How to not lose sight of your values when making goals

I come at this both behaviorally and philosophically. I am a Humanist and provide philosophic counselling on goal setting.

What I tell people to do is you need to spend some time setting both primary goals, secondary goals & tertiary goals. Most of what you are talking about is people focused on tertiary goals, which is why they lose sight of their primary goals.

Primary Goals

For instance, my primary goal is to live life fully, love other people and leave the world a better place. If I do that, I’ve succeeded, even if financially I am not in any given moment a financial success. Life is full of ups and downs.

Secondary Goals

My secondary goals are related to the “leave the world a better place” part of my primary goals. I want to help people to stop bullying and learn how to live life without fear of other people. How to make better decisions using critical thinking so that they can actually create strategies that will actually work and help them reach their goals. Having my secondary or business goal grounded in my primary goal of leaving the world a better place helps me not give up even when I want to. My work is too important to not do.

Tertiary Goals

My tertiary goals is – what exactly I’m going to do to accomplish my 2ndary goals.  So in my case, that is – create a learning company that teaches these things. It is only when I get to a tertiary goal that I can really start to develop a strategy to accomplish it. But by making sure my tertiary goal is based in my primary goal, when I create that strategy I do so in a way that honors and incorporates my primary goal – which is to live life fully.

To not get lost in the weeds of the day to day work of trying to make my tertiary goal a reality – I re-evaluate every 6 months. Is what I am doing helping me to my primary goals or secondary goals or tertiary goals? Do I need to rethink one of my tertiary goals?  Do I need to re-allocate my time and priorities? The answer is ALWAYS yes. Yes I do need to re-prioritize based on what is working and what isn’t and whether or not I am enjoying the work or not.  I know there are things I should be doing for my business, but if I don’t like doing them, I’m not going to do them. Every six months I take stock. What am I doing well, what am I avoiding? If I am avoiding something, which I always am, is there another way for me to accomplish that task without doing it in a way I don’t like?  If I get creative, the answer is yes.  Let me give you an example, I was doing public speaking and I realized I don’t like travelling. So I retooled the business to be an online learning program. If people want me – they can take an online class and skype me in if they want a live Q&A. I’m much happier and I’m not neglecting my family and it takes WAY less time than the other business model I was pursuing.

By making my primary life goals explicit, I am able to consider those goals as I make strategies for my business goals (which are actually tertiary and in service to my primary and secondary goals. I don’t see  how anyone can balance their priorities if they don’t make their values and priorities explicit. If writing those values down helps, do that. For me – my primary goal is my motto. Live life, love other people, leave the world a better place. When it doubt, I go to my motto. It has yet to steer me wrong and I’m very satisfied with the arc of my life so far and where I am going to now.

PS  - I do teach this philosophic approach and the critical thinking skills that go with this in an online program  or as a streaming video (through Amazon Prime) or as a DVD.

How to Live Wisely

It turns out the adage that an unexamined life is not worth living is true.

The New York Times had a wonderful article last year on how to live wisely. It is about college students at Harvard who participated in a non-credit seminar called “reflecting on your life” which considered of 3 90 minute discussions with 1st year students facilitated by faculty. See

Participants were asked thoughtful questions. How well do your commitments reflect your goals?  How do you spend your free time? (In other words, what are you passionate about?) Would you rather be extremely good at one thing or pretty good at a lot of things?  What are your core values and how does your chosen career path align with them?  How do you define success and why?

3 years later, the participants all reflected that the experience of thinking about what it is they value was valuable and helped them turn “college into the transformational experience it is meant to be.”

Want to live life wisely? Thing about what it is you value.

Continuing Education Opportunities

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi

I started my company Humanist Learning Systems ( to provide personal and professional online education in humanism and to provide science based solutions and self-help. The motto of my company is:

Think Better – Have better relationships – Feel more fulfilled

Learning how to think better by using applied science and critical thinking skills is essential to making better decisions. Having better relationships by actually being compassionate with the people you meet and work with is not only emotionally satisfying, it really does help you improve your interpersonal relationships. And finally, feel more fulfilled by not only being the good compassionate person you want to be, but by actively living your ethics, through – better decision making.

The hardest part about teaching people how to live their lives better and how to be more effective in the work is convincing people that there is something they need to learn.  One of the things I teach is how to get bullies to stop. Seriously – I can teach this. It’s a science based approach, and yes, it really works.  (see: This is knowledge that can change people’s lives. But to teach it to you, I first have to convince you, you need to learn it.

Learning can be fun. Especially if you get credit for it!
To help motivate people (ie you) to learn, I offer continuing education courses.

In short, if you are in need of continuing education credits and would like to try a convenient online training option – check out Humanist Learning Systems. Who knows, you may just learn something you didn’t even know you needed to know.

How to get your spouse to do more chores around the house.

This should be obvious, but it’s worth stating. If you want someone to do something, you need to positively reinforce them when they do.

There I was, leading a discussion at a law firm about how to use operant conditioning to eliminate unwanted behavior and one of the guys asked – well – can I use this to get my wife to do more chores around the house.  His co-workers groaned, but it is a good question. One that is asked a LOT by women, who in America, still seem to be saddled with the bulk of the housework.

I seem to give a lot of advice on this topic so when I saw this cartoon – I said – YES! That will help teach the basic problem people run into. Not enough positive reinforcement!

We want people to help, but then we get cranky with them when they do because, they don’t do it right. The person wanting to help is conditioned to not help because every time they do, they receive negative reinforcement which they don’t like.

This should be obvious, but it’s worth stating. If you want someone to do something, you need to positively reinforce them when they do.

I realize that to do this you have to give up some control over HOW it is done. So you have to make a choice, either accept that it won’t get done your way or stop complaining that you are the only one doing the chore.

If you want them to do it and you want them to do it your way – that will take more time. Basically – you have to do a program of successive approximation. First, positively reinforce them for doing the chore. Once they are doing it reliably, start tweaking it. Not everything at once. Once suggested change at a time and thank them and give them profuse praise and love and appreciation for making the change. Then, once that is integrated into their regularly do the chore behavior, add another tweak. Praise and integrate it before adding another tweak. Eventually – your spouse will be doing the chore the way you want it done.  Don’t want to do all this work, then stop harassing your spouse and just do it yourself.

As for the man who wanted his wife to do the dishes, yes – he admitted he would complain every time she did, because she did them a way he considered wrong.  And he couldn’t let it go.  I had to wonder if maybe his perception of what was happening was flawed. It is entirely possible that his wife had trained him – to do the dishes!

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