Values and Goals 

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Sequence 33

22-Values and Goals in All Areas of Life:

The initial lessons on values and goals teach us how to excel in areas of our life that are important to us. But we can fail miserably when we don’t use that approach in other areas of our life. 

For example, we frequently hear or read about talented celebrities or superstars who set goals of becoming the best in the world at what they do. Take Whitney Houston, for example. She valued her talent as a singer, but her life ended tragically from a drug overdose. Whitney didn’t place as much value on being free of substance abuse as she did on her professional singing career.

When I concluded my prison term, I heard the tragic story of Aaron Hernandez. He was a star athlete, and since childhood, he set goals to become the best at his craft. Yet when it came to other areas of his life, he failed. He lost his career in professional sports. He lost a criminal trial, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. Then he committed suicide while locked inside his jail cell. 

If being successful outside of football meant something to Aaron, he should have followed the same disciplined path he cultivated to become a best-in-class athlete. 

Clear values and goals would have helped.  

Values and goals advance our prospects for success. We should apply them to each area of life that can bring fulfillment. Some areas where we can use values and goals as a guide to success include:

  • Fitness
  • Relationships
  • Education
  • Spirituality
  • Career Development
  • Family
  • Hobbies
  • Substance abuse
  • Release preparation

To the extent that we use values and goals, we grow closer to success. We can learn from masterminds like Douglass, Mandela, Frankl, and King—we all can learn a great deal from those masterminds.

Values and Goals Guided Me Through Prison:

As I wrote previously, Socrates started me on the path to change my thinking patterns. After a jury convicted me, I thought about the decisions that led to my predicament. I needed to pinpoint where I started to go wrong. 

What could I accomplish from inside a jail cell to make things right? I may not get out of prison early. But what could I do to make things better when I got out? That question led to my three-part plan. I would work:

  • To educate myself,
  • To contribute to society, and
  • To build a support network.

I came up with that three-part plan by reading about people who succeeded. From them, I learned that I needed to define success. In my case, success would mean a return to society without complications. I wanted to live and interact with people that didn’t have problems with crime or prison. Those people became my avatars. 

My avatars want me to educate myself, contribute, and have a strong support network. As I wrote earlier, I didn’t know those people. But someday I may meet them. If that happened, I would want them to accept me as a good person. If I didn’t make efforts while I served the sentence, they would always wonder about my lengthy incarceration. I had to take steps to influence their perceptions of me.

Who is your Avatar?

An “avatar,” for me, was specific. When I got out, I knew that certain people would advance my prospects for success. And certain people would threaten my access to opportunities. I needed to connect with people that would help me succeed. 

I wanted to use all my time in prison to prepare in ways that would make it more likely for my avatars to support my efforts to succeed.

  • I thought of my future probation officer.
  • I thought of my prospective employer or business partners.
  • I thought of my future creditors or investors.

When I got out, a probation officer would oversee the level of liberty that I would have. What would my probation officer expect of me?  

Future employers would know about my criminal background and lengthy prison term. What would employers expect me to accomplish while I served my time? 

I needed to make changes that would counter the negative background from my early 20s. 

Prospective creditors or investors would also know about my criminal background. What could I do to make things right with them? I would need to find creditors and investors when I got out. 

After 26 years inside, I would return to society without a vehicle, a place to live, or clothes. I knew that I would need help to get started.

Avatars could help. While in custody, I had to build a record that would make it easier for avatars to believe in me.

Who is in Your Future?

By thinking about avatars, I found my value categories. When my judge sentenced me to 45 years, I had to think differently. “Good time” credits would result in my release after 26 years if I didn’t have disciplinary problems. 

The release date felt far away. I hadn’t been alive for 26 years, so I didn’t have a frame of reference to comprehend that time. Instead of focusing on the time I had to serve, I kept my sights on the future I wanted to build.

To sustain my energy and discipline level, I had to set clear goals that I could measure. Those goals would take my mind off what I could not control and help me focus on what I could achieve. 


  • Who is in your future?
  • Who influences your thoughts about what you can or cannot accomplish?
  • What can you do while in prison to prepare for your future?

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