[Please note that this post is longer than normal given that it addresses and compares three viewpoints. I am posting it as one integrated conversation given that it culminates in the third part. You might want to read it a section at a time over time if you don’t have time for 2250 words in a row.]
Take an area, e.g. leadership (whether of one’s life or at work), and let us see what each lens (a learning perspective, a training perspective, or a development perspective) would reveal and what it would call for. Each perspective seems legitimate within its own perspective, and the three perspectives aren’t often compared and selected appropriate to the circumstances. People tend to be stuck in one mode of approach and use it to death because they are familiar and comfortable with it, think “it” works, and blame its failures on the recipients.
[The test here for whether all three approaches are appropriately available is to be able to say when you would use each appropriately and how the three integrate.]
From a learning/teaching perspective:
This approach calls for a new idea about leadership that isn’t yet known by the learner, and to teach them to understand that idea, and once understood, try to apply it.
- This can include reading about great or effective leaders, and trying to imitate their strengths and actions. (There is a whole book industry to support this with its yearly offerings.) Reading about inspiring people offers the same for one’s individual life.
- One can read case histories about who did what when that they said worked, understand the “applied” elements and approach as part of leadership, and again try to apply that understanding to your particular situation.
- One can watch a successful leader in your organization or person in your relational sphere and try to understand their perspective (from your perspective). Then, you can see what of that understanding you can put into play in your life or work.
The downsides of this approach:
- Understanding doesn’t necessarily translate to application (the “myth of application of understandings” hides this – if you say it fast it seems to make “common sense”). For example, many can talk about an area intelligently, however that doesn’t mean they can do what they are talking about – relationship being a good “topic” of greater understanding than practical living of those understandings.
- Modeling after another makes “common sense” and hence ought to be more suspect. Whoever is being modeled after is likely working from their own strengths and how the world appears to them. Their strengths are likely NOT your strengths, and how the world appears to them is likely NOT how the world appears to you. By imitation you are doubly screwed—losing the opportunity to find your strengths, and locking yourself into a way of leading that doesn’t fit you. You will be a bad imitation of the one you are emulating (for whom that approach is natural).
- Learning is better for passing an academic test on leadership than for actually providing leadership in real life situations (see the discussion regarding people doing better at knowing the right answers about relationship than at living them when the situation is highly emotionally charged).
It is time for an aside after my last post regarding development as an investment. And that is while we might understand the word “development”, that does not mean we have much of a deep grounding nor power regarding “development”.
It would be refreshing if people and companies came clean and said to themselves and others, “we don’t have much power to develop ourselves and others and that is where we are starting”. They can say, “we know how to educate ourselves and others in some matters, and we even know how to train ourselves and others in some skills and procedures.” The refreshing part, in addition to the admission that development as a power is missing, would be in what could follow. They could say, “and we are deeply interested and committed to coming to have some power in the area of development and are willing to do what it takes to do so.”
Here is what it takes. First, stop confusing development with training and teaching. Neither is developmental. Second, clarify the differences between the three (learning, training and development). And third, get interested in development on its own terms– be open to find out how it works and be “in development” with development.
It never seems like the right time to stop the current action in favor of development.
Development makes things worse before they get better.
So, it doesn’t seem immediately practical to bet on development when using a “thing-based” short-term timing (clocks and calendars).
This orientation of clocks and calendar timing leads to companies where “productivity” is measured in “output” by “(calendar) quarters”. Taking time to work a relational or developmental issue with a person regarding an area of power (or lack of power) from this view seems to negatively impact “productivity” and hence is best put off to another “time” where there is more room for it.
This other “time” never comes. If things are going well, it seems that development isn’t necessary. If things aren’t going well, there seems to be no time for development in the urgent matter of working to increase productivity. (This is what the voice of stupidity says.) It is apparently never a good time for development. If development of one’s self and one’s people isn’t set as a specific measurable goal in a specific timing, it doesn’t “count” and hence isn’t relevant or a priority given the urgency of daily activities.
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.
The very idea of “who one is” is fraught with peril. There is almost no good answer in normal conversation — if one’s interest is fulfillment. And many of the answers are downright suppressive, not to mention deeply misleading, as well as disruptive of real mastery in living.
Common sense and usage would say that you are a “person” that “belongs” to “you“ — you steer, you control, you choose, you say. Yet the notion of “person” is rarely deeply considered (we will give Descriptive Psychology a pass there and not include them in this charge).
Those of us who are old enough to have diagrammed sentences in English class will know that a person is a noun, and that a noun stands in for a person, place, or thing that is the subject or object of a sentence.
That a person and a thing are considered in the same category ought to give one pause.
If I were pushed to summarize the essence of the Contegrity Approach in a single phrase, I would say, “unfolding Life into a fulfillment.” Obviously, the three key terms there are “unfolding“, “Life“, and “fulfillment“. Let’s see if we can unpack the phrase, its elements, and the approach.
Unfolding is best contrasted with “making something happen“. Instead of manufacturing a made-up outcome (wish, want, goal), and forcing the situation to wind up in a certain configuration that matches the starting image, unfolding has the flavor of respecting the nature and fit of the people involved, the culture, the materials, and the timing involved, and bringing them to the next higher-order integration that is timely and available.
This kind of development and accomplishment makes a different basic sense — that is, a thematic one. It has a flow given by what is revealed and what is calling to be developed as a new power as one intentionally explores the territory. It is not obvious at the beginning. It isn’t already known and just played out. It isn’t what people are already talking about. It calls for development of and discernment by those involved. And therein lies its vitality (in an honorable and respectful unfolding of a new relation, a new power, and a new sense of what is available).
Unfolding has the flavor of leadership being brought to the new relations and activities undertaken to bring a greater qualitative outcome to fruition. It includes developing a certain discernment for what is at play, and where all the elements can be called to go.
The third leg of the Contegrity Approach’s “triangle of fulfillment” is “power“.
In all likelihood, what I mean by power, and what people normally think of as power, have little to do with each other. This discrepancy is quite parallel to what I mean by a “self” (‘a Way of turning Life out”) and what common sense holds to be a “self” (“the subject in your actions, history and story”). So, let’s get common sense out-of-the-way and see if we can get to a view of power that is more likely to be fulfilling and sustainable.
Common sense has power as a kind of force — the ability to impose one’s will on others, or on the circumstance, or both. It is the capacity to enforce certain outcomes — the bigger the outcome, the more power it must demonstrate. This is more akin to a physics formula — the capacity to move weight– than a principle of human life and relations.
What I mean by power in the “triangle of fulfillment“, that is integral to fulfillment, is the capacity to unfold life into a fulfillment. There is something qualitative here. It isn’t’ about moving weight or overcoming resistance. It is about having life turn out more whole and more “resonant” with the relations involved.
The second aspect of the “Triangle of Fulfillment” (see earlier post) that I would like to address further is that of “fit“.
There are many senses of use of the term “fit“. The closest usage to what I mean here is as in the phrases ” do what is fitting”, “do the fitting thing”, “finding your proper fit with life”, etc.
“Fitting” is most often associated with “fitting in“ — usually not mentioned at all when “fitting in” is happening, and mentioned as “you just don’t fit in here” when it isn’t. This kind of fit has to do with finding your place that already fits with what others are doing with the least friction or issues possible.
This sense of “fit” as “fitting in” suppresses development, often calls for letting go or diminishing the differences between what you see, the way you see to go about something, or what you see is being avoided, in favor of minimizing friction with the group.
The outcome of this kind of “fitting in” when it is built into the culture of a group is pseudo-community, a lack of honesty, areas of communication avoided, and disempowered individuals. At the level of individuality, this kind of relation with others makes for little room to identify one’s strengths and gifts and organize oneself and others around them. Obviously, I am not advocating “fitting in” as central to fulfillment.
As a follow-up to the Primer Regarding Fulfillment post, I’d like to address each of the three aspects of the “triangle of fulfillment” — Free, Fitting, and Powerful.
First, I’d like to address Free or Freedom. (And let us recognize and not belabor, that this conversation is against the background of bringing one’s fundamental talents and gifts to bear — one’s “DNA of Fulfillment”.)
The starting place for a more powerful relationship to Freedom begins by seeing through our unconscious associations with Freedom, which have the flavor of “Freedom From” — freedom from wants, needs, interference, constraints, fear, etc. (“If only those things weren’t in the way, I would be free….”)
This is generally an unrealistic image and ideal that ironically leads to a lack of freedom by having us wait for the circumstances to conspire for and allow the next developmental expression, contribution, or engagement. Rarely do the circumstances conspire for your next fitting accomplishment — at least not fully enough to be considered “freedom from” constraints. (Most waiting is unnecessary. There is almost always something worthwhile that can be moved forward in support of the next accomplishment.)
As an axiom, it is wise to consider that both real development and real accomplishment do not take place in the environment or room provided. They exceed that room. They are “presumptuous” relative to how one is being related to. They are “disruptive” of the culture and status quo in that they call for some new qualitative dimension not normally engaged in the culture of relations (including the relation with oneself).
Real development and real accomplishment call for something new, more whole, and more fulfilling. And those two are deeply related: Development allows for new accomplishment, and new accomplishment calls for development.
Contegrity Wisdom takes as the aim of its work addressing the question, “What fulfills a human life?”
It does not settle for what adjusts a human life, what makes for a successful human life, or what makes life fun and entertaining. Nor does it settle for what transforms a human life unless that transformation has as its base something unique and sufficient to fulfillment.
So, what distinguishes fulfillment from adjustment, success, enjoyment or transformation?