What do we mean with values and what’s the difference with goals?
A value is a chosen path, a chosen direction that helps us to orient our behaviors. Think of values as a compass, allowing us to search and reach for our goals and who we are, even when it looks like we got lost. A value is a decision about what is most important in our life, what counts the most, that decision that allows us to be the person we want to be. Having clear values in life ultimately helps minimize stress, see things clearly during stressful situations and staying committed to the person we really are. Values, decisions and consequent behaviors need to be aligned in order to provide us with that sort of peace of mind we are seeking for.
On the other hand we have goals, which are what we achieve while we are following the direction of our values. So, if for example one of our values is security, which is ongoing and never ceasing, a goal in this direction could be buying a house or finding a permanent job. As opposed to a value, a goal ends the moment we have achieved it
When we can’t set our goals it is because we haven’t decided which are our values, we haven’t clarified the person we want to be. We need to be consistent with our values in order to have the sense of purpose in life that allow us to overcome upsetting situations and pick ourselves up over and over again (meaning, becoming a resilient person). That’s life, whether we want it or not, we always have to deal with inevitable stressors and must learn to bounce back.
What happens when values and behaviors are disconnected?
Stress slowly eats away our ability to stay focused and coherent with our values, and therefore our goals. This, as a consequence, causes negative emotions to come to the surface and we end up keeping on fighting against stress. When we keep in mind which is the person we want to be and what matters most in life, it’s easier to bounce back, taking that compass back in our hand again and find our way back on track. Once we have clarified what matters the most for us, we can try to figure out which are the specific actions we can engage in that will enable us to be the person we want to be. Ask yourself “what are the actions, the behaviors, I can engage in on a daily basis that will enable me to make that specific value real?”. Behaving disconnected with our values will ultimately lead to feeling we’ve lost purpose in life, we’ve lost the meaning of it and we have betrayed our true-self.
Committing to our values will lessen our stress and ultimately enhance our life satisfaction
Staying committed to our values is no “walk in the park”. You’ll see though that, despite life getting in the way with its stressors, you will find your way around your true-self all the time if you commit to practice on an ongoing basis those behaviors. Sometimes though our values and our behaviors, somehow, somewhere, get lost. That’s why we should always perform periodic check-ins. “What’s getting in the way of being who I want?” “When did it happen that I stopped being the person I want to be?”. Once you have given yourself an answer, you can start again committing to those actions you know will be in line with yourself.