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Goal-Setting, Values and Motivation


Goal-Setting and Knowing What You Want

Goal-setting orientates us towards what we want, need and desire – it moves us from where we are (point A) to where we want to be (route B).  Motivation underpins goal-setting – it is the driving force that gets us moving and keeps us going until we have reached the desired outcome.

However, simply wanting or needing something is not within itself enough. In order for us to achieve our goals a number of conditions need to be met – we need, for example to be clear about what it is we want or believe we need.  We also need to know that we can achieve the goal we have in mind and have a clear indication of when the goal will be achieved.

Another defining characteristic of the goal-setting process is that it comes to a conclusion when the goal is achieved.  Examples of the kind of goals we may set ourselves might include running our first marathon, losing 2 kg of body fat, moving to a bigger house, gaining a promotion at work, starting a family, learning to drive, completing a course of study, travelling to different parts of the world, and so on.  The goal of running our first marathon will be achieved the moment we cross the finish line, the goal of learning to drive is accomplished the day we pass our driving test and so on.

Values – the Driving Force of Your Life

Values are different from goals insofar as a value is not finite, it is not achieved at some specific point in time as is the case with a goal.  Excellence, courage, resilience, determination, kindness, forgiveness are, for example values.  Values represents what’s important to us – our values also support our motivation.  Our values motivate us – they motivate us to set the goal in the first place and, more importantly they keep us going even when the going gets tough.

Our success in life is also measured by the extent in which we live our values – we may or may not achieve our goals but as long as we are living our values we will be going in the right direction.  We should, in fact, measure our success in life not by the extent in which we have achieved our goals but by the extent we are living our values.  Let’s say, for argument sake I set myself the goal of running the London marathon in under four hours thirty minutes and I cross the finish line in four hours and twenty-two minutes.  My goal has been achieved – that’s it, I’ve done it and I’ve got the medal, the certificate, the goody bag and the ‘T’ shirt to prove it (as well as the blisters and the nipple rash).  I can tick that particular achievement off my bucket list and set myself another goal.  However, underpinning my achievement were a specific set of values.  These values included courage, determination, resilience, fitness, pride, camaraderie, persistence, effort, hard-work, fun, challenge, amongst others.  However, values such as these are never fully achieved as such – there will never come a time in my life when these values cease to be of importance me.  I won’t stop becoming determined just because I ran a marathon.  Our values stay with us throughout our lives – they are the driving force of our life.

You may also find that the same values underpin and motivate you with regards a number of goals.  If determination is a value of yours then you will almost certainly show determination in most areas of your life – you will show determination in the way you do your job, how you spend your leisure time, in the way you relate to your family, friends, and so on.

Motivation and the Commitment to Change

People will say they want to change some aspect of their life but they will also say that they struggle to engage in the process of change due to a lack of motivation.  They may say they lack motivation but this is simply not the case.  We are all motivated – it’s just a question of where we want to put our mental and physical energy.  When I was teacher I often heard colleagues complain that their learners lacked motivation but the learners they were referring to where motivated – they just weren’t motivated to do what the teacher wanted them to do!  A teenager may appear bored and disengaged in an English or Maths class and yet that same teenager will work as hard as they possible can during football training, while learning to DJ or rap, mastering a video game, amongst other things.

Any discussion of motivation would benefit from an exploration of what the word actually means.  The word literally means to ‘stimulate towards action, to incite or impel.’  The process begins with the motive, desire, or inclination to do something – motivation is, more specifically the process of acting upon that motive.  In other words, if you want, desire or need something badly enough then you will be motivated to get it.  Understanding motivation as the desire to achieve can, however, be problematic insofar as people my feel they have to wait until they feel motivated to lose weight, get fit, find a new job, start a new relationship, and so on but this can be problematic. In other words, if you wait until you feel motivated to get going then you could be waiting an awful long time.  In other words, don’t have to wait until you feel motivated before you get yourself going – you just need to set yourself a goal, identify the values that underpin the goal, commit yourself to achieving it and then engage in the process through taking positive, constructive action.  Of course, any goal worth achieving is going to be a challenge and being challenged means stepping outside your comfort zone and stepping outside your comfort zone will, by implication mean experiencing a certain amount of discomfort.  Most of us would rather experience pleasure than pain so it’s only natural that people will want to avoid discomfort.  Imagine for a moment that it’s 6:00 in the morning on a cold, wet Sunday in the middle of winter and you are offered a choice – you can either have a lie in or go for a 10 kilometre run?  If you waited to feel motivated to go for a run then you would probably be waiting a long time. However, let’s imagine you are genuinely committed to achieving a particular goal such as completing a local 10K race and you have a clear idea of the values which underpin this particular goal then you will probably have no trouble getting your running shoes on and heading out of the door.  Even if you don’t particularly feel like going for a run you will probably do it because you have a goal you really, really want to achieve and, more importantly you have identified the values which underpin the goal and it is your values, remember that motivate you. You know you will experience some physical discomfort during the run including feeling cold and tired, you may even experience some mental discomfort as you ask yourself why on earth you are doing this but you will also feel absolutely wonderful when you get back home because you know, deep down that you are living your values!  Having a lie in will bring you temporary pleasure but the experience will be short lived because the pleasure is relatively insignificant and isn’t congruent with what really matters to you.  The satisfaction you experience living your values will, by contrast have a deep and lasting influence – it will endure.

So, what are your values? What matters the most to you? What goals could you set for yourself both in the short term and long term that would enable you to live your values?






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