United America, Core Value 5: Self-reliance & individualism

January 31, 2014

By: Wayne Baker

Originally posted on Our Values

The Third Metric—do you know about it?

The Third Metric is a social movement created by Arianna Huffington that’s focused on well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. It’s a focus beyond the first two metrics of success: money and power. I was in New York City yesterday, a guest speaker at one of their events. My topic was reciprocity, and I emphasized the importance of giving and asking for help.

Which do you think is more difficult: giving help to others or asking for help?

After 14 years of using the Reciprocity Ring to help groups practice reciprocity, I’ve concluded that giving is the easy part. Most people are willing to help others. The difficulty is asking for help. One reason has to do with one of the 10 core values documented in my new book, United America: self-reliance and individualism. Most Americans have so internalized this value that it’s hard to ask for what one needs.

Today, we are looking at Core Value 5: “Self-reliance & individualism” means “reliance on oneself; independence; emphasis on individual strengths and accomplishments.”

Of course, there are some people who have no trouble asking for what they want and they don’t give back. Adam Grant calls them “takers” in his best-seller, Give & Take. For most people, however, asking for help is hard to do. This fact illustrates the double-edged nature of values. Self-reliance is an admirable American characteristic. But taken too far, it becomes a liability.

This week, we talked about the core values of respect for others, symbolic patriotism, freedom, security, and now self-reliance. We’ll continue next week, focusing on the other five values that make up America’s 10 core values.

I typically end each column with two or three questions. Today, I’ll overcome my own reticence to ask for help and make two requests.

Would you tell your friends and family about the free resources related to United America? These include a downloadable poster of the 10 core values and videos of fellow Americans talking values.

One purpose of the book and resources is to stimulate civil dialog. Would you make a comment today and tell fellow OurValues.org readers idea you have for making that happen?