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Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Align your goals to your personal values . . . as it will give them more purpose and focus and give you a better chance of taking the necessary action to achieve them for greater levels of fulfilment.

Whether it is the start of a new year or not it is always good to have a strategy of how you can set and achieve desired goals. There is often mixed opinion about the benefits and sustainability of new year resolutions - but don't let this stop you no matter what time of the year it is. We all have things that we would like to change or improve so read on to follow the 5-step process - that you can repeat again and again - to give you a formula to support your ambitions whatever they may be, and levels of fulfilment.

Align Your Goals to Your Values

If your behaviours or current life situations are not aligned to your values you will most likely feel an emotional uneasiness of some kind. Something won't feel quite right and you will probably not be feeling fulfilled or as happy and content as you might.

Use this new year to explore your core values and identify the key actions that will help you achieve your desired goals and enhance your levels of fulfilment.

This relatively quick activity with the following 5-simple steps can make a significant difference to you achieving your goals during the next 12 months or so.

  1. LIST


  3. GOALS



Before you start, firstly consider these questions:

  • Are you living according to your values in your life as a whole?

  • Are your day-to-day behaviours aligned to your values?

  • Does your career choice (and current role) reflect your values?

  • Do your activities or interests outside of work align to your values?

  • How much time do you actually spend on things that are important to you?

  • How about the people you spend your time with - do they have similar values, are perhaps not?

  • Do you currently feel you are fulfilling your potential?

  • What is stopping you?

It can be quite common to drift away from our values, particularly if we haven't even consciously explored what they really are, as most people tend not to. However, we can get back on track in 2022 by following these 5 steps:


Make a list of the things that are most important to you (your values), which could be associated with your following life domains:

(You can pick just one of these if you prefer a very specific focus for your goal setting, or you can do this activity generally across all domains, or more than once and set a goal for each of your life domains)

  • Your Career

  • Your Finances

  • Your Health & Fitness

  • Your Relationships

Now make a 'super short-list' from your original list to 4 - 6 core values for your chosen domain. It doesn't mean the things you haven't shortlisted are not important to you, they are just not as important as the 4 - 6 you have selected for your 'super short-list'.

Next, for each of the 4 - 6 values you have selected, make a list of things that you could do to put those values in to practice. Try not to constrain yourself at this stage by things such as practical constraints, money, time etc., just write down the possibilities of things you could do to live by your values with greater integrity.

EXAMPLE: If being fit and healthy is a core value of yours then write down the things that you can do that will help you live by this value and get fitter and more healthy, such as; ''train to enjoy running >5K'' or ''learn to cook healthy meals''.


Now go back through your list of things you could do and prioritise them based on how effectively you could do it and the benefits it will bring.

You could maybe prioritise them as . . .

  • 1 = high priority

  • 2 = medium priority

  • 3 = low priority


The next step is to turn each one of your things from the list (no 1, high priorities) into small achievable goals. Write these goals down somewhere in a journal or on a piece of paper that you can keep. You create a different and more emotionally connected relationship with your goals by actually writing them down.

And . . .

DON'T MAKE YOUR GOALS ABSOLUTE BUT ALSO TRY NOT TO MAKE THEM TOO VAGUE EITHER: If they are absolute you run the risk of setting up to fail and if they are too vague it will not be clear enough what you have to do to achieve it.

TRY NOT TO FRAME YOUR GOALS WITH A NEGATIVE CONTEXT: By using an example such as . . . "I'm going to stop eating junk food," you're denigrating yourself before even getting started. You're better off framing your goal as "eating healthier" so that you'll remain motivated and optimistic.

FOCUS ON THE PROCESS AND SMALLER ACTIONS RATHER THAN THE OVERALL GOAL ITSELF: Many small improvements can make a big difference and seems more manageable to get you ahead around, and also creates more opportunity for shorter term rewards along the way.

DON'T SET GOALS THAT ARE TOO HEAVILY RELIANT ON OTHER PEOPLE OR EXTERNAL FORCES: Much better to keep things within your own control - and helps to remove the excuses or risk of being let down!

DO KEEP YOUR GOALS ON DISPLAY SO YOU CAN SEE THEM EVERY DAY: This can be a good motivator and help build on momentum.

Be aware during this step that FEAR (or fear of failing, or fear of what other people will think) is the most likely thing that will prevent you from achieving your goals, or stop you from even setting the goal in the first place.

Once you lose the significance of what other people think you will set your goals for you and be able to give it the focus (without the fear) needed to be successful. You will also be able to learn to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” - Marcus Aurelius


Now you need to explore each of your goals and set achievable actions, being very specific within the actions about:

  • What you need to do?

  • How you will do it?

  • When you will do it?

  • What resources or people you may need to help you do it?

EXAMPLE: So in the example of your goal aligned to your value of . . .

''get fitter and more healthy > train to enjoy running >5K'', your actions might be something like . . .

  1. Join the local gym via the online process and make first visit - by end of Jan

  2. Research and buy new running trainers from sports shop in town - w/c 10th Jan

  3. Purchase a new water bottle - w/c 10th Jan

  4. Find a training plan that will set out the key milestones to achieve my 5K run - research online by Wednesday 17th Jan

  5. Download the free running app - 6th Jan

  6. Check my stats on my new app each Monday and set out my goals for the next weekly runs or training sessions at the gym

Again like in step 3, write these down and keep them so you can see them regularly, and mark as complete as each action is achieved. And make sure you give yourself a pat on the back each time and use them as motivation to keep going until you have achieved your goal - at which point you can review what is next, if anything. Such as; in the example above of training to enjoy running >5k, you might want to keep progressing to 10k or set a new goal such as cycling or swimming, or even learn to take part in a triathlon at some point in the future - or whatever gives you purpose, keeps you motivated, living by values and fulfilment.

If you miss any action timelines or slip slightly don't let this affect you, just look back at your values and your overall goals and remember why you picked that goal in the first place and get back on track!

“Without action, we only have words” - Simon Sinek


The final step is to review steps 1 - 4 and make sure what you have done during step 4 aligns back to your 4 - 6 core values.

As part of your review step it is recommended that you spare some time to sit back when you are on your own quietly, close your eyes, and imagine yourself at the end of the goal setting period and visualise yourself having achieved your goal. Really focus on your senses here, making them as vivid as you like, as you are visualising it (give emphasis to all your 5 senses (sight, sound, feel, smell, taste) to bring it to life . . . you can actually imagine that you are telling someone close to you about how you have achieved your goal. Play out the scenario in your imagination as it can be a really powerful tool to support you in achieving what you want.

EXAMPLE: Remember in the goal to "train to enjoy running >5K", you could visualise yourself running the 5K and see yourself finishing and imagining what it feels like to have done it and to hear what your close friend will say when you tell them what you have achieved.

You may also like to read this article by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy about some of the do's and don'ts of setting new year goals, some of which have been referenced in this article. Click the link below for access...

Article by Trevor Norman

Trevor is a leadership coach and cognitive behavioural therapist and specialises in organisational behavioural analytics and team dynamics

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