Picture yourself sitting at an empty table. Now add a good friend, real or imagined, sitting by your side. Maybe add one or two more. Guys you know and trust. You just know they care about you, want you to be happy, competent and strong. They accept you the way you are with your quirks and short-comings and at the same time give you honest and sometimes brutal feedback when you fucked up and need to get your shit together. They are completely authentic with you and do not feel the need to put on a mask around you. They feel free to share their raw thoughts and emotions with you. And of course all of this goes both ways. You do for them what they do for you. You care about their world and have the same feelings for them. Wishing them the very best, accept them with their quirks and call them on their bullshit when needed. And you too feel like you can be completely authentic around them and connect with them on that basis. Let’s go one step further. Now add a woman to the table that has very similar qualities. Maybe she cares about you and the two of you having a good life together even more than your friends do. She enjoys investing time and energy into building you up and supporting you when needed and you enjoy doing the same for her. Gives you space when you need it and also enjoys the deep and authentic intimacy and connection between the two of you. I could go on but you get the point. Let’s make it even more interesting. Add some really good food and drink to the table and imagine you guys are deeply absorbed in a fascinating conversation. There is simply this good and relaxed vibe in the air. And let’s say it’s at your place. A small and humble apartment or maybe your own house but no 5 million dollar mansion. So what does that have to do with values and goals? Well, imagine being in that situation, what do you really care about? How much porn do you want to watch? How many millions of dollars do you need? Do you need to be a powerful CEO of a big company that has your name on it? Do you NEED a bigger house? Do you NEED a more impressive car? How many abs do you need? I am not saying that these things are inherently bad and in my personal life I am actually striving towards some of them. And for example, it’s absolutely understandable why someone would want a bigger place or bigger car if they are having kids for example. My point is that if we actually feel connected, loved, supported and accepted and yet positively challenged at the same time, many of the things we thought we needed (our goals) suddenly don’t seem that important anymore. Because the hole we tried to fill and the pain we tried to avoid by stimulating ourselves with all kinds of stuff, future projections and work and what have you has been filled. What does that mean for our goals that we are holding onto? I frequently talk with guys who are having “vision boards” and remind themselves of their goals in the far away future all the time in an attempt to motivate themselves and push through the urges and the pain. Especially if you’ve been on this road for a while and have relapsed over and over again you know that this way of building your life can be extremely volatile and exhausting. Crashing hard after what seemed like the most invincible high again and again. What I found that keeps me way more stable AND happy and fulfilled at the same time on my journey is to be super honest about my personal values that are truly meaningful to me. From that stable foundation I derive my goals that now are in line with my values. Not the other way around. Metaphorically I like to think of it as if I am moving on a map and my values are the direction I am taking and my goals are merely stations on my journey. This way, the journey itself, living in congruence with my values is so “valuable” to me already that the goals/stations along the way are just one small part of my endeavor. But I would not undertake the journey ONLY to reach a certain goal. Especially not if it goes against my values. I think the cheesy proverb that “the journey is the reward” actually contains a lot of truth if you look at it this way. Values are more like actions you can take at any moment and accompany you for a long time. Goals are fixed in the future at first, then swish by for a brief moment, only to be lost in the past forever. What does that mean for the example that I described above? For me personally it would be a value along the lines of “I care about having positive people in my life that care about me and that I can care about” & “Building and maintaining these kinds of connections regularly”. And also some others. Instead of having goals like “not feel lonely anymore” or “have friends/a girlfriend”. Coming up with goals and reminding myself of them regularly only motivated me so much. Actually it often felt surprisingly empty, hollow and exhausting at times. But once I started to get in touch with my deeply held values and needs as a human being it almost felt like I didn’t even have to think of motivating myself. I just did it and it feels really satisfying even when it’s really hard and I have to put in many hours. I don’t have to PUSH myself anymore to be motivated. I don’t have to “conjure it up” anymore because I don’t feel like doing it. With intense battle music, vision boards or lofty motivational words boosted with a hall-effect to get the intensity up even more. It feels more like the motivation slowly but steadily wells up from deep inside of me on its own. And you may be asking yourself something along the lines of “aren’t my goals aligned with my values anyway? Because my desires and goals are an expression of them whether I am conscious of them or not?”. Good point and for the longest time I thought the same. But once I actually learned how to get in touch with my values (btw would love to write about how to actually connect with them on a deep and authentic level as well if you are interested but will probably do it in another post as this one is already long enough for most people) many of the goals that I thought I wanted simply fell to the wayside. Other goals that actually already were in line with my values stayed but became less important and instead I cared a lot more about living in accordance with them and expressing them authentically no matter to what stations that would bring me. But it can be surprisingly difficult for most of us. Especially if you are here in the NoFap community you probably have already developed some awareness around your coping mechanisms and avoidant behaviors. And maybe also see it in other people. We do a lot of stuff to avoid experiencing even small amounts of discomfort. Like when we are standing in line or waiting for something and maybe we would have to suffer through the unbearable agony of 2 minutes of boredom but instead we reach for our smartphones. What do we do if we feel the intense pain of loneliness, shame or inadequacy? And all the painful thoughts that come with that? We can go really hard on doing all kinds of stuff (including pmo) for a very long time to distract ourselves from the discomfort and generally speaking, in a world where everything around us is maximized for consumption and profit and pressing our pain buttons we often get too focused on the stimulation and input that comes from the outside. Which in turn leaves us less adept at connecting with what is truly meaningful to us and what we naturally feel drawn towards. In fact we do our damndest to NOT experience any form of pain or painful thoughts even though we hurt where we care and we care where we hurt. Meaning, our pains show us where we actually care. Let me give one quick example of what I mean by that: Let’s say someone (knowingly or unknowingly) carries around deep wounds from feeling ashamed, disconnected from other people and inadequate. Without making it too complex you can have two basic options. 1. Accept the pain as a signal for what you care about and what your values are. Namely, feeling connected, loved and accepted. Thus build a life that puts you in the situation of having good and (mentally and emotionally) healthy people around you that accept you and care about you and connect with you on an authentic and deep level. If you’d ask this guy if he feels ashamed he would probably say something along the lines of “yeah, sometimes, it’s part of life, but generally speaking I am happy, have good people around me and like where I am going”. 2. See the sensation of emotional pain itself as the problem and do all kinds of stuff to avoid having to feel it instead of taking care of the underlying issue. Namely, focusing on "not wanting to feel the pain" instead of the underlying issue that causes the pain. Thus feeling painfully driven to build a life for yourself where you are a powerful CEO with lots of money and influence, have the perfect body, learning PUA to get all the women and learn how to be really good at arguing so you can win any fight. Nobody and nothing can get to you anymore. You are untouchable and never have to feel ashamed or inadequate ever again. Instead you now can feel superior and squelched the feelings of shame and inadequacy. You won, right? If you’d ask this guy whether or not he feels shame he’s more likely to give you an answer along the lines of “no not really, I don’t need to feel ashamed because x, y and z and besides, I don’t care what others think about me anyway and feeling ashamed is for weak people that hold themselves back. And they also hold me back”. Even though there is SOME truth to what the second guy is saying, just intuitively, who would you want to hang out with? Who do you trust and want to connect with? Let me be very clear though, being a powerful and wealthy CEO CAN be a good and healthy expression of someone's values. I’d bet though that for many people it isn’t and they are driven by trying their damndest to avoid feeling the shame and inadequacy for example. If you do it to avoid feeling and facing the pain and focus on "not wanting to feel the pain", the real issues are never addressed, never faced, pain never truly ends, the wounds never heal and you just can’t be authentic this way. Because you do everything you can to disconnect from a natural feeling inside of you. But if a person does it because it’s a natural expression of your authentic and deeply held values then it’s a thing of literal beauty though. Maybe because he honestly cares about something in the world that he doesn’t see anyone else take care of. Or because he believes he can serve even more people with his company. A man like that can be trusted with a lot of power and wealth. Or do you want to trust the man that is too weak to face his pain and constantly is driven to indulge in avoidant behavior? Long story short, always put your values before your goals and fine-tune your ability to connect with your values regularly. And keep in mind that we hurt where we care and we care where we hurt. That’s the quickest guide to connecting with your values. Pain in and of itself is not the problem that needs to be solved, it’s merely a “reverse-sign” that indirectly connects you with what you care about and what your values are. I hope that makes it a little more clear for you to distinguish between when you are having to push yourself with (even just slightly) inauthentic goals and when simply moving forward feels satisfying and fulfilling even when the going gets tough because you are living congruently your authentic values that are deeply meaningful to you. What do you think is one of your deepest values?