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Falling Short on Your Goals? Use the Power of Your Values

Find motivation through what matters to you the most.

Key points

  • Your values help you find purpose, meaning, and direction.
  • Connecting your goals to your values may help you find meaning and stay motivated.
  • Reflect on how and why each goal is relevant to you.

You have likely heard of "SMART" goals. Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-bound. You may set yourself up for success if you define your goals through this framework.

But what if the goal is one that someone else (e.g., an employer) makes for you?

Or it's a goal you know is healthy for you but lose interest in after a few weeks?


In these situations, it may be helpful to look more deeply into what makes a goal relevant.

It is important that your goals connect to your values. Your values help you find purpose, meaning, and direction in your life.

For example, you may most value love, security, kindness, family, career, and intelligence. Or you may value comfort, creativity, humility, playfulness, and joy.

If you are not sure of your values, it may be helpful to take some time to reflect on what you most value in your personal and professional life and then which values are consistent overall. You can search for lists of values online. Brené Brown's list could be a helpful place to start.

I'd encourage you to narrow down your values to a top 5. You can do this by reflecting on which values rise to the top.

  • Which most shapes how you view yourself, others, and the world?
  • Which best encapsulates what helps give purpose and meaning to your life?

External Goals

Now, say your employer asks you to complete annual compliance training modules, but you are unable to connect why doing so is consistent with your values. Understandably, your motivation to complete this task will be lacking.

Can you find a way to connect the purpose of this activity to your values? Completing these modules may connect to your value of being a caretaker, as it will help your daily hands-on work or to be a role model to your colleagues; as you complete the modules, it shows others it's an important task, or the knowledge you have gained from the modules can help you guide others.

Personal Goals

You may lose momentum in a goal that you set for yourself if the task does not connect to what you find most meaningful.

For example, say you set a goal of walking 20 minutes at the end of each workday in an effort to improve your energy. You may find you enjoy this walk, and it does help you feel a bit more energized, but after a few days, you start to "prioritize" other activities (e.g., meetings, errands, laundry) in its place.

It can be helpful to think deeply about:

  • Which of your values this goal ultimately connects to.
  • Why it is meaningful for you to exercise and have more energy at the end of the day.

You may recognize that having energy at the end of the day helps you to remain engaged and verbalize your frustration less when spending time with your loved ones in the evenings. This leads to fewer arguments and feelings of regret.

In this case, this walking goal ultimately connects to your values of family, love, and kindness.

Coach yourself to stick to the goal by harnessing your values:

  • Taking this walk will help me be healthy, so I can be here for my family. It also helps me process some of my stress from the day so I can help my family in a more kind and loving way this evening.

The next time you start to lose interest in a goal:

  • Recognize that this may mean it is time to make a different goal or
  • Identify how the goal helps you live your values.
More from Julie Radico Psy.D. ABPP
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