How to Set Achievable Goals (That Align With Your Values)

How to Set Achievable Goals That Align With Your Values

Setting goals can help you change and improve, achieve satisfaction, and feel like you’re moving through your life and your career with direction. But it isn’t easy; setting achievable goals takes time and commitment.

Avoid These 3 Common Mistakes When Goal-Setting

First, to set achievable goals and increase your chances of success at meeting your goals, avoid these 3 common goal-setting mistakes to keep your career — and your life — on track:

  1. Your goal isn’t valued enough. Too often, people set goals based on their thinking alone. You’re much more likely to achieve your goals if they align with your values. Bring your heart into the goal-setting process and examine how your goals align with your values — the underlying life principles that you believe are important. Learn more about how to set goals that align with your values below.
  2. Your goal isn’t specific enough. Your goal may be too broad and overwhelming. Recast your aspirations into the form of a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Limited). Learn more about SMART goals below. After drafting your SMART goals, you can plan how to break your larger goals into smaller, specific steps that will move you in the right direction.
  3. Your goal isn’t supported enough. You’re more likely to succeed at your goals if you have someone serving as your coach, cheerleader, or mentor. Ask friends, family, and co-workers for their support and to hold you accountable as you work toward your goals. Revisit your goals at regular intervals to make sure you’re on track and to re-energize your efforts.

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Setting Achievable Goals That Align With Your Values

Here’s how to avoid these common goal-busters and instead set goals that align with your values:

1. Reflect and take stock of exactly what your values are. There’s little motivation for success if your goals don’t connect to your values. Of course, to make this work you need to know exactly what your values are. We recommend looking at 5 areas of your life — career, self, family, community, and spirit — and consider how you’re living out your values in each of those areas. Gaining this perspective will give you some ideas about what you might like to change or improve.

To do this, consider: How do you spend your time and energy? What are you passionate about? What do you need to do more of? What should you cut back on? What’s missing?

Take time to process your thoughts and feelings, and consider feedback you’ve been given. List 5 things you’d like to change or do differently. Write them down as possible goals. This is the critical first step to turning your intentions into reality.

2. Focus. Select just one goal out of the 5 to focus on first, and add enough detail to turn it into a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Write down your goal with as much detail as possible.
  • Measurable: Identify quantitative targets for tracking your progress and results.
  • Attainable: Make sure it’s possible to achieve the desired result.
  • Realistic: Acknowledge the practical requirements necessary to accomplish the goal.
  • Time-Limited: Build in specific deadlines.

3. Plan. Break down your SMART goal into small, specific steps that will move you in the right direction. Begin by listing at least one action to take in the next week. Schedule a time to do it. This is part of living with greater intention, both at work and at home.

4. Enlist support. Think about family, friends, or co-workers whom you can inform of your new goal and ask for the different types of support you might need. They can help hold you accountable for making progress. Carefully select whom you tell and when you tell them, so as not to undermine your motivation or progress.

5. Revisit. Each week, assess how you’re doing against your goal. Keep a focus on your values. Decide what actions you’ll take that week toward achieving your goal. Set new milestones as needed.

Yes, this process takes time. Choosing and planning your goals — and making sure your goals align with your values — is hard work. The rewards, however, are priceless.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Build your team’s capacity for setting achievable goals that align with your organization’s values with a customized learning journey for your leaders using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Accountability, Authentic Leadership, Change & Disruption, Emotional Intelligence, Listening to Understand, Psychological Safety, Self-Awareness, and more.


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January 15, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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