Value Mapping

A value is a person’s principle or standard of behavior; one’s judgment of what’s important.

In January 2014, I started journaling as a method to compile my thoughts as a salve for my mind. I was experiencing arguably the most difficult period of my life. As a Fulbright scholar from 2011-2012 to Lithuania with a master’s degree in 2011, a peer-reviewed article published in 2012, Iwas coming off a high as I entered the workforce. I was not ready for the amount of criticism I would face then and I was ill-equipped to handle it.

Therefore, I started journaling as a psychological release. One task I completed was the  The Art of Manliness30-Days to a Better Man series’ exercise in value mapping.

The 5 values I wrote were:

  1. Mastery
  2. Growth
  3. Fidelity
  4. Integrity
  5. Security

Mastery- comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.

While compiling my initial list, mastery was an early favorite. During my freshmen year of undergrad, I wrote a paper on this topic for my interdisciplinary writing course, “The Brain, the Mind, and You.” I argued the oft-cited 10,000 hour rule (or 10-year rule) to attain “mastery” is misleading. Although very few attain the virtuoso skill of Mozart or Michelangelo, there is a difference between “perfection” and “mastery.”

With anything eventually one reaches a point of diminishing returns, where additional investment results in increasingly smaller gains. To me, it therefore seems possible to master many skills in less than 10,000 hours, assuming the time invested is efficient and effective. Case-in-point, the opera singer Gabriel Wyner learned French, Russian, German, and Italian to fluency in a handful of years—not decades—he now blogs about his method at fluent-forever.

Moving forward in my life, I aim to master many skills and gain expertise in, at least, one—a Jack-of-all trades and an expert of one. The Art of Manliness has called this a T-shaped man.

Growth- the process of developing or maturing physically, mentally, or spiritually.

Despite it’s overlap with mastery, I see growth as a broader value. Lisa could attest to the varied nature of my interests (I once became obsessed with vermiculture composting). However, I see this as my greatest strength—it leads me down the path of the “T-shaped” man—because I’m constantly trying to improve myself. I’ve used this to improve mentally, physically, and spiritually—taking up language study in spare moments commuting to work, training for a marathon, learning to meditate and cook.

Fidelity- faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated through continuing loyalty and support.

For me, fidelity applies broadly to my commitment to Lisa, my life goals, and my beliefs. I remain committed to completing my mission in life and to the people I love.

Integrity- the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Speaking from experience, there is nothing worse than working with someone who lacks integrity. I thank my parents for forcing me, kicking and screaming, to attend mass every week during my childhood because it fostered an intrinsic set of morals to live by. I’m far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean I’ve quit striving to improve myself. The one thing I can’t stand is whining. Living in the developing world for a year taught me that nothing, absolutely nothing, I will experience in life is worse than the conditions others must face. Likewise, I’m grateful for having found, and memorized, Rudyard Kipling’s “If” to give me strength next time I find myself in a similar situation—because I undoubtedly will—in the future (my favorite spoken word version is here).

Security- the state of feeling safe, stable, and free from fear or anxiety.

If I’ve come away with just one lesson from Providence, it’s to expect the unexpected. Life is, by its very nature, unpredictable. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. A rally can just as easily turn into a slump.

How about you? What values do you live by?

-Ryan

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