Your Values, Your Goals: Looking Back During the Holidays

Close-up of a young woman smilingThe holiday season can be difficult for many of us. Although the prevailing belief is that the holidays are a time for family, friends, giving, and hope, it seems that this is not always true for a majority of people. The holidays can be difficult. From an existential perspective, they can be difficult for many reasons, but most importantly because it is a time of year when we are forced to be real with ourselves. We are forced to be honest about what is going on in our lives.

Throughout the year, many individuals find themselves going through the motions, living almost robotically, just getting through the days. When the holidays come around, it hits us: “What did I accomplish this year?” We are forced to think about how we spent the past year and the things both positive and negative that we are responsible for, the things we did and did not do. We start to anticipate the holiday parties, dinners, stress … and questions. We may lie, make up stories, anything to make us feel somewhat worthy, accomplished, and good compared to others. Without realizing it, we may create a “life” for ourselves that we are not sure we even want.

Before you beat yourself up, here a couple of things to consider:

Evaluating Your Values

What are YOUR values? When we anticipate social engagements where we will be forced to “explain” our lives, without realizing it we create values based on what we believe others would want them to be. Our stories evolve in ways to fit the values of others rather than our own, leading us to lose sight of what our real values are.

So, as you reflect, think about your values. They can vary, they can be general, and they can be specific. They will change from time to time throughout life. But if we do not stop to reflect on our values, we may not even realize that we may already be living up to them.

For example, say you value your friendships. When you look back at the year and reflect on your relationships, you may find that this value was something you continued to nurture throughout the year. Perhaps you have a friend who values nature and wanted to go on hikes every weekend. This is his or her value. Not hiking with this person every weekend does not mean you did not value or nurture your friendship, but that being in nature is not your value but his/hers. When these minor internal conflicts happen, such as in the example above, we tend to use them to justify our self-loathing, when in reality it is not necessary.

So as you reflect on your year, take time to ask yourself, “Is that something that I truly value, or is it something that someone else values but I was supportive of?”

Scoring Your Goals

Why does it feel as though the past year did not turn out the way you had hoped? Where did this idea come from? Did you create goals at the beginning of the year? What were they? Did you write them down?

Similar to values, over time we may start to mistake our own goals for those of others. This can happen when we do not take time to acknowledge to ourselves what our goals are. When creating goals, it is important to create realistic, tangible ones, with measurable outcomes. Creating the goals is not enough; you want to reflect on them throughout the year and change them if necessary. When the end of the year comes and you ask yourself what you accomplished, you can reflect back to see.

Of my nine goals this year, 4.5 were accomplished. This is a good percentage when compared to past years. In previous years I may have accomplished one or two goals, but even those years felt successful. When you create goals, the point is to have an idea of the direction you wish to go, knowing it may not all happen. When you create goals at the beginning of the year and reflect back at the end of the year, you may find that you did, in fact, accomplish a lot, even though you did not complete all the goals that others may have had for you.

As humans, we place a lot of emphasis on the opinions, feelings, values, and beliefs of others. However, in order to feel successful and accomplished, it is important to distinguish which of those things are important to you. You may find that the feelings, values, and beliefs of others are important to you, and if that is the case that is great; however, take a moment to reframe them in your mind to make them your own. We are more likely to accomplish something when we do it for ourselves and are self-motivated.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Pooja Shah, PsyD, Existential Psychotherapy Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Burke

    December 9th, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Do you think that what happens for so many of us is that we set our standards far too high with unrealistic expectations of what this year will be like? I like to think every single year that things will be different, that this year my brother won’t be a jacka** or that my mom’s cooking will be better… but most things always stay the same. I try not to let it all get to me the way it used to though and take a little time to value what I have instead of what I don’t have in my idealized version of things. Maybe if things did actually change it wouldn’t be as much fun anymore.

  • beth

    December 10th, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    Typically when I look back on the goals I did or did not accomplish for the year I get a little depressed.

    I think that after reading this though and seeing that I am not the only one who doesn’t complete everything that I set out to do, I don’t feel quite as bad and will try more to focus on what I did accomplish and complete versus that hich I didn’t finish.

    There’s always next year, right?

  • James

    December 10th, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    I think that this is a time of the year where we are forced to be honest about our lives, but is it really the time that we need to be dealing with that? No. there are too many other things going on this time of year to leave the evaluating til now. It’s important to keep all of this in check all throughout the year so that hopefully when this comes around you have everything in order and you aren’t sorting it all out at a time when everyone else wants to be having a good time. Just a little reminder that anytime is always a good time to take care of all of your needs, and to leave it to the holiday season may cause you a little more stress and anxiety than you had bargained for.

  • Pooja Shah, PsyD

    December 11th, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    Burke- Your question is great. When it comes to expectations and standards many of us get stuck setting unrealistic ones. The frustrating part is that most times we are unaware of how unrealistic our standards and expectations are and then become resentful when they are not met. The key is that when it comes to your standards and expectations for yourself you want to be sure to create things that are realistic and attainable. When it comes to others we are almost always going to be let down. It is unrealistic to expect anything of others because hoping others change is out of our control. What you want to ask yourself is why do you need them to change? Can you accept them unconditionally, why or why not? Then consider what about you, or what is in your control, that can change in order to do so.
    Beth- You have great awareness about your feelings. Many of us struggle because we do not consider how attainable our goals are when we make them. It helps to take time to tweak them for the next year to something that is attainable.
    James- Unfortunately we are forced to be honest during this time of year. But if we allow ourselves to be honest throughout the year it may not feel so bad. You make a great point, it is important to try and take care of ourselves throughout the year, that way we can enjoy the holidays.

  • Burke

    December 14th, 2013 at 6:17 AM

    Thanks for the reply!
    I think that for too long I have wanted things to be picture perfect but finally realized that this isn’t real life and if I continue to want that and only that then I am destined to face disappointment time and again.

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