Did you get a bunch of emails in your inbox about resolutions, goals and planning for the new year? I did and many of them had great ideas and were helpful.

Choosing goals can help motivate you to get things done, achieve what you want to achieve. But what if you choose the wrong goals?

What if you’re choosing goals you think you should choose, or someone else thinks you should choose? Or even goals society wants you to choose?

Are Your Stories Guiding or Holding You Back?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I believe your stories are powerful. But sometimes we tell ourselves stories that no longer serve us, or our inner voice is drowned out by stories of how we should act or be, or what a “fulfilling life” should look like, or the stories contain dysfunctional beliefs like: 

I’m not good enough.

I’m not ready. 

I have to find my passion.

I’m too old.

I’m not smart enough.

Put others first, don’t be selfish…

You get it.

And when you let these beliefs and stories lead you, you can choose safe (uninspiring and maybe boring) goals or hide your ambition because “who are you to think you can do (fill in the blank).” Or the story may be that if you achieve (whatever), then you’ll finally be admired, successful, enough. And if you’re following these types of goals, you may struggle to achieve them, as they may not be what you value at your core.

Believe me, I know about the power of stories because I both believed the dysfunctional stories in my head and that the stories about what mattered to my parents should matter to me. 

As a kid I was creative, intuitive and so different from the rest of my family – I wanted to be a chef or an art historian or a theatrical make-up artist. But I fulfilled the dreams of my immigrant parents by becoming an attorney and consultant. I worked hard, and my parents were proud. But I never felt I was being my authentic self or following my path. And even as I knew at my core that I was not following my goals, it took finding what I value to have the courage to pivot and follow those goals.

Being You is Worth Fighting For

In the words of e.e. cummings, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

So how do you make sure your goals are “your” goals, goals that matter to you? You connect your goals to what you value and what makes you feel alive and engaged and fulfilled.

Try this three step process. Grab a pen and paper (or your computer), set aside 20 minutes or more when you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in and out and then write.

Step 1

Think back on your life (or the past year) and write a list of experiences that made you feel alive, energized and engaged, fulfilled…

  • We’ve been taught that special experiences are things like getting the job you want or getting into the right school, or being known or famous, or being excellent at what you do, and these are indeed special. But I encourage you to dive deeper, get curious. A special experience could be a hike where you saw a bald eagle or an incredible conversation with a friend that deepened your connection, or reading a book and having your world view shift. It could be caring for a child or an elderly parent, serving your community as a volunteer, learning to paint.
  • Make sure to be authentic and check in that the experience really made you feel fulfilled or completely alive. 

Step 2

Look at your experiences of feeling fulfilled and alive. What values do you see in your experiences? 

You can look at a list of value words to help you.

In the examples above these could be awe or nature, connection and friendship, learning, caring, generosity, curiosity and creativity.

Step 3

Do the core values you wrote down in Step 2 show up in your goals? If so, you are more likely to persist and keep working towards your goals.

But if your goals are not supported by what matters to you, what you value, how you want to show up, it makes achieving your goals harder – I didn’t say impossible, just harder. And sometimes we don’t have a choice.

But when you have a choice, choosing goals that are connected to your values makes it both easier and more joyful to follow through.

Values and How You Want to Feel Are Your Compass

Last week’s blog post was about finding how you want to feel as a way to pick your goals because focusing on how you want to feel is a better motivator than what you want to get done.

When you’re in touch with what you value and also how you want to feel, you have an internal compass to guide you. All you have to do is check in. Before you plan or before you say YES to something someone wants you to do, take a breath, feel how your body feels, and ask yourself, is this goal meaningful to me?

Interested in learning more about the power of your stories to create a life of resilience, connection, and meaning? Check out my Write Into Joy workshops to learn how to build resilience and joy through journaling & reflecting. Click here to see a list of upcoming workshops.

Knowing what really matters to you, what makes you feel energized and engaged - is the first step to having a life you love.
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