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- If you haven’t defined your personal values then goals which you are trying to achieve will be much more difficult.
- And it’s quite possible that you might be setting entirely the wrong goals for you.
Your values are often much more important than you might think.
They can be broadly defined as a set of desirable goals that motivate people’s actions and serve as guiding principles in their lives. Whilst they may evolve to some degree across the course of a lifetime, for most people they emerge early in life through adolescence and into early adulthood and remain baked into the psyche. They underpin whether an individual feels fulfilled and contented with their life, operating as a yardstick against which to measure personal success and reward, and whether a life is leading to outcomes which provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
Ever heard the expression “you’re in the wrong job”? Well, that’s why I feel perhaps that it’s worth giving some thought to your values in the context of personal and business productivity and creativity. You hear and read a good deal in the entrepreneurial and productivity space about habit formation, motivation and procrastination. The marketplace for self-help around these topics is huge.
It could be argued that the underlying reason for this is a broad dissatisfaction by many that their lives are off course in some way. Usually from the perspective of feeling that they are underachieving. A solution being to delve into self help, seeking solutions to improving their personal satisfaction.
It might be argued that anybody who feels they have an ongoing sense of accomplishment would not feel the need to pursue self-help solutions. And there is a very good reason why so many authors, podcasters, and video creators churn out colossal amounts of content around these topics. It’s because there are such huge audiences for this sort of thing and it’s easy to gain traction even in an overcrowded space.
The success of books such as “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, and “Tiny Habits” by BJ Fogg underline my point, and approach solutions to a general lifetime dissatisfaction from a granular perspective. Starting with the very basic personality traits of somebody who feels that they would like to make some sort of improvement in their life and circumstances.
All well and good, but I would contend that if what you are doing and trying to achieve is in alignment with your personal values then the need to create good habits around personal success should be entirely relevant, shouldn’t it?
Let’s take an example of somebody who might consider one of their basic values being providing for their family. Why would you need to force yourself using some sort of psychological trick to approach this value conscientiously and productively? If your habits are blocking your ability to take care of your family, or steering you off track, surely if it was important enough to you it would be entirely natural to do everything you can quite automatically in pursuit of this value and specific goals which arise from it.
So we have identified that the marketplace for self-help is almost entirely driven by a personal dissatisfaction with your lot in life and the inability to identify reasons and solutions for yourself. Many people with whom I have a close business and personal interactions are rudderless ships in the sea of life, not knowing whether heading but with a huge sense of frustration that wherever it is they are drifting is not in alignment with what they would like to be doing or achieving.
When challenged with questions such as “well what is it you would actually like to achieve?” responses are often vague and in some cases patently unachievable. And when further questioned on “why?”, things often become even more vague!
All of which brings me back to your values.
Now let’s clear something up from the outset. I’m not talking about some sort of wishy-washy Nirvana-like state of well-being. I’m talking about how you can attain the self-esteem level of Maslow’s very well-known and understood pyramidal Hierarchy of Needs. And even the pinnacle of “self actualisation”, although I could have a long debate with you about what this actually means!
But a fundamental sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction with a life well lived is entirely within reach of anybody who considers carefully what this actually means to them. And what it means to them is measured against their personal values.
If your long and medium term goals are not in alignment with your values, then their meaning to you will be limited. Or worse, even completely counter-productive. Perhaps leaving you in a position where your habits leave you feeling dispirited and frustrated, leading you to seek solutions to changing your habits, twisting your psychology and tricking yourself by means of techniques as highlighted in the books referenced above.
However, if your goals and day to day habits are in good alignment with your values, an individual can most certainly feel that, and argue that their personal and professional productivity and creativity is at a level with which they are extremely satisfied.
So you need to have a discussion with yourself about what you’re trying to do with your life. What are your values? How do your goals align with your values? What actually are you trying to achieve, and is what you’re trying to achieve right for you? None of which is anything that I can help you with. But across the course of these Notes, it’s essential that if they’re going to have any value to you in achieving your goals, productivity, and creativity then you need to have had that conversation with yourself at some length and really thought it through.