Values and Life Goals 101

Our values and goals represent what is most important in our life, the things that matter to us! We aren’t born with particular values and goals, but we do begin to develop our values from an early age. As children, we learn from our families and community about what is important and expected. The people who surround us give us spoken and unspoken clues.

  • If you learned to always recycle when you were growing up, your family and/or community probably values preserving the environment.
  • Do your grandparents come over for dinner every Sunday? If so, your parents and grandparents were probably communicating that family should be important to you in your life.
  • Having required chores in your household might mean that your family values you being responsible for yourself or learning how to do things on your own.
  • Did you learn to always be honest no matter what? Or did you learn that sometimes you shouldn’t be honest to spare someone’s feelings?

The people around us help us to determine what we value socially by giving us feedback in real life situations. For example, you might have learned from an early age that you will get in trouble if you are late to school, making it important to you to stay out of trouble by being on time.

These are just a few examples of the ways we learn about the things that are important to us as we grow up. Now, this doesn’t mean that you will have the same values and goals as your family, community or peers for the rest of your life. Eventually, as you become more independent and have your own experiences, your values will become a combination of the things you have decided are important and the things you learned from your family. Sometimes you might feel quite differently than your family about a particular issue or goal.

At times it is not clear what our values and goals are, especially when it comes to complex issues. For example, a friend asks you to be honest with them but you know that the truth will hurt their feelings. In this scenario, you might think it’s valuable to be honest, but you may also see value in protecting the feelings of those whom you care about. In our lives we frequently are faced with balancing competing and conflicting values and goals like these. Can you think of other scenarios when someone might have conflicting life goals?

Your values influence your choices and are part of your daily life, even if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them.

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