· 10 min read

Choosing better values



I have been developing this for a few months 1. Later I found out this is a pretty common thing. My recent learnings have come from the Subtle art of Not Giving A Fuck.

What are values?

Values are often hidden, sometimes unknown, and a highly personal frame with which people operate. Our values define who we are and what choices we’ll make in different situations.

Values apply to everything we do. Be it known or unknown scenarios.

If you are faced with a problem that you have already solved, then you’ll rely on your experience or skill for it. If you are faced with an unknown problem, then you’ll depend on your values. Therefore it is important to consciously develop your value and choose better ones.

If you don’t choose our values well, then you’ll give a fuck about too many things. Most of those things are unnecessary and make us unhappy.

Therefore, choosing your values is choosing what to give a fuck about, and that in turn makes us have a more meaningful life.

Exploring and choosing your values leads to the highest level of self-awareness where you move beyond what you feel and why you feel a certain way.

Why define them explicitly?

To have your values articulated means you can use them much more easily while making decisions.

There are many things we inherit from immitation. So sometimes we do things are are naturally good at it.

But when sitation is a bit different, we change.

It has happened that in certain times of my life I have been a natural at many of my core values. But since I didn’t have a developed mind, it faded. And then I had to relearn them and focus on the nuances.

Good and Bad Values

Good ValuesBad Values
Socially ConstructiveSocially Destructive
Based on reality/truthSuperstitious
Requires work internally aka on oneself. Doesn’t rely on external people, events, or scenarios being a certain way.Depends heavily on external events, people, and scenarios to be a certain way.
Since it’s internal: it’s immediate and controllableSince it’s not internal: It’s not immediate or controllable
Example: HonestyExample: Not being alone for a while.

For each value we choose or decide to choose, we can run through the list and decide if it’s good or bad.

Implementing values

Focus on the value rather than the specific scenarios/tip

Learn to resist searching for specific scenarios/tips. Focus on value instead. The former applies to certain situations. Values would apply to every situation.

Living your values doesn’t have to involve infinite googling. It does require infinite introspection.

Try coming up with your own strategies

Every value is going to be a collection of micro-routines and habits. Many of these habits are going to be something that you have had for 20+ years.

And a lot of it is going to be modified or changed on an ongoing basis.

So, you’ll have to come up with your own set of strategies first. This will require some first-principle thinking. And often require modification to small things.

Habits are the best way to enforce a value/identity. As you repeat a habit, you find more and more evidence of your new value.

CRUD your values over time

CRUD is a programming term that stands for Create, Read, Update and Delete.

As you grow, you’ll have access to new information. Sometimes you may even find the value is no longer surviving its purpose.

Similarly, sometime you may find that slightly changing your values gives it new and deeper meaning. #likeAGoodVariableName

If you have a particularly bad event, you can verify your actions on your values. You may find that you might not have lived up to your values fully. Or it may be time to tweak your value a bit.

Learn to identify values

Learn to identify values in yourself and others.


  1. Look at a piece or a set of actions in situations. Resist the urge to look at what the person is saying.
  2. Determine what must be a shared value supporting the actions.
  3. Resist the urge to have a backstory.
  4. Determine if the value is good or bad or if your values match.

Having a backstory justifies actions. Values aren’t about justifying the past or present. It’s about how one acts.

Example 1: //TODO

Ankush is an honest person. He says he is honest. Ankush seems to tell everything non-stop. Even at times when it’s hard. Sometimes, he’s too blunt which makes him disconnect from people. Even his close family members and friends find it hard to bear him sometimes. When they do bring something up, he attacks. This makes people not wanna tell him the truth. But Ankush does think about what they said and scrutinize it. When he realizes he’s wrong or likely wrong, he does tell people that they were right. But sometimes it’s too late.

Here it seems:

  1. Ankush is honest.
  2. And at the same time, Ankush doesn’t care enough about other people’s feelings.
  3. And insecure about being wrong/criticized.
  4. But it seems sometimes he realized he’s wrong and does say he’s wrong and apologized.

Therefore a few values some up:

  • Honesty
  • Not caring about other people’s feelings
  • Handing early criticism with an attack
  • Impatience
  • Probably trust issues with other people’s opinions early on. (needs to think things completely to accept)

Note that these are early assumptions and that they are in fact assumptions. A situation has many nuances and especially if you are looking from the outside, it may be hard.

Look at both good values and bad values

People are weird. We always have a mix of good values and bad values.

Using the process for yourself and others, you might come across both.

Often other people’s feedback is also a good place since we might be blinded by our own.

Some values seem good on the surface but are bad.

For example: Being excessively open

Choose your own values

Every individual is different, therefore it is important to build your own set of values to follow. Don’t borrow someone’s values. Define your own.

Expect it to take forever

With time you’ll find more imp values. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that your values will be fixed forever. They might evolve with time.

Optional: Nuances about values

  • Relation between Values, Systems and Happiness: In Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about how having system run everyday leads to happiness. You don’t have to have reached your goal as long as your system is running. Values are the ultimate system.
  • Result of value: Acting on values is immediate but the reward of good values isn’t always “happy” in the short term.
  • Surrendering to your values: If you have good values, technically you can surrender yourself to them and everything will be fine. In some sense, without goal, you still have values to guide you. Even if you have a dark place, your values would hold you up together.
  • Expected Value vs Actual Value: We often pick values. That doesn’t mean we embody them. Our actual values are what we do in situations. Therefore, out goals is to have closer expected and actual values.
  • Doing poorly in an area of life?
    • It maybe that our Actual Values aren’t sorted well or executed on.
    • If you are searching for too much tip, you have some root cause value causing problems. Working on values is better in the long term. Quick hack may seem the way for now. But in long term, it’s the value
  • Values and Tough Decisions: Values are most important when making tough decisions. Tough decisions are already “tough” (surprise surprise). By focusing on value, we offload some stress.

Optional: Values and other concepts

  • Rationality: Humans are rational agents only within the scenario aka he/she is in a local minima. We need guiding principles to make optimal decisions.
  • Decision Making: It isn’t always possible to make the most optimal decision. We have limited knowledge and time, and we need to act.
  • Value-Based Decision Making: Decisions are made on values rather than facts. These provide good heuristics.
  • Resistance:
    • In the real world, you’ll often be faced with choices that tempt you to not take on your chosen value.
    • This could be a person or situation. Each decision is a test of your value.
    • One has to give up something to uphold something else.
    • Every decision you make is a vote for or against a value. Don’t vote for what you don’t want.
  • Value and Identity: Often we can’t let go of a value because we have tied it up to our identity. We need to keep our identity simple to have a good impact.
  • Value is an Activity/Habit: Something that is necessary and repeatable. You can’t have a wage value. You have to be specific.
  • Values in social situations:
    • You’ll find that often you like and respect people who share similar values.
    • This is especially important for close relationships: family, spouse, business partners, etc.
    • You can usually pick up others’ values if you listen to them cuz most people essentially speak the same things over and over again.
  • Sharing your values and building boundaries: Having strong boundaries and explaining/sharing what your values are with others will help them and you adapt to your values better.

Optional: Resources for learning more about values

  • Book: The subtle art of not giving a Fuck:

    • Mark talks about the importance of developing a value system. If our values are poorly chosen, we suffer.
    • He describes what constitutes good and bad values, then goes on the describe 5 values based on “The backward law”. These values cover:
      1. A radical approach to responsibility.
      2. Being less certain of yourself and being okay with being wrong.
      3. Failure is the way forward
      4. Important of saying and accepting no
      5. Contemplating details
    • The most important line I found was this (paraphrased): ”This book will allow you to fall back and still be okay
    • Mark’s blog focuses on personal values too and he explores many areas, especially relationships.
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - Summarized by the Author
  • Jordan Peterson

    • According to Jordan, people should try to develop a vision for themselves. And pick values accordingly.
    • He advocates writing as a way of thinking through problems.
    • The two recent books Jordan wrote include a set of 12 principles each.
      1. 12 Rules for Life.
        • Generates order and stability
      2. Beyond Order
        • Explores how to best with chaos. Chaos is the possibility of the new and unknown.
    • Some of the values/principles Jordan advocates in these books are:
      1. 12 Rules for Life
        1. Tell the truth or at least don’t lie.
        2. Make friends with people who want the best for you.
        3. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the work.
      2. Beyond Order
        1. Imagine who you could be and aim single-mindedly at that.
        2. Do not do what you hate.
        3. Plan and work diligently to maintain romance in your relationships.
    • Links:
  • Book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

    • The more you think about these. The more they make sense.
    • You could even say, the 7 habits are values.
      1. Be proactive
      2. Begin with the end in mind
      3. Put first things first
      4. Seek to understand then to be understood
      5. Think Win-Win
      6. Synergize
      7. Sharpen the saw
    • The book also includes the importance of defining purpose and values in Habit 2.
  • Naval Ravikant

    • Naval has very simple heuristics.
    • Like:
      • If you are conflicted between two choices and each has equal weight, pick the hardest one.
      • If you can’t decide, the answer is No.
      • Always choose the long term over the short term. Friends. Relationships. Business partners. etc
    • Links:
  • Shwetabh Gangwar

    • Shwetabh is a YouTuber with many videos on practical daily topics.
    • Shwetabh is probably the most relatable in day-to-day life.
    • His book “The Rudest Book Ever” focuses on useful perspectives. Like:
      • People are weird
      • Rejections are normal. Since people are weird you don’t need to go to find out.
      • Failure is normal
    • Links:
  • YouTube videos. There are many youtube videos on the topics. Just search “Personal Values”

  • Andrew Tate’s 41 Core Values


  1. The inspiration for this post of Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Back to Blog