What is it?

Another way to describe your ‘Code’ would be your personal values, guiding principals or philosophies. As anyone who was or is addicted to the the series ‘Dexter’ will tell you; your code can be a powerful thing… although the one we are discussing here will hopefully be slightly less sinister.

Your values don’t need to fit a certain formula, they don’t need to sound like an ancient philosophers notebook and they don’t need to make sense to anyone but you. They just need to consist of a list of statements, quotes or qualities that you want to live by. This is your ‘Code’.

If you use this list regularly and commit it to memory, you will have a conscious understanding of who you are and how to act in line with your core beliefs.

This list is not something that you write out once and hide away. It is a list that must be regularly visited, refined and rewritten. Over time, one point may need to be removed and another added; or by altering one statement you may cover the meaning of 3 others. Each point must be boiled down to get across your message in the most concise and memorable way.

When I first started writing out my ‘Code’ they looked a lot more generic. Maybe something similar to the following:

  • Make money so that I can be comfortable
  • Provide for family, friends and loved ones
  • Make time for friends
  • Be strong, fit and healthy
  • Be successful
  • Give to charity
  • Have an opinion
  • Be a good person
  • Take responsibility and be a leader
  • Do what makes me happy

But over time I started to add a few quotes that really resonated with me. I also added random statements that I regularly heard myself saying to other people. I even added simple things that not only helped to focus me in the future but also helped me to crystalize what I believed into a single statement. A good example of this was when I combined a few different points into the following statement:

“Be clean, be tidy. Take pride in all that you have and do. Even the small things are a reflection of you”

This one statement explains how I believe that the environment I create is a reflection of my character and myself. It also has a certain rhythm and rhyme which makes it instantly memorable and therefore more likely to jump to mind next time I find my house or office in a bad state.

People that know me well and spend a lot of time around me will probably notice my statements coming out in everyday situations and conversations. This is the same for anything we put into our heads: what we put in eventually comes out, one way or another… or in other words “shit in: shit out”.


Why do I need a list of values?

Almost like a mantra, over time, you will hear these statements pop into your mind when faced with a decision or as you react to circumstances.

Whenever both or all options seem viable and there is no clear winner, your ‘Code’ can serve as a clear indicator of the best option to choose. For example, if choosing a high salary but for a job you don’t enjoy or a low paying job doing something you love, you may look at your values and notice one that you have always lived by that says “passion over wealth” or “money and security first, passion later” (more on difficult decision making here)

For me, the words: “Reduce. Replace.” automatically jump into my head whenever I am tempted to buy an unnecessary item of clothing or a techy gadget. I must decide that I either don’t get the item or, if necessary, replace the one I currently have at home (and remember to take the old item to the charity bin).


How do I decide what I want my values to be?

There are a few areas that are quite universal in people’s desires and make a good starting point to writing your ‘Code’. These common areas are human relationships, career, health, money, morals, status and legacy. Start by writing these out and then writing bullet points about your thoughts on each. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my opinion on each area?
  • How would I order their importance?
  • What mistakes have I made in my life so far?
  • What decisions have I made in the past that I can learn form?
  • What type of person do I want to be remembered as?
  • What quotes or great actions really resonate with me
  • Is there a person I look up to? What do I admire about them?
  • If my personal brand is what people say about me when I am not around, what would I like my brand to be?


Here are some of mine that may or may not make sense:

  • Be clean, be tidy. Take pride in all that you have and do. Even the small things are a reflection of you
  • How you do anything is how you do everything
  • Reduce. Replace.
  • Live below your means
  • To be extraordinary I must do extraordinary things
  • We rarely regret what we have done but rather what we did not do
  • Someday is today
  • Fear regret not failure
  • Opportunity in obstacles
  • Quality not quantity
  • Life is one big experiment
  • Hard work. Dedication. Discipline
  • Train hard, fight easy
  • Find the funny side
  • Financial freedom before wealth
  • Travel through life light
  • Be creative and share what I create
  • Have fun in all I do. Everyday!
  • Growth through adversity
  • When you fall you can be bitter or better
  • Don’t just tell it…sell it!
  • Be in the arena (this is a good example of keeping it memorable, the full quote is below)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt



It will take a while for your code of values to automatically jump to mind; but if you take the time to build, refine and improve your list, it can become a great asset.

The most important thing to remember is that you must not write the list that you think you ‘should’ write. You must be honest with yourself, even if what comes out surprises you at first. You may even find that this exercise highlights that you are not on the right path and that life changes need to be made.

Know who you are, be brave enough to stand for what you believe and don’t just follow the opinions and ideas of the crowd.


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