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Personal Values

by Uzzy Gerb 2 months ago in self help
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How to Know Who You Really Are

or the last few years, I’ve had an idea for a satirical self-help article called, “The Productivity Secrets of Adolf Hitler.” The article would feature all the popular self-help tropes—goals, visualizations, morning routines—except expressed through the exploits of Hitler.

“Hitler starts his day at 5 AM each morning with a quick round of yoga and five minutes of journaling. With these strategies, he’s able to focus his mind on his highly ambitious goals.”

“Hitler discovered his life purpose in a beer hall in his 20s and has since followed it relentlessly, thus infusing his life with passion and inspiring millions of others like himself.”

“Adolf is a strict vegetarian, and makes sure to find time in his busy schedule of genocide and world domination to explore his creative side: he sets aside a few hours each week to listen to opera and paint his favorite landscapes.”

I know that I would find the article hilarious. But that’s because I’m a sick, twisted fuck. But in the end, I’ve never quite worked up the courage to write the thing, for clear and obvious reasons.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that a) a bunch of people would get offended and devote themselves entirely to ruining my week with annoying emails and social media screeds, b) the satire would go over a bunch of people’s heads and they’d think that I was actually a Nazi, and c) some awful publication somewhere would run the headline, “Bestselling author outs himself as alt-right neo-Nazi” or some shit and my career would be over.

So, I’ve never written the article. Call me a coward. But it remains unwritten.

This bugs me a little bit because I think satirizing Hitler’s incredible productivity and influence perfectly embodies a point I’ve long made about the self-help world: achieving success in life is not nearly as important as our definition of success. If our definition of success is horrific—like, say, world domination and slaughtering millions—then working harder, setting and achieving goals, and disciplining our minds all become a bad thing.

If you remove the moral horrors from Hitler, on paper, he’s one of the most successful self-made people in world history. He went from being a broke, failed artist, to commandeering an entire country and the most powerful military in the world in a matter of two decades. He mobilized and inspired millions. He was tireless and shrewd and intensely focused on his goals. He arguably influenced world history as much as anyone who has ever lived.

But all of that work went toward demented, destructive aims. And tens of millions of people died horrifically due to his twisted, misguided values.

Personal values are the measuring sticks by which we determine what is a successful and meaningful life.

When somebody says, “I want to be good,” that definition of what is “good” is a reflection of what they value. Some will see “being good” as attaining money. Others will see it as building a family. Others will see it as having a lot of exciting experiences. Whatever it is, it is determined by our personal values.

Therefore, you cannot talk about self-improvement without also talking about values. It’s not enough to simply “grow” and become a “better person.” You must define what a better person is. You must decide in which direction you wish to grow. Because if you don’t, well, we might all be screwed.

A lot of people don’t realize this. A lot of people obsessively focus on being happy and feeling good all the time—not realizing that if their values suck, feeling good will hurt them more than help them. If your biggest value in the world is snorting Vicodin through a swirly straw, well, then feeling better is just going to make your life worse.

When I wrote my book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, pretty much the entire book was really just a sneaky way to get people to think about their values more clearly. There are a million self-help books out there that teach you how to better achieve your goals, but few actually question what goals you should have in the first place. My aim was to write a book that did just that.

In the book, I intentionally avoided getting too deep into what good/bad values are—what they look like, and why they work or don’t work—partly because I didn’t want to push my own values onto the reader. After all, the whole point of your values is that you adopt them yourself, not because some dude with an obnoxious orange book cover told you to. But if I’m being honest, I also didn’t get too deep into defining values because it’s an incredibly difficult topic to write about well.

So, this article is my attempt to finally do that. To talk about values. And not just what they are but why they are. Why we find certain things important, what the consequences of that importance are, and how we can go about finding and changing what we find important. It’s not a simple subject. And the article is quite long. So enough of me blabbing, let’s get on with it.

You Do What You Value

Every moment of every day, whether you realize it or not, you are making a decision of how to spend your time, of what to pay attention to, of where to direct your energy.

Right now, you are choosing to read this article. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing, but right now, you are choosing to be here. Maybe in a minute, you decide you need to pee. Or maybe someone texts you and you stop reading. When those things happen, you are making a simple, value-laden decision: your phone (or your toilet) is more valuable to you than this article. And your behavior follows that valuation accordingly.

Our values are constantly reflected in the way we choose to behave.

This is critically important—because we all have a few things that we think and say we value, but we never back them up with our actions. I can tell people (and myself) until I’m blue in the face that I care about climate change or the dangers of social media, but if I spend my days driving around in a gas-guzzling SUV, constantly refreshing my newsfeeds, then my behaviors, my actions tell a different story.

Personal Values - people walking

Actions don’t lie. We believe we want to get that job, but when push comes to shove, we’re always kind of relieved that no one called us back so we can retreat to our video games again. We tell our girlfriend we really want to see her, but the minute our guy friends call, our schedule magically seems to open up like fucking Moses parting the Red Sea.

The Great Value Disconnect

Many of us state values we wish we had as a way to cover up the values we actually have. In this way, aspiration can often become another form of avoidance. Instead of facing who we really are, we lose ourselves in who we wish to become.

self help

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Uzzy Gerb

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