Guest writer Dr. Dan Burton, owner of Healthcare Evolution, contributing for us on the important differences between values and goals when it comes to weight loss and seeking out better health. Head to https://healthcareevolve.ca/ for more information…
Values are innately a part of every individual on the planet, that are instilled in us at a young age by our parents, society, and cultures. They’re important to us, and ultimately dictate our behaviours and beliefs without us even realizing it. Without them life would be difficult, as values provide us with purpose and helps us make decisions.
Those who don’t have a strong sense of their values can struggle with making decisions, such as whether they go back to school, move to a big city for a new job, etc. But, individuals with a greater sense of their values are better equipped to look at a choice and decide which option aligns with their values.
Compared to goals, values are generally unwavering, I would argue they don’t change over time, but rather, they evolve. For example, a goal could be ‘I want to lose 10 pounds’, and a value is ‘I want to be happy and healthy’.
I like to think of values as the directions on a compass. Values set the course and point us in the direction we want to go. Now there are specific destinations along the way, and these are our goals, but despite reaching one destination we never stop, instead we continue on the course our values have set, reaching one destination after another.
Goals, on the other hand, are finite. They’re a great motivational tool, and give us markers of accomplishment to strive for in the short-term. But, unless they’re tied to our values, once we achieve our goal the question becomes, ‘Now what?’
A classic example of this is Olympic athletes who train their entire lives to win a gold medal. Day in and Day out, that gold medal is their goal and nothing else matters. Then the day comes, and they win the gold medal. Everything they have poured their heart and souls into for years comes to fruition. Then what? Many athletes end up crashing, becoming depressed and even suicidal. Why? Because they had nothing else beyond that one goal, and they struggle to adjust to a life that doesn’t involve constantly striving for a gold medal.
In living a healthier lifestyle and trying to lose weight, we see much of the same. My patients constantly, tell me their goal weight. ‘I want to lose 20 pounds.’ ‘If I could just get down to 150 pounds, I would be happy.’ The list goes on for numerous iterations just like that.
Now, goals can be motivating, because while you’re working towards your goal, you put on the blinders. You ignore the cookies in the lunchroom, you don’t have that extra glass of wine with dinner, you bring a lunch with you to work, you hit the gym, you essentially do everything that is necessary to lose weight and work towards your goal. The problem with using goals, especially when it comes to weight-loss, is that you either reach that goal or you don’t.
If you don’t, you start beating yourself up, believing you’re a failure because you couldn’t reach your ‘goal weight’. In turn, you revert back to your old lifestyle and end up gaining the weight back and possibly then some, all the while, further loathing yourself for putting weight back on.
Now what if you do reach your goal? Well, the blinders come down. You start to give yourself permission to have that cookie in the lunchroom or to have that extra glass of wine, because ‘Hey, I lost 20 pounds. I deserve to treat myself.’ Again, over time you revert back to your old habits and end up putting all the weight you’d lost back on. At least until your next attempt, and then the cycle continues…
What if you set a health or weight-loss goal based on your values? Instead of saying, ‘I want to lose 20 pounds.’ How about, ‘I want to be healthier or lose weight, so I can keep up with my kids, so I can have less pain in my knees, so I can enjoy my retirement, so I can live the life I want to live….’ Notice the difference? When we set goals based on our values, we don’t just stop moving forward after reaching said goal. We maintain our progress, or we set another goal, and continue to strive towards our values. It is about the JOURNEY rather than a specific destination.
So, the next time you’re thinking about setting yourself a goal. Pull out that compass, set a direction, and plan for the journey rather than a destination.
By Dr. Dan Burton, BScPharm PharmD CAC APA CDE CBE
Owner of Healthcare Evolution