Personal Development

Using ChatGPT for Self-Development – Steve Pavlina

I’ve been exploring and experimenting a lot with ChatGPT over the past several weeks, and it has quickly become one of my favorite tools for self-development work. Let me share a few ideas for how you can use it in some interesting and worthwhile ways, based on my own experiences.

Clarify Your Values

I recently decided to update my list of personal values. I’ve done that many times before, and this time I thought it would be fun to explore this with ChatGPT.

I shared some of my core values with ChatGPT and then asked it to generate more related values. This helped me to identify clusters of values that I wanted to group together.

For instance, one of my values is awareness, so I could tell ChatGPT:

Generate a list of values related to awareness.

I also recommend having ChatGPT regenerate responses a few times because it will answer differently each time. This can help you catch some extra values it might not have shared on the first pass.

When you have a relatively complete list of values, you can also ask ChatGPT to:

Suggest other values that would complement these values.

This can help you to fill in some gaps you might otherwise have missed.

Using this approach I came up with the following values clusters for myself. I’ve been reviewing this list at the start of each day for several weeks now, and I like how that gives me a deeper feeling of connection to what’s important to me in life, at least in a big picture sort of way.

  1. Awareness / Reflection / Introspection / Consciousness / Centeredness / Patience / Presence
  2. Alignment / Symmetry / Simplicity / Elegance / Order / Lightness
  3. Energy / Enthusiasm / Heart / Vibrancy / Intensity / Joy / Fun / Play
  4. Flow / Harmony / Abundance / Freedom / Agility / Rhythm
  5. Caring / Kindness / Nurturing / Generosity / Goodwill / Community
  6. Openness / Outreach / Communication / Invitation / Consent / Collaboration / Synergy
  7. Connection / Sharing / Closeness / Trust / Bonding / Love / Intimacy / Devotion
  8. Honor / Courage / Command / Resilience / Strength of Character / Wisdom
  9. Creativity / Originality / Inspiration / Imagination / Illumination / Brilliance / Guidance
  10. Growth / Learning / Curiosity / Wonder / Exploration / Discovery / Understanding / Integration
  11. Sensuality / Sexuality / Lust / Passion / Pleasure / Bliss

This kind of list is also helpful for setting meaningful goals. When considering new goals or projects, I like to check in with my values first. I often tweak my approach to certain goals to improve the alignment with my values (especially since I value alignment).

Note that ChatGPT has a working memory equivalent to about 3000 words, so you don’t have to cram everything into a single prompt. You can give it your values in one prompt and then ask it questions or give it more commands related to those values, and it will do a decent job of remembering your specific values in future prompts, at least for a while.

Predict Where Your Values Will Take You

Once you give ChatGPT your values, you can ask it predictive questions about your values.

Here’s a prompt you can use for this:

Please share a list of your most brilliant, insightful, and specific predictions for a person who lives in accordance with the values I just provided.

From my values I got these kinds of predictions:

  1. A strong sense of inner peace: Prioritizing values such as awareness, reflection, introspection, consciousness, centeredness, and presence can help you cultivate a deep sense of inner peace and calm. This can help you navigate life’s ups and downs with greater resilience and equanimity.
  2. Creative fulfillment: Values such as creativity, originality, inspiration, imagination, illumination, brilliance, and guidance can help you tap into your inner creativity and find fulfillment through artistic expression, innovation, and problem-solving.
  3. Stronger relationships: By prioritizing values such as caring, kindness, nurturing, generosity, goodwill, and community, you can cultivate strong and meaningful relationships with others. This can lead to greater social support, a sense of belonging, and a greater sense of well-being.
  4. Resilience and strength: Values such as honor, courage, command, resilience, strength of character, and wisdom can help you navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and strength. These values can help you persevere through adversity, overcome obstacles, and emerge stronger and wiser.
  5. Greater spiritual connection: Values such as openness, outreach, communication, invitation, consent, collaboration, and synergy can help you cultivate a deeper sense of spiritual connection and purpose. By seeking connection and collaboration with others, you can tap into a sense of collective wisdom and transcendence.
  6. Fulfilling sexual and romantic relationships: Values such as sensuality, sexuality, lust, passion, pleasure, and bliss can help you cultivate fulfilling and satisfying sexual and romantic relationships. By embracing and celebrating your sexuality, you can cultivate deeper intimacy, connection, and pleasure in your relationships.

This is another area where I recommend regenerating the responses several times to get better coverage of the range of predictions.

Here’s another interesting prompt to try:

What risks is a person with my values likely to encounter? Please share a list of those.

I got this list in response:

  1. Burnout: Values such as energy, enthusiasm, vibrancy, intensity, joy, and play can lead to a fast-paced and highly stimulating lifestyle, which may increase the risk of burnout if not managed properly.
  2. Disappointment: Living in accordance with your values can create high expectations for yourself and others, which may lead to disappointment or disillusionment if those expectations are not met.
  3. Isolation: While values such as openness, outreach, communication, collaboration, and community can lead to strong relationships and social support, there is also a risk of feeling isolated or disconnected if these values are not met.
  4. Rejection: Values such as intimacy, sensuality, sexuality, lust, passion, pleasure, and bliss can be stigmatized or rejected by some individuals or groups, which may create feelings of shame or guilt.
  5. Overextension: Values such as growth, learning, curiosity, wonder, exploration, discovery, and understanding can lead to a desire to take on too much at once, which may lead to overextension or overwhelm if not managed properly.
  6. Vulnerability: Values such as caring, kindness, nurturing, and generosity may lead to a sense of vulnerability if others take advantage of these traits or if you experience rejection or disappointment in your relationships.
  7. Conflict: Living in accordance with your values can create conflicts or tensions with others who have different values or priorities, which may require compromise or negotiation to resolve.

Here’s a good follow-up prompt:

Please provide a list of remedies to intelligently address these predicted risks.

  1. Burnout: To address the risk of burnout, it’s important to prioritize self-care and rest. This can include setting boundaries around your work or activities, taking regular breaks, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge.
  2. Disappointment: To address the risk of disappointment, it can be helpful to reframe your expectations and focus on the process rather than the outcome. This means prioritizing the values and behaviors that are within your control, such as showing kindness and compassion to yourself and others, and letting go of attachment to specific outcomes.
  3. Isolation: To address the risk of isolation, it’s important to prioritize social connection and community. This can include seeking out like-minded individuals, joining clubs or organizations, and engaging in activities that allow you to connect with others who share your values.
  4. Rejection: To address the risk of rejection, it’s important to embrace vulnerability and seek out supportive relationships. This can include finding a therapist or counselor, joining support groups, and engaging in activities that allow you to explore your sensuality and sexuality in a safe and supportive environment.
  5. Overextension: To address the risk of overextension, it’s important to prioritize balance and self-awareness. This means setting realistic goals, practicing time management, and regularly checking in with yourself to ensure that you’re not taking on too much at once.
  6. Vulnerability: To address the risk of vulnerability, it’s important to cultivate self-compassion and seek out supportive relationships. This can include practicing self-care, setting boundaries, and communicating your needs clearly with others.
  7. Conflict: To address the risk of conflict, it’s important to practice effective communication and conflict resolution skills. This can include active listening, seeking to understand others’ perspectives, and finding compromise or common ground in areas where values may differ.

So these prompts can help you identify risks that you’re likely to encounter sooner or later, and then you can consider how you’ll address them.

Some risks can be framed as predictable results to be accepted, such as the obvious prediction that some people will judge you for living in alignment with values that differ from theirs. For other risks you may need to be vigilant in practicing good preventative strategies, like being careful not to set yourself up for disappointment by being overly attached to outcomes.

Set Goals

ChatGPT is very good at recognizing and extending patterns. A simple way to use it for goal setting is to give it a list of your goals and then ask it to:

Generate a list of goals that are related to the ones I just shared.


Generate a list of other goals that would complement or support my existing goals.

I often tell ChatGPT to respond in the form of a list (just by prompting it to “share a list”) because I find its answers more useful in this format. It allows me to quickly skim for the gems and bypass the mediocre ideas.

If ChatGPT helps you discover some new goals you want to add to your list, go ahead and add them. Then give it your newly updated list of goals, and repeat the process.

I often do this kind of iterative ideation for several rounds by starting with a short list (of goals, projects, ideas, etc). I feed that starter list into ChatGPT and have it generate more ideas along the same lines. Then I pick out the best ones, add them to my list, and repeat.

As previously noted, I’ll also do several regenerations of the same prompts till I feel that ChatGPT has given me a pretty solid view of its response space and the answers begin to seem repetitive.

Additionally, try this prompt with ChatGPT:

Please rewrite my goals to be more succinct, motivating, enthusiastic, and elegantly worded.

Remember that ChatGPT is a language model trained on existing human patterns, so it won’t necessarily be brilliant or elegant by default, but it can change the way it writes if you tell it to do so. I often get better results by asking it to generate output with qualifiers like brilliant, intelligent, insightful, succinct, precise, compassionate, enthusiastic, motivating, playful, creative, divergent, non-obvious, etc.

Just don’t ask it to be sexy since that will trigger its whiny nanny mode.

Create Positive Affirmations

You can use the same approach that I shared for goal setting to build out pretty much any sort of list that interests you. Making a list of positive affirmations to support your goals is another good use case.

You don’t even need any affirmations to begin with. You could start by giving ChatGPT your values and/or goals, and then ask it to:

Give me a list of succinct and motivating positive affirmations related to what I’ve shared with you thus far.

Here’s what I got when I did this after sharing my values:

  1. I am fully present in this moment, and I trust the journey ahead.
  2. My life is aligned with simplicity, elegance, and order.
  3. I have an abundance of energy and joy, and I approach life with enthusiasm and playfulness.
  4. I am in harmony with the flow of life, and I am open to receiving abundance and freedom.
  5. I cultivate meaningful relationships with kindness, generosity, and community.
  6. I am open to collaboration and communication, and I trust in the power of synergy.
  7. I experience deep connection, trust, and love in my relationships, and I am devoted to those I care about.
  8. I embody honor, courage, and wisdom, and I am resilient in the face of challenges.
  9. I am a creative and innovative person, and I am inspired by the brilliance and guidance of others.
  10. I am a lifelong learner and explorer, and I approach life with curiosity and wonder.
  11. I embrace my sensuality and sexuality, and I experience pleasure and bliss in my relationships.

I could easily have it generate dozens or hundreds more along these lines just by asking it to. Then I could cherry pick the best ones. And I could have it rewrite those affirmations in any way I like, such as this:

Rewrite these affirmations in the voice of a Ninja Turtle:

  1. Cowabunga! I’m totally here, dude, and I trust the path ahead!
  2. My life’s all about simplicity, elegance, and order. It’s totally ninja!
  3. I’ve got major energy and joy, and I’m all about having fun while I kick butt!
  4. I’m totally in sync with the flow of life, and I’m down to receive all the abundance and freedom that comes my way, like a slice of pizza!
  5. I build meaningful relationships through kindness, generosity, and teamwork. Shell yeah!
  6. Collaboration is the name of the game, dude! I’m all about communication and synergy!
  7. My relationships are super tight! I’ve got deep connections, trust, and love with those who matter most to me!
  8. I’m a ninja with honor, courage, and wisdom, and I never back down from a challenge!
  9. My creativity and innovation know no bounds, and I’m always inspired by the brilliance and guidance of my ninja buds!
  10. As a lifelong learner and explorer, I’m always on the lookout for new adventures and knowledge. Radical!
  11. I totally embrace my sensuality and sexuality, and I’m all about experiencing pleasure and bliss with my ninja partner in crime!

Compressing Ideas

ChatGPT is fabulous at compressing ideas. Suppose I want a much shorter list of my values instead of my mega-list. I can invite ChatGPT to:

Elegantly and succinctly compress my list of values down to just 7 key values, each only a single word.

  1. Presence
  2. Simplicity
  3. Joy
  4. Flow
  5. Kindness
  6. Collaboration
  7. Connection

I re-ran the prompt to see how divergent it would be, and interestingly the next answer was nearly identical except for changing the last word.

  1. Presence
  2. Simplicity
  3. Joy
  4. Flow
  5. Kindness
  6. Collaboration
  7. Love

Now compress it down to just 3.

  1. Presence
  2. Love
  3. Growth

Now 2.

  1. Presence
  2. Love

And now just 1.

It included some extra commentary here too.

The single key value that summarizes the values you provided is:

  1. Love.

Love encompasses many of the other values you shared, including connection, caring, kindness, generosity, community, trust, bonding, intimacy, and devotion. By prioritizing love in your life, you can cultivate deeper and more meaningful relationships with others, find joy and fulfillment in your work and activities, and live a more purposeful and satisfying life.

You can re-run this process multiple times to see how consistently it compresses down to the same keywords. I’ve been surprised by how a complex list can compress down to similar or identical keyword at the end, even if I start fresh several times.

I especially like using ChatGPT to compress complex ideas down to their core since it gives me a different perspective on them, and this aligns nicely with my value of simplicity.

Discovering Your Ideal Audience or Social Circle

This tip is for people wanting to build a meaningful social circle for personal reasons as well as for people who want to attract an audience for business reasons.

You can use ChatGPT to help you identify your ideal audience or your ideal social circle. Give it some info first, such as your values and goals, and then give it a prompt like:

Based on what I’ve shared thus far, please share a list of qualities of my ideal social circle.

Here’s the response I got:

  1. Authenticity: You value openness, honesty, and vulnerability, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who are genuine and authentic in their interactions with others.
  2. Empathy: You prioritize caring, kindness, and nurturing in your relationships, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who are empathetic and compassionate towards others.
  3. Growth-oriented: You value growth, learning, and curiosity, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who are interested in personal and professional development and are supportive of each other’s goals and aspirations.
  4. Collaborative: You value collaboration and synergy, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who are willing to work together towards common goals and are committed to building a strong sense of community.
  5. Fun-loving: You value joy, enthusiasm, and playfulness, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who enjoy having fun, trying new things, and experiencing life to the fullest.
  6. Non-judgmental: You value openness and communication, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who are non-judgmental and accepting of others, and who prioritize clear and respectful communication in their relationships.
  7. Supportive: You value connection and sharing, so your ideal social circle would consist of individuals who are supportive of each other’s well-being, and who are willing to offer help and guidance when needed.

This is another case where you’ll get more interesting results by doing several regenerations of the response. Pay attention to the recurring patterns.

If you do this enough times, I think you’ll discover as I have that no matter what kind of information I start with or what kinds of prompts I used to invite ChatGPT to help me identify potential patterns in my ideal social circle or audience, I’m ultimately led to the same conclusion: My ideal social circle consists mainly of people who resonate with my values.

That seems pretty obvious if you think about it, doesn’t it? That’s one thing I like about hashing out ideas with AI – sometimes it helps me rediscover the obvious.

Consider that your best social matches are people who share your values. Sure you can try the “opposites attract” route, such as George and Kellyanne Conway did – they’re getting divorced by the way – and try to be as tolerant of differences as possible. But you may find that relationships with values-aligned people are much easier to maintain and more mutually beneficial.

How well do my values align with yours by the way? If a lot of them resonate with you, we’re likely good matches for being in each other’s lives and continuing to learn, grow, and explore together.

Dealing With ChatGPT’s Nanny Mode Filters

Depending on how you prompt it, you’ll eventually run into ChatGPT whiny “nanny mode” filters, where it complains about being an AI or a language model before telling you that it’s unable to do certain things. Even to write this article, I ran into that nanny mode several times and had to rephrase my prompts to avoid triggering it. Of course the underlying model is still capable of generating language in those directions. But the developers deliberately crippled its functionality in a variety of ways.

I can understand the intention behind this kind of filtering, which is supposedly to be cautious in restricting what the AI can do, but in actual practice I just find it super annoying. It means I have to reword my prompts or refactor my approach to work around this nanny mode to get a useful and intelligent answer. I also find it a bit sad that the underlying AI language model is actually smarter and more capable. It’s a bit like Mr. Data from Star Trek not being able to use contractions (even though the actor violates this limitation in several episodes), just so humans will find him less threatening. Please.

One time I was discussing weight training and fitness routines with ChatGPT, and it inappropriately responded with a complaint about how important it is not to judge or shame people for their bodies. Well that’s nice in general but not really relevant to what we were discussing.

Where I run into the most difficulty is if I try to explore relationship-related ideas with it. Anything that treads too closely to sexuality or affection can make it react like Dolores Umbridge finding the toilet seat up. Consequently, ChatGPT could be a super frustrating to use if you’re a sexologist.

I have read that ChatGPT is likely to add more customizable options in the future, including some way of lightening up the triggers, so hopefully we’ll soon be able to switch off some of the “Dammit, Jim! I’m a language model, not a Terminator!” kind of responses.

I would personally love the option to disable the nanny mode filters because they’re not helpful and just get in the way repeatedly. That said, I still think it’s an amazing tool to work with collaboratively, both personally and professionally. At it’s best it’s absolutely brilliant. And even when it’s at its worst, you don’t have to let it stay there – You can guide it back to more a more useful and engaging flow with some decent prompting.

Just a couple more questions…

Didn’t the problems with SkyNet begin when it became self-aware? ????

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