Adam Avenir

“Even if we haven’t signed up to instruct adolescents in maths or languages, even if we aren’t interested in telling someone how to find the area of a circle of ask for a train ticket in French, we are called upon to ‘teach’ almost every hour of every day: teach others how we’re feeling, what we want, what is paining us, the way we think things should be. The teaching specialization we have to take on is a bizarre-sounding but crucial subject: Who I Am and What I Care About.”

— The School of Life

My counselor has been encouraging me to create a personal “Human Operations Manual” for some time now. Documenting my own self-discovery process is only part of it; the other, even more crucial part is creating a resource to help other people understand me. I started a thread about this in the Leadershippy community, and now several of us are in the process of creating manuals of our own.

It’s always going to be a process, of course. We are constantly evolving, and learning who we are is an ongoing project. Here are some things we’ve found useful to keep track of.

Personality type

People aren’t easily put in boxes—and they shouldn’t be! Even still, personality tests can be useful to catch tiny glimpses of clues of who we are.

There are many good personality tests. Myers-Briggs isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good (and it has the benefit of being popular, so there are no shortage of assessments available; we like this one, and its free). The Enneagram is another framework you can use, though the assessment isn’t free.

What’s your personality type?
How well do you feel like that type describes you? How does it feel right? How does it feel inaccurate?

Core values

Do the following exercise on a piece of paper or in a text doc. (Thank you to Jenn Armbrust and her awesome Feminist Business School for the concept of this exercise.)

Who do you admire?

Make a list of the people in your life who you look up to. Think about people in different categories in your life: family, friends, teachers, spiritual leaders, world leaders, artists, literary figures, mentors, role models, etc.

What do you admire about them?

For the first person on your list, start a new list writing down the values they embody that you admire about them. (You can use this handy reference of values, but don’t feel restricted by it.)

When you’re finished, do the same thing for the second person. If the second person shares values with the first, add a checkmark next to that value. Then repeat for each one of your heroes.

Identify 6-12 values that resonate the most with you.

When you look at your list of values, you'll notice there are some with more checkmarks next to them. Among these, read each value slowly and note which ones warm your heart the most. Narrow your list down by choosing 6-12 values that feel the most "right" for you and who you are.

You admire in others what you admire in yourself.

Guess what? These values are your values. These values form the person you are at your core—your best self—and can help you see your purpose and potential.

What are your values?
How do you personally define each of them?


What do you need to be at your best?
Environment (either outdoors or indoors):
Time with others:
Time to yourself:
Other stuff:

What drains you?
What gives you energy?
What helps you to be productive?
What helps you to be a good friend and support to others?
How can someone be a good friend and support to you?
What do you need to process your emotions?

(What’s mentionable is manageable)

This is just a start!

Everyone’s notebook will look different (because we’re all different, and we all need different things.) Once you start yours, you can add to it as you discover new things about yourself. If you have a productivity system that works for you, you can work this into your regular review process so you can keep tabs on how you’re learning and growing.

Chapter 3: NotebookChapter 4: World