An Alternate Grammar (for Fulfillment)

If the difference between considering oneself to be a person (a “personhood” orientation) or considering oneself to be a “connected self” (more “a Way of Unfolding Life” — see prior post) has a marked impact on the chances for living a fulfilling and productive life, does one think differently or perceive differently from each perspective?


In fact, they live in different worlds.

The different worlds of persons and connected selves operate against the background of different grammars. These grammars give a different world to which to relate, different spheres of appropriate actions, different kinds of outcomes, and a different mood while engaging in behalf of the next outcome. As such, it can be said that a fundamental key to fulfilling one’s life and to making accomplishment natural is to switch the grammar in which one lives.

As mentioned in my last post, the grammar underlying “personhood” is a subject (as a thing) does a verb (as an action) to an object (another thing) adverbially (with a particular flavor of action). Several unannounced features go along with this grammar. People are seen as a kind of thing. Actions are taken “in order to” attain an outcome. The outcome is seen as another thing. Manipulation is endemic. And failure to attain the outcome reflects back on the subject (as a failure).

Time is often hidden in this personhood grammar. When not hidden, it is often “flat” — that is, has the nature of a clock or calendar — a deadline kind of timing, or mere duration. [This weak formulation of time can be said to be at the core of most problems and issues where the kind of timing in which they can be resolved is often missing, and ungraceful actions and harsh assessments follow from the attempt to resolve the outcome in a timing in which it cannot be done. A prime example is any thought with “should” in it — which has a hidden timing of “already” –an impossible timing in which to have some alteration occur.]

To identify oneself as a person in this grammar is to be a thing among things trying through action to get the proper outcomes for “fulfillment”. Often this also means failing to have “fulfillment” show up given the unannounced missing timings in which to live and the relatively flat notion of a person — both are insufficient bases for fulfillment.

What is the alternative that allows for fulfillment as natural to it? A “connected self” lives in a different world with a different grammar. “It” (sorry, “it” isn’t an “it” — normal grammar forces “it” to be in order to be the subject of the sentence) starts out by “belonging” to all of history that precedes” it” (sorry), gives rise to “it” (sorry), and that will become history from here. As such, “it” deeply belongs to time and circumstance in a “constituted by them” manner rather than a “blame” or “resistance” manner.

This allows a connected self to live with a lack of “personal problems” and to be free to address the one and only developmental theme that is called for by the time and circumstances before one and to be honored to do so on behalf of unfolding all of history. (The degree of so-called issues and problems present befit our time in evolution and are not a personal failing. Many are not ripe to be resolved. Certainly all of them cannot be immediately addressed. To attempt to do so would be silly and doomed to failure. To suffer about their existence would also be silly.) To address only what is timely for development to resolve is the height of wisdom regarding time (a much richer and more nuanced arena of living than in a thing-based grammar.)

While this background may sound presumptuous,, indeed quite the opposite is the case. To consider oneself “separate” when existing by being part of a community, language group, history and treasury of tools and methods not created by oneself, that is the height of presumption.

What kind of world and relations go with a “connected self”, and what is their grammar? A “connected self” lives in a world that calls for their strengths, their deepest connection to life, to be provided to others and their times and circumstances in behalf of  unfolding and fulfilling life around them. At any given time, there is always and only one “theme” (developmental) that is “up” (currently fulfillable and called for by all of the circumstances of one’s life). This “theme” has the right developmental gradient — it is not something merely needing doing. It is something that calls one to become more deeply connected and competent/powerful regarding their strengths and bringing them to others and life as well as becoming more fitting to their times.

The theme belongs as much to others with which one is connected, as it does to life — it has the flavor of “what wants to happen” and would be a worthwhile and timely accomplishment if it did. The timing isn’t pressured — there is no external deadline. The timing is what allows for sufficient development and sufficient becoming to be sufficient to making the accomplishment both natural and stable as a base on which to build.

In short, the world of a connected self includes others, time, circumstances, development and accomplishment in a single calling, with these dimensions being inseparable. There is “what” is fitting that is calling one to be and become, with others, that which puts old habits and understandings to rest in favor of that which wants to be. The pathway to fulfilling “what is calling to be” calls for an alteration of self-identification, and as such, calls for openness to other’s strengths and to the feedback of the circumstances as well as what is required for their alteration. Hence, openness to development is central to the accomplishment.

And as for fulfillment, a richer relation to time allows one to be fulfilled while turning out the accomplishment, as well as when it turns out. The orientation to development, and the intentional giving of oneself to what is called for, is deeply satisfying even while “in the middle”. Even if the accomplishment doesn’t turn out as expected, the expectation can be seen to be misguided, and a reorientation can take place that puts what has been developed and learned to use in taking on the next fitting accomplishment that can be heard to be “up”. There are no mistakes in this world. Only development ( and sometimes selling out on development that is available and possible.) And only development called for at a pace that can be fulfilled. Suffering about judgments regarding outcomes is unnecessary. Correction would be preferable.

Belonging to oneself, others, life, time and circumstance, and to their unfoldment, is all that is called for. Doing so from one’s strengths is inherently satisfying. The connected, belonging, unfolding world that calls for your strengths in a timely and fitting way is a world of fulfillment.


About Ken Anbender

Kenneth Anbender Ph.D. has spent the last 50 years working with more than a hundred thousand people directly on the principles and methods that support the fulfillment of a human life -- in community and at work. He has developed a body of work that is licensable called The Contegrity Approach.
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