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Tired of Goals? Try Values Instead

Updated: Nov 16

Too Long; Didn't Read — I'm trying something new here. This week, I'm sharing a bit about how designing your habits and routines around values is an option if goals don't consistently work for you. If you're interested, read on.

I thought it'd be worthwhile to share a bit about values (this link describes values as they're understood in ACT, which maybe slightly different than you'd otherwise assume. Worth the 20-second read, in my opinion). 

If you're anything like me, when circumstances are tough, it's easy to set goals to try and work your way out of the problem. Sure enough, as soon as you achieve that goal (or don't in some cases), you find yourself setting your sights on the next thing so that you don't have to sit still, directionless and uncomfortable. There's nothing inherently problematic about this, of course. It's a really human thing to do, and we're all pretty good at avoiding discomfort.

What tends to be far more fulfilling in the long-term, however, is to take values-driven actions. Said another way, it's choosing to act in ways that are aligned with your values (which you can choose in any moment) and less focused on guaranteeing outcomes (which you have far less control over). One other way I've heard this phrased is to build systems rather than pursue goals.

This blog post from James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) describes this quite eloquently. The one thing I'd add, though, is to focus on building values-based systems. Essentially, don't just establish any routine that you think is good because other people say so — design your system around a set of actions that will maximize your ability to show up in the world in ways that you care about (e.g. authentically, helpfully, compassionately, healthily are a few of mine).

For example, if I just write these posts because it's what Step Outside is supposed to do— because business & marketing or whatever, I'll likely hate the process at some point, even if I achieve the goal. If I view these posts through the lens of getting a chance to write something authentic and meaningful, though, the content is inspired by that. Now I've all of a sudden added one meaningful behavior (e.g. sharing my written thoughts with the world) to this values-based system that I personally care about and want to continue doing because it matters to me.

In case it's not obvious, this doesn't mean you should start writing weekly emails or blog posts to be fulfilled. That's the whole point — build your system based on what you care about and how you want to show up. 

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