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Why You Need a Personal Code & How to Create One

Donald Miller is an author, public speaker, and business owner who's mission is to help businesses clarify their message. Read below for his explanation on the importance of building a personal code.


Recently I heard an interview with a prominent world leader who was asked about his formative years. One of the things he did that served him, he said, was to develop a code. And by “code” he meant a list of values by which he would live. Normally we think of mission statements and values as reserved for institutions. But individuals can have them too. So what’s your code? What’s your personal mission statement? Have you figured it out yet?

Here’s an exercise to help you do so.

First, your code:

Think of three things that make you angry. For instance, bullies. Or perhaps the defamation of something beautiful. Or wasted spending, or whatever. The reason I ask you to do this is often the things that make us angry are the flip side of our values.When somebody steps on our values, it ticks us off. So the first step to figuring out your code is to figure out your values. If bullies make you angry, you have a heart for justice. If the defamation of beauty ticks you off, you value art and craftsmanship and making the world a better place. So, once you figure out your top three values, turn them into your code. 

Here is the code I arrived at after processing my values:

1. I value truth. I want to find and tell the truth in every aspect of my life. I don’t like when people are deceptive or manipulative, even if their overall objective is good. I want to surround myself with people who tell the truth. I also value research and the discovery of truth. I don’t want to settle for shallow or easily-arrived at answers. And I don’t like tribal thinking.

2. I value freedom. I think people should be free to arrive at their own conclusions and I’m not a fan of coercion, be it physical, emotional or mental. I like sharing my opinion and letting others use the information to arrive at their own. I value independent thinkers. I’ve a strong sensitivity to people who need me to agree with them and don’t give me the freedom to disagree. I’m drawn to a limited government.

3. I value action. I don’t think talk gets us far. I tend to stay away from overly scholarly conversations that have no basis in action. I like thinkers who do things more than thinkers who think things. I don’t want to live in an ivory tower. I want to change the physical world around me through action.

So what are your values? What is your code?

What are the things you will and will not do? Have you written them down? Our values should cost us something. There are plenty of projects I won’t get involved in because I’d have to compromise my values. And yet, the more I live into these values, the more clarity I have in life and the more I get done.

I hope this helps.

Donald Miller


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