Stephen R. Covey often used an analogy when teaching about these two concepts. The analogy is so practical it always made perfect sense to me. So without further ado I present, the value map:
Imagine for a moment that you wanted to plan a trip, say from Las Vegas to Chicago. All of us can likely visualize the topology of the journey: out of the desert, over the Rocky Mountains, across the Great Plains, across the Mississippi River, and into the sprawling city of Chicago. For those of us that have never made the journey, a useful item to have would be a map. All the roads would be marked, gas stations labeled, rest stops noted, and hotels for spending the night highlighted. You begin driving. About 10 hours into the journey you are looking out the window and see a sign that says Boise, ID, 35 miles. Setting the way back clock to Middle School, you remember that Idaho is nowhere near Illinois on the map. Looking at your map, however, you followed it perfectly. What happened? The obvious answer is that you have the wrong map.
There are several observations that can be made from this example.
- While you may continue following the map perfectly, continuing on the course you are on will not take you from Las Vegas to Chicago. You are heading North instead of West. All of the effort and skillfulness you apply in doing so will not change this.
- The terrain that you are traversing will not shift to match your desire, no matter how much you may wish it to. In other words, the earth between Las Vegas and Chicago today will be the same earth tomorrow, regardless of how badly you wished that the earth between Las Vegas and Boise were that earth.
- Once in Boise, even if you had the map from Las Vegas to Chicago, it would be useless to you. You need a new map. That map must both say that it is from Boise to Chicago AND be an accurate representation of the terrain between them.
The terrain of life represents truth. Truth is unchanging. Truth does not conform to our perception of it. You may decide in your mind that the brick wall in the middle of the road that you are rushing toward in your brand new sports car is not really there, but that does not mean that when you arrive where it is, that insurance premium-altering things will not happen simply because you disbelieved. The only sure ways to interface with truth is to conform to it or break yourself against it. This is where values come into play.
Values are the roadmaps of our lives. They guide us along the route we will take as we journey. If they are based on truth, we are able to successfully navigate the twists and turns of life. If not, we end up in Boise. Values do NOT have to be based on truth. For example, some in society would tell us that your image determines who you are. This is not true, however. Your image can determine how you are perceived, however, your values determine who you are because they guide your actions. Tell me what a man does when no one is looking and I will tell you what he values. Or, to quote the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”
This is where we get to the importance of understanding ourselves, and in particular, how we view the world. If our core values are NOT based on truth (ie. are based on faulty assumptions), then our map will not lead us to our goal and we will be constantly frustrated as we try to accomplish things. If, on the other hand, we use a map that is in alignment with the terrain of our lives and base our journey on that, we can progress toward whatever goal we choose. One of the things that a Life Coach can help with is identifying the faulty assumptions in our value system so that, with some correction, our internal maps match the terrain of our lives. Then, as we decide on a destination, they can help us to plot a course, know where we can find supplies like gas, food, and lodging along the way, and help us remain on the path during our journey.
How accurately does your map reflect the terrain of your life? When was the last time you checked?
– Josh Walles
The Mindful Life Coach