This article was originally written on November 5, 2016 and updated on September 19, 2020
Our values are those deep down beliefs we hold about our purpose and our place in the world. Values might be considered our soul’s expression – they tell us who we are. And when we live in alignment with them, we feel authentic and fulfilled.
In order to make our values more manageable, first we need to identify them, then address them one by one through goal-setting. Goals are landmarks along the path as we navigate our way through life guided by our values. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at goals that are specifically related to spiritual, mindfulness, and self-compassion practice.
Start by choosing one of your values – maybe one that you feel most drawn to spending time with. Allow yourself time to connect with the importance this value holds for you.
Bring to mind an event when this value was most prominent, when you felt most aligned with this value. As you think about this event, identify how you got there.
A value of mine is “education” and one time I felt most alive and aligned with this value was during a speaking event when I presented about self-compassion. I can identify the strengths that got me there:
- commitment to my own education;
- development of material that resonated with me;
- reaching out to organizations that might be interested in what I could offer;
- working mindfully and kindly with prospective partners;
- practicing speaking about my material;
- practicing mindfulness and self-compassion to manage nervousness;
- reminding myself that I am enough;
- reminding myself that my audience is just human;
- being determined to enjoy myself.
Practices of Daily Life
Identify practices you do that give you the tools you needed to perform during the event when you felt aligned with your values.
All of the 9 strengths that got me to my event above came from 9 practices in my daily life. I can identify daily practices that helped me develop these strengths:
- sacred study of spiritual and psychological material related to my passion;
- cultivating and nurturing my community, my tribe;
- practicing mindfulness;
- practicing equanimity;
- connecting with myself and my sense of purpose;
- practicing self-compassion and working with my inner-critic;
- practicing common humanity;
- practicing savoring and gratitude.
Break down your practices into manageable chunks that help fine-tune your goals.
To break my 9 daily practices down into even more manageable chunks, I allocate my time like this:
- read for 20 minutes per day;
- contribute to my journal once per day;
- write one article per month;
- meditate for 25 minutes per day;
- practice widening my perspective during meditation;
- repeat my intention each day;
- practice lovingkindness meditation for 10 minutes per day and watch 20 minutes of an online course about parts work (like Internal Family Systems);
- respond to emails from my community every day;
- pause 3 times during my day to identify the good in my current situation.
Keeping Track of Goals
If you have a resource that supports you in keeping track of your goals and reminding yourself of them each day (even if you don’t actually work toward one particular goal on a specific day), use this resource to continually touch in with your goals, and with your personal values. And be very kind with yourself when you don’t get to every to-do item in a day: this is self-compassion practice, and will actually help to motivate you toward your goals rather than lead you to feel defeated by them.
I have an app on my phone which keeps track of all my goals and to-do lists, and categorizes each of these so that I can see that I am cultivating balance in my day – ie, my day is not spent totally in study or totally in cultivating community.
It’s also important to be flexible in our goal-setting. If you’re finding that one particular goal or to-do item consistently doesn’t get done in a day, re-evaluate it. Maybe it’s not closely enough linked to your values, or maybe it’s a part of the process you don’t enjoy. If it’s not relevant enough, liberate yourself and let it go. If you want to keep trying and you have resistance toward this particular goal, try to see it in the broader perspective of your values and spiritual fulfillment to see if you can re-set your intention to pursue this goal.
Making it Doable
And it’s a great act of self-compassion to have things that we like that are also good for us in our to-do list.
I have “walk” and “nap” on my to-do list, and I love doing both of these. When my mind is struggling with other items on my list, I can always choose to do some of the things I love to do that nurture me then come back to the other items refreshed.
Set Incentives and Celebrate
It’s also important to celebrate when we have met a goal or completed a to-do item. Our brain is rewarded with dopamine when we complete something, so the act of ticking something off your list, or savoring an accomplishment will give your brain a little incentive, making working toward goals that much easier next time. For particularly challenging goals, you could even set up a reward for yourself ahead of time, like, “After I’ve written an article, I’m going to give myself an hour off to go for a walk,” or, “After I’ve tended to my emails I’m going to enjoy a bowl of cherries on the back deck.”
- Somatic Self-Compassion Tree of Practices and Neurochemicals - May 2, 2021
- Podcast Episode 9: Favorite Things on my Morning Walk - January 27, 2021
- Podcast Episode 8: Slow News Days and Companioning the Neutral - January 22, 2021
- Podcast Episode 7: Self-Care as the Shit Hits the Fan - January 6, 2021
- Podcast Episode 6: Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Anxiety, Isolation, and Quarantine - January 5, 2021