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The Value of Goals

Here are six steps to value-based goals.

Goals are great. We should all have goals. Goals help us to focus our energy, form plans, and live a purpose-centered life; they give us a feeling of accomplishment. What do I want to do with my life? Where will I go on vacation? What will I do tomorrow? What will I do today? What will I have for lunch?

Life is really all about goals: lose weight, run faster, graduate, get married, have 2.5 children, move to a new house, and get promoted.

If you really want to achieve goals, not just set them, stay away from the vision boards, law of attraction, and get-rich-quick schemes. Achieving success takes effort, energy, and action. That doesn't mean that it can't be fun.

I highly recommend checking out Stephen Covey on value-based goals and Brian Tracy, the master at achieving success and managing your priorities. They are truly "goal gurus."

I recently wrote about something that I call the domino theory of goal-setting. Using this strategy, goals are like dominoes, and our pathway is defined by how we set up our own personal dominoes. The advantage of this method of goal-setting is that it's a mindful approach that focuses on process over outcome and gain over blame. But how do you set up these dominoes and establish goals? What goals are worth establishing? Am I wrong or a failure if I keep changing my dominoes?

The answers to these questions delve into the definition of goals. A goal is an observable and measurable end result that you intend to achieve or accomplish. A well-planned goal also includes some sort of time frame.

Which goals should be considered important? Obviously, everyone needs to answer that question for themselves. However, here's a general rule that I’ve found to be most important in doing this: Goals should be based on your core principles and values.

Kare Thor Olsen/Wikimedia Commons
Source: Kare Thor Olsen/Wikimedia Commons

People often confuse values and goals, while in fact they are quite different. A value is not a goal.

Going to Rome is a goal. Traveling and exploring are values.

A value is like traveling east—no matter how far east you go, you’re still going east. Based on this value, your goal may be to go east to New York. While there is a definite possibility of accomplishing this goal, for a multitude of reasons, your goal may change to going east to Spain, the Ukraine, India, or China—all of which are still consistent with your value of traveling east.

Values are meaningful beliefs or philosophies that can vary from ethical or moral (such as the belief in equal rights for all, honesty, concern for others, tolerance, justice, fairness, goodwill, gratitude, forgiveness, privacy, or kindness) to ideological (such as self-reliance, innovation, knowledge, security, perseverance, personal growth, accountability, commitment, hard work, or resilience) to social (such as generosity, teamwork, communication, efficiency, competition, health, independence, reliability, collaboration, or leadership) to aesthetic (such as creativity, prosperity, beauty, serenity, adventure, fun, or happiness).

Values are powerful and effective determinants of human accomplishment and progress. They represent our deepest desires: what we want to stand for, how we want to relate to the world, and how we want to be remembered. They reflect our sense of right and wrong and what we believe should be. In so far as values have the power to influence our behavior, they should be one of the predominant determinants of how we choose our goals and set up our dominoes.

We live in a time of a renewed interest in values; consultants enforce workplace values, nations speak of moral values, political and religious leaders discuss family values, spiritual teachers guide us to the values of gratitude, forgiveness, and benevolence. Online you can find an extensive list of 418 values—everything from abundance to zeal. It is time for us to make a greater conscious effort to ensure that our goals are in accordance with our values.

Why is it so important to establish value-centered goals?

  • While goals may change, values are more often anchoring and consistent.
  • They connect us to a greater purpose in life.
  • They differentiate the important from the unimportant.
  • They are an inexhaustible source of motivation and energy.
  • They allow us to live a dynamic and vital existence.
  • They drive our lives in a positive direction and move us forward.
  • They provide an internal and personal reference for what is useful, beneficial, and desirable.
  • Collectively, they lay the foundations for societal laws, customs, and traditions.

I can’t say it better than did best-selling author and time management guru Stephen Covey, who has boiled it down to four main goals: to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. The rest, as they say, is commentary.

How can you create value-based goals?

1. Write out a short list of beliefs and principles that have thus far shaped your life.

2. What beliefs and ideals currently motivate you and drive your life today?

3. What are your strongest values and principles?

4. List some of your current goals, including at home, work, relationships, family, health, physical, spiritual, personal, etc.

5. Divide those goals into what is urgent and what is not urgent.

6. Now divide the two urgent/non-urgent lists into what is important and what is not important. The decision of importance is based on your values and principles. Goals that are congruent with or supportive of your values are, by definition, important. Again quoting from Stephen Covey: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Focus on what is important and urgent, then move to important and not-so-urgent. Try to get rid of, or at least reduce, the time and energy spent on non-important, non-urgent items. These are often distractions and time- or energy-wasters.

As an example of value-based goals, if you value your individuality, your goals may include starting your own business, owning your own home, or working a second job, while putting yourself through school. Those who value individuality will take responsibility, be self-reliant, and act with self-respect while working toward accomplishing all of their goals. So while you may rearrange your dominoes by changing the type of business or owning a condo instead of a home, the larger goal of pursuing the value of individuality will persist.

Values determine our decisions and guide our lives. The more that we choose our goals based on our values and principles, the more we enter into a positive cycle of energy, success, and satisfaction.

Thanks for tuning in. I'd love to hear your comments. What do you value?

More from Neil Farber M.D, Ph.D., CLC, CPT
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