Every new year, hundreds of thousands of individuals make vows to themselves that they break within a few weeks.
Hordes of individuals pile into the gyms, motivated, ambitious and ready to make changes. They go hard at first, and with in a few weeks it fizzles out, leaving them disappointed. This isn’t due to a lack of truly wanting to achieve the goal or having the purist of intentions.
It is due to something else entirely.
The act alone of setting goals can be a challenging one for many. Some people don’t know where to begin, but for others, the practice of accepting the reality of how far they are from their goals can be disheartening and discouraging. Large life-changing goals can be overwhelming, and the steps that are required to achieve them become muddled and lost in life’s day-to-day.
There have been plenty of times I told myself I would start working out in January, but my goal wasn’t really that time bound, so I never did anything about it.
There are a lot of different reasons goals fail, and they are unique to each individual. For myself, I have realized it all comes down to value and accountability. If the goal does not uphold my value, it will fail. If the goal is not broken down into smaller steps that are time bound, therefore holding me accountable, it will fail.
Through mindfulness and self-exploration, I am able to take inventory of my values, and devise goals that will uphold them and move me closer to the life that honors my authentic self—this is where I find true satisfaction. It wasn’t until I started to set goals that were based off my values that my life started to manifest in a way that left me feeling deeply fulfilled.
As a human being, I am hardwired with an intense desire to be at peace and to feel happy. Even though my heart desires happiness, I have experienced immense pain in my life and I’ve spent a lot of time where happiness completely eluded me. I have fallen into some dark holes, and lost myself more times than I care to admit. I have battled depression, anxiety, and PTSD since I was a kid. There have been many times where my symptoms have consumed my life.
Along my journey, I learned a lot about what I need in order to be, what I would consider, a high-functioning individual with mental illness, rather than someone consumed with—and barely surviving—their mental illness.
I know I need hope. I need to know that the future will be better than the past, and maybe even the present. I need something to work toward and it can’t just be random. I have tried working toward what other people use to define success, and it left me feeling worse, because it didn’t satisfy my needs.
In order for me to cultivate happiness in my life, I must remain true to myself. This means my goals cannot be based off of my upbringing, other people’s desires, beliefs that no longer serve me, or values I have adopted as my own that have no place in my life.
Exploring our values as humans is so important. If what separates us from animals is consciousness and self-awareness, what does it say about us if we do not use this gift to explore and better ourselves?
For me, my values are also a protective factor. I know that I created them from a place of sound mind and sound heart. So, even when I have completely lost my way, and feel like I’ve lost myself, I know I can fall back on my values to provide me guidance.
Having values is what make us good enough parents, siblings, friends, relatives, and business owners. To me, a lack of values opens up the door to chaos and darkness. That is why dissecting and creating fundamental values is so key to maintain a happy and healthy life; a life that is true to one’s self. It is why creating goals that align with our values is of the utmost importance, and it is why setting goals that upholds ones values can completely transform a person and his or her life.
There was a time in my life when I based my goals around those of my peers. I was thin, beautiful, and attending school. It looked great on paper, but I was miserable. I didn’t feel passionate about what I was studying. I spent a lot of time working out rather than focusing on my true passions like writing and painting. In fact, I got so caught up in my goal to be thin that I was spending so much time working out and meal planning that I had no time left for painting and writing.
Now, years later, my goals align with my values and I have a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I did not have to give up my soul’s desires to find success in my life. I did not have to define my success by someone else’s ideas, and I was able to remain true to myself, which in turn, left me with an even deeper sense of satisfaction, self-respect, and pride. I can wholeheartedly own everything I am working toward.
I have outlined a process below to help you identify your fundamental values and create goals based on them. This process works really well for me, and it is pretty simple.
The first step to setting valuable goals, is not actually setting your goals. It is identifying your fundamental values. By exploring and taking inventory of our values we can create goals that are true to our authentic self. Setting goals that are true to your authentic self will help you to create a more genuine and fulfilling life. Working towards attainable and authentic goals can leave a deep sense of accomplishment, and you move closer to the life you want to live and the person you want to be.
After dissecting and identifying your values, you must prioritize them and build your goals based around the established values. I have created an outline to assist this process. It is broken down into three main sections below: fundamental values, goals, and action steps. Following this outline has helped me tremendously. It has added structure to the idea that I must honor myself. It has added accountability to my need and desire to better myself and my life.
It has outlined steps that have helped me cultivate a life of substance.
Make a list of values you think you currently have:
>> Where did this value come from?
>> Did it come from a person, if so, who?
>> What contributed to the creation of this value?
>> Is this actually your value, or a value you were conditioned to believe you should have?
>> Detach from values that do not honor your higher self.
Identify the times you were genuinely happy and aligned:
>> Where were you?
>> What were you doing?
>> Who were you with, if anyone?
>> What was your mindset?
>> What contributed to the happiness?
>> What was your relationship with yourself like?
Identify the times you were the most satisfied
>> What need was being fulfilled?
>> What other times have you felt this feeling?
>> What other factors contributed to this feeling?
>> Did this provide any value or meaning to your life?
>> If so, what?
Identify the times you were the most proud
>> What did you do to be proud of?
>> Did anyone else recognize this accomplishment and take pride in you?
>> If so, who?
>> What other factors contributed to your pride
Next you will use this list to create your values. You will then compare your list of newly created values to your original list of values, and reevaluate them.
For each value ask yourself the following:
>> Do these value make you feel good about yourself?
>> Do these value help me respect myself and others?
>> How would I feel telling these values to someone I respect and admire?
>> Would you be willing to uphold these values even if you were the minority?
After deciding on your values, you will then prioritize them by doing the following:
>> Compare each value next to each other and ask yourself which value is more important.
>> Continue this practice through the list. This will later help you prioritize your goals.
After you have created and prioritized your values, it is okay if you want to put this away and come back to it later. This activity can be exhausting for some individuals, especially if you have drifted away from your values. After you feel ready, imagine yourself in a life where you uphold all of your values. This is where you will birth your goals. Imagine the big picture, and the smaller day-to-day operations of this life. Imagine yourself in the life you want to be in, and imagine yourself the person you want to be in that life. Remember to keep it realistic, but don’t forget to dream.
Make two goal categories
>> Big Picture
>> Little Picture
After you have completed this, begin to break down your goals. Here are some things to remember when setting goals (use the acronym SMART):
T-Time Bound (trackable)
Now, create a list of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, trackable goals. After this step is completed, break down each goal into action steps. It is helpful if these action steps are time bound. For example, if a value is stable mental health, you may want to break down each component that creates mental stability.
Value: Your personal set of principles and standards of behavior. What is important in your life? What creates a life worth living?
Goal: The objective desired to uphold the value.
Targets: The smaller objectives within the goal that when laid out one after another will lead you to reaching your goal.
Action Steps: The time bound method that will be used, and steps that will be taken to meet the targets and ultimately the goal.
Creating large goals can be daunting. It may create the feeling of great distance between where you are now, and the goal. Or, the idea of a goal may create temporary relief, but if there is no follow-through, we may end up feeling worse than we did before.
Breaking down large goals into bite-sized pieces can be easier to digest. That is why breaking goals down into action steps is so important. Action steps are the goals inside of the goal. Not only does creating them make the goal less overwhelming, but if our action steps are time bound there is an extra level of accountability.
Completing one action step after another creates a propelling motion and rhythm forward and upward, moving us closer to our values and self. However, if the goal is not based in our fundamental values it will bring us further from our true self. This is why basing goals on fundamental values is crucial. If we do not uphold our own values, our happiness will be fleeting and mostly illusory.
Goals are an excellent tool to help you uphold your values and use them as pillars in your life. By using time bound action steps inside of goals, and also things like calendars, phone alarms, and reminders, we can add accountability to manifest these values and goals.
Another way in which I hold myself accountable is a regular meditation practice. This helps me to remain in the present, and a place in which my values are clear. I use intention setting after a mediation, I incorporate intentions for my goals that will uphold my values.
There are many different paths that will lead you to yourself. This is one of many tools I have used to go from a place consumed by darkness, to a place where I am capable of true pride, self respect, and satisfaction.