Self-Transformation Series:
Issue No. 11

How to Clarify Values and Set Goals

Table of Contents

  1. Why Important
  2. Distinction between Values and Goals
  3. How to Clarify Values
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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?

  2. What are my priorities in the next six or twelve months?

Two Important Notes:

All rights reserved. Peace Center, Theosophical Society in the Philippines, 1 Iba Street, Quezon City, Philippines. This outline may be reproduced provided this notice appears.

Notes on related questions for Values Clarification:
(not included in the handout)

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Copyright 1995. Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
Peace Center
Theosophical Society in the Philippines, 1 Iba St., Quezon City, Philippines

"If five percent of the people work for peace, there will be peace."