A Week Focused on Values – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a book discussion community on Reddit focused on A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week, I’ve focused on Chapter 13 – The Fifth Pivot – Values – Caring by Choice.

Previous entries in this weekly exercise:

This week was an interesting exercise in really getting down to what Lyman wants and who Lyman wants to be.

It hurt. In a good way.

Like I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, I re-read the chapter last Sunday, did an exercise or two (the VLQ and Values Writing), and continued on with the week, looking for ways that I could incorporate what I’d learned into my daily life.

My depression, anxiety, cravings for cigarettes (and a whole bunch of other stuff) shot up like they haven’t in a while. It wasn’t debilitating like it’s been in the past – but it did suck. And I kept wondering “What the fuck is going on???”

I used the pivots to defuse from the unhelpful thoughts, observed them from the perspective of my Transcendent Self, grounded myself in the present moment, accepted what was going on… all the stuff I’ve learned and really practiced so far.

Doing these things usually helped me feel better. And when they didn’t, they helped me to *feel* better (love that!) and kept me pointed in the direction I wanted to be pointed in.

After re-reading the chapter again yesterday, I realized that there *was* a warning in there about getting emotional throughout the process of looking at values – it may happen, but if a person uses the skills they are learned they’ll get through it. I missed that the first (and second) time reading it, and the first (and second and third and fourth and fifth) time listening to the audio of the chapter on my commute.

Holy crap, could I actually be doing this stuff right? (Thanks, mind! Maybe “Could this stuff really be working?” is more helpful?)


Intrinsic values are not something I’m used to following or developing. I’m the child of two Christian ministers, and our values came from Christ and the Church – we didn’t pick them ourselves (but at least is was from a denomination that actually tried to practice what Christ preached.) When I broke away from that, my values came from my social group – sex, drugs, rock and roll. Then on to AA – get everything from the 12 Steps. Then Buddhism – the 4 Noble truths were what I should live by. OK, how about Stoicism? Let’s try that bad boy now. Now nihilism… might as well have no values if I can’t figure out the right ones, huh?

Really looking at what’s important to Lyman is difficult for me. It’s always been about what’s “right.” Never about what’s important to me, just because it’s important to me.

Marcus Aurelius said “what’s good for the hive is good for the bee.” I think that it’s also true that what’s good for the bee is good for the hive. The bees make up the hive. Fucked up bees equals fucked up hive.

I’m part of the hive. My values are important. To me.


Highlights and Notes from the chapter:

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A clear sense of self-directed meaning provides us with an essentially inexhaustible supply of motivation.

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superficial gratifications

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we don’t trust ourselves to make good choices,

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We fear we might pick a life course we don’t have the necessary qualities to pursue.

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We also worry that our values may be out of step with cultural norms, leading us to be looked down on, left out, or even ridiculed.

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our sense of self is fused with
Note: Defusion – Self – Values

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Most commonly of all, we turn away from our true values because of past pain we want to avoid.

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all forms of psychological rigidity show up inside our mishandling of the yearning for meaning and self-direction.

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sensory gratification,

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The Values pivot allows us to redirect our yearning for meaning toward the pursuit of the activities that align with what we truly find meaningful.

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Pain is like a flashlight if we know where to point the beam.

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“What would I have to not care about for this not to hurt?”

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In your pain you find your values, and in your avoidance, you find your values disconnection.

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defusing from judgment,

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“because I choose to.”

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All choices are informed by our history.

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It will start berating us—“See I told you, you’re no good. You’re a hypocrite, a charlatan.” We may also get caught up in excessively evaluating whether we’ve chosen the right values, ruminating over whether they’re really our “true values.” With the ability to disregard these unhelpful messages, values work is freeing rather than punishing.

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living lovingly, playfully, kindly, compassionately, protectively, persistently, and faithfully.

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Values are always in the now.

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Living day to day according to our values is enormously rewarding.

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When people are focusing primarily on future achievement, or what they want or “must get,” they miss the richness of life in the present; the yearning for orientation is thwarted.

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feeling fully liberated him to do what he really cared about.
Note: *feeling* fully liberates us, no matter the tone – “good” “bad” “comfortable” “uncomfortable” – just fucking feel them to be free

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Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting unexpectedly emotional over the next few days, or cranky, or anxious.
Note: Oh yeah… actually missed this line at first – then I wondered “Why am I so damn depressed?” The other pivots seemed to have more of an immediate positive in the moment emotional lift. But now we’re getting deeper, and it’s getting a little more difficult. Totally worth it, though.

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we hurt where we care,

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Research has shown that values writing has more impact on behavior and health than just asking people to pick their values from a list or state them in a few words.

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Actual behavior.

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