Simple Goals: Why They’ll Make You Happier and How to Set Them

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It’s been said that on average, people today learn more in one day than a person living hundreds of years ago did in their entire lifetime. That’s good for innovation, which helps us do amazing things like live longer. But it’s also overcomplicating your life and making it hard for you to focus on the basics that will get you far. Those basics are the basics for a reason—they work.

Nowhere is this more true than with your goals. You see it all the time in complex diet and exercise plans, a push to become rich, and the world making you think you have to do it all in the next six months. If you want the simple joys of life, you need to discover the power of simple goals.

Simple goals are goals that you can easily understand and accomplish. They include the basic action steps that, if repeated throughout years, will get you the farthest. They also have clear outcomes of the basics of life that will make you happiest. True joy in life comes from simple goals.

Let’s talk about why simple goals make such a big difference and then I’ll show you how to set them yourself.

The Power of Simple Goals

“The most important thing is also the least sexy one.” — James Clear

James Clear’s 1,000,000+ email list is a giant slap in the face to all the “gurus” who think they’re going to make it with their complicated system for making money online. James’s strategy for getting his list and his online success worked because of its simplicity:

“I wrote two to three articles per week for three years, and I tried my best every time.”

James’s list and his bestselling book Atomic Habits exists not because of some fancy funnel or book writing strategy. What James did wasn’t sexy or flashy. He just stuck to the basics. His goals were simple, and it got him far. 

That’s why Atomic Habits has topped five bestseller lists and has been on Amazon’s bestseller list for years.

Simple goals, consistently executed, lead to big results.

For years, Michael Thompson has been a top writer on, where he has over 60,000 followers. He’s been featured in Insider, Fast Co., and Forbes and is the best business coach I know. 

If you read Mike’s writing, you’ll find that it’s remarkably simple yet lifechanging. He focuses just on the basics and uses them to tell stories that pull you in, make you feel something, and encourage you to be better to those around you.

In 2019 I got to spend a few days with Mike in Spain where he lives. If you know Mike you know that one of his best traits is how much he takes joy in the simple things in life. 

He recently shared an experience of how one simple thing his wife did really made his day. 

One of her father’s best friends had just passed away, and it broke her heart to see him suffering from this loss. She had a rough day and had gone to bed early while Mike stayed up to write. 

When Mike finally got into bed and was almost asleep, he realized that he was thirsty and had forgotten to fill his glass of water that he keeps next to his bed. Reluctantly reaching over to pick it up to go fill it, he found the cup was heavier than expected.

His wife had filled the cup for him. Even though she was heartbroken, she still had the love and care for Mike to do that simple thing that showed her love for him.

Simple actions bring us joy and connect us with others in deep ways.

How to Set Simple Goals

“The height of sophistication is simplicity.” — Clare Boothe Luce

What is the easiest, most basic action that if you did every day for the rest of your life would lead you to all the outcomes you want?

What outcomes would make you the happiest?

The simplest goals include two parts:

  1. Outcomes
  2. Action steps to reach those outcomes

The simplest outcomes are those that center around improving your identity. That means goals like becoming a better dad, a mindful person, financially free, or physically fit. It’s becoming a runner or an early riser or hard worker.

You don’t need to become a billionaire or even a millionaire if you don’t want to. You don’t have to run ultra-marathons or 10x your goals. This isn’t to say these things are bad, just that they’re too complex and unreachable for most people.

The simplest action steps are the things that you already know but that you avoid because they get monotonous. It’s daily exercise, rising early, and eating fruits and vegetables. 

It’s filling a glass of water for your spouse before bed. Or writing three blog posts a week and sending an email to your subscribers.

To set simple goals, get back to the basics of what you want and the simple steps that would get you there if you consistently did them.

A good way to test if your goals are simple is to make sure that they’re not complicated, elaborate, or difficult to understand. Of each of your goals, ask yourself:

Is this complicated or elaborate? Do I have a hard time understanding this? Have I made this so complex that I can’t even remember it?

Setting simple goals makes achieving your goals easier. 

Watch out for the temptation to overcomplicate, though. As one of my favorite quotes puts it:

“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” ― Robert Brault

Which is also true of those sexier, more complicated goals. “Look at this complex system I’ve set up” makes you feel good but doesn’t actually help you reach your goals because you won’t stick to it.

You’re not kept from your goal by obstacles but by clear ways to make your goals more complicated.

Let’s Wrap Up

“Less, but better, because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.” ― Dieter Rams

As James Clear’s example proves, simple goals, consistently executed, lead to big results.

As my friend Michael Thompson’s experience shows, simple actions bring us joy and connect us with others in deep ways.

To set simple goals, ask yourself: 

What is the easiest, most basic action that if you did every day for the rest of your life would lead you to all the outcomes you want?

What simple outcomes would make you the happiest?

Getting rid of the complexity in your goals and habits is the surest way to stick to them. And it’s also going to make you happier. 

Because happiness is found in simple things, including simple goals.