In the coming weeks, you will see a lot of posts on personal goals. What goals did you achieve last year? What do you want to improve on for next year? What goals are you setting for the new year? My focus is different.
As a psychologist, I’m more interested in looking at how your actions match your values rather than goal setting. This is because values-based living tends to result in better emotional well-being. Goals, on the other hand, are often related to extrinsic measures of success. We are often taught in our culture to value status, material possessions and career success and the outside trimmings such as having a thin, muscular body.
If you want to have a happier, more content life next year consider putting action behind your values instead of setting goals to make more money, lose weight or buy a new car. These things in themselves aren’t bad, but if they are based on extrinsic motivation such as having more status they are unlikely to provide lasting feelings of satisfaction or contentment.
If these kinds of goals are tied to intrinsic values such needing to find a way to earn more money so you can work fewer hours to live to your value of being an involved parent, goals can provide this longer lasting satisfaction. Another example of a goal that is linked to values is if shared activities in your marriage are important to you and your weight has meant you can’t join your partner on a hike, you might put values-based action towards losing weight.
When I look at my year in review these days, I take a values-based look at it. Not in a critical where did you fall short kind of a way, but a kind and compassionate, curious way. Did I live according to my values? Where did I get caught up in extrinsic motivation? Was that helpful to me? I talk about how I do this below.
My year in review from a values-based living perspective
One value I put action towards this year was my value of compassion. A value is not worth much if there is no action behind it. One way that I did this through reducing the use of late cancellation fees in my practice. It is a common practice for appointment based businesses like my clinic to charge a fee for cancellations on the day or no-shows. These fees are generally charged due to the loss of income that accrues when unwanted appointments are not cancelled in a timely fashion.
This experiment came about due to my own experience of forgetting a veterinarian appointment for my dog. I was mortified because I had completely forgotten and it was a specialist and it was a late, after hours appointment. They didn’t charge me even though the veterinarian clinic had a non-attendance fee policy. They didn’t charge me, even when I offered to pay. It felt so good to not be punished for what was an honest mistake. It made me wonder what would happen if I was more compassionate to circumstances such as honest forgetting. These charges, although reasonable and sometimes necessary, often feel like a punishment to clients.
On review, it did feel better to act compassionately. It felt more congruent with who I am as a person even if I may have lost out financially. It also felt better not to be the bad guy sending out these invoices that no one wanted to receive. I did charge some fees this year but only when the circumstance surrounding the non-attendance was what we would say in Australia was “beyond a joke”. Allowing myself to be flexible enough to charge some fees rather than none, allowed me to live to my value of assertiveness and compassion.
Committing to values based living for next year.
When I consider my outlook for next year, I’m going to think about what values I want to focus on more this year. I’m going to identify which actions I can take that will help me live according to my values. I want to continue to help people live calm and confident lives through this blog here and through the work I do in my clinic. I want to continue to spread the message of peaceful,values-based parenting and help people reduce the use of punishment in their parenting. I want to refocus myself on this kind of parenting in my own home. I want to contribute to my community more, the community in the face to face world.
How about you? Will you consider your year according to your values or goals? I encourage to look at both last year and plan for next year through a values-based lens.
Some helpful questions to begin are:
- What matters most to me? What do I value in life? If you get stuck on this, think about what you would like people to know you for or say in your obituary. Although a bit morbid, this exercise helps define values.
- What action do I put towards those values? Make a list.
- What could I do to live closer to my values? This is a helpful question if there are values you hold that you don’t put action behind. Ask yourself and “What is blocking me from acting according to my values?”. Sometimes you can have a clash of two values going on much like my clash between assertiveness and compassion in the fee setting example. You may need to work out how to be flexible with this.
- What behaviours could I do more of to bring me closer to my values? If you are acting in a way that is not consistent with your values, ask yourself what can I do instead?
Be flexible. Values based living is not about creating a set of inflexible rules. Wherever possible choose actions according to your values. If you act in a way that is inconsistent with your values, review it with self-compassion and work out a plan of action to repair it or do better next time.
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