It’s 2019 people! Did you make resolutions? If so, what made you set those goals for yourself? Is it a regurgitated resolution every year? No judgments, I’ve been there, and I’m sure we know a lot of people who have been there, done it and still continue to even when the resolutions fall flat on their face within hours of the new year. The scene where Bridget Jones meets Mark Darcy for the first time (not when they met in nappies) comes to mind.
From what I understand, goals are targets that we set ourselves such as “I would like to lose 5kg”. Its helpful to have goals as it gives us a focus, however it is very much outcome driven. There’s no middle ground, you either reach your goal or you don’t. When you don’t, you are disappointed. This adds to feelings of low mood and anxiety. This is why resolutions often do not work, or are short lived. We over fuel over the festive period, overindulging, allowing ourselves to be “naughty” aka half a cake and a slab of cheese washed down with a gallon of wine and expect ourselves to switch it off as the clock strikes 12.
I propose an alternative to setting goals based on a psychological treatment approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT proposes that one can be happy with themselves just as they are, by tapping into what makes them them. I find that identifying one’s values gets a better sense of who they are and what direction they want their life to go in. ACT argues that true life satisfaction comes from living life according to your values.
Our values reflect what we find meaningful in life. No two person’s values are the same, and that is what makes us unique. Where goals may be inflexible and outcome focussed, values are flexible and change as we grow in the world. Values tend to define the direction we want our lives to go in. We may have a goal of losing weight, but our value would be to have a healthy body. Our goal may be to have a few kids, but our value will be to a non judgmental, supportive mother who loves her children unconditionally. There are no right or wrong answers to the values you hold, for it makes you the person you are, and that is nothing to be sorry about. Own your values and work in that direction.
I use a worksheet in my work which helps people identify their values. Unfortunately I have just seen it can only be accessed at cost. You can find it at https://www.psychologytools.com/worksheet/values/ . What I like about this sheet in particular, is that it gets the individual to think about different parts of their life: family, relationship with their partner, parenting, friendships, career, education, recreation, spirituality, community and physical wellbeing. What is most important about all these areas of their life? What kind of person do they want to be in relation to all these areas? Some may not be applicable to you now or ever. For a long time, parenting wasn’t even on the radar for me, but now it’s a core value area for me.
Once you identify your values, you can then start living life meaningfully and in the direction you choose. Sorry to go back to weight again, but if your value is to have a healthy body, you’re less likely to over indulge in cake (it’s my vice) but may have a slice but also pick up a few grapes too, which keeps your value in mind. If your value is to be a supportive friend, you may choose to pick up the phone and FaceTime your best mate that you just haven’t had time to contact recently because XYZ.
This is when you can use goals to fuel your values. Rather than setting goals alone. If you understand the direction you want your life to go in, then why not set a few short term goals that can help you move in that direction a little faster. If you want to be well travelled, why not set a target of visiting a European city this Summer.
You can achieve anything you want. You need to find your fuel to get there.
Hope this gives you an alternative to goal setting. A little tip, I revisit my values in November or February each year just to remind myself who I am, and how I have developed in the past few months. I have my values sheet hung up in my wardrobe so I can see them when I want to, and to give me a boost when I’ve had a particularly terrible day. What are your values? Would be great to hear them!
Lots of love