Using Your Personal Values as Daily Touchstones

This is Hubris: 14 March 2021 edition. In this issue I want to talk about using your personal values as daily touchstones.

Last week I talked about doing a values assessment. I discussed 5 foundational values, and how I defined them in the context of my life. Today I want to go a bit deeper and look at what Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus refer to as Structural Values. These are your personal values. They might be what you embody, but more likely they’re the things that you strive toward.

Below is the list I came up with for my own structural values. I’ve been using them as daily touchstones, to contextualize my daily tasks. The way I prioritize things and approach doing them has been heavily influenced by this context.

Structural Values

  • Arts: Literature, fine art, and the performing arts have the power to elevate and inspire us. In a world driven by consumerism, the arts become more important.
  • Autonomy: It’s important to me to have as much control over my life as possible. I want my choices to be dictated by my values, not society’s.
  • Learning: My skills can always be improved, and there are always new things to learn. This connects to the foundational value of Growth.
  • Productivity: Using my time effectively is important to me. It becomes moreso as I age. This connects to the foundational value of Contribution.
  • Resources: I define this is as having the money, time, and focus to accomplish the things that I want to do. This is the main reason I’m a minimalist. I don’t like waste.
  • Safety: This is knowing that my needs are going to be met, now and in the future. It’s more than food, clothing, shelter, and health care. It’s over financial security.
  • Solitude: I enjoy being alone with my own thoughts. I am an introvert and curmudgeon, so I need to curate the time I spend with people for both their sake and my own. My life is easier for me when I don’t have noise and distractions.
  • Trust: Without going into my life story, I have trust issues. This is why I have a small, close circle of friends. To be able to rely on people is important.
  • Vision: I value the ability to make a plan and see it through. Without this, we stumble along with no purpose. This connects to the foundational value of Contribution.
  • Wisdom: There is a severe lack of reason and critical thinking skills in the world. This connects to the way I defined the foundational value of Creativity.

Using Your Personal Values as Daily Touchstones

I wrote these values on the inside back cover of my bullet journal. At some point I’ll likely make a small poster listing them, and post it in plain sight near my desk. As I’m taking on projects or working on daily task lists, I compare the things I’m putting on myself to these values.

Sometimes it’s easy to find where things fit. Does a project fit with my vision for the company? Will changing a process increase my productivity? If the answer is yes, move on. Other times it’s more complex. Is working with this person giving them an opportunity to betray my trust, and at the cost of my autonomy? Am I going to have to move outside of my comfort zone, and if so, is it worth the loss of solitude? Will this task somehow support the arts, or promote critical thinking?

The value to be gained from a task might not be the obvious one. It might be worth doing something because it touches on one of the “deep cut” values that are important to me. That’s begun to shift my perspective on why I do things, and to help me begin finding purpose in what I’m doing.

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