Most people confuse values and goals as synonyms, but they’re actually quite different. Both are beneficial to have in order to grow as a person and have a fulfilling life. Below are three important distinctions about values:

Values don’t have an end. When you set a goal, you take specific, measurable steps to meet that goal within a certain timeframe. Goals are something we achieve and feel accomplished after reaching, then we set more goals for ourselves. Setting and meeting goals keeps us motivated in life to do better and be better. Values on the other hand are important areas or paths in life that you take; there is no end destination. You can think about values as roads you take throughout life; important roads that bring you a sense of purpose. Each value in your life will likely have one, or many, goals within it. For example, if you highly value your physical health, you might make it a goal to deadlift 200 pounds before an upcoming competition. Values and goals go hand in hand and are important pieces to life.

Everyone’s values are different. No one’s values will look the same, even if values are shared. Everyone has their own definition of each value and how that looks behaviorally in their life. Our values change over time, depending on how our views and beliefs shift as we grow. No one’s values are more or less important than another’s values; it’s all about how you want to live your life.

Our values help us feel fulfilled. After identifying our values, we can ask ourselves if we’re living in alignment with them. If you’re not, what are the steps you can take to get back in alignment? For example, if you highly value adventure, you might ask yourself “what am I doing that shows I’m in alignment with this value?” Maybe you take a road trip once a month, try new restaurants every Friday, or meet up with friends for a weekly hike. The best part about our values is that we get to decide how they manifest in our lives.

We will all take detours off the road, meaning we will stray away from our values. That’s okay! We’re all human and life gets in the way. If we identify our values and what they look like in our lives, we can hold ourselves accountable to remaining on those paths. Living a valued life is how we create meaning, purpose, and fulfillment throughout our time on this planet.