The second Friday in January is now known as Quitter’s Day: the day most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions.
Perhaps you’ve been there. On January 1st, you re-upped your gym membership, made a list of 60 books to read, and stocked your fridge with leafy green vegetables. However, by February, you can’t remember what your resolutions even were!
People often fail to keep resolutions because they don’t understand the driving force behind them. They set resolutions not because they necessarily want to spend more time in the gym, but because they want to become a healthier person.
Resolutions point to a need to become a better person than you already are. So, how do you become better without setting unrealistic resolutions? Commit to developing your values.
Your Values Determine Your Foundation
Think of values as the principles that guide your decisions and behaviors. Put another way, they are the reasoning behind everything you do or don’t do! Your values inform your identity, and without knowing and continually developing your values, your goals will continue to be unmet as your focus and priorities never stay consistent.
But when you choose to get really clear on knowing and living your values, you’ll experience:
a keen sense of direction
With these benefits in your life, any other goals you set this year can be achieved! You’ll create a solid identity for yourself that will direct your habits and all decisions you make in a positive direction. Here’s how:
1. VALUES INFORM YOUR IDENTITY.
Many New Year’s resolutions are focused on creating new habits, such as drinking more water or bringing lunch to work. People often believe when they change their habits they will change who they are. If they drink more water and eat lunch from home, they’ll become a healthier person.
While this is technically true, James Clear suggests in his book Atomic Habits that change is more lasting when the focus is on changing your identity—how you view yourself on the inside—before changing the outside. Clear states:
If you start to view yourself as a healthy person, you make decisions that a healthy person would make. You can tell yourself, “I am a healthy person and a healthy person drinks water instead of Diet Dr. Pepper.”
John Maxwell takes this one step further and acknowledges that our identity is informed by our values.
Values—again, the principles that guide our decisions and behaviors—are the reason we do what we do. A few examples:
When you choose to stay quiet while others are gossiping in the office, you’ve chosen to be a person with integrity.
When you put your phone down during family dinner, you’ve chosen to be a good listener and to value other people.
When you decide to give public speaking a try, you’ve chosen to live with courage.
These are all examples of living with good values. Sometimes we aren’t sure what our values are, or we may believe we have good values, but we aren’t living like it. This can leave us with a false sense of identity.
The good news is that our identity is not set in stone. We have the power to choose what we believe about ourselves and to act in a way that reflects the person that we believe we are. We get to choose our values and we get to act on them.
The Maxwell Leadership Foundation uses a process known as Transformation Tables to help people around the world develop good values. In his book Change Your World, John Maxwell explains how this works:
Your values are the driving force behind positive change in your life! The next step is to make sure you know your values.
2. KNOW YOUR VALUES.
Take a moment to think about which values are most important to you. Consider what currently informs the decisions you make and the way you live your life. To get you started, review the list of values below that the Maxwell Leadership Foundation uses to train millions of people around the world. (This is not an exclusive list, so feel free to add your own; just remember a good value is a principle that only brings benefits, never harm, to you or others around you.)
After reviewing the list, narrow your values down to just five and write them down. Think through how these values inform your identity and how they could impact your goals for the year.
For example, say one of the values you choose is courage. You are hoping to start and keep a gym routine this year. The fact is it takes courage to try something new. It takes even more courage to stay consistent. This year, take small steps to develop your courage and say to yourself, “I am a courageous person. A courageous person commits to trying something new, like showing up to the gym consistently.” As you focus on growing your identity as a courageous person, your habits will follow through.
You may not have a specific goal that on the surface lines up with the values you’ve chosen. If that’s the case, spend time asking yourself why you chose the values you did and if the direction you’re headed this year lines up with your values. If there is a disconnect, this is a great opportunity to reevaluate what’s important to you and to make sure your goals are in alignment.
3. MAKE A COMMITMENT TO YOUR VALUES.
Now that you’ve identified your values, make a commitment to focus on growing in those areas this year. Each time you make a decision, run it through your values by asking yourself, “Would a person who values ___ make this choice?”
The best way to keep your commitment is to break it down into small, actionable steps. Begin each week by choosing one step (something you can realistically complete within a week) towards acting out your value.
Using the gym example again, this would look like showing up to the gym for 30 minutes (even if it’s going to be really crowded). The simple act of showing up takes courage, and this one act will set you on a path to show up again next week!
When you choose to focus on your values and not just resolutions, you become better on the inside before the outside. The outside will follow as you experience powerful, lasting change. You’ll be surprised at how your personal growth will spill over into the world around you.
In Change Your World, John Maxwell says, “Values not only help people to live better, but they also help people to stay true to themselves. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be able to sustain yourself, to keep yourself going, to continue pursuing your vision.” Your values will strengthen you and keep you going even when it’s hard.
Grow your values with other people in Transformation Tables.
Now that you’ve seen how your values inform your identity, you’ve selected your values, and you’ve committed to developing them, you’re headed for success in 2023. But here’s one last tip: the process of growing your values is better experienced with others.
The Maxwell Leadership Foundation offers a community-driven, values-based program to help people in local communities and entire countries develop good values. This program is known as Transformation Tables, where small groups of 4-8 people gather together to focus on value-specific content written by John C. Maxwell and take small, measurable steps to develop each value.
Through this process, millions of lives have been entirely transformed! People have experienced:
new levels of trust and connection
relationships being restored
dreams being discovered and activated
priorities being identified and committed to
help given through powerful discussions
This process is uniquely designed to create powerful, positive change for anyone willing to learn and live good values. The best news? It’s available to you for free.
The foundation offers Transformation Tables at the personal level through their program Change Your World. For one hour, once a week for six weeks, you can meet with people you know (anyone from your team at work, your family, friend group, you name it!) and begin developing good values together! You can start these tables and invite people to join your group all for free at changeyourworld.com.
When you start a values journey with other people, you’re more likely to stay committed to your values and to your goals than if you go it alone. Just imagine what you might accomplish this year by spending six hours with a community focused on values. Go after it and make the most of 2023!