Values, Passions, Goals: A Primer

Categories Metaphors
Values, Passions, Goals: A Primer - a metaphor

In my last post, I told you that I’d show you how I go about considering my values and passions. What tools and exercises I’ve used to help me flesh these out. How I go about regularly re-assessing them. And most importantly, how do I make sure that what I’m doing from a high-level strategy to tactical execution is in full concert.

That’s a lot to tackle in one post, so I decided it best to break this up into a few more discrete parts, so maybe we can get a little deeper into everything

Values, Passions, and Goals

When I think about working towards what I want to achieve over time, I like to break up my path into 3 parts: Values, Goals, and Passions. In this post, I’d like to about what I mean by those 3 terms, and how you can use a similar model to help outline your immediate and long term future.

For my purposes, the real distinction between these 3 is time-based. So what do I mean by that?

Time Based Goals

We all live in a moment. All people are aware of the problems associated with this existential reality. For goal setting, it often leads to a feeling of disappointment when that moment isn’t effectively aligned with what we want out of life. You either feel like you’re trapped in a past that has gone by or a future that can never be.

Like any good Buddhist, I want to be present in this moment. But how? Especially with all the things I want to achieve.

Let’s think about this pragmatically. You could set long-term, pie in the sky goals. The problem is that if they’re too far out, you’ll forget or dismiss them in the moment. Worse yet, if you change your mind, and decide it isn’t something you really want to do, you’ll struggle because you’ll feel committed to a stupid goal.  Inevitably your resentment will grow until finally, you toss it out the window.

On the other hand, if we set near-term goals, we’ll fall into a string of tactical maneuvers without any broader vision or strategy. You paint a picture on Saturday, or you practice learning to code on Wednesday morning. Maybe you write 250 words a day. But why? Since you’re not linking it up to a long term objective, your interest will inevitably wane.

As Sun Tzu tells us, “tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat.”

You might think that a mid-term goal could help all this happen, but like most compromises, you end up with the worst of both worlds.

A compromise of inclusion

What I’ve found helpful is instead of compromising, combining. I create 3 goal sets — long term, mid term, and short term — and I make them all line up.

In a nutshell:

  • Values: Long term beliefs that govern your actions, by which any and all goals are rooted in. To be reassessed yearly (or possibly longer)
  • Passions: A deliverable that you can hold in your hot little hand at the end of the quarter
  • Goals: Bi-weekly sprints used to push you towards your passion goals

Let’s dig a little deeper here.

What do I Want i.e. Values

Don’t get wrapped up with nomenclature. Some people associate values with religious or ethical codes. That’s fine, but it’s not really what we’re talking about here. Values are more like a high level of prioritization. For example, what you want in the next 1 to 5 years.

Pat Flynn has a really great exercise in his book Will it Fly, where he asks you to consider a future 5 years from now. In this future, your wildest dreams have come true. You then create the 4 most important categories in your life and write down what has happened in these categories to make life so great.  For example, one category might be professional life, and under that, you could write “My blog became super successful so I got to quit my day job.” The kicker is you only have a single piece of paper to get this all down on.

So What?

Flynn’s exercise works great by forcing you into the imaged state of envisioning your perfect life without worrying about how to exactly get there. This kind of day dreaming is pretty typical. But, consciously going through the exercise forces you to rank those indicators of a perfectly successful life onto a single sheet of paper.

I’d strongly advise you give it a try.

For our purposes, the take away is thinking and prioritizing what you most value in your life. This manifests itself in what you want to prioritize in the next  1 –  5 years from now, and what that would actually look like. Do you want your spouse to not have to work? Maybe you want to have learned 6 languages and traveled the world? Do you want to be a musician, a writer?

These are your values.

What do I Do i.e. Goals

So we have our values, we know where we want to go. But, if the last section wasn’t clear, you need sign posts to make those things happen. Nothing happens on its own.

When I start talking about goals, I’m talking about a quarterly view. What have I achieved this quarter towards my value vision?

So what does this look like? Well, the trick with quarterly goals is to shoot low and make sure it is something you can hold in your hand. This is especially true at the beginning. If your value is to start your own business so you can quit your day job, your quarterly goal SHOULD NOT BE make my first $50,000 in revenue. It should be something like design the first iteration of my website, identify possible partners, create a business plan.

Similarly, it shouldn’t be something amorphous. Feeling good about your guitar playing isn’t a goal. Having an idea in your brain about a book is not a goal.

Maybe if your value is to write a book, your quarterly goal could be to write 30 pages? Something along this lines.

The worst thing you can do here is set yourself up for failure.

The two key takeaways are:

  •  Slow and steady wins the race. You remember the turtle?
  • The goal should be a physical deliverable. It HAS to be something tangible.

How do I Do it i.e. Passions

Passions = actually DOING things. I know, exciting.

Here’s the thing, I typically have 4 or 5 goals going per quarter. What I could do is attack all of these at once. But I’d run the risk of burn out, and I’d end up doing nothing but eating coco puffs and watching tv. Also, what if I hit goal 1 the first week of the quarter? What if I’m really feeling 1 goal more than another? I need to be able to stay agile enough to compensate and push my minimal free time towards my most productive potential.

I achieve this by running Agile Method “sprints” built around time expenditures per 2 week periods. If you’re unfamilar with the Agile Methodology, I have a blog post coming up where I’ll outline specifically how I build out this view and execute on it. Or, you could read this.

Long story short, I set a minimum/maximum amount of time towards goals over a 2 period, reassessing progress every two weeks.

I know that sounds kind of rigid, but really it’s not. But again, we’ll get into the bolts and nuts of that in a little bit.

The take away is that passions are the things you’re doing today! If your goal is to learn all the major scales on guitar this quarter, you passion might be spend an hour a day practicing. If it’s to write 4 blog posts, your goal could be write 500 words of blog content per week.

What was this?

This is the framework I use to push myself towards a future I want to live in. Does it always work, no? Sometimes it collapses into a heap of terribleness, but the formula above is all about the long game.

In future posts, I’ll delve more into the tactical execution of this process.

See you there.

Reaching your personal and creative goals takes more than a good attitude. You need a strategy! Here\'s how I organize my passions, values, and goals. Click to read more!
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My examples: writing, music, musing, birdhouse building

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