Goals that Boost Well-being and Productivity

Toxic – ˈtäksik
Poisonous. Relating to or caused by poison. Very bad, unpleasant, or harmful. In finance, denoting debt that has a high risk of default

ORIGIN: Greek: toxikon (poison for arrows) from toxon (bow)

Are your 2016 goals toxic?

Of all places, it was a yoga workshop. Maybe the scene shouldn’t surprise me. Many Yogis use their strong, flexible bodies to attain pure minds. When I heard my teacher warn against Toxic goals, I wrote down her advice. And then dove into the scientific literature.

Fame, Wealth and Beauty. These are the toxic three. This insight resonated deeply – I think – because of my personal commitment to family and fatherhood. Hear me out. Fame: I’ve translated my 15 minutes of Olympic fame and adventure into a career that teaches and trains. Fame has never been a desire of mine. I have a tendency towards introverson, and enjoy time alone. Rather, I’ve viewed fame as a tool akin to reputation or brand. Fame makes me a more effective teacher of success principles. Beauty: I like being fit, and feeling fit, but other than the occasional bout with acne, I’ve never been obsessed with my appearance.

But it was the wealth bit that got me.

I’m a father and a husband. I want to provide the best for my family. Healthy food, healthy home, quality education. For me, this drive can morph into a fixation with money.  Money is a great score-card, yes. It’s a great feedback mechanism that can show you that you are on a good path. But when it becomes THE path? The energy evaporates. At times, I’ve forgotten why I chose my career in the first place: service, teaching, self-growth, and building a team of people with whom I love to work. Forgetting your purpose spawns emotional tragedy.

Does this depressive funk sound familiar? You think; “Am I really on the right path?  Am I doing the right thing?”  Your doubt morphs into despair. “Do I have to put up with the bullshit of my job, or should I get another one?” Or doubt morphs into renunciation. “Maybe I should avow all material goods, simplify and focus on living.”  Reality and responsibility then slap your face. “Wait! my kids and family… My current job still pays the bills. Sigh.”

I found the scientific flip side to toxic goals. And this is my cure. Maybe it will work for you, too? Let’s call them the fantastic four: Community, Health, Relationships and Self- awareness.  These four, along with the toxic three, were uncovered in a landmark paper by Kasser and Ryan.

Kasser has since based his academic career studying the link between materialism and well being. “We’re interested in how much a person cares about money relative to other things,” he said. “Research has shown in literally dozens of studies that the more people prioritize materialistic values, the less happy they are.”

Kasser’s three most toxic goals? Money, status and physical beauty. The pursuit of these goals lowers satisfaction, removes energy, reduces pleasant emotions like happiness, contentment and joy, increases negative emotions like depression, anxiety, fear, anger and sadness, and increases the abuse of substances like cigarettes and alcohol.

To further the case against materialistic goals, researchers have linked toxic goals to behaviours that destroy the environment, increase racial and ethnic prejudice, and build relationships that are short-lived and filled with conflict. Kasser explains: “I always note that materialistic values are not only bad for people’s own well-being, but they lead people to behave in ways, which are bad for other people’s well-being.”

Today I agree with both the Yogi and the Scientist. We all could use a little less of the toxic three and a little more of the fantastic four.

The Questions for The Fantastic Four

Here are some questions to help you get more of the Fantastic Four this 2016:

Community: How can you use your current vocation, no matter how humble, to make a difference in the world? What can you do that will effectively serve more people?

Health: What small change can you make to enter into a higher state of energy and positivity?  Less garbage in your pie-hole?  Extra movement added to your day?  Consumption of more positive media?

Relationships: Pick the 5 relationships that matter the most. Bring your best self. How can you be a better partner or spouse? How can you be a better friend? Mentor? Parent? Sibling? Child?

Self-Awareness: How can you be more you? And I don’t mean being the authentic a-hole type that is comfortable in his self-absorbed, passive-aggressive, and insolent self. I mean, how can you be more of your best self? How can you discover more and live more of your ideal life?

The Insight

Striving for status, beauty and money are toxic. Instead, aim for the fantastic four: Relationships, Health, Community and Self-awareness.

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Send Adam Kreek a message on Twitter @adamkreek. You can also find more tips to improve your body, mind and soul on the Don’t Change Much website or through Adam’s column on CBC Sports.

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