This is Hubris: 7 March 2021 edition. In this issue I want to talk about why it’s always a good time for a values assessment.
Let’s be honest: my job is a job. A lot of people think that being a writer involves dreamily lounging around, drinking copious amounts of coffee and/or alcohol, and waiting for some muse to strike. There’s a perception that my publishing niche is literally all fun and games. In truth, it’s a discipline. It’s grinding out word count whether you feel inspired to write or not. You have to deal with taxes. I spend more time on marketing and accounting than I do actually writing.
While I enjoy what I do, and I’m grateful that I’m able to make a modest living doing it, I don’t necessarily feel that I’m making any great contribution to the world. I’m not curing cancer or brokering peace in the Middle East over here. Again, that doesn’t mean that what I do isn’t a passion or a calling, it just means that I know where this fits in the grand scheme of things. So I needed to step back and reassess how what I do fits with my values, so I can make peace with the fact that I’m not exactly saving the world.
The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) have a Values Worksheet that can be downloaded from their website for free. Alternately, you can skip that and create your own based on the blog article. Granted, the instructions on how to use this worksheet are vague. They reference their book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life (affiliate link), which I already own and have read, but I didn’t use it to put together my own assessment. You can also download the free book listed at the bottom of the article. I just looked at what that had on the blog post, and brainstormed based on that.
To cover all of the legal bases, I should note that I have no affiliation with Millburn and Nicodemus, and they’re not sponsoring this post. I saw a tool that looked like it might help me solve my problem, and used it. That’s the extent of it.
There are 5 foundational values defined by Millburn and Nicodemus. They feel that these values are universal to everyone, but invite you to add your own. To keep things simple, I’m using theirs as-is, but defining them in the context of my life. They are:
- Contribution: To feel as though the work I do has meaning, and that I’m making a difference in the world. This is what I’m currently struggling with. If I can define what my problem is here, I’ll know what I’m solving for.
- Creativity: I take pride in being able to express myself as a writer. My success in business come from finding resource-effective ways of doing things. The world would be a better place if more people had critical thinking and problem solving skills.
- Growth: Education is important to me, and I strive to always be learning. Ethics are equally important, and I work at being a better person. I’m also looking for opportunities to do the things that I want to do.
- Health: Both physical and mental health take on greater importance as I age. These are things that I took for granted when I was younger. I almost think this is ur-foundational, because it affects my ability to live the other four values.
- Relationships: This includes my relationship with myself, my friendships, how I interact with the public, and my marriage. I struggle with this because I am by nature an introvert, but grew up being told that was wrong and that I needed to be more outgoing.
It’s Always a Good Time for a Values Assessment
In defining my take on these foundational values, I figured out two things. First, that I already engaged with each of then, and have working definitions regarding how they fit into my life. I am comfortable with three of them (creativity, growth, health), and am actively working on getting to a better place with the other two (contribution, relationships).
Second, my dissatisfaction with the contribution is based at least partially on its relationship to the other foundational values. This is more easily explained if I break it into bullet points:
- Creativity: Because this is my job, I don’t always get to create what I want. I need to prioritize what will sell. Now I’m considering whether there’s a secondary creative outlet I could take up that makes me feel like I’m making a contribution.
- Growth: My books can be used to educate people. While that’s not my growth, nothing says the value can’t be about the growth of others. At the very least people are reading, and that’s a good thing. I need to see how the company can better support literacy.
- Health: Looking again at how this value can be used to help other people, I need to look into ways my publishing niche can be used to foster better mental health. Tying into relationships, I can better share how my job works around my health limitations.
- Relationships: There are a balance between being a contented recluse and interacting with the public. A lot of this has to do with managing my physical and mental health. Better communicating why I’m “stand-offish” might help.
This is the first of a four-part series. Next week I’ll talk about what I’ve defined as my personal values, what Millburn and Nicodemus call Structural Values. Hopefully these articles will be helpful to you as well, and encourage you to conduct your own values assessment.