How to Design & Master Your Life Pt 4: Determine Your Values


To truly grasp what motivates you at your core, it's essential to clarify and prioritize your values. Start this transformative journey by reflecting deeply on what matters most to you in different aspects of your life—be it career, relationships, personal growth, or health.

STEP 1: Identify and Rank Your Current Values

Ask yourself, “What's most important to me in this area?” Use your answers to compile a comprehensive list of values. As you list these values, categorize them into two types: ‘Ends' and ‘Means.'

‘Ends' values represent ultimate goals, such as happiness or fulfillment, which are your final objectives. On the other hand, ‘Means' values, like wealth or influence, are tools that serve as pathways to achieve your ‘Ends.'

Step 2: Identify Your Moving-Towards & Moving-Away Values

Moving Towards Values:

When identifying your moving-towards values, consider what emotional states you are drawn to. For instance, if I ask you, “What do you value most?” you might answer “Love, family, money…” Here, ‘love' is the end value you're pursuing – the emotional state you deeply desire. Conversely, ‘family' and ‘money' may be means values; they are pathways or tools utilized to achieve the emotional state of love.

For example, if you say family gives you “love, security, and happiness,” then those are the ends you are seeking. Love, security, and happiness are the values that truly fulfill you and make your life enriching and rewarding. List down these end emotional states that you most desire and strive to experience daily.

Moving Away Values:

Next, recognize the emotional states you actively avoid. Just as there are emotions you seek out for pleasure, there are also those you'll do almost anything to avoid. When making decisions, your brain evaluates whether an action might lead to either pleasurable or painful emotional states based on your moving-away values.

For instance, you might avoid situations that could potentially lead to feelings of rejection or fear because these emotional states significantly impact your choices. Your brain is continuously weighing alternatives to minimize exposure to these undesirable emotions.

Step 3: Determine Your Current Hierarchy

After identifying your moving-towards and moving-away values, the next step is to prioritize them in a hierarchy. This prioritization helps clarify which values drive your decisions the most.

  1. Assess Emotional Pleasure Levels: Begin by comparing values to determine their relative importance. For instance, ask yourself, “Which is more important to me, feeling joy or feeling supported?” Continue these comparisons to rank all your identified values according to their importance in your life.
  2. Assess Emotional Pain Levels: Reflect on the relative levels of pain associated with moving-away values. Ask yourself, “What are the emotions I most strive to avoid?” and “Are some of these emotions more painful than others?” Understanding the intensity of these negative emotions is crucial as it guides you in avoiding situations that might lead to such discomfort, thus steering your decision-making process in a more conscious manner.
  3. Examine Value Impact: Assess how the absence or presence of each value affects your decisions and relationships. For example, if ‘support' is a top value and you feel unsupported, you might consider leaving a relationship. Alternatively, a higher priority on ‘love' may lead you to stay despite feeling unsupported. Identify which values, when compromised, could lead you to take significant actions.
  4. Clarify Complex Comparisons: When values seem interconnected, it’s crucial to separate them clearly. Ask, “What does ecstasy/growth mean to you?” This helps ensure you understand the nuances between similar values and can accurately rank them in your hierarchy.

Step 4: Redefine Your Value Hierarchy

To ensure your personal values are fully aligned with the vision and goals you've set, it's crucial to actively redefine your value hierarchy. This process involves evaluating and adjusting your values to better support the lifestyle and achievements you aspire to.

Your Goals

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1. Assess Current Values. Start by thoroughly evaluating your existing values. Reflect on each value and ask yourself:

  • “What benefit do I get by having this value in this position in my hierarchy?”
  • “What could having this value at the top of my list cost me?”
  • “How does each value currently support or hinder my progress towards my vision and goals?”

2. Prioritize New Values. Based on the answers from your assessment, consciously decide which values need to be prioritized to facilitate your journey towards your vision.

  • Consider what new values need to be introduced that align closely with your goals.
  • Determine which values should be elevated in priority and which should be lowered or removed to better support your aspirations.

3. Make Conscious Adjustments. Actively reorder, add, or remove values in your hierarchy. This step involves not just intellectually reordering them but embedding these changes into your nervous system for them to become effective.

  • Use visualization and affirmations to deeply integrate these new values.
  • Regularly revisit these values to ensure they are vividly represented in your daily decision-making and behaviors.

4. Address Conflicts and Submodalities. Look for conflicts within your new value hierarchy and resolve them by understanding their implications.

If conflicts exist, such as valuing both ‘success' and ‘security' but finding them at odds, plan strategic ways to balance or reconcile these values to avoid undermining your goals.

Submodalities Adjustment:

To solidify the importance of new or adjusted values, change their submodalities to match those at the top of your hierarchy.

  • Consider how vividness, sound, and emotional intensity can be adjusted to emphasize these values.
  • For example, if ‘determination’ is a key value, visualize scenarios where determination led to success, enhancing the brightness or volume in these mental images to make the value feel more potent and immediate.

5. Continuous Reflection and Adjustment. Regularly reflect on your value hierarchy with questions like:

  • “In what order do my values need to be to achieve my ultimate destiny?”
  • “Which values might I add or get rid of to create the quality of life I truly want?”

STEP 5: Establish Rules for Each Value

Once you've identified your values, it’s crucial to set specific rules that guide how you achieve satisfaction and avoid discomfort based on these values.

Reflect on these questions to clarify your rules:

  • How do I know I'm fulfilling this value?
  • What does it take for me to truly experience this value?


When creating rules for your values, it's important to establish criteria that make it easy to experience satisfaction and difficult to feel discomfort. Reflect on the structure of your rules and ask yourself:

  • Does the rule set realistically achievable standards?
  • Is the fulfillment of this rule within my control?
  • Does the rule provide ample opportunities to feel good and limit the chances to feel bad?

Many people inadvertently set up a “highway to pain and a dirt road to happiness.” To counter this, design your rules to ensure that the pathways to pleasure are broad and direct, while the routes to pain are narrow and obstructed. This can be achieved by:

  • Simplify Pleasure. Create rules that allow frequent and easy access to positive feelings. For instance, establish rules like, “Anytime I make an effort towards my goals, I will acknowledge my progress and feel good about it.” This creates a clear and straightforward path to feeling good.
  • Complicate Discomfort. Introduce complexity into rules that lead to negative emotions to make them less likely to be triggered.

    For example, instead of having a rule that says, “I feel bad if I don't complete everything on my to-do list,” adjust it to, “I only feel bad if I don’t prioritize and attempt my top three tasks of the day.” This change makes it harder to feel bad because it requires a more specific condition to be met.

Examples of Empowering Rules for Common Values:

  • Confidence: “I feel confident anytime I choose to face a challenge head-on, regardless of the outcome.”
  • Love: “I experience love anytime I express kindness or spend quality time with my loved ones.”
  • Health: “I acknowledge my commitment to health each time I choose a nutritious meal or complete a workout.”
  • Learning: “I celebrate learning every time I read something new or practice a skill, no matter how small the progress.”
  • Contribution: “I feel fulfilled when I make a positive impact on someone's day, whether through a small act of service or a significant project.”


Understand that rules, like values, have a hierarchy. Some rules are threshold rules, meaning breaking them would result in intense pain, making them almost unthinkable.

Conversely, there are standard rules where the consequences of breaking them might be unpleasant but acceptable under certain circumstances. These are often differentiated by ‘must' (for threshold rules) and ‘should' (for standard rules).

Implement a system with attainable criteria that encourages satisfaction and minimizes distress, thereby aligning your daily actions with your values. Include rules that challenge you to grow while ensuring they are realistic and within your control to maintain autonomy and steer your life according to your values.

STEP 6: Implement and Continuously Revise Your Values and Rules

As you grow and your circumstances change, be ready to reassess and adjust your values and rules to remain aligned with your goals.

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