The Values and Goals List that changed my life

Providence, Rhode Island — Lupos Heartbreak Hotel

A few years ago now, I stumbled across this Youtube video of a TED Talk that really stuck with me. This guy leading the TED talk kept talking about the fact that almost everybody knows “what” they are doing on any given day. If they’re going to work they generally know “what” they need to get done. If they’re going to school, they know what class they’re going to, what time they’re going to leave and go study. The list goes on. Unless you’re sitting on the couch all day, getting stoned with absolutely no plans then you probably know “what” you are doing on any given day. Even in that example, you know what you’re doing. Nothing. Getting high. Watching TV.

What really resonated with me from this video is that very few people actually take the time to think about “Why” they do something. And when I say something… I really mean anything. From important, to seemingly irrelevant. Think about it. Do you ever ask yourself “why” you do some of the mundane, auto-pilot tasks that you do every single day? Or do you just do it and get on with your life?

I’ll give an example. For years and years now I have identified as a coffee drinker. Every day I get up, put on my shoes and leave the house and walk to a Starbucks in New York City and get the same large iced coffee. I don’t think about it. Shit I don’t even need to think about my order, or what my name is because I go there enough that the people working there already have that ready for me. Yet, as I type this story on values, goals and understanding “why” one operates I’m realizing a few things about that seemingly irrelevant (though arguably expensive) habit. I’m realizing somewhere along the road in my life, this thing that I do has become a part of my identity. I never consciously decided “Cam you are now going to be a coffee drinker who wakes up and walks to a coffee shop every day”. It just happened.

That seems to be a problem in a lot of our lives. Myself included. Whether it be in our careers, or in our personal life, a lot of these little things we do, or more importantly the responsibilities we take on, get thrown into our daily-routine without a real thoughtful analysis of why this is important to the individual. Over time (and time moves fast) daily-routine becomes our life… and pretty soon you’re sitting realizing “wait, why am I spending 3 dollars on coffee everyday?” Or worse, “wait, why I am in $100,000 debt to a school?” Or my favorite, “wait, why do I work here?”

To often we fall into the mentality of

Gotta do what you gotta do

when really the expression should be

Why the fuck am I doing this?

Maybe for a certain individual, it makes sense to have 100K in student loans. Maybe that person’s a doctor, or a lawyer that’s helping the community and doing what they want for good reasons (keyword: reasons) that they at one point thought about. This article is not for you. You can go now.

I know for a fact there’s a lot of people out there who have a ton of student debt and at the time that they made the decision to take on the debt, didn’t even think about it at all. The concept of go to high school, study, take the SAT’s, apply to college even if you have no fucking interests yet or passions, and just do what you gotta do and figure it out later is crazy to me.

BTW — have you ever noticed how schools always make you study the hardest for the state-mandated tests that rank the schools efficacy?

We tell 17/18 year olds they are only smart if they score well on tests, even though it’s proven that intelligence is 1. relative and 2. incredibly complex. Then we tell them to choose a school, and an area of study and buckle down and enjoy the 30 year ride. Don’t worry, all the decisions have been made for you. It doesn’t stop there. When you finish college, they’ll be advisors through the school right there waiting to put you into a 9 to 5 job (if you’re lucky enough to get one) because that’s what you do right? That’s why you went to college.

Or wait… why did you go to college? If the answer is because it’s what you do and it’s what the school pressures you to do, please keep reading.

My point here is not to shit on colleges. (I could write a whole article on that.) In a lot of instances, college is the right move for the individual. It’s also a great social accelerator. You can also learn a lot about drugs and alcohol. You can learn about the kids who had weird parental relationships and are now getting way too fucked up because they have freedom for the first time in their lives. Also, coming this fall to COLLEGE… if you’re passionate about a subject you can specialize in it, learn, experience and network and make the career that you want, for the reasons you want. The point I’m trying to make by pointing out all of these examples of people who just follow the unwritten rules of society for no other reason than it’s what you do, is please before you do that, think critically about what it is you want when making a decision, and most importantly why you are making the decision. Small decision. Big decision. Doesn’t matter.

Why am I going to Starbucks every day? Why am I going to college? Why do I want this job, or that career?

Maybe you don’t know why. That’s okay. There are still plenty of things I don’t know why I do. Shout out to Norah Jones. Here is my way of making these decisions easier. It’s a great exercise for those of us just beginning on this journey of what I call Self-consulting.

  1. Write down 20 VALUES you have. These are one-word values that describe you as an individual. Maybe its Family, Wealth, Exercise, Fame, Individuality, Creativity, Routine, Freedom, Romance, Flexibility, Structure. Whatever you feel.
  2. CIRCLE the top 5 VALUES
  3. Write down 3 goals for the next 12 months
  4. Meditate (message me if u want more info on this @cammeekins)
  5. Analyze

It very well may be that you’re on the right path already, but it is so important that before it’s too late you realize why you’re on that path and you identify those values. That’s what makes the goals attainable.

If you really truly believe in those 5 values you pick, than every fucking thing you do, every decision you make should be made with those values in mind, and those goals as a target. This is how you avoid decisions being made for you by society. This is how you begin to understand why you do what you do. It’s a path. It can change. You can change and so can your values, but what remains constant is your drive and individualism. Now I want to put something out to the universe so that I hold myself accountable. Cam. Don’t buy coffee tomorrow. Make it.