The pole star has been used for hundreds of years as a navigation aid - no matter where people were going, they could look up and see where North was and be confident they knew what direction they were ultimately heading. It doesn’t help define the journey in detail, but it’s crucial for guiding towards the ultimate destination.
This can equally be applied to the journey towards your goals in your own life. Have you ever thought about why you set the specific goals you have? Why are they important to you? **Are** they important to you, or did someone tell you they should be important to you?
One way to help answer these questions is to define our values - they can be your North Star for your goals and projects. Values can help you with setting goals or projects, or changing the goals that you have. But how do you define them?
What’s a Value?
Before we define our own values, we need to define what a value is.
A value is “one’s judgement of what is important in life”. Examples are kindness, assertiveness, honesty, or reliability.
Listing Your Values
To begin with, write down a list of all the values you can think of that relate to you. There are too many values to list here (but Google is your friend). Don’t worry about if they repeat, or seem similar to each other, the key thing right now is to get them down on paper or on the screen.
Group Similar Values
By now, you should have a list of values that apply to you. The next step is to group all of your similar values together. For example, happiness, humour and fun could be grouped together, thankful and gratitude could also be grouped together.
There is no clear limit to the number of groups but I think 4 or 5 groups has worked well for me.
Pick a Key Value
From the groups you made above, circle one word from each group that best describes that group.
Apply it to your goals (current or future)
Now that you have defined your values, take a look at your goals or current projects. Do they match the values that you have just listed? If not, why not? Perhaps they refer to some values that you hold but haven’t listed, or perhaps they don’t align with your values at all.
Alternatively, when you’re setting goals or starting projects, ask yourself before you start whether this aligns with your values? Ask yourself what the motivation for the goal or project that you’ve defined is?
Finally, perhaps your projects or goals align with some, but not all of your values - are there values that you hold that you’re not as focused on? Why is that?
Reflect on your values over time
Periodically reflect on the values that you’ve written down. Over time, they may/will change, sometimes without us realising. This is perfectly normal. Repeat the above process, but add the step of comparing your previous values to your new ones. What’s changed, what values are new and what values do you no longer hold (if that’s the case)?
This process of self-examination and self-reflection is hard, but will ultimately help you set better goals and projects that are aligned to your values. It will make them seem more meaningful and important to you, and gives you a direction in life that’s specific to you and your needs.