On Understanding the Self: Mapping and the Annual Review

Back when I thought I needed to work in cubicles the rest of my life, I did something similar to this with mapping. I believe @kelseyhightower has as well.

I do wish I had @MaturityMapping at my fingertips back then. It might have helped me struggle less. Oh, was I ever fighting myself while trying to figure out how to fit into the market.

I felt I could do many different kinds of jobs, so one of the first things I tried was thinking about keywords to search for. It was goofy and wrong, but it nudged me forward. Again, Maturity Mapping would have helped me add an X axis and focus on areas of strength, but I just didn’t see it at the time.

Lots of boxes and lines, stemming from an element titled "Ben" (e.g.,Technology, Organization, Strategy, Product, Process Improvement). Each item has more items stemming from it (e.g., Process Improvement leads to Theory of Constraints, etc.)

Next thing I tried was thinking in terms of experience — what I had done already and towards what broad category of work. We’re dancing around mapping a bit, but it was pretty close to a skills/experiences inventory of sorts.

Even more boxes and lines. Too many to be legible.

I mapped the question of getting hired as well. When applying to various jobs, I couldn’t project myself as being specialized well enough to fit the right boxes, because I did all kinds of different things. I was (and still am) a generalist. So every application was this hopeless exercise in “fitting,” and I concluded the direct job application game was off the table for me.

Referrals, however, seemed more reasonable. If I had known of Burja Mapping, I might have explored that avenue more deeply.

A Wardley Map, where the customer needs a hiring decision, which depends on an interview process, candidate pool, intuition, and so on. Many more elements.

Eventually I started looking a little deeper than these surface-level problems. With therapy, Feldenkrais, and a hell of a lot of introspection, I mapped myself to find what I needed, what was motivating to me. (This is several years out of date, and it has changed quite a bit).

A Wardley Map, where Self depends on Reduction of harm and suffering and optimizing or circumventing systems. Depends on many other things as well.

I found what was differentiating to me in terms of purpose was the reduction of harm and suffering (hence what you see on this website), as well as my intense interest in system fuck-withery (optimization, circumvention).

Underlying it all was deeper motivation, or as I discovered, something less fun — compulsion. Unconscious systems working in ways I couldn’t understand until I realized they existed.

Tweet from Ben, with a quote from Feldenkrais, "The person identifies himself with other people so utterly that he feels sure those other people would feel the same anxiety in being contradicted or refused, the same loss of face, the same loneliness and alienation as he himself experiences in these circumstances."

I recognized that a dominant trait, empathy, applied as a best practice, is entirely debilitating. Effectively self-harm when universal. Underneath was a compulsion to put others’ every little need first, and my inability to manage it was propping up empathy’s universality.

Turns out the rest of the world DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY, so taking the time to notice and manage the habitual behaviors around that compulsion helped get empathy back into a reasonably normal range — still higher than normal, differentiating, but not self-destructive.

I was really trying to figure out what was uniquely differentiating and valuable and what was NOT helping me at all. So the map helped with that, and I could form an intent, a strategy, as a result. All towards greater effectiveness in seeking that cubicle job. Hah.

So, Wardley Mapping as part of an annual review… There have to be plenty of ways to explore this. Using the timespan of the last year is an enabling constraint for considering what you might project into the NEXT year.

One approach is to take what you accomplished in the last year, and map those “activities” back to the needs that they met, for you and for others. Seems sensible to do an inventory — do these needs feel right? Are there any missing? Any that don’t make sense?

And don’t shy away from negative framing. If you did work to meet a “need” like avoiding conflict or satisfying some compulsion, then I encourage you to put that shit directly on the map and sit with it.

Congratulations, you are acknowledging reality (or at least something closer to it). Now what are you going to do about it?

Introspection is helpful here. What other work/activity/thoughts/feelings occured to meet those needs? And what did THAT need? Explore the depths if you can. More dials and knobs on your life’s control panel to fiddle with.

You can express an intent with respect to the map. What do you want MORE of? What do you want LESS of? What’s missing? What’s wrong? What are other people doing (not to copy, but to consider)?

That’s how I’d approach an annual review with mapping. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

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One response to “On Understanding the Self: Mapping and the Annual Review”

  1. Many thoughts on this as I’ve done the same using capability maturity models (x axis) but my gut says that the Y axis added by map gives an inherent prioritisation. If I throw in CBT and add in my digital twin as ‘self’ (I could also change the customer/user anchor to self/twin (can I remove some bias from my self view?) / partner/ boss etc to form layers that might prove useful. But first and foremost I’ll try and do you the favour of mapping myself. I’ll let you know how I get on 😉


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