Personal values

These are the values I care about most for me.

Filed March 2020

In early 2020, I distilled a list of 9 principles I feel are core to my identity.

When I reflected further, I was able to identify 5 that I had direct control over, and 4 others which I only had indirect control. I called the first group my “core values”, and the second group my “core outcomes”.

Here are my five core values—the attitudes and behaviors over which I have direct control in my life:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Initiative
  3. Grit
  4. Industry
  5. Authenticity (Adventure & Courage)

If I behave in accordance with those core values, I’m confident I’ll achieve these outcomes important to me:

  1. Impact
  2. Learning
  3. Recognition
  4. Self-Awareness

Living these principles is my surest path to fulfilling time spent (for me).

To celebrate them and help myself visualize them, I made a little map of which values relate to which other values. The x axis here correlates with how much of an input or an output a given principle is. Curiosity, for example, is 3-1 an input: It leads to courage, adventure, and learning. But it’s also a consequence of adventure. Impact, on the other hand, is 4-1 an output: It is the result of initiative, grit, challenge, and courage. It’s also an input to true recognition.

A subway-style map with the 9 values listed nearby connected by colorful lines

This distinction between inputs and outcomes is important. Focusing on input metrics, rather than output metrics, is a reliable way to deliver consistent results in work. I believe the same applies here: focusing on my core values is the most reliable way to cause the outcomes I hope for.

I’ve found that focusing on inputs and the reliable systems—rather than outputs themselves—is liberating. For example, it's really important to me that I achieve immense positive impact—but impact isn’t something I can do directly. Knowing that I’ll achieve it if only I put my head down and act with initiative, grit, and courage, and apply myself to big challenges, lets me focus on the present and be optimistic about the future.

To strengthen the causal link between my desired outcomes and my values, I can make it my personal mission to build systems that facilitate that conversion. For example, I could join an existing organization (like my college a cappella group), or I could create a new organization (like Marriage Pact). I've also built little systems, like consistent journaling or maintaining a detailed calendar.