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Why setting goals isn't enough

Why setting goals isn't enough

Hannah Winter, Sandstone associate and sport and exercise psychology consultant, looks at the power behind creating values rather than goals

People often set goals in all areas of their life – whether that is in business, health, sport, relationships or hobbies. Goals can be effective to aid behaviour change. They can keep us on track, provide a source of motivation and are a good way to monitor progress.

But having goals and targets can sometimes feel meaningless to people. The actions required to reach a goal can be difficult to do if lacking motivation and they don’t provide any reward until you actually achieve them. What’s more, goals have to be continually recreated once reached.

So how can we stay motivated when goals alone aren’t enough? Setting clear values can for many be far more effective in creating lasting change.

Goals vs. values

Having a strong set of values instead relates to how you want to behave as a human being. Values are different to goals as they are not about what you want to get or achieve. They are about how you want to act or behave on an ongoing basis.


  • What you want to get, have, complete, achieve, own
  • Can be ticked off the list, finished, done and permanently achieved


  • How you want to behave every step of the way as you pursue your goals. The qualities you want to bring to your actions on an ongoing basis
  • How you want to behave if and when you achieve your goals
  • How you want to behave if and when you fail to achieve your goals
  • Never finished, complete done

In comparing goals and values, you can start to see the difference. For example, you could focus on a goal of winning new business. Or you could focus on your values of curiosity, learning and persistence. You could focus on a goal of getting promoted. Or you could focus on living out your values of dedication, maximising your potential and being collaborative.

Why are values so effective

Values tap into a type of motivation called intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges. It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for consideration.

intrinsic motivation is powerful because if you enjoy the process, relish the challenge and get a kick from seeing improvement you will remain motivated. Many companies have a set of values. However these are often imposed on people and therefore are largely unmotivating to people – they don’t tap into someone’s individual intrinsic motivation.

Creating values

So where to start with creating values? There are literally hundreds of different values. There is no such thing as a ‘right’ value or a ‘wrong’ value. Values are our heart’s deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, and other people, and ourselves. They are the leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life. To start figuring yours out ask yourself:

  1. Deep down, what is important to you?
  2. What do you want your life to stand for?
  3. What sort of qualities do you want to cultivate as a person?
  4. How do you want to be in your relationships with others?

These questions will help clarify what’s important to you. If you can connect with your values and the “whys” behind your activities you are more likely to feel motivated and seek out different ways of achieving what you want to achieve.