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When we think about creating change in our lives, a lot of us first think of goals. But I’ve found in my own journey that it wasn’t when I asked myself “what goals do I want” that my life changed, instead it was when I asked myself “who do I want to be”. This is something that I thought about right after my brother died but recently I got my hands on the book Atomic Habits and in there he helped me to understand what happened to me that day. I’d stopped looking at outcome-based solutions to change (as the author James Clear explained) and instead started looking at identity-based changes. Instead of setting endless goals, I instead had to look at it as, “this is the person I want to be” so what must I believe about myself to “be” this type of person.
The key here was, as James Clear also explains (also really ironic that his last name is Clear right now guys) while our habits shape our identity and your identity shapes your habits, I was no longer building habits from a goals mindset but instead, I was letting my values, principles, and identity drive those changes.
So first, when I asked myself who I wanted to be, I wrote a list of qualities I wanted to have. THEN I wrote a list of beliefs that would support those qualities. From there, I started to list things I could do that would help me to feel this way, to BE this type of person daily.
And then, my list of core values was born.
I realised that by asking “who I wanted to be” and created a list of values for my life, I was redesigning my identity. I wasn’t aiming for things to achieve, I was aiming to BE a type of person which motivated me so much more.
Each time I took a step in the right direction by honouring my values and taking action from that place, I was becoming who I wanted to be.
That is one of the biggest takeaways I got from Atomic Habits. James Clear wrote “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you become”.
They key part here is its important to have a list of core values based on who we want to be because it’s this list that DRIVES those actions and helps us to create those votes.
I’m sharing here the steps I took to create this identity changed. These steps are simple but wow they have helped me shift and change truly into a more authentic, better version of myself. It is what has helped me to create a LASTING change in my life. And I think that’s what we all struggle with when it comes to life. We try to create change but it doesn’t stick because we’re working from an outcome-based idea instead of working from an identity-based outcome. Our values drive EVERYTHING we do so it’s such an important process to look at them and re-evaluate them like we would anything else. We’re so quick to adjust and change goals but we don’t spend time working on the foundation that these goals come from which is our beliefs or values.
1. Create a list of your current values
When I looked at my big, lofty goals, the problem wasn’t their size, the problem was that these goals weren’t authentic. They didn’t reflect who I truly was. So why did I set them? Well because I was living off a list of core values that affected my decision making, my thinking and my goal setting. A goal that really sticks with me right now was that I wanted to support my entire family. So for years, I would set these huge goals because I need heaps of money to look after ALL my family right?
The reason I set this goal was because I had a core value embedded in me that I was the care taker, that I needed to take care of my own family and all their needs. Whilst we can love and support our family in many ways both financially and emotionally, I went beyond that. I felt like every dream or wish they had was on me to come true. So naturally, I created big goals to match these big needs I felt I had to fulfil.
Finally, somewhere along the line, I saw the effect that this core value had on me, my life and my goal setting. I was never fully fulfilled, motivated or inspired by these goals becase when it came down to it, it wasn’t for me, it was for everyone else.
This happened to me with a lot of my goals. As of my core values on my list were created externally, my goals were more about the outside than the inside. My goals were never a true reflection of me.
This is why writing down our core list of vales is so important in any process but especially the goal setting process. When we write down our current list of core values we begin to understand the WHY behind our behaviours, actions and why we set the goals we set.
2. Create awareness around where these values come from
Creating a list of our current core values is a great exercise because it creates so much awareness around our actions and behaviours. For me, the next step was then to start digging deep and seeing how this list of core values were created.
This is another great step in creating awareness. Once we have an idea on the core values we’re working off, then we can start to question where they came from. Is each value truly yours, or did you inherit this from family expectations, past experiences or advice? What values truly resonate with you and which don’t?
This process is empowering because we’re giving ourselves an opportunity to rewrite our own core values. This stops us from living on autopilot, through values that are not truly ours.
When you do this exercise of writing down your list of core values and asking yourself where they came from two situations can come up:
- You’ll find, like I did, that a lot of goals you set aren’t truly yours because they’re created from core values that have been inherited without awareness. For example, the value of having to take care of everyone came from family experiences and things I was told by others.
- You’ll find that you have goals that don’t match your core values. This is something I’ve also experienced. You can set a goal to work for yourself, but if you have a core family embedded from family experiences and advice that says that working for yourself is unsafe and risky, you might find your actions don’t match your goals.
Both these experiences happened to me personally. I’d spent years unhappy and frustrated with myself because I’d lived on autopilot for a long time. I was working off a core list of values that I hadn’t decided but adopted without being fully aware of it. So no matter what I did my goals or my actions never truly reflected me because the foundation I was working from (my core values) weren’t mine.
3. Create a list of core values to be the person that achieves those goals
The final step is my FAVOURITE part of the list of core values process. This is the part where we get to dig deep and think about what values and then what goals feel authentic to US.
For me, I had a vision of the type of person I wanted to be. It wasn’t necessarily a goal but more a general idea of the person I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up in the world. Then, I created a list of core values to be that person. It was honestly a simple but life changing process because I took responsibility for myself and the way I was living my life.
From there, I started to create goals that reflected these values. This didn’t mean that the goals weren’t scary or intimidating, they were and still are but they’re fulfilling. That’s the difference when we set goals from a place of true, core values.
I wrote my list of core values on a whiteboard and I placed it in my study area. Every day I check if I’m doing work or taking action that matches those core values. For example, if there’s something I want to say or share but then I start to second guess it, I reflect on a core value of mine which is “I choose to always honour my voice” and so I say what I need to say. This aligns with my goal for this blog. Being personal development, it’s important that I write, speak and be honest about my experiences.
Now you can see how this all intertwines.
Creating a list of core values for myself has been the best thing I could’ve done for changing my life. I often see it as my own personal laws or invisible rules that I live by. It helps guide my direction, my behaviour and most importantly my goal setting.
Now, when I set goals, I can truly say I enjoy every part of the process and journey of them.
So write down your own list of core values. Put it somewhere where you can see it. Set your goals based on these values and start being aware of how you’re feeling on a day to day basis. Do you feel more empowered or inspired? Do you feel more authentic? Like you’re living in your power?
I hope so because that’s the experience I’ve had through living my list of core values and I truly wish the same for you!
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