Firstly, the obvious: if you don’t have any goals, you cannot achieve them. But how do you go about setting goals, and how is it that some people always seem to achieve their goals, while others don’t? Or, you may be very successful in one area of life (like being fit and healthy), while others are a bit of a disaster zone (like finances).
Of course, merely setting a goal doesn’t guarantee success. Goals provide you with a roadmap of where you are heading, and a foundation on which to base your decision making. Goals are a guide, and can be good motivators in times when you feel stuck, or not making progress, they also make work fun. Reviewing your goals, helps you appreciate progress, or learn from mistakes.
However, goals are only truly helpful and sustainable if they are in line with something deeper – the values and beliefs which are important to you.
The difference between values and goals
Values are ideas and beliefs that you instil in yourself, they are unique to each person, deeply ingrained and emotional, and are the blueprint by which you live your life. Values may also be handed down from our parents, they may be cultural and of course there are universal values (ethical and moral).
Your values are stored in your unconscious mind (which runs 90% of the human body), and you might not even be aware of some of them, until they are challenged. One quick way to determine some of your values is to ask yourself how you would like to view yourself 20 years from now – what is important to you? Focus on your being, rather than what you want to have achieved or own.
Goals are the tasks you set yourself, the things you feel you need to do to, or want to do, in order to get something you think you need to have. It’s a plan for getting from A to B, or doing something faster, smarter, better etc…
Goals are logical and stored in the conscious mind, the logical, processing part of the brain and we are generally aware of our goals (or lack of goals).
Ideally goals should be used as a roadmap, to help you live out your values, so they need to be flexible and changeable. Goals also need to be SMART (see previous article) and ecological i.e. they have to be your own and in line with everything else you want to do in life.
Matching values and goals
There are 4 easy steps to setting goals and making sure they match your values:
1. Determine your values
2. Prioritise your values
3. Develop goals which support your values
4. Revise your goals on a regular basis.
Determine your values
As we do not often think about our values, this can be the hardest part of goal setting. It’s much easier to create a list of “things to do”, than spend time thinking about what really matters to you and how you see yourself, or how you would like to see yourself 20 years from now.
To simplify the process, think of life in terms of the following four areas:
When determining your values, you can do all it for all of these areas, or just one at a time. For your chosen area ask yourself: “what is important to me in this area of my life?”
Ensure that this is specific to you, not what not what you think others might feel are important.
It is also helpful to think about how you would like to see yourself in 20 years’ time? Or think about your perfect day/week/month/year/20 years/life. We spend so much time thinking about what we DON’T want, that it is often difficult to decide what it is that we DO want. Continue till you have a list of around 10 values.
For example: With regards to “body” you might think: “In 20 years’ time I would like to be fit, healthy and strong. I would like to be active. I would like to be eating healthily, I would like to enjoy exercise. I would like to learn a new skill or sport. I would like to be taking part in team sports on a regular basis”.
Prioritise your values
Once you have created your list of values, you need to rank them in order of importance. Do this by asking yourself “If I could only have one of these, which one would it be?”. Then “if I could only have two”…etc.
Develop goals which support your values
Now that you understand your values, you can start developing goals which support your values. So using the above example, let’s say your most important value regarding “body” is to “be healthy”.
Goals which support this value could be:
• I eat healthy food
• I exercise regularly.
Ensure your goals are stated in the present (as though you are already doing it), are positive and avoid using words like “should” and “must”.
Next you want to break the goals down into sizeable chunks, ensuring they are SMART. Identify what the last step would be for you to know that you have achieved your goal. This is different for each person. Then figure out what you need to do in the next week, month, 3 months, 6 months etc.
Visualisation also helps, there are two steps in this process. First see yourself achieving your goal (this cements the belief that it is possible), then imagine seeing yourself in a film, achieving your goal (this disassociates you from the goal and spurs you into action).
Revise your goals
There are two reasons for revising goals, one is to ensure you’re on track, the other is to help you appreciate your progress.
When setbacks occur, remember that you are on a journey, and there are many ways to get to the final destination. Like a GPS, sometimes we just need to “recalculate” and accept that we will reach the destination by a different route, or at a different time, and who knows, the longer route might have some nice surprises along the way.
Having goals which support your values means your conscious and unconscious minds are working towards the same result, and your emotions and logical thinking is in agreement. However, it does not automatically guarantee success. To succeed, you might have to step out of your comfort zone, and make a bit of an effort. But that is the whole point!
Coaches can advise on the suitability of goals, but there is only one person who can actually DO something to achieve it. At the end of each day, take stock, look at what you have done to help yourself achieve your goals and if you’re off course, make corrections. After all, you are what you repeatedly think and do, so you cannot whish for change unless you are thinking and doing things differently.
And remember to have fun with it too.