Stop Setting Goals, Start Living From Values

by Resilience

Starting from a deficit is always frustrating because after all the work done and resources used to get oneself to the surface, you often find yourself exhausted by the journey. Further, deficit thinking has us defining ourselves from the perspective of where we’re going, not where we’ve come from, it can feel that no movement has occurred at all! Unfortunately this mentality is exactly what we bring to ‘goal setting’ and it’s precisely why the spiral of shame and self-doubt is so often the end result. Thankfully we can give up goals by instead looking at achievement. The way to do this is to reframe our behavior within a consideration of Values.

Values are not Behavior

Values are not synonymous with, or at least not fully understood or fulfilled by, particular behaviors. This may at first sound obvious, but it’s not typically how we assess and judge ourselves and one another. When was the last time you chastised yourself for not going to the gym and instead binging a tv show? When was the last time you judged another as being dishonest based on a particular situation? For that matter, when was the last time you felt yourself unfairly judged when you went with being supportive rather than being honest? Or, how easy is it to think of a time when you gave up on supporting one Value, like Honesty, for the purpose of saving someone’s life, job or prevent being hurt?

All of these scenarios bring us to three conclusions:

  • Values never go away
  • Sometimes in supporting one Value in a particular way, it may mean not supporting another in a way we’d otherwise do
  • Context often drives what Value(s) we’re focused on


Consider the difficulty of judgment, both of others and ourselves. Often it happens where one family member will declare you don’t love them because you don’t treat them exactly the same way as another. The accusation is often met with stunned frustration because of course you love them, it’s simply that you interact differently due to the nature of the particular connection, the context in which a behavior occurred and what the other person’s interests may be. A more obvious example would be if one of your kids declared you didn’t love them because you don’t treat them the exact same way as your spouse. Clearly the claim is absurd, the very nature of the connection leads to different behavior. Importantly, the Value itself never went away.

Woman juggling fire with hula-hoop
Photo by Harrison Moore on Unsplash

Life is a constant juggling act of supporting what we care about, utilizing the behavior we’ve learned to associate with particular Values and doing so within contexts of which we often have no control over the particulars. Consider self-esteem or integrity, where ‘standing up for yourself’ is a common advice given. Yet, when faced with a hostile work environment or unhealthy personal relationship we won’t follow the advice, instead opting for another behavior. Where we often then shame ourselves, the reality is we did act to support a Value, but instead of Integrity, we acted on Financial Security, Safety, Peace, etc. What we’re concerned with here is not a judgment about long-term consequences, but a proper evaluation about why we do what we do in any given moment.

Those moments are context-driven. We are not likely going to be able to focus on Health when we’re incessantly surrounded by junk food and find it difficult to gain access to healthier alternatives. It’s little wonder in that context that Pleasure takes center-stage. We’re not likely to work on Self-Esteem/Image when coming out of an emotionally abusive family, surrounded by unsupportive community and/or lacking in skills that our specific society finds useful. I say “likely” here because there’s always personal stories of people seeing their way through adversity; this is about the general experience. In fact, behind every story of success despite adversity you’ll find that the person did the one thing we’re about to bring attention to: expanding perspective.

Daily Valued Living

Rather than goals, let’s consider what we’re already doing in our lives that is helpful and expand on that. Rather than getting caught up in a hyper-focus on one behavior, let’s consider how we’re always seeking to support what we care about.

Steps of Valued Living: (“Identifying Values” worksheet on Resources page)

  1. Identify an area of your life you’d typically set a goal based on lack or self-denial
  2. What Value is associated with that area?
  3. Select 2-5 other Values that come to mind, or are associated with, that initial Value.
  4. What are healthy behaviors to support that Value?
  5. Consider how others are supporting those same Values and how you may bring such behavior completely or in part, to your own life.


Each step is about starting from your humanity, at the center of which is what you care about, and building upon what already exists. From that foundation you can increase your confidence in what is behaviorally possible by enlarging your competence in how you support what matters to you. Noticing what you’re already doing is exactly the opposite of getting lost in the contemplation of what you’re not. The latter is an ever-expanding sinkhole and we know where it sends us: nowhere.

By promoting to ourselves the daily ways we support our Values, we remind ourselves that we are constantly in service to them. By expanding what is possible through noticing how others support our shared Values we build a greater repertoire of behavioral tools to work through the struggles that inevitably come up. Isn’t that what we’re all ultimately interested in anyway?

Main photo by Evan Leith on Unsplash

Related Posts

microphone
Podcast

Why Hate Feels So Good and What To Do About It

Democracy is a community project and as such, it is only as strong as the virtues of the people who are participating in it. It is only as strong as the social habits we encourage in ourselves and one another. Here we explore the emotion of hate within an understanding of our very human need to shape reality to suit our vision of what we believe it to be or should be, and seeing then how anything that gets in the way of that vision invokes our passions.

microphone
Podcast

Election Thoughts – Voting 2020

Democracy is a Value-based interpersonal construct for guiding human behavior. As such, democracy exists at the intersection of humanity's greatest potential and all our foibles. We can aspire to be the best versions of ourselves that we know to be, but it requires an active engagement, both on the ground through action and also through mindful reflection.

microphone
Podcast

The Values of Behavior

Ever wondered what behavior was all about? In The Values of Behavior, we explore Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) through the relational structure of Values - Narrative - Behavior, the guiding philosophy taught at Life Weavings through therapy and coaching....

Resilience, Wellness

Sleep is the Cornerstone of Healthy Habits

It all starts with sleep.  How you finish your day determines how you start your day. A good night’s sleep is the cornerstone of healthy habits and healthy habits are the foundation of self-care.   No matter what your objectives are, it is difficult to implement...

Resilience, Wellness

The Secret to Self-Care

I don't know about you but I am always surprised by how difficult I find it to maintain my self-care routine. I know how much better I feel when I do 30 minutes of cardio or 30 minutes of mobility exercise (which is stretching/strength training in motion), and...