If you want to be more successful at completing your goals, those goals must be connected to your values. Values are the principles or standards that you follow in your life. What do you value most? What are the personal qualities and character strengths you want to cultivate? Goals are something that you want to achieve or possess, and as soon as you completed your goal, you go for another one.

For example,

Now, let’s say that you need to improve your surfing skills to place five positions better in the ranking, but you also like to spend time on the beach or hang out with your friends. So, the time that you spend with friends could be used for longer practices in the ocean. Practicing more also means more pain, more muscle soreness, and tiredness. On the other hand, being on the beach with your friends make you feel good. If you value performance and becoming the best you can be, your values-based behavior will be more practices. Having fun with friends makes you feel good but not to the point that your values are compromised. Do you prioritize your feelings or your values? Are you the type of person always directed to what makes you feel good? If your feelings come first, you will not achieve much because what makes you feel better (your emotions) is not always the best choice. If you lose track of your values, you can jeopardize your goals.

To re-connect, think about what really matters to you, think about the person you want to become, define your values (e.g., to continuously practice and improve your skills), and describe the behaviors that align with your values (e.g., giving full effort to improve every day, respecting opponents, and having a positive attitude). Now bring those behaviors to the everyday situation in relationships, work, and sport. The next step is to set your outcome goals (e.g., place five positions better). Performance goal (e.g., practice ten more hours a week). Process goal (e.g., limit my time hanging out on the beach to ten minutes a day).

Maybe your goal is to save money to pay for a surf trip. You value being adventurous; to actively explore stimulating experiences, travel, connect with another culture, and learn other languages. The behaviors that translate those values are welcoming tourists in your country, educating yourself about different cultures, and practicing a foreign language every time you see a tourist. The outcome goal is one international surf trip. The performance goal is to save 300 dollars a month during the year. Process goals are to cook dinner at home, go to your favorite restaurant only one time a week, and replace the coffee at your favorite coffee shop for free coffee at work.

All planned, but unexpected things can happen. If you face difficulties such as an injury or an unpredicted expense, your values will give extra energy and motivation to keep moving forward; your values will guide your actions on an ongoing basis even if you are months or years from completing your goals. In contrast, your goals tell you what to do now; goals give you a plan to achieve what you want. Goals will be completed and removed from the list; values will guide your life.

Always remember that we cannot have all that we want and sometimes we need to give up on something to get other things such as surfing less to complete a college degree or giving up on the next surf trip to buy a better car for your family. Even if you do not achieve your goals, living by your values will bring you satisfaction and fulfillment.

Goal setting is one of the most studied mental skills, and researchers found that goal setting enhances performance, but there are some guidelines to follow. If you want to receive a handout about how to effectively set goals, send me an email to info@athletestreasure.com.

Andrea C. Dias, MA, ABSP

Masters in Sport and Performance Psychology

American Board of Sport Psychology; Board Certified Sport Performance Consultant


Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple: an easy-to-read primer on acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

O’Connor, E. (2016). The Great Courses (Producer). How values and goals drive performance [DVD]. Available from https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-psychology-of-performance-how-to-be-your-best-in-life.html