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New Year’s Resolution? Values before Goals!

The New Year is often a time for reflection. It is also a period where many make resolutions for the year ahead and some create goals to track performance. Goal setting is often the starting point for most who want to create behaviour change.

As a coach, I suggest this should be one of the final steps. I believe many are unsuccessful in creating healthy change because they haven’t created a compelling vision or have not identified key values that drive their behaviour. If values are not in alignment with a personal vision it is understandable why there maybe ambivalence and why many become unstuck, during the process of change.

So what are values?

Values are about how you want to present in the world, what you want to stand for and where and how you spend your time. A definition that resonates for me comes from an Australian psychologist Russ Harris, who specialises in ACT (Acceptance, Commitment Therapy). According to him they are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life.

“Values are not the same as goals. Values are directions we keep moving in, whereas goals are what we want to achieve along the way. A value is like heading North; a goal is like the river or mountain or valley we aim to cross whilst traveling in that direction. Goals can be achieved or ‘crossed off’, whereas values are an ongoing process. For example, if you want to be a loving, caring, supportive partner, that is a value – an ongoing process. If you stop being loving, caring and supportive, then you are no longer a loving, caring, supportive partner; you are no longer living by that value. In contrast, if you want to get married, that’s a goal - it can be ‘crossed off’ or achieved. Once you’re married, you’re married – even if you start treating your partner very badly. If you want a better job, that’s a goal. Once you’ve got it - goal achieved. But if you want to fully apply yourself at work, that’s a value – an ongoing process.”

In summary values are desired qualities of ongoing action. They reflect how we want to treat ourselves and others. They enhance our deepest desires as to how we want to show up in the world and behave. As any change we wish to create is a result of our behaviour, distinguishing ones values first is key.

A useful exercise for the New Year…

  1. Firstly assess the various domains in your life e.g. Career, Family, Parenting, Relationships, Health & Wellbeing, Community, Personal Growth & Development, Spirituality etc

  2. For each of your life domains, come up with 1-3 values that summarise your valued direction in that domain, e.g. ‘To be a loving, supportive, caring, partner.’ Read through the accompanying values sheet for assistance.

  3. Once you have listed your values in each domain, highlight any common or reoccurring values

  4. Finally come up with your top 6 values to live by this year.

Values exercise worksheet
Download PDF • 49KB

Example Values
Download PDF • 51KB

PS in February I will be launching my “Being Vital” 8-week coaching program… But more about this in the weeks ahead!

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