Skip to main content
165: Real Resolutions—Finding and Following Your Values

You are listening to Who Cares About Men's Health?:

165: Real Resolutions—Finding and Following Your Values

Jan 02, 2024

The Who Cares Guys are starting the New Year with a different kind of resolution, inspired by an intriguing Harvard Business Review article on personal values. Instead of the usual physical goals, they’re focusing on identifying and living by their core values. Discover how this approach can provide a more lasting and personal motivation than the conventional New Year's push.

    This content was originally produced for audio. Certain elements such as tone, sound effects, and music, may not fully capture the intended experience in textual representation. Therefore, the following transcription has been modified for clarity. We recognize not everyone can access the audio podcast. However, for those who can, we encourage subscribing and listening to the original content for a more engaging and immersive experience.

    All thoughts and opinions expressed by hosts and guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views held by the institutions with which they are affiliated.


    Scot: All right, guys. It's time for the mandatory New Year's show. It seems like if you do a podcast or anything, you have to do one of these shows, right?

    Troy: That's right.

    Mitch: Yep, you do.

    Scot: But I know we all struggle with it because we've talked about resolutions before and that seems to be the cliché thing. I mean, there's even kind of a movement. It seems like people aren't into resolutions. So we always try to think of a new way to think perhaps as you head into your New Year, come up with something a little bit different, and we did it again. So we're going to see how this plays out. I mean, I think we did it.

    This is "Who Cares About Men's Health," with information, inspiration, and a different interpretation of men's health. I bring the BS. My name is Scot. The MD to my BS is Dr. Troy Madsen.

    Troy: Hey, Scot. What does MD stand for? Make decisions. That's what I've been told. Makes decisions. My decision. Ready for the MD.

    Scot: Here's a "Who Cares About Men's Health" convert, it's Producer Mitch.

    Mitch: Hey, there.

    Scot: All right. So I thought for this New Year's what we could do on the show, instead of talking about resolutions, is to take a step back and look at a bigger picture. So rather than look at the specific things we're going to do this year, which tend to be the resolutions, "I'm going to lose five pounds," "I'm going to . . ." I don't know. What are some other resolutions people come up with? Why can I only come up with one? There are so many.

    Troy: I can tell you all the ones I've come up with that I haven't done. Let's see. Write a book. Yeah, what else?

    Mitch: Work out more. Go to the gym more.

    Troy: Work out more. Exactly.

    Scot: Sure. All right. So we're going to examine the bigger picture, which is what do you value? And then based on those, identify specific things you can do this year to live that value.

    So this is a concept I've been thinking a lot about lately, and through some of the books I've been reading, I've kind of come to this. The values are things in our lives that are important to us. And the things we do in our day-to-day can either help us achieve and realize the things that are important to us, or they can distract us from the things that are important to us.

    And I think a lot of times we get caught so much up on, "Hey, I want to do this one specific thing," and then we fail and then we're like, "Well, why did we fail?" Well, maybe we didn't value it in the first place. Maybe we didn't . . .

    Mitch: Oh, sure.

    Scot: So maybe this isn't something we really do care about. So by taking a step back, hopefully, maybe we can get some better steps this year and actually accomplish the things we want to accomplish.

    Some other interesting things about values. When your life matches your values, it tends to make you feel good. If your life doesn't match your values, then you tend to feel out of alignment and it can cause unhappiness and mental health issues.

    When we know what's important to us, it helps us make better decisions to honor those values, right? When you've got this lens that you're wearing and you know what you value, then when a decision comes to you, you can just go, "Well, does this help me get closer to my value?" And if the answer is no, then pretty easy decision. And if you're struggling to do those things, it might be a sign you need to reevaluate if that is actually something you value.

    So this is an article that I would recommend everybody go check out at some point. And we're going to discuss about one aspect of this. This is based on a Harvard Business Review article called "How to Find, Define, and Use Your Values."

    So it's three steps. The first is to find your values. And they warn that this could take time and could actually require sitting down and thinking and writing.

    The second step is to define your values. What does that value mean to you? And that's the part we're going to focus on today. You'll get an idea of what I'm talking about in a second. But I feel that this is probably where a lot of people fail.

    And then the third is you use those values, because they help you make decisions and they dictate what you spend your time on.

    So today's show, each one of us is going to come up with a value. What is something we value? And then maybe we can get into what steps we might take to live those values, but where I want to spend the conversation is making sure that we've well-defined these values.

    I'm going to go ahead and start, and I'll use an example to explain the definition. So I value my physical health. But that's pretty broad, right? What does that mean to me?

    Well, it's meant different things in my life, actually. At one point, it may have meant I want to look good, I want to look healthy and muscular and lean, and I want to be able to play sports or whatever. That might be one person's very specific personal definition of what physical health means.

    But for me, what does it mean now? It means something different. And this has been an evolution.

    So I've been blessed with pretty good health without really having to do much through my genetics. I've watched other people around me struggle with their health issues, and I don't want to do that. And we know from this podcast that if you exercise, that can help stave off disease and it can help you do the things you want to continue to do in your life.

    So I look at my physical health, valuing it now not in terms of how it physically makes me look, although that would be a nice side effect, or not that it's a means to lose weight necessarily, because that's not necessarily something that I need to do, but I know that physical exercise, like strength training, can help prevent disease. It can help me when I get older be more mobile. And those are the things that I'm focusing on. See how the definition really is important?

    The me before would do all-out, really hard, intense sets. I would only focus on the exercises that were considered exercises that build muscle. The new me still focuses on some of those bigger exercises, but he also looks at, "What is this doing to my day-to-day?"

    I remember when I used to exercise those big, huge, heavy lifts, I could barely bend down and weed the garden the next day. What am I doing? How is this helping me in my life?

    Or you neglect those little small muscles that we don't use in our day-to-day that actually can make a big difference in how you move through the world not only physically, but there are a lot of these small muscles that can cause problems later in your life with your shoulder or your lower back.

    So that's the example of how to define that.

    I think what I'm going to do is I'm going to continue to focus on my strength training. And I've been pretty consistent the past few months with twice a week. So I'm going to build on that.

    I think another problem with New Year's resolutions is we try to become a person we never have been before all of a sudden on January 1st. I'm going to take what I've built and I'm going to then figure out how can I continue to live that value of what physical health means to me.

    And that means I'm going to add in, every session, an exercise that works maybe one of those smaller or more neglected muscles that doesn't get worked that I know from what I've read and I watch Instagram Reels and those sorts of things, that will make a difference in back pain or my shoulder functionality later in life or what have you, hip tightness, whatever.

    So there's a little example. What do you guys think?

    Troy: I like it. And I like too that you're really getting at the core in terms of why do I want to do this? So often we just set these goals, and I think a lot of times we set them because other people set them and we say, "Well, I'm not going to eat sweets after January 1st because that seems like a good thing," without really thinking why we're going to do it.

    And it's interesting you brought this idea of becoming a new person on January 1st. I don't know if I have ever known anyone who has done that, who has become a new person on January 1st. Do you guys?

    Mitch: No.

    Troy: In terms of just a huge goal and they actually did it and they are a new person? I've never seen it happen.

    Mitch: Well, I've met people that had a big life change, right? It's not some random day that you just suddenly decide to be a new person. Something has to really drive you to do that. You actually need to really care and whatever. For me, a lot of times . . .

    Troy: Like Rob's heart attack.

    Mitch: Yeah.

    Troy: He became a new person because of that.

    Mitch: He kind of had to, yeah.

    Troy: I guess if the heart attack happened on January 1st, you'd become a new person because of it.

    Mitch: Sure.

    Troy: In terms of the whole new person thing, I've never seen it happen. I've wanted to do that and I've wanted to be that new person on January 1st, but it never happens.

    Scot: Yeah. I want to circle back around, Troy, because I think you said something and then you moved on to the new person, which I think is an important point, but this notion that, "I'm going to give up sweets," and not really thinking, "Well, to what end?" What are we trying to accomplish?

    Again, by defining what that value means to me, then if sweets come around, I'm like, "Well, I know . . ." We all don't just have one value, but I know what my goals are with physical fitness and physical health. I'm not trying to look like a bodybuilder, so when the sweet comes around, I just have to figure out a way, "How do I do that in moderation?" It's not going to hurt me. It's not going to take me over the edge, right?

    So that's how really defining those values and thinking about why you're doing what you're doing is, I think, super important, and I think why this exercise is important.

    Troy: Exactly. Rather than just having a list of things, just kind of . . .

    Scot: That everybody does.

    Troy: That everybody does.

    Scot: Everybody does the same thing every year. "I'm going to have better relationship with my family." Well, what does that mean to you?

    Mitch: And why?

    Scot: Yeah.

    Troy: And why? That's a great point.

    Scot: Yeah, define that, and then figure out the why that's important to you.

    Troy: Yeah. Or "I'm going to exercise every day." Okay. Why?

    Scot: Why? Yeah.

    Troy: What's the endpoint here? What's the goal?

    Scot: Exactly.

    Troy: There are going to be so many times you really need to dig deep and you really need to know, "Why am I doing this?" And if it's just because, "Well, I said on December 31st I was going to do it," it's probably not going to hold up.

    Scot: Yeah. And for my goal, for what I want to try to accomplish, what I value, my physical health, I've learned through this podcast that a couple times a week of strength training for 45 minutes is adequate to achieve the goal I want to achieve.

    Mitch, what are you going to value this year?

    Mitch: Oh. So this is embarrassing. The new thing that happened to me recently is there is a filter on TikTok. I know you guys aren't on TikTok, but basically these filters will put fun things on your face or change whatever. And one of the filters was . . . Actually, there have been a couple of dermatologists who have come forward saying that it's actually pretty accurate, but it ages your face by one year for every second that it plays and you get to watch yourself get older.

    And it has been stuck in the back of my head. I'm like, "Eh, let's see what it's like." No. It has been making me think about aging, about mortality, about what I'm going to be like when I'm in my 50s, 60s, 70s, and until I pass on. And from a freaking TikTok filter, it has become this new value that I have, where it is I want to make sure that I am aging well.

    Scot: Okay. So now let's focus in on the defining that part, because this started with a filter, with physical facial appearance, right?

    Mitch: Yes.

    Scot: But you have defined it that it's more about physical for you than facial appearance? Or how do you define that?

    Mitch: Well, I guess the facial was more just it put in very real terms, "You are going to get older."

    Scot: The catalyst for the rest of this thought.

    Mitch: Yeah. So it's not necessarily that I want to look young forever, but I'm going to wear sunscreen because I don't want to have all these cancers and stuff when I'm older. I'm going to eat better now, not necessarily because I want to be thin, but because, man, in 20 years, it's going to add up. Little small decisions that I make now have a chance to really impact my future.

    Troy: See, it would be really cool if that filter had various variables you could select. Exactly like you said, the sunscreen, like, "Okay. This is what you're going to look like if you don't wear sunscreen. This is what you're going to look like if you're a healthy weight. This is what you're going to look like if you exercise." I don't know. It would be interesting. "This is what you're going to look like if you use meth." Those kinds of things. That would be . . .

    Scot: Wow.

    Troy: Well, you've seen those faces of meth things.

    Mitch: I sure have.

    Troy: I mean, the effects are dramatic, quite honestly. But I just point that out to talk about healthy habits. Or smoking. "This is what you're going to look like if you smoke," and things like that. It would be very motivating to even see that, talking about healthy aging, and see, "These are the various effects on aging."

    I think for me, working in the ER, it's remarkable. And just working in healthcare in general, I'll see 90-something-year-olds sometimes and I don't really even register their age. And then as I'm talking to them, I look and I say, "Oh my goodness, you're 96 years old?" It's unbelievable some of these crazy healthy 90-plus-year-olds I see, and I'm just like, "I hope I'm like you. How do you do it? What do you do?" It's just remarkable to see them.

    And then on the other hand, you see some people in their 50s and you look and you say, "Oh, wow. You're 50? You're 55?" So just so many factors influence that aging.

    And like you said, it's a great goal to say, "I want to age healthily. I don't want to just be the 20-something-year-old, ripped, and look great, and then in 20 years everything goes downhill. I want to have sustainable habits that carry me into my 70s, 80s, and even 90s."

    Scot: I feel like maybe you need to define it a little bit more, though.

    Mitch: Okay.

    Scot: I don't know. Maybe. It still might be a little broad. What do you think?

    Mitch: So you're saying that valuing successful aging is a really big . . .

    Scot: Maybe. I don't know.

    Mitch: Yeah. Okay.

    Scot: It seems big to me.

    Troy: It's pretty all-encompassing.

    Mitch: Sure.

    Scot: When you were talking about all the things you would have to do to achieve that, that all of a sudden started overwhelming me. I'm like, "Oh, that's a good one. I'm going to adopt that." And then I'm like, "Whoa." I mean, you were talking about then you've got to start watching what you eat. Well, to what extent?

    Mitch: Sure.

    Scot: Maybe what that is then is you have that value, you have those glasses, and then you just go, "Well, I'm going to look for the four or five most impactful things I can do to help me age healthy."

    Mitch: So, for me, I guess it's more that it's not necessarily a plan, which is something I do need to work on and define, but it is very much kind of a baseline motivation that has shown up.

    So, as I think about my day-to-day decisions about my health, what I'm going to eat, when do I go to bed, do I go and socialize with friends, etc., it's very much, "You need to make sure you're doing this. You need to make sure you're doing this so you can be one of those 90-year-olds that Troy sees that doesn't look a day over 50."

    Scot: And that has a strong social network. That's the investment.

    Mitch: Yes.

    Scot: The successful aging thing really resonates with me too a lot. And then that made me think about my goal, like, "Hmm, flexibility, that's something you start losing when you get a little bit older, or balance." Then what are the exercises I can do to ensure that, as I get older and age, I don't lose those abilities so I can continue to move around and do the things I want to do?

    Mitch: Yes. And I have found over the last month that when I am having those moments where I'm like, "Ugh, I don't want to eat another salad. Salads are terrible," my brain is like, "Hey, you should probably do this because you want to make sure you don't get diabetes. You want to make sure that you have the micronutrients you need to age well."

    And so rather than like, "Oh, I ought to do this. Oh, this should be a value of mine. Oh, this should be whatever," it's like, "No. We're just going to do this because it's going to be good for us in the long term."

    Scot: And this is good too because you planted that flag in the sand, right? You're like, "This is what I want to . . ." And then these things evolve. The Harvard Business Review article says the things you value will evolve, right?

    Mitch: Oh, sure.

    Scot: But how can you evolve it if you don't have a starting point? You've already laid down a starting point, so that's great. I like it.

    Troy: Yeah, I like it too. And it is hard to really pull specifics from that, but as a guiding principle, it really makes sense in terms of so many decisions. As you're looking at your career . . .

    Scot: Yeah. Do you have anything to say about that, Troy?

    Troy: It sure hits close to home, doesn't it? We haven't talked about it on the show, but this last year has been quite an adventure. I've made some pretty significant career decisions, but it was kind of with that in mind. As I saw more and more data come out on shift work and nights and the cancer risk and what that does to you, and just seeing colleagues as well, just the effects that it has . . . Again, I thought about those 90-something-year-olds I see and I thought, "Wow. I don't . . ."

    Scot: You mean none of them are ex-ER docs that worked until they were 89?

    Troy: Nope. They were certainly not.

    Scot: What a stressful job.

    Troy: Yeah, I'd love to see an ER doc in their 80s or even 70s. It's a hard job. But anyway, I think as a guiding principle, it really makes sense when you have those big decisions or even some of the smaller decisions or some of the goals you make to keep that in mind in that longitudinal perspective with aging and long-term health.

    Scot: Right. All right, Troy. What is it that you want to value this year?

    Troy: This is so tough. I have a list of about seven or eight things because I didn't know how much time we were going to talk about this. But I just have to pick one.

    Scot: Let me say the Harvard Business Review article said that you should come up with three or four. So we just came up with one for time, for the show, but it probably would not be unusual for a listener who tries this exercise to come up with a whole bunch, even more than that, and then you'd want to pare that down to three or four.

    Troy: Yeah, exactly. The one I'm pulling from this list that I really want to focus on more is I really admire people who are optimistic, who have a very positive outlook, and who are just able to kind of roll with the punches.

    I think too often sometimes I'm kind of a pessimist. I like to say I'm a realist or I'm a pragmatist, but sometimes that translates more to pessimism, expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Or if it's anything better than the worst, hey, at least it's not that. I would like to be having a more positive, optimistic outlook.

    And along with that, I find that often those people tend to roll with the punches. They're very patient. Those are things I value. They're attributes I wish I had more of.

    How I translate that into an actual New Year's resolution, I'm not quite sure. I mean, the thought I've had with that value in mind is to be more aware, I think, of my thoughts and my thought processes. And when I am thinking negative thoughts, to try and replace it with a positive thought. It sounds kind of silly and simplistic. I don't know if it's too specific or not specific enough, or just too . . . Maybe there's something more I should incorporate in terms of a habit.

    I have tried more journaling and really thinking in terms of gratitude in my journaling, so I've tried to focus more on gratitude. But I think something more along the lines of positivity and optimism. Maybe it just starts with being more self-aware of my thought processes and thinking more in terms of those kind of positive things, optimism, not expecting the worst, but thinking, "Hey, this could be great and it's going to be great," rather than thinking, "Well, this is what could happen. Let's hope that doesn't happen, and I hope it's a little better than that."

    So that's kind of where I'm trying to go with this.

    Scot: What does optimism mean to you then specifically? Is it how you're going to interact with other people? Is it going to be more of an internal thought process for yourself? What does that look like?

    Troy: I think both. I think definitely the internal thought process in terms of just how I look at the future. What does this next year hold? Or what do I expect from this experience?

    Travel, for instance. I'm always thinking . . . not always, but sometimes when I travel, I'm like, "This could go wrong, this could go wrong, this could go wrong."

    Mitch: Oh, wow.

    Troy: "We've got to be prepared for all these things." And maybe it's my background as an ER doctor. I don't know. Twenty years of emergency medicine, you are always prepared for the worst. I can't necessarily blame that.

    But I did feel like before I started training in emergency medicine, I didn't take kind of that look that maybe I do as much now where I'm always kind of expecting the worst and preparing for it.

    And then certainly I think in terms of interactions with others as well. I think as a result of that, with that internal process, then being able to relay a higher level of optimism to others and projecting that.

    Mitch: One of the exercises actually that . . . I always thought I was a really, really positive person, and then when I started therapy, one of the things that they had me do at the start was one of those little handheld tally clickers. It was like a little click-click that you have at sports games or whatever as they're counting people coming in. I got one of those and any time I had a not-so-positive thought, I clicked it. And you did it through a day and you kept a journal for a week just to see how often . . .

    Scot: Oh, geez.

    Mitch: Yeah. And honestly, it was . . .

    Scot: What was your number?

    Mitch: I don't have it. It was a whole lot more than I thought it was, though.

    Scot: It had three digits and he reset it.

    Mitch: Right? Yeah. But that was . . .

    Scot: "I'm back on zero again."

    Troy: "Here we go."

    Mitch: But that was really, for me at least, a first step to being like, "I am not just a realist. I am not just pessimistic. I really am thinking some negative thoughts through the day."

    And it was a first step to being more self-aware and understanding how my brain works and working on . . . Then I take the steps of, "What do I do next and how do I fix that?"

    Troy: I like that. See, that's what I need. And I'm really forming this just as we talk here. But as I was writing down my values, this is the one that really jumped out at me that I want to focus on and I wanted to talk about, but I don't know how to implement it. And maybe something very practical like that is a great starting point.

    Scot: Just creating awareness.

    Troy: Yeah, something to create . . . That's what I need, is more awareness. And that's the starting point, I think.

    Scot: Yeah. I hear that and this is obviously your value and how you're going to live it is up to you, but I hear you talking and I'm just like, "Well, I don't know if I want this guy that's always coming at me with, 'Well, things are going to work out okay anyway.'" Maybe the step forward is just to limit the negative thoughts and not necessarily always have to put the positive spin on them. I don't know.

    Troy: That's true.

    Scot: I'd imagine as you go through this process, you will figure that out maybe, how it works for you.

    Troy: So this is what's going to happen in a month. You're just going to hate me. I'm just going to be like, "Everything is just super great, Scot."

    Mitch: So the exercise with the clicker and everything was less, "Hey, I'm going to replace all my negativity with positivity." It was more slowing the process down enough to even be aware that you are thinking negatively, that you are assuming the worst, that you're whatever.

    A lot of times, we're kind of on autopilot, especially if you're working and you're busy with all these things. You're not thinking about how you're thinking, right?

    And so because of that, the first step was slowing it down a little bit. "Is this thought useful or not so useful?" is the terminology they use. And that was a little better than becoming a super positive, happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine.

    Troy: That's right. And to be clear, I don't want to be a super positive, happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine. I don't think I could be. It's not me.

    Scot: Right. Yeah.

    Troy: It's not who I am. I don't think we can just change the nature of who we are. By nature, I tend to . . . And it's probably how I've been able to get to where I am, because I definitely have focused on, "I don't want to do that. I don't want this outcome. I need to be prepared so that outcome doesn't happen." Maybe sometimes that's been detrimental to do that, but it's just not . . . Yeah, I don't think we can be something we're not.

    But I think, like you said, Mitch, maybe just being more aware of our thought processes and kind of how we're framing things and trying to at least just move away from the negative, that's probably a really great place to start.

    And again, I like the clicker idea. I'm open if anyone else has ideas in terms of just reducing kind of the negative thoughts and improving self-awareness.

    Scot: Another thought. And again, you have to do you. I'm kind of the same way. I try to anticipate all the different outcomes, and then it's exhausting, right?

    Troy: It is. It's exhausting and sometimes it's paralyzing. It leads you not to act. Again, a simple example of travel. I'm like, "How in the world could I ever possibly take an airplane flight with our 15-month-old? How could I possibly?" I'm thinking everything that could go wrong. And then it paralyzes you to where it's like, "I don't want to do that."

    Scot: Something that has helped me, and I'm sure you do this so I feel silly even saying it, but when I have that thought, I'm like, "All right. Well, what would be the worst-case scenario if I forgot to take this on this trip?" And sometimes those things that I think are negative, that could be really bad, really just aren't that big of a deal. "Well, I guess I'd go to Walgreens and get a new one," or whatever. And I'm sure you probably do that.

    Or the other kind of question I'll ask myself is . . . I heard a Malcolm Gladwell book, and he talked about how humans are terrible at predicting the future. We can come up with 10 different ways something could go wrong. Guess what? It's going to be the 11th you never thought of anyway. So you just deal with what you've got to deal with.

    I think you still have to be vigilant for the major things, but a lot of these little micro things I think we think of, first of all, are they that big of a deal? Second of all, what's the likelihood they're going to happen? And then don't beat yourself up if they do. "Well, I knew this was going to happen." I do that a lot. I don't know if that'll be helpful or not, Troy.

    Troy: It is helpful. Again, it's something I'm still trying to figure out in terms of just practical implementation and how to do it. So maybe I'm still at that phase of just saying, "Hey, this is what I value. I've got X number of days until January 1st to implement this."

    Scot: Well, to be clear, we're not putting a deadline on this. I think instead of thinking of resolutions this year, let's think of the things we value this year, and then spend the year trying to figure out how we are going to live those values.

    Troy: I like that.

    Scot: How are we going to fulfill those values? I think that's what I really was hoping we'd get from this show.

    Troy: Oh, I like that. I really like that. At least go into the New Year saying, "I value this, and I'm going to take this year to think, 'How can I better reflect that value or implement that value?'"

    Scot: Right. So instead of thinking about resolutions, think about values. That's what I was getting at.

    So instead of resolutions this year, think about what the things are you value. Use that Harvard Business Review article, and we'll link it in the transcript, to help guide you through this process. And then we're going to issue the challenge to you. Identify what you value, and then figure out what you can do to start living through that value. That's our challenge to you.

    If you would like to share what yours are, or if you have any insights you'd like to share with any of us about ours, you can reach out to us at

    Thanks for listening, and thanks for caring about men's health.

    Connect with 'Who Cares About Men's Health'