If you’re about to start writing those New Year’s resolutions, read this first.
I used to hate goals and anything that asked me to commit to achieving a specific outcome because I never liked the idea of not being able to change my mind. But, I’ve slowly moved through this. In, Goals Don’t Have to Be Scary I discuss that goals felt less daunting once I realized that I could veer off course and not be punished by the achievement Gods.
Now, I’m going to take this a step further.
The classic New Year’s resolution usually involves losing a set amount of weight through a diet and/or working out. Not only is this fatphobic, but it is outcome-oriented. You are ascribing a number, body type, and politic to your worth. Instead of thinking about your future body or future goals with an outcome-oriented lens, it’s time to consider values-oriented goals and resolutions.
What do you mean by values-oriented?
I have explored my values in depth during 2020. That is, I started to identify what I is important for my life’s purpose, how I relate to others, and what aligns with my core beliefs.
Values come from many different sources, and they change over time, too. They come from lived experience; family behaviors and stories; religion and spirituality; identity including gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and class; cultural norms; media; political leanings; and significant personal and/or historical events.
2020 has given me plenty of time to reflect about who I am and who I want to be. As a result, I identified my core values as community, compassion, vulnerability, equity, curiosity, humility, creativity, and unlearning. And I want my intentions and goals to reflect these values too.
What’s wrong with outcome-oriented goals?
Outcome-oriented goals can be helpful by defining quantitative or qualitative terms for achievement. But the trouble comes when you feel like a failure for not achieving these outcomes. It engenders shame and blame. Many of these outcomes are based on external values such as BMI, capitalistic-driven productivity, and basing our goals on other people’s achievements.
All of this is external. It forces you to align your worth with harmful systems and compare yourself to other people who have completely different personalities, experiences, and energies. This is unfair to yourself. If you choose outcome-oriented goals based on your own previous performance, this will likely be less harmful. However, it is still likely rooted in the simplistic and morality-driven binary of “success” being “good” and “failure” being “bad.”
We are not “bad” or “good” — we are fallible human beings who live in complex societies and nuanced realities. The learning process itself requires mistakes to remind us of what we are learning in the first place.
Do you want to scare yourself into achieving and then feel less than if you can’t meet these outcomes?
I want to grow in directions I don’t know possible. I want to allow myself to move toward infinite possibilities. I want to lead from a place where I fall in love with the process instead of the product. And this can happen by starting with values.
How do you create values-oriented goals?
As I said, my values are community, compassion, vulnerability, equity, curiosity, humility, creativity, and unlearning.
First, it would be helpful to search of lists of values, feel free to add others as well. Choose which values align with you as a person, as a professional, how you view society, and what is important when you think about how you want to live your life.
In order to create values-oriented goals, think about how your values align with your interests and passions. I think the best way do explain this is to look at some hypothetical examples. Let’s say that I want to focus on my writing in 2021.
Outcome-oriented Writing Goal: Write one story a week on Medium.
Values-oriented Writing Goal: Write about racial injustice on Medium.
In the outcome-oriented writing goal, the outcome is one story a week. In the values-oriented goal, the value is equity, and it is expressed by writing about racial injustice.
Let’s try another. I also want to focus on providing coaching services.
Outcome-oriented Coaching Goal: Conduct two group coaching programs in 2021.
Values-oriented Coaching Goal: Create a group coaching program about internalized misogyny and storytelling.
As you can see, in the outcome-oriented coaching goal, the outcome is two group coaching programs. In the values-oriented goal, the values are unlearning and vulnerability, and it is expressed by the stated topics of internalized misogyny and storytelling.
Lastly, here are goals about the physical body.
Outcome-oriented Body Goal: Find an effective diet and exercise program.
Values-oriented Coaching Goal: Explore fat positivity and Health at Every Size (HAES) principles.
Do you see what I’m saying?
Can you “fail” at both outcome-based and values-based goals? Sure, it’s very possible that you won’t accomplish either! However, when your goals are derived from your values, your internal motivation allows you freedom to play, learn, and commit instead of causing more shame than we are already conditioned to feel, especially if we have one or more marginalized identities.
What about accountability?
I love having accountability. Creating values-oriented goals can still allow you to have it. Having set meetings with groups of people to accomplish projects helps to keep me on track and collaborate with others. For example, I’m a part of a book club that keeps me on track to read books and gives me a venue to discuss what I’ve read. I might not end up reading those books or gain others’ perspectives if I had to do it alone. Accountability is very helpful when it comes to fulfilling our goals, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t foster shame. After all, accountability does often have an externally-based component.
Accountability can be connected to responsibility. If you feel you have a responsibility to someone or something, you will likely be more inclined to complete it. But it’s one thing to want to be accountable and have this responsibility, and it’s another thing to shame yourself if you don’t stay accountable.
We all need to recognize where our shame comes from in order to address it. Shame says “I am bad.” It tells us to keep this “badness” a secret instead of allowing for vulnerability to help us release it. This is possible, I know it is. But having outcome-oriented, externally-driven, and competitive goals doesn’t necessarily motivate us to release shame, it can actually increase it.
As I mentioned, vulnerability is one of my values. And vulnerability can help us move past shame. When you get clear on your values, share them with someone. This is an act of lowering your walls, being honest with someone else, and being honest with yourself.
Talk to a trusted friend, therapist, coach, or family member about what has been holding you back and how you might feel shame for not achieving goals in the past. Releasing your feelings will help you move through them, and, hopefully, it will help you focus on your values and interests.
You will find so much joy in creating goals and intentions that come from a place of fulfillment instead of scarcity. But sometimes, to get there, we have to dig deep and ask ourselves why we want to depend on external outcomes instead of internal values.
2020 was unexpected in all the ways. Don’t push yourself to achieve in a way that puts you down. Discover your values, create exciting ways to infuse them into your life, and hold them close to your heart as you consider your future.
Nisha Mody is a writer who also is also a Coach, Podcaster, and Librarian. She has written for The Rumpus, The Times of India, and Ravishly. Find her on Twitter and Instagram. But most importantly, adore her beautiful sister cats. Read more from her on her healing and justice newsletter, The Healing Hype.