How Do You Zoom in on Your Goals?

The Need for Values and Vision

Recently, I had a client who asked me how to dial in on the most important goals. Rebecca is a corporate attorney. She was looking to make a career shift while balancing her active family life. After 15 years of legal practice, her professional energy was missing. Each day the commute into the office seemed to get just a little longer. Rebecca wanted to make a change. Yet she felt she had dedicated too many resources (time and finances) to seriously consider it.

When I asked Rebecca to name her top five most important values she quickly came back with a list:

  • Integrity
  • Optimism
  • Trust
  • Family
  • Adventure

Next, I asked her to consider how each of these values connected to both her professional and personal lives. An uncomfortable silence followed. We discovered at that moment that Rebecca’s challenge was how to connect her values and vision to her goals.

Simply asking, “What are your goals?” often results in frustration and anxiety. Research actually shows that not all goals are created equally. In fact, objectives or outcomes connected to Relationships, Spirituality (or Selflessness), Legacy, and Influence have more motivational power than any other type of goal.

So how do we connect what motivates us internally to each of our most important goals?

One key is to repeatedly ask why an objective exists and find the link to a core value. Here are some examples:

  • Something needs to change. (Why?)
  • I am trying to achieve… (Why?)
  • I would like to make partner in 3 years. (Why?)

You get the picture.

Asking why questions might help connect a goal to a deeply held value.

Or you may be surprised to find that some goals do not actually seem connected to your values.

How does vision relate to values and goal setting?

A clear vision is a picture of how the ideal future appears at the present moment. Often ideals and values are interchangeable. Let’s revisit Rebecca’s situation. Her values seemed disconnected from her professional and life track. She loved the law but was unsatisfied with a corporate career and yearned for more adventure.

For Rebecca, her ideal was to create the opportunity to work from home more often. She also wanted to support causes that she believed in with her legal expertise. This balance would help foster an optimism about the future. It would create self-reliance and the motivation to take action. A solid vision can lead to effective and positive goal formation.

Nearly 50 years of psychological research shows us something important. When we successfully achieve well-constructed goals, we experience pleasant emotions, which can include:

  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Contentment
  • Elation

In turn, this can positively influence how we experience the world, the interactions we have with ourselves/others, and the communities we live in.

Having a vision allows us to strive towards our goals. Framing actions around our ideals moves us forward instead of avoiding an outcome. As Johnny Mercer famously stated:

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive”

Here are three tips for crafting a vision:

  • Set a timeframe that is achievable and motivating
  • Keep it easy to understand
  • Connect to your deepest core values

Connecting goals with values and vision will drive a laser focus that compels actions. By taking action, we affirm our ideals. We also create the internal drive that propels motivation. This process makes everything personal, reinforces our values, and builds resilience.

Building resilience is critical for both long- and short-term attitude. As with all aspirations, the reality is that sometimes we will fall short of our goals. The ability to bounce back, learn from each encounter, and continuously refine our objectives is the key to both balance and performance.

How do values and vision relate to mission, strategy, and goal setting?

What is the difference between these terms?

It is important to understand the relationship and definitions of each:

Value: Trait or characteristic that independently defines an idealized internal or external state

Vision: Clear statement that combines and captures authentic core values and purpose

Mission (Personal): “Moral and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself” — Stephen Covey

Strategy: Plan of action that combines available resources and an analysis of the environment designed to realize a specific mission

Putting it all together

  1. List out all the values that are meaningful to you
  2. Pick out 5–7 that are MOST important
  3. Craft a vision that connects the ideal to your most important values
  4. Segment your vision into functional areas related to your resources (time, people, money, etc.)
  5. Establish SMART goals and Stretch Goals that connect to your vision
  6. Reflect and review

Having a framework that drives goal setting will allow you to have a much greater chance of achieving your most meaningful and rewarding objectives.

Additionally, the best goals reinforce a positive sense of well-being, self-confidence, growth mindset, and internal motivation.

Next up: How goals influence well-being