Goals and motivation

Whatever you do, don't mix up values and goals

Understanding the difference between your values and goals is key to creating a more sustainable approach to achieving your goals and sustaining habits.

So then when it comes to the relationship between values and goals, you can think of your goals then as this tool for inching along your value-driven path.

Show Notes
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

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Claire Siegel: Hello, hello! Welcome back to the Flourish podcast. Today is a really good day. It is a really good week, at least on this side of the world. I hope you're having an amazing day. I hope that day is happening for you within an amazing week. And if not, that's okay because that's the rhythm of life.

You know, I heard a quote the other day... and I cannot remember where I heard it, but I will share it with you because it has just been really profound. And I have thought about it probably once a day since I heard it. And that quote is the depths of my sorrow is, "the height of my joy." Or maybe it's the other way. Maybe it's, "the height of my joy is the depth of my sorrow." It doesn't matter. The idea is the same that the reason that we enjoy the good moments in life, the happy moments in life, the positive emotions, happiness, love, fun, excitement, all the things.... the reason that we enjoy those things so much is because of the contrast, right?

We need the hard days, the low moments... that by the way are simply part of life, a normal part of life. And the beauty of those moments is that they allow us to enjoy the height of our joy. If we were just happy all the time, we wouldn't actually appreciate being happy.

Anyway, that's why I say, "I hope you're having a great day." If you are, guess what? You're probably going to have some hard days ahead. Not probably, definitely. That is life. And that's okay. Enjoy the amazing day that you're having right now. Enjoy the amazing, present moment that you're in right now. And if you're not having an amazing, happy, positive, wonderful day, that's okay too. It'll pass. This too shall pass.

Anyway, welcome back to the podcast. I'm having a good day. Um, and it's been a really good week. And last week was really hard. And so I'm just sitting here really relishing in the feeling of a good day. And also not gripping onto it too tightly because I know it won't last forever.

And I say all this out loud, um, as a... you know, potentially I hope it, I hope it provides you with some perspective, but also it is a amazing reminder for me. This was something I talked about a lot with my, um, my coach. I get coached once a week. And, I tell you, when you say words out loud they stick with you in such a different way. So anyway, okay. That is neither here nor there.

You've made it past quitter's day.

Claire Siegel: Welcome back to the podcast. I'm so excited that you're here. If you are here, which you are here... because you're here listening to this. Anyone who's not here is not hearing this, and that's a bummer because today's episode is a good one. Today's episode is on goals, very specific topic as it relates to goals.

But I just want to say that if you're here listening to the episode on goals.... congratulations! Kudos to you because what you may not know is that you made it through what is known as "Quitters day." And I actually just learned about this, but basically the idea here is that the second Friday of the year is the most common day that people give up on their New Year's resolutions or the goals that they set for the new year.

So if you're here, you made it. And I mean that in the truest, most earnest sense, even if you haven't been sticking to your goals a hundred percent—which by the way, and for the record, is a nearly impossible standard. All right? I will say that the fact that you're still thinking about your goals and that you're actively engaged in them, as evidenced, once again, by you just being here, spending your time listening to this tells me that you made it. You are past quitter's day. So, once again, congratulations. Kudos to you. Please take a moment, pause, and celebrate yourself. Seriously.

Like I had dinner with a couple of friends last night, and we were talking about..., pretty much like life, love, and the pursuit of happiness... but she was talking about how there's this some research, and I wish I could tell you where it came from or included below, but you're just gonna have to take my word for it. Some woman, um, partnered with I think like a neuroscientist to examine what happens in your brain when you go to the mirror and high five yourself. Because what happens if you go to the mirror and high five yourself, you cannot help but smile. And, you know, that elicits the dopamine, serotonin, whatever the case may be.

I, I, again, please, don't quote me on this. We can try and find this stuff and link it in the show notes, but the idea remains: if you made it here—and you did, because you're here—you made it through quitter's day, and you should celebrate yourself. Give yourself a little high five in the mirror. Say, "Way to go," and let's keep moving forward. All right?

Because what you're doing is you're building a relationship with your goals. And today's episode is going to help you continue to deepen that relationship, which ultimately increases the likelihood that by the time 2023 rolls around, you can look back on the year that you've had and feel really proud of how you showed up for yourself... of the actions you took, of the way that you took care of yourself. That's the lens through which I'm thinking about a lot of my own personal goals is... it's all about taking really good care of myself. I'm looking at all the habits that I'm working on installing—or frankly reinstalling— after a crazy year last year as a way to take good care of myself, as a way to affirm my worthiness and to celebrate my worthiness versus trying to hustle for my worthiness.

So, like, for example, I have a goal around exercise. And specifically exercising in the morning before work, because evidence shows that when I don't prioritize exercise in the morning before work, I tend to put it off and cancel it in favor of working through it. I mean, like working on work stuff through it, right?

And even... you know, there've been several times in, in, you know, the first month of the year that I've woken up to exercise, and I'll think, "Man, but I have so much work to do. I should work on the work instead." And then my highest self, my best self, the self that sat down and wrote down all these goals says, "No, Claire. You are worth taking care of. You are worth the movement that you know serves you."

And, oh my gosh, when I say that that mindset shift has been so incredibly powerful. So if that resonates with you, I really encourage you to borrow it. And I would love to know. Send me a DM on Instagram, and... yeah, just let me know how that goes for you, all right?

The importance of knowing values from goals

Claire Siegel: So anyway, today we're talking about the relationship between values and goals. And these are two concepts that are, or certainly should be, intrinsically linked and not conflated with one another. These are distinct concepts that are related, all right? And so today we're going to talk about the relation and how you can use your values to kind of bolster your goals. Or how you can use your goals as stepping stones towards your values. All right?

If you're confused, don't worry. Buckle up, grab a cup of tea or whatever you'd like, and we're going to get into it. I'm going to walk you through these concepts in a very easy to understand way.

What are values?

Claire Siegel: All right, let's talk about what values are first and foremost. I am obsessed with core values. Um, getting clear on my core values and literally knowing them by heart and writing them down and asking myself when I make decisions, "Does this align with my values or does this not?" has actually been a life changer.

When I'm struggling through something or when I'm having one of those low moments, especially if it's, you know, kind of for an extended period of time and I just feel like something is off, I look at my core values and I ask myself, "Which core value am I not living in alignment with right now?" and, oh my gosh, it is a mind blowing experience.

So let's talk about what values are.

So your values are individually held principles that guide your decisions and behavior. Values give your life meaning while also creating this line between right and wrong for you as an individual. All right? Your values are not about what you want to achieve. It's really more about the intention behind your behavior. Okay?

I'm going to say that again because there's a lot in there, and I'm going to, after we review what I just said, I want to drive home some clarifying points around values. All right? So your values, once again, are individually held principles that guide your decisions and behavior. They give your life meaning while also creating the line between right and wrong for you as an individual.

And I don't necessarily just mean like morally right and wrong. You know what I mean? But just what's right for you versus what's not right for you. So, for example, one of my core values is freedom. And when I'm planning out my week I get to ask myself, does this schedule align with my value of freedom? Is what I have set up this week supportive of that value? And, as we'll get to, the answer isn't a hundred percent yes all the time. But I'm always trying to create ways to create more value alignment in my life. All right?

So your values are not about what you want to achieve. It's really about the intention behind your behavior, right? So striving or working towards more and more actions, more and more behaviors being in alignment with your values while also recognizing that in 100% value alignment all the time simply isn't possible. And it's also not necessary to live a value-driven life, all right?

With that in mind, let's drive home some clarifying points of what about values and what they are and how they work and things like that. Right?

So first and foremost, your values are for you. They are not for other people. Your values are not for your mom. They're not for your partner. They're not for your kids. They're not for society's expectations. They're not for your boss or your work. And I say all this because it can be really difficult to separate your personal values from what is valued in society and what maybe your friends or family value.

So it's important to be really thoughtful and take time in getting clear on your values and kind of quieting the noise and the clutter that may surround you. All right?

Your current actions don't define your values. So let's say that health is one of your values, and chances are if you're listening to this podcast, health is somewhere in your list of values. Maybe it's not one of your core values, but it's one of your values in all likelihood. Health is not a core value of mine by the way, but it is certainly a value for me.

So, again, let's say that health is one of your values. And it just so happens that when you look at your recent behavior, it doesn't show that you value your health. You're not taking time to take care of yourself. You're not prioritizing your mental health, self-care activities. You're not showing up for yourself in terms of, you know, activities that promote your physical health. I've certainly been there, okay?

And here's how you, here's how you check yourself. Here's how you can kind of check in and say, "okay, well, if this is my current behavior, how can I say that I value health?" Well, if your current behavior, if looking back on your current behavior creates a sense of tension or dissonance in you, then that actually means you do value your health.

Because here's the thing: if you didn't care, if you didn't value your health, you wouldn't notice. Right? We all have people in our lives that don't value their health. And I want to be very clear: that is not a judgment. It is not a moral requirement that people value their health, although we often think about it in that way. And so I say that with literally no judgment, it's just factual. Not, not everyone values their health.

Many people don't value their health. And they're not, in all likelihood, sitting there feeling bad about it because it's not a value for them, right? They're not feeling regretful or guilty or ashamed, or that, that dissonance, when they look at their behavior and say, "Well, that doesn't align with health." And in all actuality, they're probably not thinking about it at all.

So, again, for this specific example—and you can, by the way, apply this to any value, whether it's family or love or connection or adventure. If your current actions do not align with your value, it's going to bother you. And that doesn't mean you don't value it. In fact, it means you do. All right. So you can start to get clear on your values by thinking of actions or behaviors that you currently participate in that don't really feel aligned with who you are.

Another way of thinking about your values and just kind of starting to get an idea of what they could be is if someone else were to describe who you are as a person, what would you want them to say? We have a few different exercises inside the Flourish curriculum. It's actually one of the first things that we have members do—and, in fact, you can do it while you're on our free trial—where you can get clear on your values because it is such a gift. It is such a gift to get clear on your values and to hold them deeply. Okay? So I believe that every person in the world should know what their values are. And they should, again, also work to build a relationship with those values.

So I hope that's clear. And if it's not just yet because sometimes values can be a little amorphous, that's okay. It may make more sense when we get into the difference between values and goals. Okay?

What are goals?

Claire Siegel: So let's shift gears and let's talk about what goals are, alright? Merriam-Webster defines a goal as "something you were trying to do or achieve." Goals can be completed. They can be checked off a list. Your goals can exist as achievement goals or outcome goals versus habit goals. Right? So I use this example all the time, but a habit goal would be, "I want to run three times a day for the next three months." That's a habit goal. It's a habit that you're working to install, an action that you're trying to take repeatedly in a regular manner.

And an achievement goal could be, "I am going to run the Austin half marathon." And your habit and achievement goals hopefully are aligned in, in support of one another, okay? But either way, habit versus achievement... it's very binary, right? I either check the box or I don't.

And just like values, by the way, it is so easy to focus and get caught up in the wrong goals—and I mean wrong for you—when your goals are not tied to your values, when your goals are less about what you want, your internal should, your internal compass, when it's less about that and when they're fueled by external, societal messages or even messages from people who are close to you. Right?

So if you don't know why a goal is important to you, it may be worth considering if it's driven by a core value that you hold or if it's driven by someone or something outside of you, recognizing that oftentimes that can be happening in a completely... at a completely unconscious level.

So let's say, for example, you have a goal to buy a house. But if you really think about your core values—let's say two of your core values are adventure and compassion—then buying a house may limit your ability to move around and a more value-aligned goal for you might be getting an apartment with a shorter lease or stacking Airbnb rentals throughout the year, right?

Or if we think about another example that's perhaps more relevant to what we talk about here on the Flourish podcast in the health and wellness arena, maybe you have the goal to complete the 75 hard challenge. Whew. We could do a whole episode just about that. But let's say, you know, your friends are doing it. Everyone at work is doing it. Everyone on Instagram is doing it. And you're like, "Yeah, that, that seems cool. That seems good. You know, I can do a challenge." Right? But then if you sit quietly and reflect on this goal in relation to your values—and let's say your value, two of your values are relationships and tranquility—you realize that the challenge's laundry list of these extreme habits is completely disconnected from what actually matters to you most in life.

And, just as an aside, if I had to kind of like bucket why like diets or these hardcore challenges fail, I think about it in two different types of buckets. The first bucket is just the physiological and psychological unsustainability of diets and these challenges, right?

That like your body, your body and your brain are going to push back against you because dieting is actually not aligned with survival. So that's one reason, and very important reason, of course, why diets fail. The other bucket is values misalignment. You can sacrifice what's most important to you in life in the short term.

And there are going to be times where you actually, you have to, right,? But long-term, it's not sustainable. It's not fulfilling. And even if you are able to do it, right, even if you are able to sacrifice your values of relationships and tranquility for 75 whole days, then what? What do you have to show at the end of that if you spent over two months, two and a half months sacrificing what is most important to you in life? Is that really how you want to live?

So something to think about. And I hope... I'm just imagining your brain, like all of the neurons firing right now, as you're connecting these dots of maybe resolutions or goals you haven't lived up to in the past. Recognizing, "Oh shit. Maybe one reason why I wasn't able to maintain or complete this goal... maybe it has less to do with my willpower, my self control, my discipline, and more to do with the fact that this doesn't align with what matters to me most in life." and can I just say what a blessing. What a blessing that you were not forcing yourself down a path that was misaligned or in direct conflict with what matters to you most in life. How incredible is that?

I want to continue, I know for me personally, I want to continue to do the things and to spend time on the things that matter to me most in life. Recognizing that maybe it can't happen a hundred percent of the time, and that's okay. It's a, it's a balance. But just bringing awareness to that desire and, again, using my values, as kind of like a back board to bounce different ideas off of: Should I do this trip? Should I make this business decision? Should I hang out with this person? Ask my values. That's what I do. I ask my values.

How goals and values differ

Claire Siegel: So let's get clear on how goals and values are different. You're probably getting a sense of it, but let's just be very, very explicit here.

So goals are often a one-time thing, whereas your values are an ongoing pursuit. So your goals around exercise, those "check the box goals," the, you know, running or walking three times a week, they are in alignment with your value of health, but you never achieve health. Right? Like health is an ongoing pursuit.

You don't run three times a week for a quarter and then get to check the box on health and never have to think about it again. Right? You can't just accomplish health. So that is like, by and large I would say, the big distinction.

The other thing to kind of consider is that your goals are always in the future until they're achieved and then they're immediately in the past. Right? Whereas your values are always in the present moment. And they're always in the here and now, right? You can always return to your values and center yourself based on your values. All right?

How values and goals relate

Claire Siegel: So then when it comes to the relationship between values and goals, you can think of your goals then as this tool for inching along your value-driven path. Your values are these big ideas that give your daily actions and your goals meaning. This is what I mean by creating a relationship with your goals and creating goals that are deeply rooted. Your values are the roots of your goals. We're mixing a lot of metaphors here, but you're smart. You're, you're sticking with me.

What the research says about value-aligned goals

Claire Siegel: So research actually supports the importance of value-aligned goals for creating sustainable health habits. So there's a practice that we draw on quite a bit in Flourish called Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT). And it is a psychological tool, psychological practice that has six processes, including values and committed action.

So in the context of ACT and valuing as a choice, there are different stages of this process. All right?

First is understanding the difference between values and goals, which... hey, congratulations. If you've made it this far in the episode, you check, check, right? Or check. One single check on this specific part of the process.

The second part of the process is all about getting clear on your core values which is something that you can start in a freeform way by reflecting on the type of person that you want to be, um, or maybe doing a guided core values exercise. I mentioned, we have these inside of Flourish. You can sign up for a free trial and get started.

And then, again, taking those core values which you've identified and then setting goals that are clearly linked to those values. This is where the committed action comes in. Right? So basically it goes, this is the order: you have your values, what's most important to you in life, these principles that guide your being and doing, then you have your goals. Your goals are the concrete steps that you can take to continue to inch along this valued path. And then you can break those goals down even further into committed action.

These concepts of values clarification and a commitment to chosen values are key components of ACT, which again is a validated approach to health behavior change. And it's one that we draw on extensively inside of the Flourish membership.

Examples of value-aligned goals

Claire Siegel: So, let's say—I want to kind of leave you before we get into a summary of everything I've covered here today cause I know it's a bit of a longer episode for us. Let's share some examples or an example of a value-aligned goal.

So let's say, for example, you've set a goal to exercise four times a week. What's going to be really important for you is that you don't just let that sit there as a completely arbitrary goal. What's going to be really important to you is to recognize and to like note mentally and, and truly I'd encourage you to do it on paper. Recognize how this goal aligns with your core value of growth.

And if you actually find that it does not, something's got to give, something's got to change. Maybe it's the wrong goal. Maybe you need to shift the goal. Maybe the goal becomes not exercising four times a week, but rather trying a new fitness studio once a month. Maybe that's more aligned with growth. But you need to understand how each goal is linked and in alignment with one or more of your core values.

If there is no alignment, I would challenge you to rethink that goal. And if your goals are in misalignment with your values, you may want to choose a different goal altogether.

There are going to be times when you're working on goals and your thoughts aren't cooperating with you. Right? I, I shared earlier when I get up in the morning and my highest self, my internal should says, "Hey, you should exercise." then there's this thought that comes in and says, "No, you should work instead." Your thoughts aren't always going to cooperate with you. Your thoughts aren't always going to align with your values—what is most true for you, what is most important to you. It's okay. Your behaviors then can take cues from your core values.

And that actually acts as its own novel source of motivation. It's called integrated motivation. If you want to dig more into the types of motivation, we have a podcast episode about that. We'll link it in the show notes. All right?

Key takeaways

Claire Siegel: So let's tie this all together. And, once again, congratulations. You are practically a month in to the new year, and you're still thinking about your goals. And the goals that you're thinking about are the ones that are actually important to you as an individual. That is a really beautiful thing.

So let's summarize what we've been talking about today.

Goals are the specific actions that you'd like to accomplish either habitually or, you know, in terms of like a singular achievement, all right? Your values are what give your goals meaning and provide you with clarity and direction.

External messaging can influence your values and goals, and it's important to recognize where that external messaging does not align with what your internal wisdom has to say about it. And your current actions don't define your core values.

Goals can be checked off of a list whereas values are constantly pursued. Goals are always in the future or they're immediately in the past. Values are always in the present. So with that, goals are the tools that you use to pursue your values.

And happy days! All of this is backed by the research. The research shows us that getting clear on your values and aligning your goals to those values is effective for improving the sustainability of your health behaviors.

I talk to so many women who are in search of consistency and sustainability in their self-care habits and their health habits, they want to get off the all or nothing, you know, pendulum and just enjoy a less chaotic way of living. And they want to feel better as a result.

When I tell you that getting clear on your values is one of the very first steps, I mean that just from the bottom of my heart. So if you cannot sit here at the end of this episode and tell me your two to five core values, you got to get clear.

Again, you can do it on your own, or if you want a little bit more guidance, if, you know, kind of the process that I walked you through here is, is really interesting to you, sign up for Flourish. Again, there's a free trial, no credit card required. We'll have it linked in the show notes. And simply go through the core values exercise. And I would be really curious the kind of clarity that comes to you as a result, all right?

Have a day. Whether it's a good day or a bad day, remember "the height of my joy is the valley of my sorrows." Is that what I said? I can't... I'm, this, you know what I'm saying. I'm probably butchering the quote, but the idea remains, all right.

Have an incredible week, and I'll see you in the next one. Bye!

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

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Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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