From Values to Volition

What are your goals for 2018? Maybe you want to develop a new exercise routine, meditation practice, or volunteer more. Maybe your goals are more abstract: listen deeply, connect authentically, show yourself compassion. Whatever your aspirations may be as we embark upon a new year, it’s important that you first get to know your values.

How do you go about determining your values? They might jump out at you, things like good health, meaningful work, leisure time, and giving back to the community. Or, they might be tucked beneath the surface, waiting to emerge.

Here are some questions to help you unearth your deepest values:


• What brings you joy each day? What frustrates you?

• What would you do for a living if money were no object?

• What example do you want to set for others?

• Who do you want to be more like? What traits do you admire in them?

• When do you feel most fulfilled? Least fulfilled?


Once you’ve determined your values, you can start to build goals around them. If you’ve vowed every year to start exercising more, but failed by January’s end, your goal might not align with what you hold most dear.

If good health is important to you, but it’s not one of your core values, find a way to tie it to one that is. For example, if a close-knit community is what you crave, then solo runs will burn calories, but are unlikely to fill your need for socialization. Instead, find a running buddy, sign up for a community fitness class, or join a local sports league.

Maybe you want to cook more meals from scratch. Here are some examples of how you might link this goal to one of your core values:


• Family time: have more at-home family meals together

• Good health: cook vegetarian meals one night a week

• Philanthropy: volunteer your time at a food shelter

• Intellectual stimulation/ challenge: cook one new recipe each week

• Adventure/ exploration: sign up for a cooking class


Choose 3-4 goals you want to focus on, and pair each one with a core value. If they align with more than one, the more likely you are to see them through. If you don’t have any particular goals in mind, use your identified values to help guide you.

Resist the temptation to set more than 3 or 4. It takes time to get into a groove, and you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. When your goals stem from your values, they’re likely to be rich, fulfilling, and easier to adhere to, than those set simply in the name of self-improvement.