My Top 3 Personal Values

In listing out my plans for 2019, one area that I didn’t cover was personal goals. By that I mean self-improvement, the things I want to work on to make myself a hypothetically better person. The reason for that is because I haven’t figured that stuff out yet. All I know is that early in 2018 things weren’t working for me, and I needed a change. Some of that was because I had changed. My needs, wants, and habits had shifted, for better or worse. A lot of it was because my current reality had changed, and the way I’d always done things no longer got me the results those processes used to.

To get through 2018, I pared all of my activities down to 2 buckets: a task was either business or self-care. Anything that didn’t clearly fit into one of those buckets got cut from my schedule. There were further filters, of course, regarding what was effective, and what ultimately served the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The bucket filter was enough to get a lot of pointless activity off my plate, which allowed me to be more productive and far less stressed out.


In trying to determine some goals, I first considered doing a SWOT analysis – figuring out my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. While that works well for a business, it’s not necessarily the best set of metrics for an individual. I liked the idea of honestly assessing my strengths and weaknesses, though. That led to to the idea that setting personal goals was a compare-and-contrast of who I am versus who I want to be. That led me to contemplating a magna carta approach, at least for the part about the person I want to work toward being.

All of which ended up with a realization that more than anything, I am driven by my personal values. A large part of who I am isn’t my CV, what I’ve accomplished, or any of that. It’s what I believe to be right. Who I want to be, and my person goals, must then be driven by how I can best embody those values.

My Top 3 Personal Values

This meant that the first step was being able to articulate those values. To do this… I took some quizzes and surveys. I know what you’re thinking, but there was a method to my madness. There are a lot of surveys out there for purposes of academic research. It’s not so much a self-help initiative, or a scheme to sell you a book or online course, as a way for behavioral scientists to gather data. I used anything that had more rigor than a Buzzfeed quiz.

The other criteria was that I wasn’t going to rely on any single result, or even accept what they said. That’s why I’m not linking to any of the surveys I took. What I was looking for were ideas and patterns, things that resonated with me. I got plenty of that. While the surveys all used different terminology, I found that most of them placed my values into three basic categories.


Where I scored the highest on almost every survey always related to compassion. Words like compassion, caring, and kindness came up a lot. Family and friends were mentioned. Other categories where I scored high often had to do with a sense of justice, ensuring people were treated fairly, and listening to other people.

This makes perfect sense to me. My three pet peeves, stated often in this space, are rudeness, cruelty, and willful ignorance. The root of my anger issues stem from having to stand idly by while horrible people get away with doing horrible things, and the frustration of not being able to so anything about the suffering of others. This aligns with why I stopped writing HUBRIS, because the concern that led me to create the zine was smothered by the anguish in the stories I was researching.

My valuing empathy sums up all of my issues around social media, and the personal policies I’ve enacted. It encompasses my desire for this blog to become a community, as well as my hesitation to protect myself from haters, trolls, and generally nasty people. I’m a hermit not because I dislike people, but because they cause me more pain than I can reasonably deal with.


I’m calling this entrepreneurship, but I don’t mean it strictly in a business sense. Words that kept appearing on the surveys were things like ambition, persistence, and self-discipline. I scored high in categories that related to sticking with things until completion, having a vision or goal, and fulfilling commitments.

I’ve written about having to invent my own job out of necessity. On a daily basis I work through chronic pain. Is that a value, though? I still have to mull it over, but I think it is. What I value is independence, flexibility, and the ability to guide my own destiny. That takes work, but they’re things that an employer can’t provide.

The downside was that some of the surveys interpret this value as being a control freak. I can see that perspective. That’s an extreme, though. I don’t have to have my own way all the time. My drive is always in the service of some larger goal, not unbridled ambition for it’s own sake. Having tasted the fruits of entrepreneurship, however, it’s something I’d be loathe to have to give up.


This is another one that I have to define. I’m not using it in the context of making things. My interpretation, and that of the surveys, was more akin to problem solving and critical thinking. Some of the surveys used words related to intelligence or being smart, and that’s not exactly what I value. What’s important to me is figuring it out, or at least making the effort to figure it out.

When I mentioned my three pet peeves, the final one is willful ignorance. In the empathy context, it tends to feed the rudeness and cruelty. Where I see it most is in the divisiveness in the world, the tendency toward fixing the blame rather than fixing the problem. It’s not that people are unable to think outside the box, or see the big picture, or whatever. They simply refuse to.

A lack of creativity is what to people sitting in dead towns waiting for the jobs to come back. That factory’s not just closed, the building was torn down 20 years ago. No one’s bringing it back. Instead of expecting someone else to solve the problem, why not do something else? Learn a new trade? Move to where there are jobs? Start your own business? That’s creativity.

Doing Something With This

While this has been an interesting exercise, I’m not sure what to do with it. Do I want to help other people develop these traits? If I want to better embody these values, what does that look like? This post is already long, so I’ll cover those thoughts over the rest of the month. Thanks for sticking with me. Any comments that you leave below will be appreciated.


4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I appreciate this post. Defining values and setting goals is very difficult for me, and seeing someone I respect not only encourages me but gives me a model. Lots to think about.

  2. Those three are you to a T. I think of the benefits of the blog is that you tend to think out loud as to how to develop those three traits in yourself, and in doing so end up doing a bit of coaching to those reading. I know I myself have benefited from your ruminations and insights.

  3. Thank you. While this isn’t the only thing I plan to write about this month, a significant portion is going to be dedicated not only to personal introspection, but fine-tuning what this space is.

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