Updated: Nov 9, 2020
What matters to you? It seems like a silly question--don’t we all know what we want, what we value, what matters to us? Simple as this question may seem, most of us only have a general idea of what we want, not only for life in general, but even in our day to day. It’s not uncommon to experience a sense of worry or anxiety when it comes to discovering what we want and determining how to get there, particularly in times of great stress.
Fortunately, daunting as this process may seem, there are many techniques and tools to help us hone in on what we value and how to accomplish our goals.
Before we look at the details, let’s take a look at the science behind it. Studies have shown that identifying values has a strong correlation to resilience in individuals and that those who envision their goals positively are more likely to test well and achieve success, personally, professionally and financially. This goes back to the concept of neuroplasticity that we discussed earlier; how we can actively build new neural pathways and new skill-sets with constant use and practice.
In order to build new pathways, repetition is key, and when focusing on achieving our goals and honing in on our values, it’s important to set behavioral patterns for ourselves. We might focus on waking up at the same time every morning or exercising at the same time each week for the same amount of time. This specific repetition ensures not only the creation of new neural pathways but also the maintenance of strong ones as well. The good news is that the more that we practice, the more quickly our neurons are firing along these pathways, and the easier it becomes to achieve our goals and act from our healthy habits and skills.
Now that we see the implications of our values and their relationship with resilience and our ability to succeed, let’s look at the simple steps we can take to hone in on our sense of purpose:
Identify goals--those which are within reach, those which we need to work towards
Identify skills--those which we possess and those which we’d like to possess
Identify the positive and negative of current circumstances
Identify values (a values sheet or activity can be helpful for this purpose)
Set manageable projects/goals for ourselves
As you can see, honing in on what we value most is not as simple as it may seem. Yet doing so is absolutely essential. In discovering the values which sustain and inspire us, we begin to form clearer ideas of what we want and how we may find fulfillment in our educations, career paths and in our lives in general. It’s important to have a conversation with ourselves about what matters most to us and to discern whether or not we are living as we’d hope to live.
So, grab a pen and some paper, ask yourself a few key questions today and see where it takes you! For instance, how important is self-expression to you in your home life, work-life and education? Do you feel a greater need for curiosity or stability? Do you find that what you value most, say, creative expression, is not as prioritized in your life as you'd like it to be? The more that you begin to ask yourself these sorts of questions, the more you’ll identify who you are and what motivates you. You’ll begin to see how goals become more specific and attainable.
Remember, resilience is a skill and life is an ongoing process of learning and constant discovery. Though honestly striving after our goals can be daunting at times, it is as simple as taking one step at a time, day by day, setting accomplishable tasks which keep us connected to what we value most. By identifying your goals and values, not only will you feel more confident, you’ll build the skill set and habits of a confident, resilient person.
[This post was originally a part of our ongoing newsletter series—Leaning on Your Strengths with Eugenie Lewis]