Was there a time in your life when you struggled with accomplishing your goals and sticking to healthy routines? Maybe that time is now. Or, perhaps, you haven’t yet set up big enough goals and a comprehensive vision for you to observe that phenomenon. There are many reasons people fail to accomplish their goals, but many of those reasons have one thing in common: a lack of goal alignment. That means that those goals require actions, thoughts, and decisions in direct conflict with your inner values and beliefs. In other words, you set up goals that you cannot accomplish, although you want to. What to do?
Your Vision and Goals Drive Your Life Forward
It’s no longer a myth that having a vision for your life in general and multiple visions for each area of your life is what will keep you on your path. The vision is the beacon that constantly signals your direction in life.
Without a vision that is clear, cohesive, and motivating enough, you’d be wandering through life like an oarless raft in the middle of the ocean. You might reach an island and find gold, but you might also meander endlessly at the mercy of the wind.
When you take a step back and assess the critical things in your life, reflect on your past, and make thoughtful decisions about your future, you are painting the life that you want to have—the life you deserve.
The problem is that merely wanting something doesn’t make it happen. It’s a good and essential first step, but it’s not enough. You need to take that vision and unpack it. That implies getting a deeper understanding of what it means to get there and the necessary steps to take in that direction.
That’s where your goals come in. Your goals are the baby steps that will take you to that vision, year by year, day by day.
Without adequately designed goals, that vision will only fade into the distance, and you will be less likely to believe it could be possible. But when you set up clear goals and begin to work toward them, that vision becomes more apparent. The impossible turns into attainable.
Your Values Set Up Your Boundaries
As you might know, your values and beliefs are two powerful concepts that lie at the deepest roots of your character. They define who you are and what you stand for. The two concepts directly affect your attitude and behavior toward yourself, others, and the world in general.
If beliefs are those things that you hold to be true, regardless of having proof, your values are those things that you hold as important. They divide the world on a continuum from good to bad that is specific to you.
Through the prism of your values, you decide if something is right or wrong. Based on those assumptions, you define your limits, and you also set up boundaries toward the rest of the world.
If you value something high and are willing to live by your values versus just talking about them, you will not tolerate behavior that would be against that value.
For example, if the value of fairness is very high on your list, you will not do nor will you tolerate behavior that creates unfairness.
As you can imagine, that mindset defines how you think and your general attitude, and how you act.
That is why it’s vital to take stock of your core values before setting up your goals. Although your values exist within you, you need clarity. You need to spell them out in their order of priority, and you have to understand what they mean to you.
Suppose you are interested in doing this kind of introspective exercise to identify your personal core values. In that case, I suggest you check the Discover Your Values section in my free Self-Growth Journey program.
No matter how you get to your list of values, it is paramount that you create it before working on your goals.
Why Goal Alignment Is Paramount
Now let’s look at the summary of what we discussed so far:
- You need the vision to provide a guiding light for your life’s path.
- Next, you must break that vision into its components to define the milestones that will take you there.
- The goals are not theoretical; instead, they require action.
- Your values define the limits of what you would and would not do.
So, to chase your vision and dreams, you must act. But your actions are conditioned by your values.
Are you starting to see a connection here?
Let’s make this clearer with an example. Let’s say that you want to lose weight because your current weight is unhealthy and prevents you from thoroughly enjoying your life. You set up a goal to lose thirty pounds. But your values list doesn’t even include health. Or, if it does, it is tucked at the bottom below a bunch of other values. In other words, it’s either not important enough or not important at all.
Because of that, you will not be able to lose weight. Your habits, motivation, and drive won’t be enough to fuel the weight loss simply because, at the deepest level, you don’t believe it is important enough.
That is why goal alignment across all areas of life with all your values is a significant step before you can start working toward them.
Why A Personal Audit Is Important
Every time you want to talk about aligning thing A with thing B, you need to know a few things.
- Where is thing A today?
- Where is thing B today?
- The place thing A should be (the variable you want to affect)
- How does thing B need to change?
In the context of goals and values, the values represent the variable that you want to affect. Why? Because your values should not drive your goals. Instead, your vision kindles your goals, and those goals move you toward the vision. Sure, there’s overlap in the sense that you probably did not set up goals that do not consider the values, but it’s an important distinction.
Therefore, to begin creating your goals, you need to know your values today.
Once you have the set of values that are the base of your character today, it’s time to move to the goal-setting phase.
There are several ways in which you can create your goals. I recommend trying my system in the Creation – Your Goals section of the Self-Growth Journey program, or read my article on setting up goals.
Making this audit of your values is very important before you start designing your goals, but you must be wary of “designing” your goals to match your values. I’ll explain.
What Must Change – Values or Goals?
The first point here is that the things you want to accomplish in life are not derived from your values or beliefs, although they influence their constitution. Your goals must spawn from your vision, mission, and purpose in life.
The second point is that values are not always positive. As you do your values audit, you might discover that you have some problematic values.
For instance, let’s say that you are terrified of financial risk and the idea of losing money is not something you feel comfortable with. On the other hand, you want to accumulate wealth and know that investing is one way. If you let your fear of financial risk control your goals in that area, you’ll probably set up goals that will never get you to any wealth.
So, you cannot let the values drive the goals. You need to define the goals first in the right way, regardless of the system of values that governs your personality today.
How To Achieve Goal Alignment?
At this point in your analysis, you should have a few elements already prepared:
You need these pieces before you can move to the process of alignment between goals and values. If you don’t have any of these pieces, I urge you to go back to the basics and run through the exercises of identifying them.
Once you have them, you must ask the following questions:
- Which one of my values is a support for my goals, and which one is a hindrance?
- What values do I need to be able to complete my goals?
- Which values must I distance myself from to give my goals the biggest chances of achievement?
Let’s go through each question one by one.
Values That Support My Goals
Each one of your goals requires several tasks to ensure accomplishment. Some could be one time, while others might require more prolonged efforts spread over many months, maybe even years.
On the same token, each goal requires specific skills and strengths, without which it would be difficult, if not impossible, to complete. It is up to you to ensure that you have the proper knowledge and wisdom to execute the tasks needed by leveraging your strengths and working around your weaknesses.
Your value system is an essential piece of your arsenal when it comes to completing these goals.
For instance, a goal that requires you to show up every day and do something requires you to be disciplined and perseverent. So, the value of discipline and perseverance will act as a support for that goal.
The value of health will support a goal that targets health.
When you ask this question first, you are starting to connect the dots. No, mind you, your values support your goals no matter if you know or understand them. That’s why values are a fluid part of your personality, driving your attitude and behavior and, ultimately, your actions.
But understanding which values do support your goal adds clarity. The process is especially critical to identify those values that represent a hurdle to your goals.
Let’s take an example. Let’s assume that the value of success is an essential value for you. On your priority list, it scores very much at the top. What if the value of success becomes so vital that it spawns another unwanted value, which is fear of failure?
The more you value success as an end goal, the more you might fear the possibility of failure. By filtering your actions through this prism, you might jeopardize your ability to accomplish your goals.
Tony Robbins divides values into values to move toward and values to move away from. You need to understand how both of those values impact your ability to complete your goals.
What Values Do You Need?
As you analyze your goals and what you need to do to accomplish them, it’s not unusual to discover that your values list is missing some critical values.
That’s why it was essential to do the exercise of identifying your values independent of your vision and goals. You want to understand what your values are, regardless of what plans you have for the future.
Now that you have both in front of you, look at your goals and try to figure out if you need any values, but they’re not on your list.
For example, let’s say that one of your goals is to run a marathon. It’s a part of your vision’s overall health and wellness section where you decided that you want to lose weight and become stronger and healthier. You have studied the benefits of running and you want to start running and include this type of exercise as a part of your daily routine. The ultimate motivational target in this context could be to one day run a marathon.
What are the things that you need to accomplish this? I’d say at least:
- deep care about health
- tolerance of pain
Are those part of your list of values? If they’re not, how can you possibly accomplish this goal? The short answer is, you can’t.
That means you need to adjust your list of values by adding the new necessary values. Once you have the values in your list, you must re-prioritize the list. You do this by looking at your goals and vision for life and adjusting the values in a way that will most impact your ability to complete these goals.
However, more critical than merely adding items to a list, you must learn how to live by these new values. You do so by understating what these values mean and then defining what needs to change in your life to incorporate them.
So, here came the most important word: change. To change your system of values, you must shift your mindset. You must start to think differently and act differently.
In the words of Jim Rohn, “For things to change, YOU have to change.”
What Values Do You Need To Remove?
Similarly to the process of identifying values that you need to add, you must also go through the exercise of removing values that are not good for you.
Sometimes, you don’t necessarily need to remove a value altogether, but you need to lower its priority. Let’s say that for the past ten years, the value of leisure has grown on you. Now, you value resting and enjoying time off. That’s not a bad thing at the core. But, where is that in the priority of things? Is it at the top? That might be a problem. It would help if you learned how to push other values up and, thus, demote the ones that are not as good for you.
There are some values, though, which you want to move away from completely. They should slowly but surely disappear from your priority list. Think about Anger, Vengeance, Grudge, Guilt, Fear of Rejection.
A lot of time, it’s difficult even to understand that these values exist in your life, more so to remove them. You need to constantly work on your self-awareness and do a whole lot of self-reflection to see them. Usually, once you see them, you can’t unsee them, and that’s the point that marks the time when you can start slowly rejecting them.
It will take time, but it’s not impossible. So long as you are willing to put in the work and show up every day wholeheartedly and with honesty, you will succeed.
Realignment When Things Change
Life is anything but linear; instead, it’s volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous. No matter how detailed your plans are and how thoughtful your goals and vision, they’re still prone to the unexpected changes that life throws your way. That means that you must also be adaptable and flexible.
Revision of your life’s vision and goals should be an integral part of your annual review. The goals left unchecked get stale. You need to review them and realign them to where life has taken you over the past year.
Values also shift along the way. Although values don’t change so easily on their own, they alter and, more importantly, change the priority. Events such as marriage, new job, new house, children, death of a loved one, winning the lottery—they all affect profound changes in your life capable of shifting your value system one way or another.
That is why it’s paramount to review your vision and goals annually to account for what changed in the year before. Taking stock of where you are today might change your plans or result in no changes. But you need to know this instead of simply assuming it.
Never assume that because you spent a hefty amount of time analyzing and devising goals for yourself, they’ll stay unchanged until you complete them. Always question your status quo. It’s an excellent way to check yourself and go through that process of realignment again and again.
Other Resources on Goal Alignment
- Aligning Goals and Values
- 3 Steps to Align Your Vision + Your Values for Long-Term Success
- Design Your Life: Align Your Values, Goals, and Actions
- The Difference Between Goals and Values and Why Both Matter
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Do you believe your goals are aligned with your values and beliefs?
- Have you found a time in your life when the lack of goal alignment was a problem for you?
- How often do you review your values and make sure that your goals and values are aligned?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!