A few weeks ago, my 18-year-old daughter, Maddie, was driving home around midnight. There were train tracks ahead, but the barrier arms were raised, and no lights were flashing. So, she drove across the tracks…


…and saw a blinding headlight attached to a looming locomotive a few yards to her left.


Don’t worry, the train was parked and completely still.


But that glorious realization didn’t reach her brain until after the flood of adrenaline and the excited utterances.


Scared, relieved, and a little lightheaded, Maddie called my husband (the night owl) to share this “life flashing before her very eyes” experience. As she laughed nervously, she told her father how much she loved him and valued our family.


I recently participated in a mindful self-compassion course. I have been practicing meditation for a couple of years now, and I always want to learn more about mindfulness.


In one of the classes, we discussed the difference between values and goals.


Here are some of the distinctions:

  • Goals are set. Values are discovered.
  • Goals are destinations. Values are the compass.
  • Goals can be completed. Values persist.


I love goals. I blog about goal setting a lot. My book, Set Goals…even if you’re not convinced you’ll achieve them, sells better than all of the other books in the Crazy Productive series put together.


Goals energize and direct behavior. I set, track, and achieve most of my goals. I help my clients do the same.


I haven’t paid enough attention to writing about values, though. When I was in therapy a couple of years ago, the psychologist asked me to list my core values during a session. I’m sure I looked like a deer frozen in headlights. I felt totally caught off guard.


I knew what’s important to me, or at least I thought I did, but to articulate it “on the spot” was uncomfortable. I felt unprepared and my mind went blank.


Maybe I needed to drive across some railroad tracks and come face-to-face with an oncoming train, or preferably, one that was parked.


Since there were no midnight locomotives available in the session, my therapist gave me a worksheet to help clarify my values.


NOTE:  If you’re curious, the values worksheet she gave me is on pages 23 – 24 of this PDF. I’ll tell you my six if you tell me yours!


It obvious why my therapist wanted me to go through this exercise. Our values should guide our goals. Part of being happy with our lives results from acting in accordance with our values. Even our calendars should mirror our values.


Knowledge of core values = good.


Finishing the values worksheets and discussing it with my therapist was not a “train tracks” moment for me. However, it was comforting to realize that I do know myself reasonably well and have built a life and career that reflects who I am.



Are you living your values?


Kurt Lewin’s model of change involves three steps: unfreeze, change, and refreeze. Change is characterized by a state of fluidity.



Values are relatively stable once you reach adulthood, but I recommend revisiting them when you feel fluid.


Fluidity can come when you lose a job, experience changes in a relationship, hire a productivity coach (cough, cough), or enter therapy.


In other words, assess and unpack your core values before you refreeze into a shape that doesn’t “fit.”


In one of the reviews of my book Seraphina Does Everything, the writer remarked that Seraphina reminds us that we are human BEings, not just human DOings.


The same is true of our values and goals. Setting goals can help us do the right things. That is important. Living our values helps us be the people we want to be.


That is essential.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.