Are we living according to our goals or our values?
I met a special taxi driver today on my way to work. He had ridden me and my husband a few times before. Both me and my husband were amazed by his positive and energetic vibe. He told us that he is currently more than 60 years old. In fact, he looks like a young man in 30s. He is physically fit. His taxi, rented one, was super clean and tidy. According to him, he woke up at 4 am in the morning every day to wash his taxi before work. After work in the afternoon, he enjoyed dancing and yoga every day. Every time when I was in his taxi, I thought an angel with such a positive attitude to life was sent to me to bless me for the week. His contagious laughter clears away any negative mood of anyone who chatted with him. If I were a researcher, I would like to study why people with this type of vibe and personality could sustain such a humble occupation with such a positive energy. Why some of the taxi drivers harbored negative vibe and I could feel their low mood and motivation in the ride?
To answer this question, I remember a client of mine who wanted to become a mental health professional by getting into Master programs in famous universities. However, no matter how hard he tried in the past five years, he was not admitted to his ideal programs. He rejected other programs he thought were less prestigious and did not meet his goal of becoming a famous mental health professional in the near future. Throughout these five years, he obsessed in finding the way to achieve this goal. However, he ignored his other aspects of his life. He was less focused in his current job and did not cultivate any hobbies in leisure time. Strictly speaking, he did not have any leisure time. Whenever he was free from his current job, he was obsessed in studying for increasing his chance to get into these Master programs. He became more and more depressed as he was rejected a few times by these programs already.
According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, the goals we set for ourselves need to be guided by our values. If we set our goals according to our values, we would find our lives more meaningful in the process of striving for such a goal. The journey of working towards our goals becoming more meaningful and we live our lives in a presence and mindfulness. As a result, if we cannot achieve our goals perfectly in the end, we still treasure our journey and enjoy the process. It is important for us to connect with our values. It is because by striving towards our goals guiding y our values, we have a sense of contentment and fulfillment. We will have a satisfactory life in the present moment, even before our goals are being achieved.
For my client above, if his goal of becoming a mental health professional was guided by his values of wanting to help people in need, he could start to help people throughout his journey of striving towards his goals. He could also realise that living by example of cultivating a balanced life with hobbies and connections with others is important. As a result, he would not end up becoming depressed even if he could not get into the Master programs he longed for. He already could bring happiness and peace to others in need throughout this journey.
I learned a lot from the special taxi driver I mentioned in the beginning of this article. His values of living a positive and healthy life guided him to have enjoy his humble occupation every day. Without such a value, how could he woke up at 4 am every morning to wash his rented taxi? His contagious laughter is like magic. It really makes my day!