Why Most People Get Goal Setting Utterly Wrong (and never know)

A client asked me a question the other day.

It’s one which I’ve been asked scores of times over the years, albeit it usually by people interviewing me.

‘What is the difference between values and goals?’

I usually go into a rather long-winded answer about values being internal and what defines us as human beings.

We cannot exist without values, even if we sometimes look at people in power (you know, leading the free world kind of power) and think they’re giving it their best shot.

Values underpin everything in our lives.

They dictate who we like, and who we don’t like.

What work will seem meaningful to us, and what won’t.

And this side of whether you prefer a glass of cabernet sauvignon over a can of coke, most other things.

I’m not saying goals aren’t important, but they pale into comparison.

Living by your values will go a long way to helping you to feel content and happy.

However, there are millions of people who set and then accomplish goals, who are still discontent and unhappy.

But strangely (at least to me), there are probably 100 times more books and articles written around setting goals than there are understanding our values.

It seems that the entire self development industry is built on the rather shaky bedrock of setting goals and then going balls out to achieve them.

setting goals

Getting Goal Setting Wrong

Setting goals without knowing your values is akin to setting the GPS in your car when you don’t know where you’re going.

As I was about to launch into my reply from nowhere came,

“Goals are what you strive for, values are what you die for”

I sat back thinking to myself ‘wow, that’s cool, I wonder who said it?’

After the call, I searched Google to find out who had said it first but couldn’t find it anywhere.

I asked in my Coach The Life Coach Facebook group (click here to join if you’re a coach, or want to be a coach) thinking that with almost 3.5k coaches in there, somebody would know.

Nobody had heard it before.

I’m still not sure if I had a very rare flash of brilliance.

Or, whether I did hear it once prior and it’s just been lurking in the nether reaches of my mind waiting to pop out.

Please do leave a comment if you have heard it elsewhere because I’d hate to claim somebody else’s quote.

In any event, it bears pondering when we are setting goals, or making major life decisions.

Under such circumstances, we should (presuming we know them) be bringing our most important values to the fore and making sure they’re not compromised.

I will use one example to make the point and then let you consider ones that are relevant to you.

If you asked a loving parent what would they be prepared to die for, a good proportion would say to protect their kids.

Yet, how many parents take on jobs that take them away from their kids because the money is good?

Or, allow their kids to eat shit because it’s just easier than dealing with the meltdown that would follow serving dinner without fries or pizza?

Or even, get into loud fights with their partner with the kids there, or knowing they can hear?

And that’s not a criticism of parents, especially as I don’t have kids, I’m sure it’s super tough.

It’s merely an observation that we can strive for things like spending more time with our kids, getting them to eat more healthily and not arguing in front of them, but it’s often not until we remember what we’d die for that we gain real clarity on what is the best thing to do.

If you want to know more about the incredible power of values and why they are so much more important than goals, you can check out my new book, The Clarity Method.

Photo 1 by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Photo 2 by Estée Janssens on Unsplash