I find this Brook's self help essay - that I came across while browsing the news during this morning's coffee - to be a nice brief tonic. His basic message is that small steps are more likely to make you happier than hard-to-achieve lifelong goals. I pass on his three summary nostrums here and recommend that you scan his list of brief essays on "How to build a life" in the Atlantic Magazine.
1. Live in “day-tight compartments.”
The scientific literature is clear that goals can bring a lot of happiness when they are short term, achievable, and leading us toward ultimate success—in other words, when achieving them indicates that we are making progress...set an end goal, then break it into manageable steps: one year, one month, one week, one day.2. Focus on the journey.
...see major goals not as the only way to achieve happiness but as points of navigation that set a direction for your lifelong journey. That way, when storms arise and new opportunities present themselves, you can set a new goal and gracefully let go of your old one, thereby avoiding disappointment and missed opportunities.3. Set intrinsic goals.
Extrinsic goals — money, power, and prestige — can be the hardest to achieve because they are inherently zero-sum: In the pursuit of scarce resources, we crowd one another out. By contrast, intrinsic goals—based on love and personal growth—are positive-sum, and thus more likely to lead to success: My efforts to love and grow as a person are not crowded by your efforts; on the contrary, they can be complementary...they are the goals most associated with happiness...intrinsic goals are akin to what the writer David Brooks calls “eulogy virtues”: the things you would want people to remember you for at the end of your life.