How to Achieve Your Goals When You Are Feeling Down: Values Exploration


Before you can even begin to explore your goals, it is vital to get clear about what your values are.


Because creating good goals (and hopefully achieving them) is a reflection of what your values are! Simply put, good goals are specific objectives that we strive toward in order to live in accordance with our values.

The Importance of Establishing Values

By exploring and establishing what your values are, you will be better equipped to determine which goals are worthwhile, and the extent to which these goals will motivate you. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Bill has written down a goal to get promoted within 3 months at his current job. Yet, for some reason, he always runs into problems with executing this goal. For example, he is often late for work, he rarely speaks with his supervisor directly and has only worked for the company for a little under a year. He often finds himself sneaking out of work early, as he finds much of the work to be boring. Despite his current struggle with this issue, he finds solace in photography, a side job that he has always excelled at.

Example 2: Sarah has always loved working with people. Her friends often describe her as “friendly” and “empathetic.” She took a psychology course as an undergrad and loved it. She has decided that she would like to pursue a masters degree in clinical psychology. She has written down a goal to apply to 3 schools by the end of february.

There appear to be some issues with Bills case. His goal might be unrealistic (he has been there for less than a year), and most importantly his actions (always late, never speaks with supervisor) appear to be incongruent with his values (he is passionate about photography).

In Sarah’s case, however, her goal is specific, realistic, and congruent with her values (she values helping people etc.).

These examples highlight the importance of establishing values, in order to get clear about which goals are congruent with those values.

Types of Values

While there are many specific values that people hold, they all tend to fall into 4 basic categories:


This category of values includes many different manifestations of love, including meaningful relationships with parents, children, spouses, significant others, God(s), friends, pets, and other family members. A specific example might be: I value my relationship with my wife.


This category of values may include paid work, studying, education, apprenticeships, and unpaid work such as volunteering, or domestic duties.


Play includes rest and relaxation, hobbies, creativity, sport, and all
forms of leisure, recreation and entertainment.


Includes physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual health
and wellbeing.

What Are Your Values?

Now it’s your turn! Dig deep, and reflect on what your values are. Then, right down a few for each category:

Are You Living In Accordance With Your Values?

Perhaps the most important question is whether or not you are living your life in accordance with your values.

The following graphic is commonly used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as a means to establishing which goals are best suited to create a life that is values-congruent:

Values "Bullseye"
As you can see, the BIG GOAL here is to engage in activities, experiences, sensations, and thoughts that are congruent with one’s values. By doing so, life becomes far richer and more enjoyable.

Next Week…

Stay tuned for next week, where we will dive deeper into these concepts, and use this ^ “Values Bulleye” to practice goal setting!

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Over To You

How are you living in conjunction with your values? How are you not?

James Voss, MA, LMHCA


James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

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