On my values

Why it’s worth choosing your values

Even though it takes time to define values, I think it’s well worth it. Having set values means you can focus on just the new information and relevant parts of a given situation.

At work, individuals have to make decisions on behalf of their teams all the time. Having set values helps guide reasoning and reduce ambiguity. Employees can use values as a rubric and make the decision that the whole company would have arrived at, without having to actually convene everyone.

Personal values are also helpful for big decisions. Decision-making can get really meta, really fast: How should I choose? How will I know if this was the right choice? It’s stressful to feel like you have to go all the way back to the drawing board when you already have something else on your mind. Instead, you can whip out your values as predefined answers to these meta questions.

How I arrived at my values

I tried making lists as recommended by tons of resources (how your loved ones would describe you, the things you’re most proud of, etc).

The prompts I found most fruitful were: Over the last ~5 years, what situations do I most wish I’d handled differently? How would I hate to be remembered? Inverting my negative answers to these gave me the positive words I felt most strongly about. Here they are.

The actual values

  • It’s better to make things than not. Though I’ve certainly been disappointed by the process of or reaction to things I’ve made, I’ve never regretted creating anything.
  • Over basically any period of time, one of my consistent regrets is not writing more.
  • This Ira Glass quote on the gap between taste and skill.
  • I am not good at predicting what people will find of interest or respond to. So don’t predict, just start!
  • There are way more ways to add insight than I think. Step one doesn’t have to be “Become an expert”.

I’m currently trying to sort out what “counts” as a thing to make. Obviously, I think writing does, but how about things I’ve been more inclined to recently, like hosting events?

  • Having a fixed sense of identity is dangerously inaccurate. Life is long; who knows how many mes I’ll see along the way.
  • Stop saying “I’m not an [activity-doer]” and replace with “I haven’t done much [activity] yet/lately”.
  • Putting in effort or picking up a skill is never for naught. It’ll resurface sometime later, somewhere surprising.
  • This Artist’s Way quote: “It seems to work more like we shake the apple tree and the universe delivers oranges”.

Is having defined values antithetical to fluidity? I don’t think so! I’m striving for fluidity in what I’m capable of and how I see myself, not fluidity in my beliefs or morals.

  • Don’t do things out of a sense of scarcity (What if I never get a chance like this again?). Instead of loss avoidance, act based on what’s actually exciting, and seek to maximize that.
  • This article on abundant thinking synthesizes so much what I’ve been striving for.
  • Assume that for anything good, there’s lots more of it coming down the pipe (friends, opportunities, jobs, etc). It’s probably true, and who cares if it isn’t? I’ll have collaborated more openly and been happier for it anyway.

I realized that most of my life has felt like a game of Rock Band, trying to hit the right notes and rack up a high score. Well, it’s sure looking like there are no right notes 🙀. I recently had a proud moment at dance class, where the instructor said she loved seeing me “up in front, not stressed at all about getting the moves right, just being here happy to move!”

  • I already have and am everything I need.
  • Stop waiting for extra-loud, concrete permission.
  • Don’t complain.
  • I always have a unique vantage point and context (as does everyone). Don’t take that for granted; there’s always something to contribute based on this perspective alone.
  • Assume positive intent.
  • Always spend the time and resources on friends who need it. I’ll never look back and miss what was spent.

These values reflect the big things I’m thinking through now. I fully expect to keep evolving these and could plausibly have a completely different set in a decade or two.

If you’re interested in defining your own values and have questions, I’m happy to help! Thanks for reading.

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