Change and growth are difficult.
There is a variety of reasons we don’t do either. A lack of time is usually high on the list. As are lack of resources, lack of direction, or lack of motivation. How then do we get started on a new path for ourselves? How do we manage to push through when, inevitably, we face challenges and barriers?
Establish your goals.
Goal setting is a great way to point ourselves in a particular direction when we are looking to make a change or grow. They provide an endpoint in addition to signposts along the way to measure progress.
Goals identify the change we want to make, and well-designed goals provide a road map for how to get there. The acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable/Achievable, Realistic, Timely) is a great device for providing yourself with concrete action steps to take. However, even people who develop SMART goals can find themselves meeting barriers, having momentum curbed, or just falling off for any number of reasons. Depending on your stage in life it could be school, work, kids, grandkids, parents, etc. that begin to chip away at your ability to stay on course towards your goals. It can be very difficult to find the motivation to continue and very easy to fall back to old habits.
Alternatively, goals are finite and even if we stay on track on accomplishing our goals, we could be left with the question of “Now what?”
A common example of this is weight loss goals. A person who sets a goal to lose 10 lbs. may do a great job of increasing their physical activity, limiting their intake of junk food, and getting more rest. However, all these changes are aligned with the goal to lose the 10lbs. What often happens is that once the goal is achieved, we can talk ourselves out of the new behaviors and return to old ones. The next thing we know, we’ve put the weight back on.
How do we then set ourselves up for sustained success to not only accomplish our goals but to incorporate the new changes in our life?
One of the best ways is to align our goals with our values.
Uphold your values.
Values, simply defined, are the things in our life that are important to us. They are tied to our beliefs about right and wrong and inform our aspirations and ideals.
Examples of values are:
- Health (mental, physical, spiritual, etc.)
When we live a life according to our values, we are more satisfied and fulfilled. Living in contradiction to what we hold as important can lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, and feeling stuck. Values can help us achieve our goals, but more importantly, it can change our perspective related to our goals and allow us to experience satisfaction along the journey and not only when we reach the destination. This has a profound impact on our motivation and can help us push through the more difficult moments.
Values can be applied not only to changes we wish to make in ourselves but also to changes in our relationships. I’ll restate this: Change is difficult. In the moments when we question whether the effort is worth it, our values help reinforce what is important to us and help us make difficult decisions. They don’t tell us what we should do, but what we want to do. Instead of making a change due to a sense of obligation, I can choose to change or not change based on whether it aligns with my values.
How do we know what our values are?
A common exercise in counseling is a values card sort in which index cards with a value written on each are sorted into several different columns based on importance to you. Exercises such as these, along with self-reflection and consultation are great ways to be more thoughtful and intentional about what we view as important. Once we’ve identified our values and stratified their importance to us, we are able to start applying them to our decision-making and goal-setting.
If you’ve had difficulty accomplishing goals or sustaining behavior changes over time and are looking for help in doing so, we are here for you. Schedule a consultation or meeting or email Mike Stancil directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.