From Values to Volition

What are your goals for 2018? Maybe you want to develop a new exercise routine, meditation practice, or volunteer more. Maybe your goals are more abstract: listen deeply, connect authentically, show yourself compassion. Whatever your aspirations may be as we embark upon a new year, it’s important that you first get to know your values.

How do you go about determining your values? They might jump out at you, things like good health, meaningful work, leisure time, and giving back to the community. Or, they might be tucked beneath the surface, waiting to emerge.

Here are some questions to help you unearth your deepest values:

What brings you joy each day? What frustrates you?

What would you do for a living if money were no object?

What example do you want to set for others?

Who do you want to be more like? What traits do you admire in them?

When do you feel most fulfilled? Least fulfilled?

Sit with your answers, and see what patterns or themes emerge. From these themes, you can start to detect your core values. If your answers involve being around others, perhaps a strong sense of community is important to you. If you admire powerful leaders, then financial success, philanthropy, or workplace growth might be most important. Maybe your strongest values are more spiritual in nature.

Once you’ve determined your values, you can start to build goals around them. If you’ve vowed every year to start exercising more, but failed by January’s end, your goal might not align with what you hold most dear.

If good health is important to you, but it’s not one of your core values, find a way to tie it to one that is. For example, if a close-knit community is what you crave, then solo runs will burn calories, but are unlikely to fill your need for socialization. Instead, find a running buddy, sign up for a community fitness class, or join a local sports league.

Maybe you want to cook more meals from scratch. Here are some examples of how you might link this goal to one of your core values:

Family time: have more at-home family meals together

Good health: cook vegetarian meals one night a week

Philanthropy: volunteer your time at a food shelter

Intellectual stimulation/ challenge: cook one new recipe each week

Adventure/ exploration: sign up for a cooking class

Choose 3-4 goals you want to focus on, and pair each one with a core value. If they align with more than one, the more likely you are to see them through. If you don’t have any particular goals in mind, use your identified values to help guide you.

Resist the temptation to set more than 3 or 4. It takes time to get into a groove, and you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. When your goals stem from your values, they’re likely to be rich, fulfilling, and easier to adhere to, than those set simply in the name of self-improvement.

Still need a hand? Here’s an example of one of my own:

Goal: write more regularly

Core values: intellectual stimulation, personal growth, giving back

Bringing it all together: I hope to explore new topics and continue to challenge myself through writing. I hope to reach more readers, and refine my voice. I hope to expand the number of outlets I write for, and continue to let my inner self shape my selection and sharing.