I loved to read, and cut a large swath through the books that kids read at that age. My favorites included Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Michael Crichton, T.H. White, Isaac Asimov, and so on. Clever swashbuckling protagonists swept up in grand adventures - even writing these authors' names down makes me want to pick up their books. I used to have these vivid action-adventure dreams with my version of Tolkien's Fellowship, and wake up sad that I had to leave my friends and they were fading from my memory. But if you had given me at that time a list of values to force-rank, you might have seen "intelligence" or "analytical thinking" up there but "courage" would be in the bottom half.
I love that the sorting hat "takes your choice into consideration." Because courage demands choice, it requires it, and choice, at some level, demands courage. All values are choiceful but being brave especially so. Courage implies fear and the willing of self to choose in the face of fear.
When I was a teenager, I didn't have it in me yet to be brave, because my capacity to choose wasn't fully developed. Most young people have sociopathic tendencies because they haven't had the life experiences to develop empathy - to understand why their parents are worried, to see that their peers are as early in their maturity as they are themselves, to be thoughtful of other people and feel with them.
But as our identities are formed and we get to shape our values, we get to choose whether we will be Gryffindor, whether we will be brave. And sometimes it's no easier for grown adults than it is for Harry Potter. Many of us spend a lot of time in large organizations with a political layer, and we feel constrained by what is expected of us. We look to our leaders for support, they look to their leaders, and it's turtles all the way up and mass disillusionment. Even the guy at the top feels constrained - by a board, activist shareholders, a large diverse body of employees, the unsympathetic market, and their own probably-feeling-neglected family.
Philip Zimbardo at Stanford (yes, of the Stanford Prison Experiment) has sought to redeem himself with his later research. I've been very interested in his Heroic Imagination Project, which focuses on the psychology of everyday heroism and how to get people to think of themselves as a hero. Your identity shapes your decisions - just like when you remind Asian women they are Asian, they do better on math tests, but if you remind them of their gender, they do worse. You have to believe you have the potential to be a hero in order to be a hero, you have to be able to envision that narrative of yourself - "I am the kind of person who does this."
So how do we be grown-ups then, will-fully make choices every day that shape the world around us? It's probably not as easy as whispering "Gryffindor" to the Sorting Hat... but maybe that's not a bad start.