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Don’t Let Problems Drive Your Decisions, Let Your Values Do So

Don’t Let Problems Drive Your Decisions, Let Your Values Do So

Nearly every problem you face is temporary.

But these temporary problems cause immediate pain. And we often let this pain drive our choices and actions.

For example…

  • An employee suffering from the pain of not feeling important enough or powerful enough might take a terrible job with a fancy title.
  • An individual suffering from the pain of feeling unloved or unappreciated or misunderstood might try to resolve that pain by cheating on their spouse.
  • An entrepreneur suffering from the pain of a faltering small business might resort to using questionable marketing tactics to try to drive more sales.

…and so on.

This is how you make choices you wouldn’t normally make. When you let the problem drive your decisions, you make exceptions and “just this once” choices to resolve the pain, annoyance, or uncertainty that you’re feeling in the moment.

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How can we avoid this pitfall and make better long-term choices while still resolving short-term pain?

Here’s an approach I’ve been trying recently. See if it works for you…

Let Your Values Drive Your Choices

One of the solutions I’ve been trying out is to let my values drive my choices. That doesn’t mean I ignore other aspects of my decision making process. I simply add my values into the mix.

For example, if I’m working on a problem in my business, rather than just asking, “Will this make money?”

I can ask, “Is this in alignment with my values?” And then, “Will this make money?”

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If I say no to either, then I look for another option.

The idea behind this method is that if we live and work in alignment with our values, then we’re more likely to live a life we are proud of rather than one we regret.

The Power of a Constraint You Believe In

Every decision is made within some type of constraint. Maybe it’s how much knowledge you have. Maybe it’s how much money you have. Maybe it’s how many resources you have. Why not what values you have?

Making better choices is often a matter of choosing better constraints. By limiting your options to those that fit your values, you are taking an important step to ensuring that your behavior matches your beliefs. (Plus, constraints will boost your creativity.)

Know your principles and you can choose your methods.

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How to Put This Into Practice

Most people never take the time to think about their values, write them down, and clarify them. Maybe it sounds too simple or unnecessary.

For what it’s worth, my 2014 Integrity Report was the first time that I sat down to clarify my values and tie them directly to my work.

You are welcome to use that report as a template for discovering your own values and aligning them with your work and life.

The Bottom Line

He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.
—Aesop

If you never sit down to think about your values, then you’ll be more likely to make decisions based on whatever information is in front of you at the time. That can be a recipe for regret down the road.

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Life is complex and we are all faced with moments in our personal and professional lives that require us to make a choice without as much information as we need. The default assumption is that we need more knowledge or research in these situations, but often we just need a clear understanding of our values.

If you don’t know what you stand for and where you’re headed, then it’s far too easy to get off course, to waste your time doing something you don’t need to be doing, or to make an exception (“just this once”) that leads you down a dangerous path. There are brilliant men and women with decent hearts and families they care dearly about spending a long time in jail right now because they made business decisions that were based on the pain they felt and not the values they believed in.

Let your values drive your decisions.

Featured photo credit: Lauren Macdonald via flickr.com

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James Clear

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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Last Updated on June 29, 2020

How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

As well as being the founder of Lifehack, I also help people on a one-to-one basis through life coaching.

I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and have helped hundreds of clients reevaluate their lives and turn inertia into progress and failure into success.

A common theme I’ve noticed with many of my clients is that they don’t have any definite goals to aim towards.

This has always surprised me, as goal setting is frequently recommended by self-improvement gurus, performance coaches, and business leaders. It’s also something that I learned at university and have implemented successfully in my life ever since.

If you’re similar to the majority of my life coaching clients and you don’t have any definite goals to aim for, then you’re missing out on what is probably the most powerful personal success technique on the planet.

The good news is—you’ve come to the right place for help with this.

In this article, I’ll explain exactly what goal-setting is and how you can put it into action in your life. As you’ll discover, it’s a key that can open many doors for you.

An Introduction to Goal Setting

Goals can be big, small, short-term, long-term, essential, or desirable. But they all share one thing: They will give you something to aim for.

This is important. As just like a ship without a destination, if you have no goals, you’ll end drifting aimlessly.

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Goals give you purpose. They also give you drive and enthusiasm. In other words—they make you feel alive!

If you’ve never spent time setting goals before, then here’s what I recommend you to do:

  1. Take some time to evaluate all areas of your life (health, career, family, etc.).
  2. Determine which of these areas need a boost.
  3. Think of ways in which to achieve this (for example, if you want to boost your health, you could eat less and exercise more).
  4. Set some definite goals that you would like to achieve.
  5. Write down these goals, including the date you want to accomplish them by.

Now, before you get started on the above, I want to make one thing clear: Goals are not wishful thinking!

By this, I mean that while your goals should be ambitious, they shouldn’t be unrealistic or verging into fantasy land.

For example, wanting to be promoted at work would be a realistic goal while wanting to be President of the United States might not be. (Of course, feel free to prove me wrong!)

If you’re new to the world of goal setting, then I’d recommend you start with easy-to-achieve goals. These could be things such as eating a healthy breakfast, walking more, taking regular breaks from your screen, and sleeping early.

These simple goals might take you a month or so to achieve, including making the daily practices a habit.

Once you’ve successfully accomplished these goals, you’ll find your self-confidence grows, and you’ll be ready to set yourself some bigger goals.

Here are a few examples that you might want to choose or adapt to your personal circumstances:

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  • Run a marathon
  • Buy a new car
  • Learn a new language
  • Travel around the world
  • Change career
  • Retire early
  • Write a book

I’m sure you can think of many more things that you would like to achieve. As the famous Shakespeare line neatly states: “The world is your oyster!”

Now, the trick with big goals (as I’ll show in an example shortly) is to break them down into small, bite-sized chunks. This means you’ll have a big end goal, with smaller goals (sometimes referred to as objectives) helping you to gradually achieve your main aim.

When you do this, you’ll make big goals more achievable. Plus, you’ll have an easy way to track how far along the road to your goal you are at any given point in time.

Let’s see this in action…

Going from an Idea to a Global Success

Everything starts with an idea.

And there appears to be no shortage of good ideas in the world. But there is a shortage of people willing to put these ideas into action!

This is the essential step that will move you from being a dreamer to an achiever.

Back in 2005, when I first had the idea for Lifehack, I really only considered it to be a platform to record some of my productivity and self-improvement techniques. I’d developed these during my time at university and as a Software Engineer at Redhat.

However, based on the number of views and positive feedback I received on the first few articles, I quickly realized that Lifehack had the potential to be a popular and successful website—a site that could help transform the lives of people from all across the world.

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It was at that point that I decided to set some goals in place for Lifehack.

The way I did this was to set specific targets for different areas of the business:

  1. Number of articles published
  2. Amount of time spent writing and promoting the articles
  3. Number of new readers
  4. Number of new email subscribers
  5. Revenue generated from ads

For each of the above, I set weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. These targets were realistic but were also ambitious. In addition, I wrote down the necessary steps to take to achieve each target within the specified time frame.

This goal setting had a powerful impact on my motivation and energy levels. Because I could clearly see what needed to be done to achieve each goal, I found a purpose to my tasks that made them exciting to complete. Each small target achieved took me closer to accomplishing the bigger goals.

For example, my initial goals for writing articles were for just five a week, which equated to 20 per month and just over 100 per year. However, as I dedicated more and more time to Lifehack, I found I was able to exceed my initial goals.

This led me to increase the numbers. Of course, there’s a limit to how many articles one person can write. So when the readership began to exponentially increase, I started to hire other writers to help me out with the site’s content.

From my initial goal of just over 100 articles per year, I’ve used goal setting to help Lifehack publish more than 35,000 articles to date. This is now the largest collection of original self-development articles in the world.

And in terms of readership—this has skyrocketed from a few dozen in 2005 to several million in 2020.

And of course, I have many new goals for Lifehack, including expanding our range of online courses.

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My original goal has always remained the same though: To change people’s lives for the better.

Goal Setting Can Transform Your Life

If you haven’t yet experienced the incredible power of goal setting, then now’s the time to get started.

Build a definite picture of what you want to accomplish, break it down into small, achievable steps, and then start taking action!

You’ll be able to change all areas of your life using this method, including boosting your health, improving your relationships, and transforming your career. You may also want to use goal setting to start a new hobby or plot a path to a prosperous and peaceful retirement.

So please don’t wait for success to drop in your lap (which it is highly unlikely to do). Instead, decide on exactly what you want, then make a plan to get it. This is the secret to lifelong success.

Legendary motivational speaker and author Paul J. Meyer said it well:

“Goal setting is the most important aspect of all improvement and personal development plans. It is the key to all fulfillment and achievement.”

Final Thoughts

Now, let me leave you with five questions that will help you think about your future:

  1. What would you like to be doing in 3, 5, and 7 years?
  2. What things make you happiest?
  3. How can you share your knowledge and experience?
  4. Who can help you achieve your goals?
  5. What would you like to be your legacy?

Take plenty of time to think about these questions. When the answers come, you’ll be able to start building a picture of how you’d like your life to be—and what goals you need to set to make this picture a reality.

More Tips on Setting Goals

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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