Two Lists You Need to Make If You Want to Be True to Yourself

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” ~Alexander Hamilton

For over a decade I worked as a paralegal in the corporate world. I worked hard, and I was a dedicated employee, but I was treated poorly by my superiors.

After a decade of working in this industry I felt lost, without purpose, and I constantly dreaded the next day when I would return to my job.

One day, an attorney that I had worked for came into my office and screamed at me, leaving me in tears.

At that moment I politely shut my office door and cried with my head in my hands. After getting out all my frustrations through tears, I told my office manager I was leaving for the day.

As I sat down in my car, I wondered how I got to this place, where people could take advantage of me and bring me to tears.

It was the car ride home that made me realize that I had lost my backbone and a sense of what I stood for. I lacked a foundation of what I valued in my life. Throughout the years of working non-stop and losing sight of my values, I was hereby declared lost.

After I acknowledged that I had lost my backbone, and essentially a say in my life, I broke down. I lost it. I cried my heart out and mourned for my old self, who knew exactly what she wanted in life.

So, it was time to change.

When I arrived home, still shaky, I made myself a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table with a pen and notebook in front of me. It was time.

At first, I wrote all the bad things that were happening in my life. Then I elaborated further and grouped them into categories, such as:

  • Injustice
  • Hate
  • Abuse
  • Unkindness
  • Selfishness
  • Vanity
  • Moral corruptness

After I got it all out, I felt relieved, but I still felt lost. What I had in front of me was a list of the things I could no longer tolerate or even entertain in my life.

So I took a step further and wrote down all the things that I want in my life and values I appreciated:

  • Love
  • Truth
  • Beauty
  • Happiness
  • Trust
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Intimacy
  • Altruistic values

This list was worth to me more than gold. I had compiled a list of things I value, my pillars of truth, and a non-negotiable foundation. To this day, this list holds me accountable for all that I want in life.

It was then that I took a leap of faith and trusted this list I came up with. I neatly typed it up and proclaimed these were my non-negotiable values. If something, someone, or a place did not align with these values, they had to go.

That pivotal moment at my kitchen table made me realize that in order to have the life I wanted, a life full of laughter, happiness, and love, I had to rearrange my life to align with all the things I stood for and eliminate all the things I didn't.

With that said, I slowly changed my participation at my job. I no longer worked overtime, I avidly communicated when my workload was unreasonable, and so on.

Unfortunately for my employer, it was time for me to move on and quit. So I did, with my list of what I stand for, and never looked back.

No matter where you are in life, if you’re happy or unhappy, it is essential to know what you stand for. Without this strong foundation you can be taken advantage of and stray from your personal truths and values.

How to Get Clear on What You Don’t Stand For

In order to get crystal clear on the things you don’t stand for in your life, you need to set aside some time for reflection.

Start by creating a list of at least ten things you won't stand for. There is no wrong answer here. For example, if you don’t care for dishonesty, write it down. If you will not tolerate hate, write it down.

Analyze your list of what you do not stand for and identify the core reason why you don’t stand for a particular thing.

For example, if a friend of yours is always putting you down, why is this something you won’t stand for? Is the root of this disrespect? Could it be because the friendship is no longer reciprocal?

Another example: I could no longer continue working for my employer because I couldn't stand for unfulfilling work, with no purpose. I also could not stand for daily disrespect and lack of appreciation.

How to Identify What You Do Stand For

After you have come up with the things you won’t stand for, it will be easy to identify the things you do stand for.

There are many ways you can identify the things you stand for in your life.

You can start by writing a list of what’s important to you. Think about what makes you truly happy. Think of a time when you felt you were living life to the fullest. What ignites a spark in your soul?

To take it a step further, you can turn the list of what’s important to you into a list of your core values. For example, if you enjoy visiting a specific park on the weekends, the corresponding core value could be adventure, a healthy lifestyle, or personal freedom.

Another way to identify the things you stand for is to think of three people you value and write down the qualities you admire in them. This could be a family member, a friend, a role model, or someone you may not even know.

By listing out qualities you value in others, you can open yourself up to expand upon what you value in your life.

Maybe a pattern will emerge. Maybe a recurrent value is someone who is kind, courageous, or compassionate. It's important to be mindful of the qualities you value in others, as you most likely wish to embody that same spirit.

What to Do with These Two Lists

Defining what you do and don’t stand for allows you the freedom to live your life according to your personal truths. Whenever a situation arises that you’re not comfortable with, you can call upon you what you stand for to guide you forward.

But what do you do when the answer isn’t so cut and dry?

For example, if you declared you do not stand for disrespect in any shape or fashion, but have a family member who is disrespectful, what do you do? Do you kick them out of your life? Do you avoid this person in anyway possible?

In this case, and when it comes to family, the situation is a difficult one to handle. You could have a constructive conversation with the person to move toward a mutual understanding, or set boundaries to ensure you aren't accepting the unacceptable.

What if you value a healthy lifestyle, but the majority of your friends like to eat unhealthy food and drink heavily on the weekend? Do you try to change your friends? Do you stop being friends with them?

Once again, you can safely keep boundaries in check so that you can act in accordance with what you stand for. For example, you could politely remove yourself when heavy drinking begins or make a different decision than your peers when it comes to how you eat.

Sometimes it might take a while to honor your values, if, for example, you value meaningful work but have a job that feels soulless and unfulfilling. You likely won't find something new overnight, but what matters is that you're aware of what you want and need, and you're working toward it.

When you define what you stand for in in life, you can begin living a life with intention and purpose, with your values in mind.

By becoming crystal clear on all the things you do and don’t stand for, you can begin ushering out all the things that do not serve you. It isn’t always easy, but with a firm foundation of what you stand for, you can move forward in life with values by your side.

About Tara Massan

Tara is the founder of Be Moved. She provides inspiration and simple wisdom to people so they can create a happier and more fulfilling life. Her interests include running, gardening, playing the guitar and spending time with her dog and boyfriend. Join her Weekly Newsletter for a dose of inspiration and to receive your free 7-Day Gratitude Journal.

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  • Hey Tara,

    Love the two list formula. I wonder if it is easier for people to construct the list of things they don’t want vs the list of things they do, or is it the other way around? Would you happen to know?

    Thanks for the article.


  • Priyanka Gupta

    Wow – the first few paragraphs describe exactly how I felt at work (I also have been in this job for exactly 10 years). For a long time, I actually thought it was ok to be treated like this (I was brought up in a traditional Indian family where work is worship, and where girls are always considered less than boys – you put these two together and you get a pretty submissive person). But I also reached my break point and have decided to make big changes. But the uncertainty of the changes scares me. How did you cope with that?

  • Nymeria

    Something that has always helped me when facing a difficult change is this thought: “If I want good things to happen I must make space in my life for them”. i.e. I will never find a good job when my time and efforts are invested in a bad one.
    Making space is essential, it clears the board, it gives you a clean slate. And then anything is possible!
    Changes are MEANT to be scary (who isn’t scared of the unknown?) BUT the feelings of bravery and pride you will have for yourself for going ahead with this are your powerful allies to help you through the scary times. 🙂


    Great advice! I would think a lot of people have cried at work. In my experience it’s a combination of stress and disbelief of how people actually treat other people. Maybe it’s just emotional day and you take people the wrong way… another situation I’m guilty of. Either way, it’s always a good practice to sit down with yourself and remind yourself who you are and what you stand for. We all get caught up in the fast pace of life and drama that we forget to take time out for ourselves.

  • Tara Forever Be Moved

    I couldn’t agree more! Taking a moment for pause and reflection to specifically evaluate who you are and what you stand for is essential! Thanks for reading! I appreciate it! 🙂

  • Priyanka- Thanks for reading! I guess the real answer was making the choice to no longer “cope” with an unfair situation. Now it took a while to arrive at this decision, but once I did, things in my life starting to fall into place. I’m sorry to hear you reached a “breaking point”. However, often when things aren’t going well and must be changed, doors shut and new ones open. I’m happy to hear you have made big changes in your life. Uncertainty is scary, but at the same time, it can be very liberating and exhilarating. To live your life of what you value and do not value is something that will not lead you astray. Feel free to email me if you want to continue the conversation! 🙂

  • Nymeria- I agree! You must be willing to make sacred space for good things to happen. It’s essential to usher out the things in life that do not serve you, so that you may allow for good things to come into your life. 🙂

  • Joel- Thanks for your kind words! 🙂

    To answer your question: I would say that it depends on where you are in life. For example, if you feel that you’re overwhelmed and are not happy with how things are going in life, it would be best to create a list of what you do not stand for in your life. By doing this you have ushered out the bad in your life and created space for the good to come in. Does that make sense? Feel free to reach out!

    All the best! 🙂

  • Pharaoh Lad

    Hey Tara, Thank you, for your awesome words of wisdom.
    I’m hoping your two lists idea will help me find my lost sense of what I truly value and want out of life. While in my 30’s in my former wife was unable to have children. Unfortunately we later divorced and now I’m in my mid 40’s, and I’m trying to decide if it would somehow be selfish of me to want to have a child with a younger woman who I also want to marry. For the longest time, I believed that perhaps I wouldn’t ever have children because of my age and the advanced age of the women in my social circle, but now I am developing a relationship with a woman still in her child bearing years. Anyhow this question, has perplexed me and I hope my using your two lists process will help me strengthen my intuition and decision-making ability. I apologize for rambling on and on, and I hope you can discern what I’m trying to say, and I appreciate and thank you any advice you may have about my dilemma.

  • Olga King

    Love it. 2 years ago I walked out on a job I disliked for 20 years and on a boss resembling yours who I hated passionately for the last 5 of that career. I haven’t looked back as I walked away – and I never looked back since. I am the happiest at my new vocation I had been in decades – and I make people happy too.