Goals Versus Values – How Can You Prioritize Your Goals

Make a checklist

If you place a great deal of importance on accomplishments or just plain getting stuff done, you probably have a lot of goals. If you have a lot of goals, you probably struggle to prioritize them. Now there are some people that can fairly easily connect the dots between their goals and the trajectory of their lives. These people are usually linear thinkers. They see single, straight paths to meeting each goal they have and they’re able to isolate each one so as not to get distracted. Non-linear thinkers, see paths to meeting their goals as less defined and more abstract. While I don’t want to dismiss linear-thinking, I’m much more interested in non-linear goal setters.

When trying to prioritize goals, I think it’s helpful to understand how goals differ from values and how they relate to one another. Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist) wrote a great post the other day that touched on this topic. He explained that things like decluttering your home or downsizing it were great goals, but not values. Values, in fact, inform and shape goals.

How Goals and Values Differ

  • Goals have a beginning and end; they can be completed. Values are formed over time. While they may have origins in things like traditions and experiences, they aren’t developed overnight. Furthermore, they can’t be started or completed.
  • Goals are measurable and definable in terms of results and outcomes. While they can be described and referenced as the basis for certain behaviors or practices, they can’t truly be measured.
  • Goals don’t necessarily reflect what’s important to us, but they do illustrate what we believe we need to do. Values are guidelines for what’s important to us and what we care about. Not just what our obligations are.

How Goals and Values Interact

Values heavily influence how we go about meeting our goals. Why do you work hard at some goals and not others? If many goals have multiple means to meet them, how do you determine which method to take? The answer is found in our values. This is where the trick to setting priorities for our goals lies.

If you struggle with setting priorities for your goals, it’s time to ask yourself questions about what’s important in your life. Consider why certain things are important to you. Reflect on the experiences that helped shape those values. Perhaps a second glance will help you realize something you never saw before. Maybe then you can start piecing together next steps for tackling your goals.

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