realisation of our objectives is more-or-less obstructed by our subjectivity.To quote António Gedeão, ‘life is controlled by dreams’. Thinking about this, some questions occur to me: is it our dreams that tell us our true goals in life? Is it impossible to transform our most fantastical, chimera dreams into tangible life objectives? What stops us from achieving these goals and making our dreams come true?


Many of us have the dream of being happy. But what do we actually need to do to achieve this very human, and very beautiful desire? Happiness can easily become something of a ‘nothing-word’, passed around from person to person, written down all over the place, but very rarely actually seen. What is it that distances out realities from this beautiful and great vision? Maybe this is due to the subjectivity with which we address the goal of happiness. Being happy is not some amazing thing that will happen to us at the end of our lives, if all along life’s journey we are constantly doing things that don’t make us happy. Being happy is not a utopia invented and perpetuated by artists, hedonists, madmen or daydreamers. Being happy is something that is so different for each and every one of us that there can’t exist a single route down the path to happiness (this is where the subjectivity comes in), however, there do exist the same ingredients for all of us, and here is where we can be more objective.


If ‘be happy’ was written, as a goal, in the middle of a piece of paper, how many extra necessary conditions would be written around it (conditions to achieve the objective)? Five, ten, twenty, thirty, hundreds? It all depends upon the complexity of the particular aim, and the subjectivity with which we approach it. Let’s imagine that we’re less complicated than we really are. In the middle of the piece of paper we’re going to write our aim: ‘be happy’! On this sheet of paper, the difference is that all the extra necessary conditions we’re going to write are things that will make us happy today; in other words, we’re going to forget about anything that will only happen tomorrow, in a week’s time, a month from now, or as far away as next year perhaps… and tomorrow we can make another sheet, based around the same objective, and we’d have less to write on it (because we are already happier). This being the case, then, what is it that makes us happy today? Breathing? Watching the sunrise? Listening to something on the radio that makes us smile? The smell of a nice shower gel? Delicious food? Going for a stroll? A workout at the gym? These are only a few of many examples. The idea is to focus ourselves on that which makes us happy today, and not to focus on the things we lack – in this way we centre our energies, we don’t lose heart searching in these ‘empty holes’, and we don’t spend all our time feeling sorry for ourselves.

By doing this task regularly, you will realise that there are many things that make you happy each and every day, and, by the same token, there are lots of things that very rarely enter the ‘things that make me happy’ list, and, actually, a fair few that are added almost immediately to the opposing list! Try, now, to take what’s on the ‘things that don’t make me happy’ list, and transform it into an objective for change (for example, making more time to take care of yourself). Evaluate the situation, the internal and or external resources needed, what steps are necessary… By doing all this we can make a promise to ourselves, to forge a new path and fix any problems. We will independently start to achieve our objectives from the word go (remember that, if we are hoping to realise a goal in a month’s time, this main objective will be written on the 31st piece of paper, and until this point we must acknowledge that we can only do what is possible in the here-and-now, taking each day as it comes in order to reach the goal in the long run), finding within ourselves, the potential to relieve constraints, utilise resources, take the necessary steps,.. we are already on the path towards achieving our central goal. All along this path of self-motivation and mobilisation, you’ll notice how your ‘things that make me happy’ list is growing, and your ‘things that don’t make me happy’ list is diminishing, because, as you subject yourself to new experiences, your nervous system changes at both a structural and functional level.


What is it that prevents us from achieving our life goals? This question constantly confronts us as we seek to realise these goals, and reassess the way we interpret reality. If you have your own ‘far too idyllic’ personal goals neatly arranged in a little mental box, ordered and stashed away, after having consigned yourself to the impossibility of achieving them, write them down on a sheet of paper instead! Do something every day that will help you on your path to reaching them, like in the example of ‘be happy’. If you have individual objectives that you feel incapable of accomplishing, due to innumerable failed past attempts, I suggest you attentively address the basis of this previous difficulty. What caused the failure? External factors? Was it caused by other people? In reality, no one ever asks us to give up on our hopes and dreams, it is always us that resign ourselves to this sad possibility. Demotivation? Low self-esteem? Insecurity? Fear? Embarrassment? If you’ve found your answer already, you’ve also found something that you need to work on within yourself before you will succeed in reaching your goals. If you haven’t found your answer yet, I challenge you to look again… Write your objective on the middle of a piece of paper and draw arrows coming from it, each with a daily contribution you could make written above it, a daily contribution that will help you make your dream come true.


To get to the first storey of any building, you’ve got to go up some stairs. And to go up those stairs, you’ve got to take it a step at a time… Do the same to reach your goal!


Author: Vera Lisa Barroso – Clinical Psychologist at the Oficina de Psicologia


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