For Real Happiness: Focus on Your Feelings, NOT Goals!

Woman in pain holding head in hands wearing yellow sweater

Contrary what we've been told, achieving our goals does NOT give us lasting happiness. Working towards and achieving goals is the PURSUIT of happiness. Because eventually the euphoria wears off and then we're back where we were before. What will give you LASTING  happiness is learning to deal confidently with difficult situations, feelings and emotions...

That's not to say we shouldn't have goals. Like you, I'm a coach—I LOVE goals! But what's absolutely critical to our LASTING happiness is not goals, but how we deal with life's inevitable problems...

Imagine for a moment that you are a billionaire.

You can have anything you want. And while some goals may take a while to achieve, you'd have the money and influence to get the best experts in the world to teach or help you, and be able to keep trying without fear of financial consequences.

You can pay people to do anything you don't like to do—housekeeping, tax returns, picking up the dry cleaning, someone to help you exercise and keep you on track. You'll have your pick of romantic partners and cool friends, and the best TVs, cars, homes, holidays—every 'toy' and pleasure you ever wanted.

Perhaps you're a philanthropist too, making a difference in the world.

And yet we all know how this can end. Think about all the sports and movie stars who are unhappy, depressed, drug, sex or alcohol addicts—and more.

Yes, you got it: we can't buy true love or real friendship.

And now I want you to imagine that you're even more fortunate!

You have your billionaire lifestyle, you're making a difference AND you have a partner, family and friends who truly love you.


And now...

Imagine your dog gets run over. Or your mom gets cancer...

Bear with me for a second.

The point I'm making is that even with ALL the money we ever wanted AND a loving family and friends we can still get sick, our loved ones can get hit by a bus, our house can get burgled.

We still get food poisoning, stub our toes, get stung by wasps and sun-burned. You see the thing we all like to forget is that (and please pardon my "French" here) however 'wonderful' life is, sh*t still happens.

And yet, we're led to believe by society, films, advertising and sometimes even the wonderful self-help industry that we're a part of, that it's achieving our goals (or money) that will make us happy.

Yes, achieving our goals gives us a temporary burst of happiness.

But what helps us find LASTING HAPPINESS is learning to handle life's inevitable difficulties...

...and of course, the resulting painful feelings and emotions.

There are many other factors to lasting happiness including—being grateful for what we have, accepting and loving who we are, having enough challenge to stretch us without stressing us out, people we love and trust who love us, helping and being of service to others and more.

But we can have ALL of this—and things will STILL happen that give us emotional and physical pain.

Pain and discomfort are a certainty in life.

Yet when we know we can deal with ANYthing life throws at us—there's nothing left to fear.

And when we're no longer afraid we can relax and enjoy life more, take more risks, succeed more and worry less.

In short—we're happier!

Yes, we should still work towards our goals

So, work towards your goals—and enjoy the temporary happiness you feel when you achieve them.

But if you want to be happier for LIFE, remember that confidently dealing with challenges and our painful feelings and emotions (think grief, rejection, pain, disappointment, betrayal) is where it's AT.

In fact, why not make this as a goal? I know it's one of mine.


So the learning here is: if you learn the skill of managing your difficult feelings,  you won't just be pursuing happiness—you'll be happy for life.

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. Theodore Isaac Rubin

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Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Woman in pain holding head in hands wearing yellow sweater by Kraken Images


  1. Lalitha Brahma

    Great article. I completely agree with your views. If we can learn to feel the feeling and process them, we can handle any obstacle in a calm and centered way.

  2. Bret Larrimore,Sr.

    I LOVE the end encouragement of making this a goal, the last two paragraphs,and the quote, but I believe that one must understand their "thinking" in order to understand their feelings and emotions since feelings and emotions follow thoughts. With those in recovery from addictions, and struggling in a difficult relationship, it's the feelings that justify the negative, compulsive, and destructive behaviors. In helping recover-ees identify and understand their individual and unique in-born temperament, their learned behavior from man/environment affects, and the self-selected 'masks' in different environments and situations, "how" they think about or "perceive" themselves, God, significant others and their environment, and "why", becomes clearer. This in turn allows for a deeper control of feelings and emotions and less inter-, and intra-personal conflict. Finding out truth and defeating old lies is key. So, I really do agree with you on this and am simply sharing a little of how I help others achieve this goal first, in order to achieve long-term happiness, other goals that are truly achievable in their lives. Love your tools. Thanks for your work and effort. May God continue to bless others through you.

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Bret! And thank-you for your considered and informative response. I believe that while some feelings arise from our subconscious - or unconscious even - events, experiences, beliefs, assumptions about the world etc. that are so complex and intertwined they don't necessarily make it to "thought" status. So while I believe THAT, I also believe that much of our 'suffering' in the world comes from more conscious thought. It is what we THINK (or perhaps believe) about a thing that causes us to feel a certain way. And when we change the way we think (and what we believe), we can change how we feel. Well, not change actively, but that the way we feel changes.

      So, thank-you for adding this extra dimension - and may God bless you and those that you serve!

      Warmly, Emma-Louise

  3. Johnny Kinsella

    Well written article Emma-Louise. Thank you.
    Everything we do in life is a goal. If we are thirsty the goal is to quench our thirst. The reason we don't see all of our daily tasks as goals is because we do them unconsciously. We see goals as conscious plans designed to deliver the things we want in life, and this is not a bad thing.
    However if we want the secret to happiness we need to become aware of our truth. Where we come from? Who are we? and Why are we here?
    I have worked extensively on these and many other big life questions and I believe that these questions are answered from the inside out. The answers to all of our questions come from within ourselves.
    We need to become aware of who we really are on the inside and learn to love who we are "our authentic self".
    The biggest issue I have overcome was separating self obsession from self love.
    Self obsession is continuously trying to fulfil the needs we have been conditioned to need. Self love is understanding, accepting and loving the person that we are on the inside. When we love ourselves unconditionally we have the power to share our love with others and the world we live in.
    Whoever we are on the inside is projected onto our outside world whether we like it or not, and if we love ourselves we will project our love onto our outside world. I don't believe that there are too many people who would disagree with the statement; "happiness, joy and peace are present when we are giving and receiving love".
    Learn to love your authentic self and you will automatically project your love onto others, and always remember:
    "We cannot give to others: that, which we do not already possess ourselves" Johnny Kinsella

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Johnny! Thanks for your deep and powerful wisdom. Loving and accepting who we are is essential to our happiness in the world. When we love ourselves we can BE ourselves. And when we let who we really are guide how we are and what we do in the world - we are truly authentic, and not only does it feel good, but I think things work out for us - our life aligns with what is important to us. And if our life does not work out for us, we have the inner strength to deal with it. So, yes, everything we need is inside (including our feelings as guideposts) and when we let this guide us, our lives are easier and happier. Awesome! Warmly, Emma-Louise

  4. Christina

    Hi Emma-Louise,

    I really like this article, thank you for sharing. I can relate to what you say about the certainty of discomfort and pain arising as we progress on our individual pathways through life. In the same way, I see change as something constant and inevitable. Embracing the fact that life never stays the same for too long can help us appreciate every moment for what it brings us and be aware of the possibilities for renewal.


    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Christina, and thanks so much for taking the time to comment 🙂

      I so agree. In fact I think change is the ONLY constant! And the better we deal with change and discomfort the happier we will all be.

      Warmly - and keep up all your good work. Emma-Louise

  5. David

    Great article. I agree that real happiness does not come from achieving your goals. Happiness is the natural state of our being. To achieve real lasting happiness it is necessary to be fully in tune with our inner being, our higher self. Meditation practice such as TM allows one to experience and cultivate that state in daily life.

    • Emma-Louise

      Thanks David! Thank-you for taking the time to comment and great points! I agree that to achieve real lasting happiness it is necessary to be fully in tune with our inner being or higher self. Meditation certainly helps with that - and I personally meditate daily. I think that meditation allows us to connect with what is really going on inside of ourselves - bringing awareness to what we feel, 'good' and 'bad' - and this helps us handle life's difficulties better. Warmly, Emma-Louise

  6. allanthecoach

    Great article. It reminded me of the quote below:

    “Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom”
    ― Jim Rohn

    All the best

  7. Barbara

    I totally agree with your article, thanks for sharing. Learning to be happy all the time, despite our circumstances is indeed the greatest strength we can develop.

    I have learned to do this by developing my spiritual side and learning to trust my Creator. If we don't believe that God wants our best all the time, then it's impossible to accept life's difficulties and find the good in it.

    Be blessed!

    • Emma-Louise

      Thanks for your excellent thoughts Barbara. Trust is key. Whether you believe in God, or whatever God you believe in - a simple trust that life will work out, that we can handle whatever life throws at us and that there is valuable learning in that is key! Warmly, Emma-Louise


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