Inside: Honour your wiring in a noisy and busy world by crafting strategic, honest, and values-aligned goals that help you walk out your Life Vision. This post includes a Life-Vision Flow-Chart to help you get started.
Slow and steady is my favourite speed. A slow-moving body does not prevent me from being a vision-oriented person and skilled at setting meaningful goals that move me closer to my overarching life vision.
We can become embodied in things that are not values-aligned or ways of being that uphold unhealthy power structures, often unconsciously.Prentis Hemphill
what is a Values-aligned goal?
Part of the way I honour my wiring in a noisy and busy world is by taking time to think strategically and honestly about where to allocate my limited reserve of time and energy. Values-aligned goal setting (or intention setting) is a skill and habit that helps me show up fully to life in every season. Even the hardest of them.
A values-aligned goal is a goal that helps you walk out your core values and bring the Vision you have for yourself to life. While this seems super obvious, the reality that I encounter with clients and community members is that this is not the way most people operate in life. As a result, people expend A LOT of energy paddling, acquiring degrees and outward approval, following the crowd, jumping through all the culturally-approved hoops, but end up feeling burned out and empty inside.
By the way, some people are repelled by the idea of “goal setting” which feels too achievement and future-oriented but are comfortable with the practice of “intention setting” which feels more BE-ing oriented and anchored in the present. Use the language that feels most comfortable to you.
The flowchart below offers a simple take on the top-down approach I use when crafting my Life Vision and translating it into imperfect action. You can print this out and use it when doing your own goal setting.
Step One: WHY
Identify your core values and your core beliefs. Think about how you’ll know you’ve lived well at the end of your life. Your values will serve as a filter for all of your decision making and act as light for the path in every season. I believe that we can always walk out our values no matter what’s happening around us – the manner in which we walk them out shifts seasonally, but they always serve as anchor in the storm. This helps form your WHY or overarching sense of purpose and direction in life.
Step Two: WHAT
Next, unpack the WHAT of your life vision: what do you want for your life, what do you need to release or receive in order to walk out your values and live mind-emotion-body healthy, or what’s drawing you? In this area I’d also include who and how do you choose to BE in the world? Before you can craft clear and compelling goals for your life, you may need to sift through some competing tensions and desires, challenge old stories or beliefs around identity (you can access my Roots of Identity Handout when you sign up for my emails), notice where you’ve been motivated by comparison or fear instead of showing up to life from a place of authenticity.
After this important sifting work is done, you can craft goals that align with or flow out from your core values. If a goal or intention does not align with your core values or clearly move you closer to living these values, no matter how fabulous it sounds, then it merits examination (and likely doesn’t make sense for your life).
Step Three: HOW
Like theory without practical application, the coolest sounding goals in the world don’t mean a whole lot if we don’t take action to bring them to fruition. At this stage we can set meaningful, values-aligned goals and we must translate them into imperfect action. To be most effective, we break down goals into actionable micro steps and then weave these into sustainable rhythms and routines.
We consider any leaky boundaries in our life that need attending to, any relationships that are not serving us, and how to work with our wiring, not against, so that we’re building not only a values-aligned life but a sustainable and joyful one.
7 ideas to keep top of mind when crafting values-aligned Goals
So again, what we’re after is translating our Life Vision into imperfect action by working with our wiring to break down our goals or intentions into practical application or micro steps.
But if you have the tendency of not following through on the goals you set for yourself, first, take heart. No matter our past experience, we can build new patterns when we hit upon the right tool or the right motivation for this season. Second, spend time familiarizing yourself with the following ideas. They’ll help you craft accessible goals and show up to life and your goals feeling more hopeful and empowered.
1. start with vision
If you are struggling to set goals, it may be because you don’t have a clear Life Vision and/or you aren’t clear on your core values! We need to know where we’re heading and why. This does not mean that we pretend we’re in control of everything or that we need crystal-clear foresight, only that we need to take responsibility for handcrafting our life. We need to be in a place of agency. When we have clarity about our overarching life vision and core values, goal-setting flows much more organically.
If you don’t have a clear and compelling Life Vision then I invite you to purchase my Life Visioning Workbook. The workbook contains thought-provoking exercises and values and goals worksheets to help you get to know yourself better and re-envision your life for the season you are in.
We overestimate what we can accomplish day to day but underestimate the power of small, intentional steps with consistency!Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui
2. Let it Be Easy
Goal setting should work with our wiring not against. I constantly remind myself to “Let it be easy” in both life and business. What I mean by this, is that I aim to lean into my strengths rather than trying to do life like anyone else, keep my life and business simple (sometimes we overcomplicate things because we think it should be more complicated), quiet the noise, and break my goals/intentions down into less intimidating micro steps or habits and sustainable rhythms.
Comparison distracts us from our Life Vision. We need to wake up to the ways that comparison and perfectionism operate in our life making us feel FOMO or like we “should” be following all the newest fads or shiny ideas or keeping up and measuring up to arbitrary standards and timelines. We’re far more likely to take action on goals that are motivated by our core values and unique life vision, even when they feel challenging or vulnerable.
One way we can let it be easy is by working with our Tendency according to Gretchen Rubins’s Four Tendencies Model. This model helps us understand our patterns around responding to both outer expectations (meet work deadlines, answer a request from a friend) and inner expectations (keep a New Year’s resolution, start meditating). Gretchen writes “Knowing our Tendency can help us set up situations in the ways that make it more likely that we’ll achieve our aims. We can make better decisions, meet deadlines, meet our promises to ourselves, suffer less stress, and engage more deeply with others.” Take the quiz here.
3. creating change takes repetition (more than you want)
Healthy change and bringing to life or fruition the things that feel most important to us can take time. Lots of time. Way more time than we want it to take. When we’re learning to embody a new story for our life or shift an ingrained pattern of behaviour, repetition matters. We’ve all probably heard that ‘it takes 60 days to learn a new habit.’ But it’s not always that simple and expecting easy fixes sets us up for disappointment and feeling like a failure.
I can’t back this up with a link so you’ll have to trust me that it comes from a trustworthy source. In one of my somatic embodiment courses, the instructor shared that it takes 300x of practice to build new muscle memory and 3000x for that new practice to become our new instinct. Often we’re talking about shifting decades of one pattern for a new one – decades (at least in the work I do with clients!). These are ingrained patterns, patterns of protection learned by our nervous system. And they will not be changed in one month or three months.
But also, sometimes, practically speaking, we can see that there is a huge gulf between where we are and where we want to go. When I first started dreaming about debt-free living and owning my home outright, it felt impossible. At that moment it was impossible. But we grow into the strength and skill we need over time, as we practice, not before.
Today I’m living that dream. It took years and years of keeping my eyes on my own path when people around me where spending money on nice vehicles and vacations and pretty things. It required the habit of making monthly principle-only-payments on my mortgage when that extra cash would have made life feel easier. It took knowing my WHY. This wasn’t an arbitrary goal – but a well thought out plan that would allow us to live on less income when my husband hit retirement 10 years before me.
So clearly, goal-setting is only a daydream unless we break our goals down into actionable habits and then create rhythms or systems that incorporate these habits into our life in a practical way. As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits writes, You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.“
4. Plan for the messiness of life
There’s nothing like waking up after a restless night of sleep or on the first day of your monthly cycle to remember that your more energetic self decided you’d wake up at 5am for a brisk morning walk every day. Did your energetic self consult your exhausted self? She did not! Yet, for goals to be sustainable, BOTH of these versions of you need to be on board.
We often overestimate how much we can achieve in one day. Make allowances for setbacks, distractions, mistakes, and fatigue. When in doubt, lower your expectations. You might not accomplish great things in one day, but small steps with consistency lead to powerful results.
A personal example: one of my goals for my 50th bday year is to rebuild strength. One of the habits and rhythms that support me in this goal is a one-hour private Pilates sessions with a trainer every Tuesday at 2pm. I could have decided that one hour a week isn’t enough, but for me in this season of life, it’s realistic and sustainable. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my slow and steady increase in strength and muscle-building even though I miss some weeks. And because I keep this flexible and responsive to my body and other life needs, I always feel excited about going.
A couple of resources that can help you embrace the messy reality of life and keep moving forward are learning how to practice Fierce Self-Compassion and learning to befriend your autonomic nervous system to feel more empowered in life.
We want to make things work for the most exhausted version of ourselves not the idealized version of ourselves.Tara Mohr
5. harness the wisdom of seasonal living
Yin and Yang energy (like gentle and fierce self-compassion) in balance help us live mind-body healthy, show up with joy, and build sustainable lives. We need both. We need to remain attuned to our body and respond accordingly. A goal should never override the wisdom of the body.
Some people resist goal setting because this feels too ‘masculine’ or like too much ‘yang energy’ (think hustle culture or a constant focus on productivity). If, for instance, you live with mental illness or chronic illness (or you’re a caregiver for an ailing parent or loved one who suffers) you may feel like goal setting doesn’t work for you. Or, if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person or strong introvert you may feel wary of anything resembling more noise or pressure.
But you can set goals that are gentle and flexible as well as rhythms that are flexible and gentle and allow for ‘yin’ energy or “being vs doing” as well. We do not maintain consistent energy throughout our day, week, month, year, or lifetime. We can learn to work with our energy flow and honour our wiring through a practice of Seasonal Living and cycle awareness (I teach this inside The Brave and Beautiful Community).
Many of my goals actually center around going against the status quo of a fast-paced lifestyle and support me in my simpler, calmer life (and slow business on purpose) that brings me peace and enough provision for a comfortable home, some travel, good food, and the means to care for my mental and physical health and that of my family. My goals are designed to serve ME. I am not a servant to my goals.
6. DO LESS but WITH MORE FOCUS: go deeper not wider
I regularly think about how I can go deeper not wider, especially in my business. I love a good learning curve; brain food is one of the things that keep me mind-body healthy and happy. But I want to offer richer content, not more content. I want to develop deeper, quality relationships with my community, not focus on the vanity metric of more and more followers.
I also constantly practice this in my life beyond business. I tend to forget. I easily tip into believing that more books, more courses, more yummy food must be better. But all that happens is that I end up stuck, bloated, hiding on the couch. This is when I practice self-compassion, remind myself of my WHY, come home to my LIFE VISION and reorient.
The same goes for relationships or volunteering – more isn’t automatically better. Some people do have a lot more energy than me – so we all get to work with our unique wiring. But in every case, we can’t do all the things and must pick and choose those relationships, courses of study, activities, etc., that most align with our values and will hopefully make the biggest positive impact on helping us bring our Vision to life.
You might want to write this on a sticky note and stick it to your fridge or laptop or the dash of your car: more and faster isn’t better.
Whatever your prior relationship to goal or intention setting and following through on your goals has been, you can take imperfect action to experiment withy new patterns, rhythms and habits. You can build the skill and habit of living in a values-aligned and vision-oriented way by crafting values-aligned goals that translate your big vision into practical action and, slow and steady, handcraft a life that feels like home.
Let it be easy,
NOW WHAT? If reading this post activates feelings of sadness or overwhelm for you (maybe you have no idea where you’re going, you feel hollow, or you have no idea how to get started), I recommend taking one small step or imperfect action.
Movement is THE way to find our way forward; we find our way IN ACTION not before. Purchase a Seasonal Mindfulness Journal, sign up below for my very practical and evidence-based handout of 30 Strategies to help you get unstuck, or allow me to guide you in the Brave and Beautiful Community or through private coaching personalized for your story and your needs.
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