KAMPALA/ISTANBUL – Today, I will define my core values. This is a very manly thing to do, according to authors Brett and Kate McKay:

When I look at photos of men from my grandfather’s and even my dad’s generation, I can see a sense of purpose in the eyes of those men. Yet when I look at men today, I often don’t sense that kind of steely focus. Instead, I see dudes who are just sort of drifting along whichever way life pulls them.

I’ve heard a lot of men my age complain of a sense of shiftless. They don’t have the drive, purpose, and ambition that our forbearers had, and they feel adrift.

And this isn’t some sort of cranky old man observation about “kids these days.” Several books and articles by sociologists back up these observations.

There are numerous factors why men are just sort of drifting by today. Changes in the economy and societal shifts in regards to gender are definitely two major factors. But, let’s be honest. There’s not much a man, let alone a man stuck in neutral, can do about these things. So, today we’re going to focus on something that we all have the power to control: our core values.

This is totally true. In fact, I have read “several books and articles by sociologists” too, and I can testify to their scientific method applied to dudes drifting along. 

In all seriousness, I can understand the argument. In a post-modern, consumerist society, with a highly specialised economy the choices sometimes seem overwhelming, especially because each choice you make (consumer choice or otherwise) says something about who you deem yourself to be. I completely understand how this is paralysing to some people. Don’t really see how this only applies to men, though. The implication is that for men, this is bigger problem than it is for women. 

Anyways, there are several reasons why you do not want to be a drifting dude:

1. Defining our values gives us purpose.

2. Defining our values prevents us from making bad choices.

3. Defining our values gives us confidence.

4. Defining our values makes life simpler.

I can’t really disagree with any of these, it’s just that the phrase “core values” in non-sociological or psychological terminology makes me think of conservatism. But, let’s see how Brett and Kate want me to identify my core values:

1. Get nice and relaxed. Go to a quiet room and sit in a big comfy chair (maybe even sit in your closet; something about small spaces helps you think), grab the fishing pole and spend an hour or two casting your line into the ol’ fishing hole, or take a walk on a nature trail or around your neighborhood. Just do whatever works for you.

2. Have the proper tools. Have a pen and paper handy so you can write down your values as they come to you.

3. Ask yourself this question: “What’s truly important to me as man?” Once you’re nice and relaxed, simply ask yourself what’s truly important to you. Think about those moments in your life when you felt completely whole and fulfilled as a man. Think about the times when you’ve been the happiest. If nothing comes to you at first, don’t worry. Just keep thinking.

4. Write down whatever comes to you. When you have a moment of insight about what’s important to you, write it down. Don’t self-censor yourself. Be completely honest during this process. 

5. If you have more than five values, eliminate some.

6. Prioritize. Once you whittle your list to five core values, prioritize them in order from most important to least important.

They even gave me a list of suggestions:

Adventure, Balance, Confidence, Control, Creativity, Discipline, Education, Faith, Family, Financial Security, Friends, Freedom, Fulfillment, Forgiveness, Fun, God, Growth, Happiness, Health, Hope, Honesty, Humor, Independence, Integrity, Kindness, Knowledge, Marriage, Peace of mind, Power, Progress, Reason, Security, Self-reliance, Service, Spirituality, Strength, Success, Truth, Wisdom.

So, I followed steps #1 through 6. I sat down in a comfy chair with a notebook and started thinking and then wrote down my core values. Here they are, prioritized and in order:

1. Peace of mind

2. Self-actualization

3. Knowledge

4. Creativity

5. Relations

Let me explain. The first two are general purposes in life most people have, I reckon. “Peace of mind” refers to the capability to accept and deal with my own neurotic side, a dimension of my personality that has its own demons which in turn inhibit happiness. 

Secondly, self-actualization is a psychological concept that essentially has people living up to their potential. It is the top of Maslow’s pyramid. By fulfilling all needs on the lower levels, one creates the possibility of truly actualizing the best version of oneself. 

For third place, I was torn between Reason and Knowledge. I chose the latter because it better describes the fascination I have had with knowing things. Fourthly is creativity, or maybe better explained, an interest in living up to what is for me the other side of the coin (Knowledge or scientific inquiry being one side). 

Lastly, relations, referring to both friendships and relationships; or generally the activity of (emotional) sharing. I don’t really need to explain this to anyone, I think. 

I noticed that I did not put happiness itself on my list. I don’t exactly know what that says about me, though. I also realised that priority-wise, friendships or generally other people, are last with the first four values referring solely to myself. 

The trouble with lists like these is that there is a natural bias in place: when identifying my core values, how much thought process went into what I should write down considering what I make of my own identity as opposed to what my behaviour or cognition show as priorities?

Man-Meter: I feel as manly as before.



  1. Love the reading you have been doing, Gideon.

    The five values you enlisted does not include happiness, because your five values are all things you can improve or pursue. Happiness is not something to pursue, but something that should ensue from other activities. This is why achieving happiness can be so difficult to people, because the particular achievement is hard to define. Therefore, defining a value as to achieve happiness would be hard to define and consequently I believe that is why it does not appear on your list.

    Helpful? Let me know:)


    • Thank you, I appreciate it.

      But wouldn’t you say that mine are then simply a proxy for happiness? Saying that happiness in itself cannot be chased but is the result of doing what you love seems like a technical differentiation that bears little relevance pragmatically. But since we’re talking about happiness, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post “THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS”.


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