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Authentic Values

why do you value what you value? is it authentic?

❝Life is a dance, and when you are dancing, you are not intent on getting somewhere. The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.❞ -Oliver Burkeman

One of Mark's core values is music. He plays the guitar and loves going to live shows. On occasion, he'll perform in a band with his friends. He gets lost in his instrument for hours at a time, trying different techniques. He loves being able to express himself with his music. When he listens to another artist's music, he is absorbed by it. He's transformed by the artist's voice. When he goes to a concert, he feels like he's one with the rest of the audience while the band improvises and communicates with one another. The ability to create, experience, and perform music allows him to express himself and connect with others in a way that only music allows him to.

Chucky also considers music to be one of his core values and plays the guitar. He has an impressive music collection that includes many classic vinyl albums, cassettes, and CDs. He occasionally plays his guitar live at coffee shops and breweries. Chucky is well known, and whenever he's interviewed, he can't help but talk about his music collection. When he entertains, he makes a point to show off the room where he keeps all of his music. When he plays live, he craves the attention he gets when his set is over.

Mark values music as an end. If there was nobody in the world to impress or if he was on a desert island, he would still enjoy creating and listening to music.

For Chucky, music is a means to an end. What he really values is recognition and validation. Music is the vehicle that gets him his validation.

It's important to understand if your values are authentic or simply a mechanism to achieve another value.

Why do you have your values?


When we adopt extrinsic personal values, we use external factors to measure how valuable something feels. This can be material stuff, status, fame, or recognition. These are often shaped by our culture and society and the proverbial Joneses. We adopt these values because we think we are supposed to or because other people find them important.

Unfortunately, people get to the end of their life and realize they didn't live a life that was true to themselves and end up feeling like they've mislived.

doing what you think you're supposed to do will lead to regret


Once you start to understand what your values are, you can begin to ask what is motivating your values. You can ask yourself what this value gives you.

For example, if you adopt music as a value, you can ask yourself what is important about music to you. If, like Chucky in the example above, you value music because it brings you validation or fame, then you will learn that this is an extrinsic value and not a core value of yours. I call this a fake value.

fake values are motivated by external factors

While it's true that we may adopt fake values based on extrinsic reasons, there is still a deep-rooted intrinsic reason for adopting that particular value. You can get there by asking why the primary motivator is important to you. For example, say you thought you value music, but you value music because it gives you recognition. You can ask yourself what is important about recognition to you. And you can continue this line of questioning until you end up at your intrinsic values.

Finding intrinsic values is like trying to find out what you would deem important if there were nobody in the world to impress. What would you value if you were alone on a desert island? What would you find important if you had unlimited money and more fame than you could ever want?

what would you value if nobody could know your values?

The Value Compass is designed to help you gain insight into your own values and how they guide your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can be used to explore your personal goals and motivations, as well as to gain a better understanding of others' values and how they may differ from your own.


You'll know that you've arrived at your intrinsic values when the reason for adopting the value has more to do with how you feel. It will have to do with your interests, passion, and fulfillment. If you design your life around your authentic values, you will gain the confidence to ignore what the proverbial Joneses are doing.

authentic values are motivated by internal factors


According to Bronnie Ware, author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the most common regret people have on their deathbeds is that they didn't live a life that was true to themselves and instead lived a life that others expected of them. In other words, they weren't authentic. This is profound because we don't have to wait until we're on our deathbeds to recognize that we want to prioritize different things. We can recognize this now when there's still time to do something about it.

aligning your life and your values leads to authenticity

Spend time understanding who you are, whom you want to be, and what you stand for. The more authentic you become, the more confidence you'll have to make decisions that align with what you find important. You'll have confidence that everybody has different values, and that's okay because even though you value different things, you can still be friends.

being authentic gives you confidence

It's far too easy in a culture dominated by marketing messages to do what we think we're supposed to do rather than what we actually want to do. Thinking about your life through the lens of personal values is important. However, it's equally, and possibly more, important to make sure you design your life around your authentic values.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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References and Influences

Manson, Mark: Everything is Fucked

Miller, William: On Second Thought

Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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