The difference between goals and values is vast. Values add meaning and direction to your life. You can’t achieve a value as you can with a goal but you can live a life in accordance with your values. Goals should be set according to your values. Values exist in the present moment and goals exist in the future.
Goals are targets. Values are the foundation upon which we run our lives.
Amazingly, many people are unable to identify their values easily. They get pushed along by external forces (peers, family, societal pressure) and end up living a life that feels empty. This is almost always because they are living a life that doesn’t incorporate their values. I have met many clients who value freedom and adventure yet are stuck in a 9-5 job that meets neither of these values.
Goals that flow from values are inherently more meaningful and more likely to be achieved than those picked at random or those selected because you think you should focus on them. Take the goal of losing weight. What is behind this goal? Is it because you value fitness or self-care or taking on challenges? Or is it because the magazines at the supermarket checkout counter make you feel bad? Understanding the value behind a goal allows you to make choices and engage in behaviors in any moment that are in line with what you have determined is important to YOU. When the goal lacks a value behind it, then the only measure of success becomes achievement.
What are your values?
Your values are the beliefs that define what’s most important to you. For example, someone who values family might try to spend extra time at home, while someone who value success in their career may do just the opposite. Understanding your values will help you to recognise areas in your life that need more attention and what to prioritise in the future.
Here are a few values that are commonly desired. Select the 10 most important items to help you identify your top values:
Love Wealth Family Morals Success Knowledge Power Friends Free Time
Adventure Variety Calmness Freedom Fun Recognition Nature Popularity
Responsibility Honesty Humour Loyalty Reason Independence Achievement
Beauty Spirituality Respect Peace Stability Wisdom Fairness Creativity
How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can have you find your values and achieve your goals
A values clarification plan may consist of the following seven steps:
- Creating distance from social pressures: helping to distinguish between your own motivations and desires and those of the people and society around you.
- Defining the concept of values: understanding the difference between values and goals, such as the fact that values cannot be achieved like goals, but they can be used to set goals.
- Defining personal values: helping to identify your own personal values.
- Importance (significance) of individual values: helping to figure out how important each of your values are, relative to the others.
- Determining how your current actions are consistent with the relevant areas of values: self-evaluate how consistent your actions are with your values.
- Choosing immediate goals consistent with values: setting goals that are consistent with your values.
- Behaving in accordance with objectives and values: using CBT techniques to try to keep you on target for your goals based on your values.
Goals and values are equally important but it is always best to define your values before setting your goals.