Issue No. 11
How to Clarify Values and Set Goals
Table of Contents
- Why Important
- Distinction between Values and Goals
- How to Clarify Values
- Guidelines in Setting Goals
I. Why Important
Many people feel that they can do more in this life if they were given the
chance to accomplish their potential. They blame other people,
circumstances, lack of opportunity, etc., for such inability to achieve.
One of the real roots or causes of under-achievement is actually the lack
of clarity of one's values, resulting in the inability to set clear goals,
which in turn results in lack of strong determination to do something.
Without such clarification of values and goals, one will often fail to see
genuine opportunities in life, and one is often be drawn to other
opportunities which may not really be important to him or her in the long
run, or may even contradict one's basic values. Therefore it is important
to be clear as to what are the important values in one's life, and based
on these, one can set long and short term directions and goals in life.
II. Distinction between Values and Goals
Values are basic things that are important to a person. It can be a
principle (such as justice), an state or experience (such as
spirituality), an activity (such as creative expression), or a thing
(such as the family). Goals are directions one decides to pursue on the
basis of these values.
For example: a person may decide to be a writer or a painter because
creativity is a more important value that being wealthy. Being a good
painter is the goal, creativity is the value. When goals are in conflict
with a person's values, then the person will have difficulty in attaining
such goals, and the person will probably be unhappy in pursuing such goals,
even if he attains them.
III. How to Clarify Values
There are many possible approaches to discovering what our values are. A
few approaches are suggested below. It must be remembered that values must
be discovered, and hence it may take time and patience for us to identify
them. We must repeat the process many times before we can be sure that
they are our true values.
Two Important Notes:
- On a sheet of paper, write down the three most important things that
you like to happen or to attain before you die. (It is important that
you write it down, and not just think about it.) For example: to be
able to send your children to college, or to write a book, or to have
your own house, or to become a more spiritual person. Write them down
even if you are not very sure, you will have a chance to change them
later. You may write more than three items.
- Next, list down your replies to this question: What principles do you
wish to live by in your life and in your pursuit of the most important
things you listed above? What character qualities do you wish to have
or be known for when people remember you after you die? Write your
answers freely and at random. You can review them later. For example:
"Being respected by others;" "having integrity in whatever I do;"
"being sincere to other people;" "always having faith in the Lord;"
"being fair and just to everyone." "being persevering;" etc. (An
alternative approach is to write your own obituary: how you will be
described as a person after you die.)
- What you have listed above will help you discover your values in life,
or the important things that you value in life. During the first time
that you do this, you may be unsure as to the correctness of your lists.
Make another set of lists after a day, a week, a month, or a year.
Compare your earlier and later lists. You will gradually become more
certain as to its correctness as you do this exercise repeatedly.
- You must review the desirability or worthwhileness of your chosen values.
Some of your chosen values may turn out to be narrow and selfish, and
eventually harmful not only to others but to yourself. Study well the
art of living. Your values, if chosen well, will become your
indispensable compass during difficult periods of your life.
IV. Guidelines in Setting Goals
If you have clarified your values, you may now be prepared to clarify
your medium and short term goals by answering the following questions:
Two Important Notes:
- What are the five (or more) most important things I need to accomplish
in the next five years? What are the five (or more) most important
things I need to accomplish in the next three years?
- What are my priorities in the next six or twelve months?
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1 Iba Street, Quezon City, Philippines. This outline may be reproduced
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- What you do in three to five years must be relevant to your life values
(the first list you made in previous section). If they are not relevant,
then either your life list is not authentic, or you are probably doing
the wrong things for the next 3 to 5 years. Review them and see why they
are not aligned, and what you must do to align them.
- Your priorities in the next 6 to 12 months may or may not be connected
with your life lists. For example, you may have to give attention to
your studies or some urgent project first. We need to fulfill our
immediate duties, and this is but right.
Notes on related questions for Values Clarification:
(not included in the handout)
- Write down the principles which will guide you in attaining
the above important things, using the following guide questions:
What are the things you are NOT willing to abandon in pursuing
the most important things in your life? Integrity? Honesty?
Fairness? Your family? Your parents? Your conscience? Your faith?
For example: In wanting to write a book, you do not wish to abandon
your duty to your family. Or in having your own house, you do not
wish to lose your integrity. What sacrifices are you willing to go
through in order to attain the important things that you have listed?
Copyright 1995. Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
Theosophical Society in the Philippines, 1 Iba St., Quezon City, Philippines
"If five percent of the people work for peace, there will be peace."