For 2017, a new Marist poll found that “being a better person” tops the list of New Year’s resolutions. That’s in contrast to “losing weight,” which has been at the top of the list for several years. But what is it about “being a better person” that people want? Because goals that work well are SMART goals, it’s important to be specific!
I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin’s quote prompts us to reflect upon a few questions as we start the New Year:
- Am I living the life I want to live?
- Am I being the person I want to be?
- How do I live with intention?
Be Specific About Your Values
When you start dating someone, one of the first things you want to know is the other person’s values. If your values don’t align fairly well, the honeymoon stage of the relationship will surely come to an end sooner if not later.
Similarly, as professional coaches, we like to do a Values Identification exercise with new clients. It’s easy to skip this step when both the coach and the client want to jump right into identifying goals, action steps, and desired outcomes. Yet, if the client is not clear about their personal values, he or she is less likely to meet their goal. And if the coach does not know the client’s values, she can’t coach the client in a way that helps the client be true to their values. And that might adversely impact the client’s ability to meet their goal.
I almost always regret when I don’t take the time to learn a lot about my client’s values before I jump into a coaching relationship.
It’s easy to assume that people who share the same goal (e.g., to be a better person) also share the same values. But that’s not necessarily true. You need to be specific about your values – because specific values will help you reach specific goals.
Be Specific About Aligning Goals With Values
For the purpose of this article, let’s use the following definition of values: A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
Given this definition, here is an abbreviated list of values for two different people:
|Values||Having a few good friends||Having dozens of friends|
|Making over $ 100,000 per year||Knowing all my neighbors|
|A neat and orderly home||Paying bills on time|
|Spending time with my wife||Volunteering with non-profits|
Now, let’s say that Person 1 and Person 2 have the same top 2017 New Year’s resolution – “to be a better person.” More than likely, given their very different values, this resolution might also break down into very different sub-goals.
If you ask Person 1 and Person 2 to “be specific about what you want” in order to meet their goal of “being a better person,” here’s what they might say:
|Person 1||Person 2|
|Sub-Goals||Stay in touch with friends.||Help elderly friends with chores.|
|Save at least $ 10,000 per year.||Meet all my new neighbors.|
|Keep my home office picked up.||Pay bills 5 – 10 days in advance.|
|Spend Saturdays with my wife.||Volunteer 5 hours per week.|
In order for Person 1 to meet his income and savings goals, he has to work a 50-hour workweek that takes him out of town some weeks. However, he has made a commitment to spend Saturdays with his wife, so he arranged not to work on Saturdays. Person 2 doesn’t have a specific income goal, and he works only 35 hours per week. He makes barely enough money to pay his bills, but he struggles to pay his bills on time, and he wants to get better at that.
Both Person 1 and Person 2 have the same goal of “being a better person” in 2017. But they have different values and different sub-goals. There’s nothing “right” or “wrong” with either of their values or sub-goals. They’re just different. Therefore, the action steps that each of them will take to reach their big goal of being a better person will be different.
Do you know your values? If so, are your values aligned with your goals?
How Do I Know What I Want?
If you’re unclear about your values and goals and you want to learn how to be specific, I highly recommend that you read a classic bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, by the late Stephen R. Covey. Covey describes how you can achieve “Private Victory” by developing these three habits:
- Be Proactive – Principles of Personal Vision
- Begin with the End in Mind – Principles of Personal Leadership
- Put First Things First – Principles of Personal Management
Of course, there’s more to it – there’s “Public Victory” and “Renewal,” including four more habits! However, focusing on the first three habits will help you clarify your principles, values, and vision. You will also learn how to write a personal mission statement.
Once you are clear about your personal mission, your values and goals will become more specific. And you will be on a personal path to success in the New Year!
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