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What are values-based goals?

Before we can talk about how to set values-based goals, let’s touch on the difference between values and goals. Values are the qualities that matter most to you (ex: wellness, community, growth) and goals are the outcomes you hope to achieve (ex: to get more sleep, to make plans with a friend, to try something new).

The truth is you need both values AND goals in order to create a meaningful life (as you define it). When you set goals without understanding your values, you risk creating a life based on someone else’s idea of what matters most. When you understand your values without setting and working towards goals that are aligned with those values, then your values are just hypothetical. You never get to express, experience, or enjoy them.

Values-based goals are the plans you make to create the life you want.

Here’s how to set values-based goals during pregnancy and postpartum:

Start with your values.

The very best place to start is by exploring your personal values. This will help you clarify what matters most to you in life and in new parenthood. Sometimes it can be helpful to focus on the values you have around whatever area of life that would be impacted by your goal. For example, if you’re wanting to set a goal for your return to work after parental leave, you could reflect specifically on your values around work.

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably have a whole bunch of values that are important to you in any given area of life. When you can, try to narrow this down to the top three values you’d like to prioritize in this particular season.

Honor the season you’re in.

Pregnancy and the postpartum year are very unique seasons of life (that each have their own unique and distinct seasons within them). As you move through these seasons, you’ll experience different resources and limitations around your time, energy, emotions, and mental bandwidth. Recognizing and honoring the season you’re in can help you to manage your expectations of yourself. This will help your goals to feel more possible and realistic in the context of your life as it is right now (vs. how it was pre-baby or how it will be when your kiddo is a bit older).

Define “done.”

The most helpful goals are the ones we can complete. If we don’t define “done,” it becomes impossible to know when we’ve actually met our goal. It’s like running a race without knowing where or how to find the finish line. For example, I often hear new parents say “I want to be a good mom” or “I want to be a good dad.” This is such a great thing to want. AND YET — it’s really hard to measure. Instead, take a moment to clarify exactly what you hope to accomplish and how you’ll know you did.

Break it into baby steps.

Using a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is very unlikely and 10 is very likely, ask yourself: “How likely am I to complete this goal within the next week?” If you’re at a 7 or lower, consider breaking your goal into smaller steps. Then, ask this question again. Repeat the process until you imagine a likelihood of 8-10/10 that you’ll be able to complete the goal within the next week.

If you’d like even smaller steps, you can change the time frame to 72 hours, 24 hours, 1 hour, or whatever feels like a better fit.

Put it in your calendar.

If you’re feeling short on time as a new parent, you’re in good company. It can be really hard to spontaneously happen upon a spare chunk of time to focus on anything other than your most pressing and urgent responsibilities. It’s easy to well-meaningly set a goal and then forget about it. Using whatever system you already have in place, see if you can designate some space in your calendar to work towards your goal.

Now that you know how to set values-based goals, remember to review your progress.

Whether or not you’ve met your goal, pausing to review and reflect on your progress can give you helpful data.

Maybe you’ve met your goal. Huzzah! Be sure to recognize the actions you took to make this happen. This gives you data about what’s working in your values-based goal setting.

If you weren’t able to meet your goal, ask yourself:

  • What kept me stuck, and how can I address this in the future?
  • What would it look like to make this goal even smaller?
  • Is there a different values-based goal that would be a better fit for my situation?

This gives you data about what else you could try.

It’s a win-win — either way, you’ll learn more about yourself and how to set better values-based goals moving forward.

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