So just now I read this on Twitter and felt inspired to post about it:
What one word describes your life? Is that what you want? Set your goals around the word you want to describe your life. (@Hey_Annnieeee)
As soon as I started reading this, the word that came to mind was “freedom”. This is my core value. Nine times out of ten, if I’m feeling unhappy about something it’s because at some level I feel like my freedom is being impinged upon: preferring not to commit to weekly classes, ongoing issues with my MIL’s expectations of how often she should see me, wanting to live in walking distance of good public transport links… I thought I’d do a quick goal audit and check whether what I’m aiming for will give me more or less freedom.
My main goal at the moment is to pay off our mortgage. For me, this works towards freedom as I’ll be free from debt and worry about possibly losing our house, I’ll have a huge proportion of my monthly salary (around 60% net) free to invest as I please, I’ll be free to choose a lower-paying job or work fewer hours as my financial obligations will be lower.
My secondary goal is to save enough money to retire when I’m 50. I don’t think anyone would quibble that this goal relates to freedom! Free time to do whatever I like, freedom to travel or relocate without being tired to one area at a certain time every week for work.
So far so good. I can see that the problem for me is that sometimes I pick goals without thinking about freedom. For example, studying for a Masters gave me a financial obligation and a time obligation, without giving me any additional freedom on completion. As I should have expected, I’ve spent a lot of time during this course feeling tied down and under pressure. As a goal, it wasn’t closely aligned to my core value.
On the flip side, if I am struggling with other goals, the best strategy for me will be to identify the freedom they will bring. For example, if I don’t feel like doing yoga in the morning, I can remind myself that it will keep my joints flexible, giving me greater freedom of movement both now and in the future. It’s the same with running: although I hope I’ll never have to run for my life or for another emergency, training now gives me an increased chance of freedom in the future.
Although I wouldn’t say that the idea of aligning your goals with your core values is something I’m completely unaware of, I think that today’s nudge has really crystallized it for me. From now on, I’m going to make a conscious effort to think “Will this make me more or less free?” before taking on activities. If they feel like an obligation at the time, maybe they’ll give me some future freedom. If not, why would I even think about taking them on?