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Words By Tara Wagner

How to Set Business Goals Using a Values List

a hand writing a check list in a notebook

Let’s discuss how to set business goals while using a values list intentionally.

How often do you set goals and not achieve them? All the freaking time, right? 

What about when you set a goal, you achieve it and you realize that it’s actually made you miserable at the end of it?

Here’s the thing, both of those: not achieving the goal at all, or achieving goals that make you unhappy, are actually two symptoms of the exact. same. problem. 

It means that you’ve skipped the crucial first step before you even set your goals. You’ve got to do one crucial thing…

Watch here or scroll down if you prefer to read.

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I have personally been in both camps myself, that is:

  • Not achieving the goal at all
  • Achieving goals that make you unhappy

I spent a lot of time in the not-achieving camp.

Typically, I would set goals that excited me. I would get 70% of the way through (up to 70% of the way through sometimes less) and then I would start to lose motivation.

Ultimately I would start to chase something else that was more exciting, more interesting, assuming that that was going to be the thing that made me happy.

Or I’ve been on the other side too!

I was working crazy hours, 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

I would stop working, walk down the hall, go to bed, wake up in the morning, and come back to work.

Then, I would eat at my desk.

I was burning out hardcore, never seeing my family, and always felt guilty. It was absolutely miserable.

I was reaching goals, but it was like, what was the point? Right? I didn’t have a life.

There was no time spent time with my family. I didn’t have any health. And you’ve probably heard me say this before. I created a lot of health issues that I’m still dealing with today.

So when I was in that camp of “I’m reaching these goals, when I’m absolutely miserable”, I started to realize that something was missing. And I started to realize that even in the times when I wasn’t reaching those goals, something was still missing. 

That underlying motivation that was going to take me in the right direction was absolutely missing from the goal that I was setting. 

Regardless of which camp you’re in now or wanting to avoid, the solution is actually the same:

Stop setting and working on your goals, especially your business goals, before you have set and outlined your vision and your values.

Now here’s the thing, I know this sounds cliche (don’t jump off yet). I want you to hear me out so that you can understand what I’m really talking about. 

Vision and values are thrown around a lot, but a lot of people don’t really understand what they mean or why they’re so crucial. So I want you to hang around, understand what I’m going to explain and how I’m going to explain it.

I am going to share with you an exercise that will:

  • Help you figure out what your vision and values are
  • Explain the importance of the exercise overall, and
  • Discover how to solve this problem of making yourself miserable with your goals.


So, first of all, what is vision when we’re talking about vision? What does that actually mean?

This is the big picture (not a lot of detail, not very specific) about what you want your life to be, about what really matters in your life, or the things that you want to create. 

Now, again, this isn’t specific. Goals are where we get specific.

Your vision is where you get to just dream a little bit.

You get to really decide what would excite you, what would be fulfilling, what would be fun?

And what’s a general idea of what those things would look like. 

So for instance, a vision might be: I want to live someplace beautiful.

Where a goal would be: I want to move to Rome within the next 12 months and live in some, I don’t know, like rooftop, beautiful place. 

The goal is specific, right? The vision is general. 

The vision just says it’s important to me that I live in a beautiful place.

Your goals for your business might mean I want to have an impact. Maybe you want to have an impact in a certain particular area. That’s fantastic, but you don’t have to have the specifics for that vision yet.

The goals are what’s going to lead you to the vision, but you got to hold the vision because the goal to get there, the road to get there might actually change. 

a pdf listing all values in alphabetical order


Now, what are your values?

Your values are the underlying motivators. The things that you deem to be most important in the different areas of your life. 

So you can have different business values.

Then you might have personal values or relationship values.

They tend to all overlap a little bit.

But you’re probably going to have some primary values.

Like things that really matter to you in terms of:

  • Doing business
  • Showing up in your relationships
  • Taking care of yourself

Here’s a full list of the values:


Now, we have to differentiate here between our values and our deeper universal human needs. 

There is a lot of overlap, but there are differences as well.

Needs are universal. Everybody has basically the same needs.

Although for different people, certain needs will be noisier than others based on:

Maslows hierarchy of needs (triangle)
  • Their circumstances
  • Their upbringing
  • Where they’re at in life
  • Their values

Needs can be anything from basic physiological needs, things like water, air, and sleep. It can also include things like security, safety, and connection.

But the higher up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we go, the more we start getting into values, and these are the things that will differ more from person to person.


Here’s the most important piece to understand about this: 

The better we meet our human needs – all of them, physically and emotionally and spiritually – the more it allows us to actually fulfill our values.

This means our needs are being met, our values are being aligned with, and we can feel the way we want to feel.

When we’re doing something like achieving a goal that’s burning us out, we’re not feeling good because it’s probably neglecting some very important needs and not aligning with some really important values. 

Now, understanding values and needs can be tricky.

Reference the graphic above in the heading titled, “what are values” for a visual displaying a list of values (or create some of your own).

Which ones might be already being met and fulfilled? Which ones might need more of your attention. 

You can save this image for later, too!


So why do we need to understand our vision, our values, even our needs before we start working on our goals? 

Because it’s so easy to get swept up in the goals that somebody else has created, whether this is life, culture, our environment, our loved ones, our parents, our competitors. 

People are always setting goals that we will accidentally align with, but that don’t actually align with us.

It’s not because they’re trying to hurt you or because they’re trying to manipulate you.

It’s because they know what they want. And you don’t. 

And it’s going to be so easy to just fall in line with what everyone else is doing.

If you don’t understand what you need to be doing to feel fulfilled, happy, or meet your needs, align with your values and create the vision that you ultimately want.

And because somebody else’s goals and vision and values are not necessarily yours, you’re going to lose motivation more easily.

It’s so hard to follow through on something that doesn’t actually align with you. You’re not going to see the why behind it, the purpose.

On the hard days when you need to really, like “pull up your bootstraps and push through some stuff” you’re not going to understand why you would even want to.

Or why should you want to work so hard towards something that doesn’t actually align with you. That doesn’t fulfill you or make you feel good, right?

And on the off chance that you can push through, you can achieve this goal.

How can it feel like success if it’s neglecting the things that matter most to you? 

You must be able to clearly define what success means to you if you want to be able to create it. 

Otherwise, it’s like hopping in a car without a destination. We can’t get frustrated because we end up somewhere we don’t want to be, or some dead-end somewhere if we didn’t start out with the map

Understanding your vision and your values is like having a map, telling you which way to turn so that you actually get where you want to get to.


So how do you avoid the dead-end of somebody else’s definition of success? 

How do you actually outline your vision and your values and understand what your needs are? 

I do this through what I call the death bed questions.

If you were laying on your death bed, you had days or weeks to live and you’re looking back over your life: 

  • What do you want to be able to say that your life was about? Like the big picture? 
  • What was the theme of your life? 
  • What was your life really about?

And then also:

  • What do you want to be able to say that you accomplished in your life? 
  • What are the things that really are going to matter to you at the end of your life, to be able to say I did that?

And then here’s the most important question.

  • What do you want the people in your life to be able to say about you? This could be the people in your personal life, your relationships, your family, your friends, it could be professional relationships as well. 
  • What do you want the people in your life to be able to say about you when your life is done?

So these are obviously big a** questions. You’re going to want to chew on them for a while. You might want to do some journaling around it really take your time with them. 

This isn’t something to rush through because it’s going to dictate every other choice that you make. 

But if you’re not sure how to answer them, here’s the exercise that I want you to do. 

I want you to ask yourself: 

  • What do I not want my life to be about? 
  • What do I not want people to be saying about me at the end of my life, right? 
  • When we can look at those things, how do I not want to feel? 
  • What do I not want to experience?

That can give us a starting point. When you look at those things, you can then say, okay, what might be the opposite of that?

And that can give you a way to start understanding for yourself.

  • First: What are my values? 
  • Second: What is the vision for my life? 
  • Third: What are the most important needs that I want to meet or protect in my life? 

Now, again, you don’t have to know these all at once. This is probably going to be something that unfolds over time. So take your time with these questions. 

I also want to remind you:

  • You don’t need the details.
  • Visions are big.
  • They’re kind of general.

Goals are what is specific and detail-oriented.

So if you have this vision, but you’re like, I don’t know how to get there. That’s okay. You’ll figure out the how later.

But first, you just got to have the vision. 


The whole purpose of having this vision, of understanding what your values are, is so that every time you’re faced with an opportunity you get to choose between:

Is this going to move my life forward or is it moving in the right direction?

You’re literally going to ask yourself that question, “does this choice or this opportunity lead me closer to my vision and closer to my values, or does it lead me further away?” 

That one question is going to be the thing that helps you determine everything.

After this, every goal you set, every choice you make, everything you decide to do can now be based on that one question:

Does this bring me closer to my vision and values or further away?

Now, like I said, this is going to be tricky to protect life culture.

Other people are going to offer you lots of opportunities to veer off course. They might even try to talk you into veering off course or say that your course isn’t right.

But here’s the thing…

If you know that it aligns, it’s what you value, it’s what you need your life to be about, it’s the vision that you want to create, then you get to protect it. 

And that means spending regular time with your vision, with your values so that you can remember it. 

It’s very easy to set our vision, set our values, and then go back to life as it has been.

And it’s easy to just keep doing what we’ve always done.

It’s also easy to keep getting washed away in other people’s goals and other people’s agendas.

That’s so common. 

That’s why most people have a midlife crisis because they get to a point where they realize they’ve been doing that for far too long. 

So I want you to think about your vision and your values as something that you create, and that you continue to nurture.

  • Spend time with it.
  • Check in on it.
  • Make sure that you’re staying aligned with it. 

And it’s not just a nice exercise you did one New Year’s to be able to set your goals for that year, but it really becomes your underlying motivator that moves you forward in everything you do. 

So here’s what I want you to do before you set your goals for the next quarter.

The next year, I want you to sit down and outline your: 

  • Values
  • Vision

Maybe it’s your grand big picture vision. Maybe it’s just in one area of life or business.


  • What is your vision?
  • What are your values?
  • Go through those death bed questions.
  • Take some time to do something with those answers so that you can keep them front and center on a regular basis.


If you want more guidance on how to recreate your business in a way that aligns with your values and your vision, be sure to check out my Healthy Hustle Roadmap.

My free class, How to Use a Holistic Approach to Create a Profitable Business Without Burning Yourself Out will show you the three mistakes small business owners are making and introduce you to the tools and the strategies that I use to help you create reliable profits working under 40 hours a week.

You can grab a free seat for that class by clicking the below.

What about you, boss?

What are your biggest takeaways? And, have you declared your values list yet?

Scroll down to share a value from your list.


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Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate. Click here to learn more.
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How To Upgrade Your Business
So It Doesn't Burn You Out

(3 Mistakes to Correct Right Now)

How to Upgrade Your Business So It Doesn't Burn You Out (3 Mistakes to Correct Right Now)

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