I was listening to a client the other day talking about her goals. She was setting SMART goals, making an action plan and yet she was feeling stuck. As I listened I pondered. Then it became clear what was going on. Let me share one simple reason you’re stuck in your goals.
Every decision has some purpose
Life is a series of small decisions, each one seems inconsequential, yet together they add up. Each important. Your whole life can be changed because of an apparently small decision but, in reality, in everything we do, every small decision has some purpose and taking charge of your life means having your own purpose.
Our goals drive us forward, they are what we want and are just as unique as your fingerprints. Why do we even get out of bed in the morning? Because we want something. It might be trivial like breakfast or it could be bigger, like improving someone’s life through worthwhile work. We are always moving towards something; we’re moving from a present state to a desired state, even if we don’t notice. As we reach our goals, we set new ones.
Your goals must be in line with your values
The crucial point is that your goal must be worthwhile. It must be in line with your values because our goals are powered by our values. It is our values that give the impetus to our journey and keep us going on when we feel discouraged. The value is the real reason behind the goal.
What are values?
Values are what is important to you. They are the centre of who you are. Everyone has values and no values are bad. They are states of mind, principles in action and they are usually abstract, for example, love, honesty, fun, health, respect, freedom, loyalty, integrity, security and friendship. We value these qualities in others and we value them in ourselves.
When you’re thinking about your goal ask yourself questions such as:
- What is important to you about this goal?
- What matters to you here?
- What do you get out of doing this?
I find that people think about their values in a very logical way. They want lists and answers. The problem is that values are not always logical. They are an expression of who we are. You may know who you are at a logical level but deep down you may not understand your values (that’s where coaching can be helpful).
Values can also be context-dependent e.g. what you value in a relationship may not be the same as what you value in your professional life. However, you will have core values that stay the same whatever the context.
One simple reason you’re stuck in your goals
All goals are generated by values, everything we want in the material world is an expression of the value we want to satisfy. We want to travel to a destination because it is important to us however the journey has many pitfalls. One simple reason you’re stuck in your goals is that you are neglecting the journey too much in favour of the destination. It is crucial that you respect the value that generated the goal in the first place. In the actions you take to achieve your goal, you must live the value in the journey on the way to the goal.
Setting an intention to reach your goal using your values
If our goals are generated by one or more of our values then if we neglect the value in our hurry to get to the end goal, then it will be hollow, or we fail to meet it at all. If you set the intention to reach your destination according to your values, you automatically chart the journey that will take you there. The values that generated the goal act as the compass on your journey.
Sometimes people set goals but try to achieve them without fulfilling the value that made the goal so attractive in the first place. For example, you might love your family and want to give him a wonderful life. You value the love of your family and work hard to earn a lot of money that brings good things to them.
However, during this process, you might always be at work and so unintentionally neglect them. This makes everyone unhappy. You might know something is wrong but you justify doing it because you’re doing it for the family. Of course, you are, but, in this case, your actions are exactly the opposite of the reasons why you’re taking them. You might achieve the goal of earning a lot of money for yourself and your family but sacrificed your happiness because you didn’t respect the value that generated the goal in the way that you tried to achieve it.
Finding out your core values
When we know our values, we are free to find the best way to satisfy our deepest needs. Also living our values during the journey keeps us motivated. The question is, how can we discover the value that is generating a particular goal? Finding out the core value behind the goal and how to respect and live that during the progression towards the goal is very simple (caveat: in theory!) Answer these two questions:
- When you have the goal what will this bring for you?
- How can you make sure you will be living the value in the process?
How to meet your goals using your values
Once you’re ready to take action, start from the goal. Most people do not start with the goal because they’re not sure they will achieve it. Instead, they start from the present. If you think about it, the goal is what generates the action, it is the goal that is certain. Start from the certainty of the future you desire, rather than the uncertainty of the present. When you start from the end you will get an insight as to what to do and what not to do.
Two types of goals
There are two types of goals:
- outcome i.e. your destination (where you’re heading)
- process i.e. your journey and how you going to get there
All outcome goals should be expressed in the positive; the goal should be what you want. We often come at goals by setting negative goals i.e. what we don’t want or what to avoid. However, setting a negative goal is like going shopping with a list of things you don’t want to buy!
With process goals it is slightly different, there may be some negatives in your journey; in fact, getting the goal might involve giving something up. For the outcome goals, it is important to see the evidence that will tell you have achieved it. When you see, hear, feel XYZ then you have your outcome. For the process goals (the journey), it is the feedback that will guide you and show you whether you’re on track for your destination.
If you get stuck in your goals, reflect on the value behind it, check whether you are respecting the value during the process of achieving your goal. In other words, is the way you plan your goal congruent with the value that generated it?