Who Are You? (an excerpt from Generation WTF)

Why Understanding Your Values Is the First Step to Success


After the enthusiastic response to my last column introducing Generation WTF: From “What the #%$&” to a Wise, Tenacious, and Fearless You, I thought Busted Halo readers might like a sneak peak into the book. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 1: “Who Are You? Why Understanding Your Values is the First Step to Success.” (For a complete version of this chapter, including all the exercises, plus a table of contents and introduction for the book, download this PDF.)

What are your values? And do you live them every day? These may seem like simple questions, but some honest introspection can lead to big changes in your day-to-day choices about work, volunteering, money and relationships.

Inspire others & win!

Check out the chapter below (and in this PDF), then head to GenerationWTF.com to download your “values card” to keep your core values front-and-center in your life — and join the Generation WTF community as we create, share and stay on track with our personal mission statements.

  • How do you use technology to remind you of your core values? Post your ideas on the Generation WTF Facebook page for a chance to win free stuff. (Bracelets, books and more!)
  • What’s in your personal mission statement? Share in the comments section below, or on Facebook for even more chances to win!

I’m eager to hear your thoughts, so, as always, feel free to email me at askchristinewtf@gmail.com to keep the conversation going.

How do I find my path and direction in life? How do I know what I want to become or what I’m destined to be? — Evan

For most of your life, you’ve been told what to do. But now, “real life” is beginning — and it’s your turn to call the shots. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? This chapter is about asking some deep questions about yourself and finding your purpose in the world. To achieve that, this chapter will challenge you to

  • Figure out your values,
  • Vocalize your purpose, and
  • Create a personal mission statement to guide you on the path to a wise, tenacious, and fearless you.

Are you ready to jump right in?

It’s 2021 and, tragically, you’ve died young. You’re watching your own memorial service where your friends, family members, coworkers, and members of your groups or clubs are going to speak about who you were. What do you want them to say? What did you do with your life?

Brutal, right? But let it play out, because it’s one of the best ways to figure out what you value in life… while you’ve still got decades to make it happen. Take some time with this question. Daydream realistically about where you see yourself. Are you a parent? A community leader? Who is most central in your life? Do you want your friends to describe you as loyal? Hardworking? Optimistic? And are you on track to make this happen?

This powerful exercise is used by several self-help books, including Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and David Bach’s The Finish Rich Workbook. The point is to demonstrate that being busy and getting a lot done aren’t the same as accomplishing your goals. This is a crucial message as you struggle with the purpose, direction, and meaning of your life.

“Imagining my own funeral in all its intricacies was a very intense experience that provided a very good mental image of who I want to grow to be,” said Chris. “once I began thinking about how I wanted to be remembered by those that know me, I really started thinking about what type of person I am and what type of person I want to strive to be. Though at times I fall short of this ideal, this habit has increased my awareness of my own actions in relation to who I want to be.”

Fellow tester Carly said she’d had a too-personal experience with this scenario recently when a close friend died in a car accident. That tragedy, and this exercise, reminded her of what was really important in life. “I think that people need to do what they want to be remembered by. Whether it’s a first impression or a last, think about the end result of the behavior you are exhibiting. It also leads to goals in life. When I think about the end of my life, I have a picture of where I want to be. Having the end in mind keeps me focused on the goals I hope to achieve.”

You might think this is a really morbid way to begin an optimistic book — but don’t skip over this exercise. By thinking about who you want to be and what you want to accomplish now, in your twenties, you are much better prepared to achieve those goals in the coming years.

In previous generations, self-help was mostly for people in their forties and fifties who were realizing, belatedly, that they wanted something different from their lives. Fortunately, you can start a lot sooner.

In 2021, I will be             years old. I will have accomplished the following things:


What are the phrases that you’d hope to hear as those closest to you describe your personality and your core values?


Take a moment to consider: Are you living your life now so that people would say this about you… if you died tomorrow? If you are at all uncertain, it’s time to focus on living your values.

What Are Values?

Your values guide your decisions, both big and small. Values are what’s important to you, what you cherish about yourself and your relationships with others. Values are about who you want to be — and yet, for some reason, we spend very little time thinking about our values.

In his bestselling financial planning guide, The Finish Rich Workbook, David Bach tells readers that knowing their values — and getting clear about who they want to be — is the first step toward achieving financial goals. “When you understand what’s important to you, it becomes much easier to focus on who you want to be, then on what you want to do, and, finally, on what ‘stuff’ you really want to have,” he writes. But knowing your values helps a lot more than just your financial life: Having a clear sense of who you want to be will guide every one of your life decisions — for the better.

Values are different than goals, he warns: Goals are what you want to do, while values are who you want to be. Having a million dollars is a goal, not a value. Becoming famous is a goal, not a value. But to accomplish either of those goals means understanding what’s important to you as an individual.
In his Value Circle™ exercise, Bach asks readers to list the five core values by which they live (or want to live) their lives. Security, health, strong marriage, family, and fun might pop up on a Value Circle. Or perhaps freedom, happiness, peace of mind, spirituality, and balance.

Knowing your values stops the vicious cycle of working hard at unsatisfying jobs only to go into credit card debt for things to dull the pain, explains Bach. “Trust me, the Value Circle exercise can change
your life.” And after watching dozens of WTF testers try this exercise, it seems Bach is right.

Try it for yourself: What are your values?


Having problems narrowing it down? Erin started with a list of twenty-eight and cut it down to ten but then she was stuck: Her top ten values were security, happiness, fun, family, marriage, making a difference, fulfillment, balance, education, and kindness. To narrow the list down to six, she focused on the life she wanted to live today — not in the future — and dropped security, family, marriage, and
fulfillment. “Those are values that I want to work toward being able to have in the future but are not at the top of my values list in my twenty-two-year-old college life.” she combined the ideas of kindness and the desire to make a difference into one value, generosity, and had her five core values: happiness, balance, fun, education, and generosity.

How to Live Your Values

For many Generation WTFers, the Value Circle™ exercise was challenging because it exposed a disconnect between their cherished ideas of themselves and the way they were actually living their lives. If you feel the same way, these WTF tips will help you close the gap:

1. Think about Your Values — and Write Them Down
Kim said her core values included family, love, security, friendship, and independence, and found the charts and exercises in The Finish Rich Workbook “extremely helpful” because “writing my goals down did in fact make me feel more obligated and motivated to complete them.” We’ll see this time and again with behavioral change advice: Actually writing things down really makes a difference. Because writing is a powerful way to tell your story, sort your thoughts, and commit yourself to change, you’ll do a lot of writing in this book. Keep a pencil or pen, and a journal, handy.

2. It’s OK to Write in Pencil, Not Pen
Jaye said the Value Circle helped her focus on the purpose of her education — not just having fun and learning — but working toward a fulfilling career. still, she was sensitive to the fact that her chosen values might change over time. “As life changes, this circle will change and I could probably do the same exercise in a month and could potentially get very different answers, but I suppose that is why [Bach] recommends completing the exercises in pencil instead of pen,” she concluded.

3. Put That List Front and Center
Just making the list wasn’t going to do much to change their day-to-day behaviors, testers realized. one wrote out her values on the back of a business card and stuck it in the clear-plastic window of her wallet. Every time she opened her wallet, she’d see her list of values. Molly taped her Value Circle™ — with independence topping the charts — on the mirror above her dresser, “so that I can see it every day. It reminds me that if I want to live independently I need to save an extra few dollars a day, so I can pay for the apartment to live in after college or be adventurous and go to a new country. Those values should always be on the top of my priority list, every single day.” And while Molly recognized she was young and just starting out, “I now know that I need to start prioritizing my life according to my values starting now and not when it is too late. Understanding and having written down the important aspects of my life has motivated me to start being independent now. I plan on finding a job at school my senior year so I can save up the money to have my own place after I graduate. It is something that has always been important to me. I now know that I need to start acting like it is important to me, not just thinking it.”