Cath Duncan published an article on her blog yesterday that targeted something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I suggest you check it out: Is Traditional Goal-Setting Broken? She speaks to the issues I’ve been wrestling with myself. It is a nice background to this article.
Let’s cut right to the chase. While you are working toward that distant goal, what about right now? I touched on this in my article Redefining Our Ultimate Goals. I’m a strong believer in goals, but at some level traditional goal setting seems to conflict with living in the present, being happy now, and a lot of other things I and others talk about. Should you sacrifice yourself now for some future goal? Maybe, but then again maybe it won’t be worth it when you get there. What happens then? What happens in the meantime?
What About Values?
In my opinion, the number one most critical factor in goal setting is making sure they align completely with your values. You need to understand what your values are and sometimes this requires that you keep asking questions about what you really want. Identifying your values is far more important than setting goals. It’s a prerequisite.
I used to have a goal that said I wanted to have to be rich and to me than meant having X million dollars. When I asked myself why I wanted to be rich, the answer was because I wanted freedom and I wanted stuff. I thought then and I still do that money can buy you freedom that people with less money don’t have. I’m not sure I want the stuff anymore. Regardless of whether you agree or not, the key point here is that money is not really a value to me. Money is a goal and the value is freedom. That’s a core value to me and has been for as long as I can remember.
What if I work myself to death so I can be rich someday and gain my freedom? Am I free in the meantime? Am I living one of my core values of freedom now or am I a slave to my goal? If something happens and I don’t get rich, what then? What if I get rich and find out that it didn’t make me free? Any of those scenarios are really going to suck.
Living Your Values
A breakthrough for me was asking myself the question “What can I do right now to be free?”. That question led to a lot of steps I could take to gain more freedom regardless of how much money I had. I now have short, medium, and long term strategies that I can follow to gain more freedom without being rich. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t still have a goal to be rich, but I don’t. I’ve changed the “be rich” goal into one strategy, among several, for living my core value of freedom. If it never happens it will be OK, because I don’t intend for that to prevent me from living my ultimate value of personal freedom.
This same approach can be used for all of your values. I value freedom, self-acceptance, peaceful well-being, health, vitality into a very old-age, endless learning, and a lot of other things. My approach now is to figure out how I can live into these values right now, while establishing goals that deepen and extend their experience.
This is a significant departure from how I viewed all of this not too long ago. My thoughts are evolving and that’s part of the journey and I find it quite exciting. I’m very interested in see how this plays out on Cath’s blog in the near future. She promises to explain her ideas on the topic in the coming weeks.
“If you are living a goal-focused life, then no matter what you have, it’s never enough. Not so with a values-focused life, because your values are always available to you, no matter what your circumstances.” – Russ Harris
What do you think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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