To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable. To be certain is to be merely ridiculous. - Goethe
This chapter will aim to cover areas like - What are values? Schultz’s research findings. Respected figures. Evolutionary psychology. Self-determination theory, key needs, goals & motivations. ‘Mentalities’ & behavioural response systems. Funeral speeches. Clarifying & setting goals.
Note there are already a number of resources available on this website that are relevant for "Values, Meaning, Needs & Goals". These include "Kidney donation: preoperative preparation & facing challenges generally - values are central", "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (3rd post): embodied values",
It’s often helpful to distinguish values and goals. Values are likely to be compass bearings we use to steer by for many decades. We don’t typically prioritise those we love for a while, or look after our health for a while, and then get to a place where we’ve arrived and can stop doing it. Our current goals however we may well reach. So we might want to arrange a surprise birthday party for our partner or train to run a marathon or target other goals that are an expression of our values. Hopefully we’ll achieve these goals and then we’ll want to make fresh ones (“Goals for roles” exercises can help here). It’s like travelling on a particular compass bearing (values) and seeing that some way ahead in this direction is a landmark (goal) – maybe a tree or a hill – that we can steer towards for a while. The landmark is the goal we head for as we follow our values compass. When we reach it, we look ahead on our compass bearing for the next landmark to steer towards. Values are the way that we walk, the direction. Goals are checkpoints on the journey.
There's much more about this territory of values & goals in the "Wellbeing, time management, self-control & self-determination" section in this website's "Good knowledge" area. There is also a relevant sequence of four blog posts beginning "Purpose in life: reduces dementia risk, increases life expectancy, treats depression and builds wellbeing" and "Purpose in life: how do you score on the questionnaire & why does it matter?".
It can be so helpful to take ownership of our values & goals. I'm a big fan of "Self-determination theory" with its emphasis on the importance of autonomy for wellbeing - you can click through here to a relevant Wikipedia article and here's a blog post I've written about this approach. As the theory's originators, Edward Deci & Richard Ryan, have written "Comparisons between people whose motivation is authentic (literally, self-authored or endorsed) and those who are merely externally controlled ... typically reveal that the former ... have more interest, excitement, & confidence which in turn is manifest both as enhanced performance, persistence, & creativity, and as heightened vitality, self-esteem, & general well-being”. And it's deeply heartening to discover that most of us centrally value self-direction and kindness. I've written a blog post about this fascinating & very encouraging finding - "Most people agree on the healthy key values that they want to live by and this is real grounds for hope" - where I've commented "It does look that, across the nations, most people probably do agree to a surprisingly large extent on the healthy, self-directing, altruistic values that they want to live by ... "Benevolence, self-direction, and universalism values are consistently most important". This makes me smile & feel at least a little hope in these critical times for our species."