Welcome to the fourth and final week of our course on the theory, research and practice of positive interventions. To this point, we've examined some of the theoretical and historical background of positive psychology discussed the nature of positive interventions and explored three specific areas of positive interventions: positive emotions, savoring and character strengths. In each of these areas we have pointed out the importance of trying to mitigate ill-being when needed, what we have referred to as using the red side of our reversible capes. But we've also noted that this is not the same thing as the vital work of directly promoting well-being, what we've referred to as using the green side of our reversible capes. Today, we will turn to the final topic of this MOOC, goal setting and well-being. Now all of us have at least some experience with goal setting, even if it's just New Year's resolutions. Trying to take advantage of the occasion of the beginning of a calendar year to turn over a new leaf and start afresh in some area of our lives that we want to improve. Some of us may use goal-setting processes effectively throughout the year, as well, to try to focus our efforts and increase our performance. Others of us may feel frustrated around goals, feeling vaguely like we should be setting them but not really knowing how we can make them work for us. Chances are we encounter goals in the workplace, where it may well be our boss or supervisor who sets them for us, making us responsible for meeting challenging targets. The reason goals are used so frequently in the workplace is because research has shown that specific and challenging goals can be highly effective in increasing and shaping performance. Goals can help increase the quantity and quality of our work outputs. On the face of it, goal setting seems like a fairly simple process. You write down what you want to accomplish, and then you go make it happen. But using goal setting effectively can be surprisingly challenging, especially when we want to use goals to increase our well-being. Unfortunately, it's not enough just to write down the goal “be happy.” Yet if done wisely, goal setting can be a very effective means, not only of improving our productivity, but also of improving our well-being. In her book, The How of Happiness, psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky points out six specific benefits goal setting can bring for our well-being. She actually uses the term “committed goal pursuit” to emphasize that we're not just talking about creating lists of goals but that we're actually focused on the process of following through with them, as well. The first benefit of goals for our well-being, Lyubomirsky points out, is that they give a sense of purpose and a feeling of control to our lives. Has there been a time in your life where you didn't have goals? No particular sense of where you wanted to go, and no deadlines for when you wanted to get there? How did that feel? Well, for short periods of time it might be nice to have a break from these guides on how to focus our time and attention. But over the long term, it can actually be a real drag. Many people find retirement quite a let down, when they suddenly find themselves free of the responsibilities that had shaped their lives for decades. Similar results can occur when students have to take a leave of absence from school to regain their health, for example. Or when workers are laid-off from their jobs. Our brains and our bodies evolved to be active, working to shape our lives and our worlds. So we feel at home having goals, and often feel lost without them. Second, having meaningful goals can increase our self-esteem, giving us a sense of confidence that we can make significant changes in our lives and the world. When we exert our efforts toward some end and see our efforts rewarded with results, that can give us a boost of joy and pride. These positive emotions are enjoyable in their own right, and they also can motivate us to continue to exert effort toward further goals. Not having goals we're working toward, on the other hand, can make us feel disconnected from the world. And this may lead to a sense of boredom and apathy. A sense that nothing is really worth doing anyway. Even though exerting effort toward our goals is not always fun, the overall satisfaction it brings is far preferable to trying to live without goals. Third, goals add structure and interest to our daily lives. As we move through our days, we are focused on the tasks that must be accomplished to get us to our desired ends. These tasks involve variety, and they frequently involve growth. We can't get to where we want to go without doing different things, and without learning new things. This helps us master new skills and broaden our perspectives. Fourth, goals can help us learn to strategize and prioritize our time. Complex goals require us to break things into smaller steps and then figure out the right order in which to pursue them. Fifth, goals can actually be helpful to us in times of crisis. Provided we're still able to accomplish the goals, they can help keep us grounded in times of change or uncertainty. Preparing a meal together with other family members, for example, can be a welcome and healing activity, even in the middle of grieving for a lost loved one. And this example leads to the sixth benefit of goals for well-being. They frequently bring us into contact with other people. And collaborating with others to complete a complex goal can help us feel more deeply connected in our relationships, and our communities. In this week, we won't have time to go into all the complexities of evidence-based approaches to goal setting. But we will be able to explore some basic principles that I hope will help you develop your own goal-setting skills. In particular, we will be focusing on how we can use goal setting to increase our well-being. This involves two specific sets of challenges. First, how to set the right goals, and second, how to follow through on our goals once we have set them.