A man without values is like a ship without a compass, changing direction with every new wind.

Samuel Smiles

Step 2: Figure Shit Out

(Consciously Create Your Own Value System & Live in Alignment)

We can’t give a fuck about everything.

As a kid, it was different. We could give a fuck about red crayons, we could give a fuck about eating cake for breakfast, we could give three fucks about a tub of green slime. We literally had unlimited fucks to give.

Then we became adults, and BANG! All of a sudden, fucks were limited. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, as an adult there is a shitload more places to allocate fucks to than crayons, cake and slime. A shitload.

With limited fucks, then, it’s the proper allocation of fucks that matters. And that’s exactly what I mean when I say figuring shit out. Because when you realise the power proper fuck allocation gives you – being an adult becomes much, much better.



A Note on Models

The map is not the territory.

– Alfred Korzybski

In Unfuck Yourself we covered how your belief system is your own map for the world, and how we each have our own.

Many of the concepts I use on Going Rogue are based on psychological models, which are just belief systems that a lot of people agree on.

It’s impossible to perfectly model the human mind. As such, we simplify it.

We don’t need perfect models though; we just need to understand our mind enough to carefully distribute our fucks. And for that purpose, models work nicely.


Who Are You?

The Big Five Model is the current best model we have for human personality (1). In it, there are five personality traits, and everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum for each trait.

The combination of where each person falls across the five traits adds up to give a good idea of their personality. The five traits are below:

The big five, while only a model, has been tested out across cultures and seems to be a pretty consistent indicator of how people behave. (2)

Now, I know, there’s more to you than five elements, but remember these are just models, and our goal here isn’t pride, it’s to figure shit out. And that ultimately starts with ourselves.

So, let’s get to it. Are you ready to see inside your own head?

Think of each of the five areas above and where you fall on the scale. Think of a few different life situations to get a varied perspective: home, work, with friends, with extended family, hobbies – whatever you do often.

Make a note from 1 – 5 of where you feel you are on each scale above. Take your time and try to be as honest as possible with yourself.

When you’re finished, take a minute and think about them. Would you like to change any of them? If so, write down your perfect answers as well.

Keep hold of both of these, you’ll need them later.

By understanding the main dimensions that make up who you are, you’re better able to figure out where to distribute those precious little fucks.


Superpower: Self-Awareness

There’s a key ability that makes each step much easier, that are literally real life superpowers. For Figure Shit Out, that superpower is Self-Awareness.

Now, self-awareness is a slippery little bastard. We can all point to people we think aren’t self-aware. But how do we know things aren’t the other way around, and it’s really us that’s not?

A Harvard business review (3) showed that while most people believe they are self-aware, only 10-15% actually are.

The Going Rogue journey will reinforce self-awareness. In the meantime, I believe the number one tool for self-awareness is journaling. By keeping an honest journal of your thoughts, feelings, actions and everything that seems important in the moment, and then reflecting on these later, you can build up a much better picture of who you are.

The key here is honesty – so make sure the journal will never be read by another soul. In doing this, you remove the natural fear of judgement that comes with being your most honest self.


The Cocktail Model of Human Behaviour

Now, I thought the big five model was quite interesting – and I read study after study telling me how great it is. So, I thought fuck it, how hard can it be to make my own psychological model of the world.

It turns out its pretty fucking hard.

At first, I drew a really nice professional looking flow diagram showing how each element interacted with the others. But the more I learned, the more arrows I drew, and the more I realised it’s basically just a big brain orgy going on all the fucking time.

That’s because we’re a mix of a lot of different things: a human cocktail of sorts.

The Unstirred Human Cocktail - before any mindful inner work

The unstirred cocktail is the human mind without conscious curation.

Each of these elements interacts with the others in different ways, influencing each other as you go through life, as you learn from experiences, and as you grow as a person.

Doing work like this to figure shit out makes this much, much simpler:

The Stirred Human Cocktail - after figuring shit out

There. That’s better.

The out-of-your-control spirits aren’t something you need to worry about too much. Just like it’s good to know what you’re drinking, it’s good to know who these parts of you are. But the most important part is the in-your-control tonic. And it’s not Faliraki – you can add as much of that motherfucker as you like.

The Stirred Human Cocktail - different levels of psychological control

You get to decide how much control you have over who you are and ultimately how you act.

Now, you might be thinking – bollocks. There’s no way I get to just choose who I am. I’m stubborn/erratic/lazy/bad tempered/easily addicted/insert bad trait here, and I can’t change that.

But this isn’t just self-help woo-woo, multiple studies have shown that people can change their traits if they want to (4).

Lesson #1

A lot of factors influence who you are, but you get the final say.


A Note on Genetics

Think of genes as your own hardwired Top Trump card, showing your strengths and weaknesses in certain areas. I’ve made mine below to illustrate (really, for the sheer fuckery of it).

My Top Trump Card

This genetic element is fixed, but that doesn’t mean that who you are is fixed. (5)

Having a high score on athleticism could mean you’ll become a top athlete or a local gangster. Being naturally intelligent could make you a force for good or evil (Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, had an IQ on par with Einstein). Being extroverted could make you a great public speaker, an arrogant husband, both or neither.

This is where your values come in.


What Values Are & Why They're Important

Your values are your most important beliefs.

As we covered in part 1 life is an absolute clusterfuck. Without having some sort of order in your head of what’s important and what isn’t, you’re going to spend your life thrashing around in water that’s only three feet deep.

By deciding your values, you create some order out of the chaos by saying no matter what storm comes, you give a fuck about these things first.

Lesson #2

Values are your most important beliefs.

Values answer questions

Life has friction. Values considerably reduce that friction, as they help with decision-making.

Whenever you’re struggling to make a decision, you’ll find the answer in your value system – provided you’ve got a good one.

Values are your standards

Once you’ve decided your values, they serve as your standards – your measure other shit against your values.

This way when something or someone new comes along, you can decide whether it/they are worth fucking with depending on their compatibility with your values.

Values shape your life

Since values point you in the direction you want to go – they’re a glimpse of your future. If you stick with them, the values you set will create who you are a year from now.

Values shape your world: values of integrity foster strong relationships; values of health ensure long-term health. Values even shape your life more than intelligence does. (6)

Values give direction

No wind blows in favour of a ship without direction.

Seneca the Younger

If you want to achieve anything meaningful in life, this begins with your values. Because without them – how the fuck do you even know what you want to achieve in the first place?

Just like beliefs serve as your map for the world – values serve as your compass, telling you which direction to go.

Lesson #3

The answers to life's most difficult questions can be found in your values.

Lesson #4

If beliefs are your map, values are your compass.


Psychological Adulthood

Legally, adulthood begins at 18 in most places. Biologically, adulthood begins when puberty ends. But what about psychological adulthood?

I believe psychological adulthood doesn’t begin until you’ve consciously reviewed your belief system and chosen the values that you will live by. How can it not? Until then, you’re still using a mismatch of hand-me-down beliefs to see the world, and a hand-me-down value system to find your way.

Hand-me-down beliefs and values are great as kids, but they cause problems in adulthood

You see, your brain will naturally prioritise shit based on your experiences, whether you actively organise things or not. Otherwise, you would never make a decision. But without consciously sitting down and deciding what the fuck really matters to you, all sorts of pointless shit starts to matter. Your brain is just on autopilot.

(This is the foundation of the ‘woke’ movement. Thanks to the internet and social media, swarms of people became aware that their brains were on autopilot and began asking these basic questions.)

Unconscious values

Before consciously crafting your values, your default unconscious values are very easy to spot. They’re in your daily actions – where you spend your time.

Do you spend time looking after your health? If not, that’s not something you value. It’s literally that simple.

You might want to value it, but because you haven’t figured shit out and allocated your fucks properly, you’ve given a load of fucks to addictive things like TV, junk food and alcohol; leeches that feed off your fucks and leave you with less and less fucks to give every year because you’re unhealthy, lethargic and tired.

Don’t worry though – you’re pouring the tonic, remember?

Conscious values

Conscious values are those that you develop yourself, from first principles (from the ground up).

Basically, you look at yourself in the mirror, and ask: what the fuck actually matters to me?

Consciously curating your value system is weird and uncomfortable. You have to really look around and start weighing shit up. But fuck, it’s your life. Deciding what actually matters to you isn’t just some flimsy self-help tool – it’s the most important work you can do.

Figuring shit out is like being reborn, just consciously.

Lesson #5

Psychological maturity only happens when you define your own values.



A lot of factors influence who you are, but you get the final say.

Values are your most important beliefs.

The answers to life’s most difficult questions can be found in your values.

If beliefs are your map, values are your compass.

Psychological maturity only happens when you define your own values.


Where to Start

Schwartz’ theory of basic human values identifies what are known as the ten basic values (7). These are values that consistently true across different countries and cultures (8).

Schwartz used psychologist speak with words like universalism, but there’s no point in using language humans don’t use, when talking about humans. So, I butchered it, and here’s my no-bullshit version that makes it a little easier to swallow.

The Going Rogue "I butchered fifty years of psychological research to make things prettier" Model of Basic Human Values (maybe not my catchiest title)

Each section on the circle represents a main value area, and all the values you might have will fall somewhere into each category. Health for example would fall into safety, honesty would be under helping others, wealth would fall under power and being independent would come into being in control of your destiny.

You can have any values you like, from eating as many mangoes as you can, to learning every word to every Eminem song, or even kicking every kid that you pass in the street. Have all three if you like, it’s your life. But even dodgy values like these will fit somewhere on the model above.

There are two black arrows separating the model into four, one running across and the other running down. These show that values on the left are more personal, and values on the right are more to do with how you interact with the world. Values on the top are more aspirational, those on the bottom are more protective. And these arrows cut the model into four quarters, with each quarter having a general theme, such as fear of change or giving a shit about yourself.

Now, don’t let the language fuck you up: giving a shit about yourself is healthy as fuck. And don’t let the anxiety arrow at the bottom, well, give you anxiety. It’s just good to understand that anxiety can be more easily triggered by these values.

Values relate to what you want for yourself, as well as how you interact with others and the world. And the Theory of Basic Values states that it’s your overall value system that matters more than any one value.

That’s why having a well-balanced value system that matches who you are and how you want to interact with the world is important.


A Note on Virtue

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

– Mahatma Gandhi

Before creating or refining your value system, I’d like to talk about the elephant in the room: virtue (being morally good).

Humans tend to think of themselves, and outwardly speak, much more virtuously than they act. So, we say we eat well, care about the environment and tell the truth, but often, our actions don’t match up. And it’s this little mismatch that causes us a lot of trouble mentally, in the form of guilt, anxiety and low self-esteem.

Deciding on your value system can alleviate this, by ensuring you decide on a value system that suits what you want in life and what really matters most to you.

That is to say – the closer you value system aligns to who you really are, the more you’re likely to embody your values by acting in harmony with them.

Feeling uncomfortable about any of that? Here, have a picture of a dog enjoying a glass of wine to cheer you up:

Dogs have bad days too

Lesson #6

Values matter all of the time, not just on Facebook.


Good vs Bad Values

At a high level, values need to be sustainable long term. They aren’t hats; you don’t want to change them often. That’s not to say your priorities won’t change over time, but for the most part, these should be pretty static.

Life advice guru Mark Manson defined the difference between good and bad values in perhaps the best-titled book ever written: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. If something has been done well, there’s no point fucking with it:

Bad values

Good values







(*Manson uses the term evidence-based here (9))

Rational values are values that make sense in the broader context of your life, and aren’t based on the changing of your emotions.

An example of an emotional value could be:

  • People must earn my trust

A more rational value could be:

  • Setting healthy boundaries

There is a clear overlap here, but one is much more rational than the other, and is something that will lead to healthier relationships without letting the past hang over you.

Constructive values are values that have a positive impact on your life.

An example of a destructive value is:

  • Maximum pleasure

A more constructive take on this could be:

  • Balance

This incorporates pleasure – because pleasure is important in a balanced and happy life. But it also means you’ll pull it back whenever you risk overdoing it.

Controllable values are of course values within your control.

An example of an uncontrollable value is:

  • Never be alone

A more controllable value could be:

  • Form meaningful human connections

We can’t control people, their emotions, or how either will change over time. But we can look to form healthy and meaningful human relationships that will safeguard against loneliness.

You’ve probably seen a trend through these examples. The desires behind the emotional, destructive and uncontrollable values above aren’t the problem. Wanting trustworthy relationships, pleasure and love isn’t remotely wrong.

But by adjusting these to make them rational, constructive and controllable we ensure they are sustainable long-term and start on the absolute best footing.

Here’s a list of a few more bad values with more sustainable alternatives.

Bad Values

Good values


Creativity, contribution




Industriousness, creativity


Integrity, contribution, connection, creativity

Lesson #7

Good values are rational, constructive and controllable.


A Note on Self-Determination

The whole concept of Going Rogue is built around the idea that we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. This is known as self-determination, and it’s been shown to be a very powerful predictor of good mental health (10).

Self Determination Theory states that our reasons for doing the things we do are as important as the actual things we do, and that our happiness and wellbeing are directly linked with how much internal motivation we’ve got to do the things we do (i.e., how much it matters to us.) (11).

(This is why work is such a bitch, because the biggest reason we go tends to be external motivation, such as money, recognition and status. More on this in later steps.)

Lesson #8
Why we do things is as important as what we do. That’s where our values come in.Lesson #3


Defining Your Values

Nobody can define your values but you.

If you feel yourself naturally gravitating towards safety in many situations – then defining a value as risk-taking would seem counterintuitive. Remember your superpower: self-awareness.

Equally though, don’t let self-awareness box you into a corner. You’re pouring the tonic. Your values should inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

You might be dying to take more risks in life, and you might have come to the realisation that your fears are unjustified. Here, you could set a value of being more adventurous.

One good way to think of your values is to think who the best version of yourself you could be.  What values would they have?

These are more likely to be aspirational but also meaningful.

Lesson #9
The best values are both aspirational and meaningful. They help you grow into the best version of yourself.


A Note on Change

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

– Muhammad Ali

There is a trend in spirituality and self-help that tells us: we are enough, we don’t need to change. This is good advice blown way out of proportion. The premise is that by desiring to change, we become miserable, and there’s truth in that. But once again, studies have shown that when people do actually change, the changes reverse the unhappiness (12).

Of course: you shouldn’t seek to change to fit an external agenda that certain unhealthy parts of society forces upon you.

But if you’re living an unhealthy and unfulfilled life with no deeper purpose, where you see the world in a tainted way, and where you’re constantly pulled in different directions due to unconscious values, then I’d argue change is exactly what you need.

There’s a difference here. Changing for the world is unhealthy. Changing to grow as a person and improve your life is not only healthy, I’d argue it’s essential in leading a fulfilled and happy life.

Lesson #10

Changing for the world is unhealthy. Changing to grow is healthy.


Living Your Values

Once you’ve defined what your values are – that’s the easy part done. Sadly, that’s not quite enough to quit work, declare yourself Zen and begin reciting public sermons.

Newspaper editors get in touch now

Defining your values is a pointless task if they’re going to sit on a file on your computer or in a drawer somewhere and you’re never going to think of them again.

Enron, the company who falsified income resulting in their executives being charged with fraud and the biggest bankruptcy in the history of corporate America had their values on the walls in their hallways and on their corporate reports. They were integrity, communication, respect and excellence. (13)

Never mind

The real goal here is to let those values do what they are meant to do: guide you through life.

The science says the same, too. Studies have shown that by simply wanting to change, we don’t change, but by committing acts that reinforce who we want to become, we do change. (14)

Lesson #11

Wanting to change isn’t enough. We must live the change we want.

The key is action.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: without actively engaging with this journey and making this relevant to your own life, it’ll never change a thing. If you’re just looking for entertainment, I can point you in better directions. If you’re looking to live a fucking exceptional life, one that you’re proud of, then dust off the quill and let’s get to it.


Take Action

Before writing down your conscious values, I want you to look at your actions and see what your unconscious values are. This is important, because if you try to plaster a ‘health-conscious’ value on top of a ‘Netflix binge: emperor level’ value then you’re going to run into conflict.

To figure out your unconscious values – I’m going to ask you to do something ridiculous, but bear with me. I want you to draw a garden.

This garden is a bird’s eye view of your life. In it, you’ll then fill it with patches of this and that based on how much time you spend on different things. But you can’t have any more than 10 things in it, so choose wisely.

Here’s pretty much how mine was before I figured my shit out:

The Garden of Inequity

(Obviously, I was a complete idiot and had a lot of work to do. So yes, I do know how much of a fuck on this can all be. But it’s your life – what else matters more?)

Be as honest with your own garden as I have here. And don’t forget – you can see how much time you spend on your phone on most smartphones these days. Anything over a couple of hours and that’s gotta go in there, sadly.

Once you’ve drawn your life garden, ask yourself if you’re happy with it? Does it cover everything that is truly important to you? Are there some bits that aren’t as big as you’d like? Are there some bits that are too big?

This perspective – how you feel in your gut – should give you an indication of which areas might need some work value-wise.

Now, it’s finally time to write your values down. Grab your list of current traits and perfect traits for inspiration, and remember: you pour the tonic.

Step 1: Write down all the values that matter to you. There is a list at the bottom of this page, but this is by no means exhaustive. Don’t worry about scrimping here, but don’t just throw everything in there – remember what is most important.

Step 2: Group these values by similar types – so kindness, compassion and generosity would go into one group, as would wealth, freedom, flexibility.

Step 3: Give these new groups a name – the master value that best defines them. For those above, you could use kindness for the first group and freedom for the second group.

Step 4: Write down your top five from these new master values. Five is just an arbitrary number that feels like ‘enough.’ Keeping this list concise will help you stick with it and truly embody what you choose.

Step 5: Define your new top five values in your own words in terms of how you will act, and make them in the present tense (I do…, not I will do…). For example, kindness could be I always show kindness to others. Freedom could be I set my own schedule. This is massively important because this defines it in your own words and makes it unique to you*.

Bonus Step: If you’re struggling to whittle it down to 5 – try using a little creativity. You could slip self-care into kindness by defining it as I am always kind to myself and others. You could slip family into freedom by defining it as I set my own schedule and always make time for my family.

Step 6: Read them often. Live them. Let them guide you in your decisions, and reflect on any times you’ve strayed from them so you can understand why.

(*Studies have shown by having values that you resonate with and that are easy to remember, you’re much more likely to embody them(15))

Lesson #12
By defining your chosen values, you make them personal to you.


Final Thoughts

Your values guide you through life. There’s no denying that. If you don’t take control and consciously define them, your life will be defined by whatever your environment calls for. You can own your life, or your life can own you. Choose wisely.



A lot of factors influence who you are, but you get the final say.

Values are your most important beliefs.

The answers to life’s most difficult questions can be found in your values.

If beliefs are your map, values are your compass.

Psychological maturity only happens when you define your own values.

Values matter all of the time, not just on Facebook.

Good values are rational, constructive and controllable.

Why we do things is as important as what we do. That’s where our values come in.

The best values are both aspirational and meaningful. They help you grow into the best version of yourself.

Changing for the world is unhealthy. Changing to grow is healthy.

Wanting to change isn’t enough. We must live the change we want.

By defining your chosen values, you make them personal to you.


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