If you have read any of my blogs, you would be aware that I am a major supporter of setting goals.
Setting, pursuing and evaluating our goals gives us purpose, momentum and a path forward.
They challenge us and, through stepping out of our comfort zone, we can learn more about ourselves, our strengths, inner resources, capacity for resilience and our potential.
However, if we measure success in life solely on the achievement of our goals, we just focus on the outcome, and not take into account the process and associated behaviours we engage in on the way.
I believe a much better indicator of success in life is HOW we want to live (our values) as we move through the moments of our life, rather than on WHAT (our goals) we want to achieve.
You can think of your values as a compass that helps you set a direction and then stay on track during the journey.
Your values describe how you want to behave as a person and act in all situations throughout your life. They are how you want to treat yourself and others and the world around you.
Values are in essence how you are true to yourself. They define your personal qualities and make you feel authentic and engaged in life.
Difference between goals and values
People get confused between goals and values. Goals are what you want to achieve or accomplish. Goals have a finite end, and you can tick them off when you achieve them.
Values are ongoing and are with you in all facets of your life.
For example, you have a goal of getting a satisfying and fulfilling job. Once you get the job the goal is achieved. You have reached your desired outcome.
However, your values are ongoing. They may reflect how you are true to yourself, how you behave in that job, how engaged and effective you are and the way you treat your colleagues.
You may have respect as one of your values. You can engage in respectful behavior each day and that may contribute to achieving your goal of getting that ideal job. You continue to live that value of respect even after you have achieved the goal.
Importance of goals with values behind them
Goals that flow from values have more meaning and are more likely to be achieved than goals you set focusing just on the results.
Understanding values behind a goal allows you to choose and engage in behaviors in the moment, which are in line with what you know is important to you and the way you want to live.
When you set goals, it is important to explore the values implicit in those goals. If a goal doesn’t have a value behind it, the only indicator of success is whether you have achieved that goal and nothing more.
Defining your values
When you understand and connect to your values on a daily basis, you are more than your goals. Goals are there and they are important to give you momentum and direction, but at the end of the day, it is how you live that is integral to success in life.
In Life Journal, an online 5-week course which teaches you skills in coaching yourself to a more fulfilling and meaningful life, I have an exercise that helps you articulate your values. In this exercise you write your own eulogy.
A eulogy is not generally about your work and professional life. It is about how much you meant to your family and friends, your compassion and lifelong passions.
The following questions below are a guide to help you write your eulogy.
- How do you want to be remembered?
- What have you stood for in your life?
- How have you connected with others over your life?
- What gives you purpose and meaning?
Another exercise in Life Journal relates directly to defining your values. I have made a FREE version available for those of you who are unclear about your values and are interested in doing the exercise.
The idea is to choose five values that are most important to you. Click here to access the exercise.
Values and the opportunity for personal growth
Setting, pursuing and evaluating your goals explicitly aligned to your values, can help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and what it is that makes your life fulfilling.
By stepping out of your comfort zone you can take the opportunity to learn more about all facets of yourself, your strengths and your capacity for resilience as well as your weaknesses, and the barriers and challenges you face.
To live in alignment with your values, you may need to reflect on what you need to change within yourself, your behaviors and approaches to the way you live your life.
It can involve leaning into those uncomfortable feelings that need to be addressed, rather than ignoring or resisting them. This is what leads to sustainable change and can enhance all facets of your life.
When people challenge themselves, set goals and take action aligned to their values, they have the incentive and momentum to make deep and lasting changes.
Change like this takes courage and perseverance. Often it boils down to breaking entrenched habits and cultivating new ones.
To finish off, there is no doubt that setting and pursuing goals gives you purpose, momentum and direction.
However, goals that have values behind them add more meaning to your life and help you develop a greater understanding of yourself. Actions you take to pursue your goals will be guided by the kind of person you would like to be and how you treat yourself and others.
As you go through different stages in life, including the challenges and curve balls life invariably brings, your goals will change. There will also be goals that you set and pursue, but don’t achieve.
At the end of the day, HOW you live your life and not WHAT you achieve is the true indicator of a successful life!