Guided By Your Values

Guided By Your Values

Updated 11/3/2023

A Therapist’s Guide for Establishing Goals in Your Relationships, Sex Life, and Recovery

Establishing a solid goal for yourself is a critical aspect aspect to making any kind of change. This is true if you’re trying to make a change in your relationship, you’re wanting to improve your sex life, or you’re wanting to succeed in your recover y.

Are you setting a goal to move toward something? Or are you trying to get away from something.

People often have an idea in their mind about how goal achievement can create dramatic life changes. However, getting too focused on an outcome can push into a cycle that can further get in your way. You can make a goal that seeks to primarily ease your distress, rather than a goal that moves you towards what you value.

Let me give you an example. In our therapy practice, we do a lot of addiction therapy . Some clients set up their goals to make a behavioral change that correlates with life values, such as building more solid connections , working to succeed more in their careers, or learning more about themselves. Others, however, set up goals to avoid conflict , please people, and avoid difficult emotions. The aim in these situations is to feel more comfortable, but when it doesn’t work out, it often makes them feel like there is something wrong with them.

Whether you’re making goals for yourself or for your relationship, it’s critical to ensure that they represent your values. Sounds easy enough, right? It’s much more complicated than you might think. Setting goals can be distressing. They can even make you further doubt yourself if you’re setting them up with the wrong intentions. Goals themselves shouldn’t necessarily be set up to make you feel better either. If you reach a goal, feeling good about yourself is usually very fleeting. The feeling doesn’t tend to last very long and you’re usually back to where you started.

Watch for setting up goals that move you away from pain.

So many of us set up goals to get away from something painful. A personal belief can be behind a goal such as “I don’t think I’m good enough.” It’s natural and logical to then believe you’ll be good enough once you achieve the goal. That’s why so many people become obsessed with the outcome, rather than embracing the process of change .

Rigid obsessions about outcomes are common in sex therapy where clients are working to make changes to their relationship and sex lives. A lot of people think they’ll only be worthy of a solid relationship if they measure up to some sexual standard. When this happens, goals are set up to avoid the feelings of failure that can come with the process of trying to make a change.

When people fail, it’s natural that they really start to fear that their insecurities must be true. Thus, when they want to improve their sex lives they want sexual problems to just go away so they can avoid feeling that pain. What people don’t realize is that if embraced the process of making a change, they could just make fun, connective experiences with a partner. It’s also at that point where people start to embrace and enjoy the changes they’re making that their symptoms improve as well.

This is obviously a sexual and relationship example, but you can see examples of moving away from pain in several arenas. I recommend that no matter what you’re wanting to change that you ask yourself if you’re accepting the process, or if you’re getting obsessed with the outcome. If you’re too focused on the outcome, you want to shift your focus to embracing small changes and small achievements.

Don’t forget that insecurities aren’t usually eradicated. They just shift in their intensity over time. Sometimes they feel very real and intense and sometimes they don’t seem quite as powerful. Don’t give them too much power by making your goals entirely about getting rid of them or avoiding the pain associated with them.

If you let them get to powerful, you can get reactive, set up your goals to again try to get rid of the insecurities, realize that didn’t happen and repeat the whole thing over again. This cycle can go on and on, without ever reaching the permanent goal of feeling better.

Why is this a problem? This cycle can keep you from living your life and taking mindful risks that move you towards enhanced relationships with others and yourself.

Identify your values.

I usually recommend people step away from the outcome for a little bit and instead focus on what they want out of their lives. You can ask yourself the following questions. When is your life most based on your values? Also, what do you want to have in your life?These questions can help you explore what is important to you, which will help you make a more meaningful goal.

Please note it’s important to recognize the difference between values and morals. Values are things that you find important inside of yourself whereas morals are dictated by the society that surrounds you.

Inside of you, what do you value? Honesty, hard work, loyalty, fun, connection, challenge, recognition, competition are some words that are examples of values. If you want a list of values to get you started, here is a good list of values .

Watch out for just aiming to “be happy.”

Of course I want you to be happy. However, happiness is a feeling. Like all other feelings, they ebb and flow and come and go. You just can’t be happy all the time. Thus, being happy isn’t a great life goal.

Rather than focusing on “being happy” all of the time, think about what is important to you. For example, if you value connection and challenge, you might engage in something that is team based, but also had a lot of challenge to it. The challenges mean that you’ll likely fail at some point. It won’t feel good! At the same time, you’ll have those connections that you can lean on and you’ll also be able to reflect on the challenges that you face. The disappointment will subside, and you’ll realize that you lived according to what is important to you.

Your values help you reground, reorient, and encourage yourself to try again.

Anytime you set out to reach goals and make changes, you’ll fail at some point, feel let down, etc. Your values are what you want to turn to. This can help you identify why you even took the step or chance that you took. It’s possible, when you focus on your values, you may even identify that weren’t in alignment with your values. This isn’t just you and it happens to all of us. When you identify your values, you can use that information to help you feel more congruent with yourself. If you have a goal, you can tweak it so that it’s more in alignment.

You can also use the information to help you refocus your plan so that you are more likely to feel more successful.


If you’re wanting help finding yourself, discovering your values and using them to help you reach goals around healing trauma, your relationships or improving your sex life, feel free to contact us today .


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