Posts Tagged identity

The alternative self

203/365 by Brandi Eszlinger

She doesn’t look a bit like Gwyneth Paltrow

A few years ago I went to see Our House the musical based on the songs of Madness. The music was good. The choreography was good too. But what I really liked was the story, which was quite imaginative for a jukebox musical.

It tells the story of Joe Casey, who does something stupid to impress a girl and then faces a choice: stay and risk getting arrested or run away. At this point the the storyline splits in two, following the consequences of these options and the different versions of Joe that emerge as a result.

The idea of exploring alternative versions of ourselves and finding out what we could have become if we had made different choices is very appealing in fiction. Sliding Doors, It’s a Wonderful Life, Melinda and Melinda and many others.

I recently came across a paper which nicely mashes up two of my favourite themes: counterfactual thinking and identity development into the concept of alternative selves. It explores the impact of these alternative selves on our sense of identity.

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What’s your strategy?

Chess by wintersixfour

My strategy is to distract you with my fingernails while I move this horsey thing...

At the end of last year I taught a Chartered Management Institute Level 3 Leadership and Management course. It was great fun as it allowed me to play with various leadership and management theories and apply them to practical situations.

During the course, we touched on strategic planning and I came across an interesting model/theory about different approaches to strategy used by organisations. It occurred to me that this could be applicable to individuals thinking about their own career development strategy.

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New year, new identity?

hermself watching hermself being hermself by madamepsychosis

Spot the difference?

It’s a new year — the end of one chapter and the beginning of another — a time to change.

The more dramatic the change, the more likely it is to lead to a transformation of your identity. Some changes involve integrating into new environments, building new relationships and developing new behaviours. You may have to leave behind some of the things that currently help you to define yourself and incorporate new things. This can be especially true if, like many of my recent clients, the change is something that has been forced upon you and is quite dramatic — such as redundancy.

Such a change may bring about a transformation of identity. A lot of clients undergoing this kind of process struggle with how to describe themselves. ‘I used to be a… What am I now?’

What makes for a successful identity transformation — whether it is voluntary or imposed upon you?

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Overcoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection

The Prophecy by Riccardo Cuppini (Rickydavid)

What happens if your crystal ball is full of gloom?

Way back in 2009 I wrote about the social rejection self-fulfilling prophecy. This relates to the unfortunate fact that, if you expect someone you meet for the first time not to like you, you tend to behave more distantly towards them. This increases the chances that they won’t like you. The reverse is also true: if you assume that you will be liked, you tend to behave more warmly and thus increase your chances of being liked.

People who have high levels of social anxiety tend to fall into the trap of negative expectations. They are particularly sensitive to the possibility of social rejection. This threat triggers an avoidance approach which makes them behave defensively in unfamiliar social settings, leading to less than warm responses from the strangers they interact with. This, in turn, confirms their fears and insecurity about social rejection. A vicious circle.

This self-fulfilling prophecy can be a major handicap when it comes to career development. It means you are less likely to engage in appropriate professional networking, cutting off potentially useful sources of information, insight and advice which could boost your career. It makes you less likely to create a positive first impression during an interview. It can also affect your ability to establish important relationships in the crucial first few days of a new job.

How do you break out of this trap?

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Intentional change

beforeafter by My brain hurts! (Meik Weissert)

I wonder if that’s how he pictured his ideal self…

How does change happen?

What motivates change?

What makes a change sustainable?

Richard Boyatzis, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, has the answers… or maybe an answer: Intentional Change Theory.

Professor Boyatzis has earned a mention on this blog previously for a natty little theory he developed with David Kolb (of learning styles fame)  about the various modes of performance, learning and development one goes through repeatedly in one’s career. He is also a researcher, writer and speaker on the subject of emotional intelligence.

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The Meaning Triangle

The search for infinity - Chris Halderman

In the search for meaning it is often helpful to carry a violin and wear a coat made of flames.

As the post on existentialism has been one of my most popular, I thought I would do something more on the subject of meaningfulness.

And when it comes to meaning, it seems that three is a magic number.

But first a short story (involving three workers)…

A traveller comes across a group of three men who are working hard smashing boulders with large hammers.

He asks them what they are doing.

The first man answers, ‘I’m using my strength and skill to make big rocks into small rocks.’

The second man answers, ‘I’m working to earn money so that I can feed and support my family.’

The third man answers, ‘I’m preparing the raw materials to build a cathedral for the glory of God.’

Which of these three men was doing the most meaningful work?

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Employability: concepts and components

Will work for food

Flexibility - a key component of employability?

I am preparing material for an employability module, and I’ve been getting myself into it by exploring different definitions and concepts of employability.

What is employability?

Coming at that question from a careers adviser’s perspective, I tend, by default, to think about employability in terms of the awareness and attributes of the individual job seeker. So into my head come the career management skills of the classic DOTS model (although, why it’s called DOTS and not SODT escapes me).

  • Self awareness
  • Option awareness
  • Decision learning
  • Transition learning

However, that’s not the only way of looking at employability. I thought it might be useful to share some of the perspectives on this subject that I have found most interesting. This is not meant to be an exhaustive literature review on the subject of employability, just an idiosyncratic collection of things that have caught my attention.

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Identity crisis

My Identity

Finding your identity

One of the most influential thinkers in the field of developmental psychology was Erik Erikson. Originally a pupil of Freud, he made a name for himself with his work on the development of human social identity.

I read about Erikson’s theories when studying for my professional qualification, but most emphasis on developmental theory in careers is dominated by the work of Donald Super. However, Erikson’s ideas of identity formation in adolescence has provided the basis for much thought and exploration around the transition from childhood to adulthood.

A couple of recent posts (Playing a role and Non-stop action) have jogged my memory about this, so I thought I would blog briefly about this classic theory and some recent developments related to it.

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Playing a role

The Coalition Cabinet

Meetings! My nightmare (in more ways than one)

I hate chairing meetings!

It’s quite odd when you think about it, because I have no trouble facilitating group workshops — I really enjoy that.

If you analyse the skills required to chair meetings and to facilitate workshops, they are virtually the same. You need to be good at listening and summarising. You need to be good at responding to people and keeping them on track. You need to have a good sense of timing and be able to keep in mind the overall structure and aims.

I can do all of those things when I’m leading a workshop and I feel very comfortable, but when I’m chairing a meeting I feel awkward and nervous and out of control.

The difference in my attitude might be explained by the fact that, even though the skills are the same, the role is different. In my mind, the role of a meeting chair is more formal and more serious than the role of a facilitator. I have two different pictures in my head when I think about the different roles. One is more consistent with my self image than the other — even though the practicalities of the roles are very similar.

When we think about matching ourselves to a career, we often think about how our discrete values or skills align with the rewards and requirements of the job. We are dealing with quite abstract and artificially separated concepts.

A more sophisticated way of understanding a job might be to look at the different distinct roles that you are required to fulfil as you go through your working day.

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In the right zone

Zones of impact

What zone are you in?

A model that I use quite frequently in one-to-one guidance and group sessions is one that I cobbled together myself. I call it the Zones model (or Zones of Impact model).

The original spark for the idea came from the Cognitive Information Processing model. I was scared off by words such as ‘metacognitions’, but the idea of different domains of thinking appealed to me, as did the notion of using these domains to identify the type of help that would be most appropriate for particular clients. Further inspiration came from the knowing-why, knowing-how and knowing-whom of the Intelligent Career model and Blooms Taxonomy of Learning. I later came across the Transformational Learning model (sometimes called triple loop learning) which again looks at different levels of change that might take place with a client.

Out of these various sources of inspiration, I wanted to make a model that I would find easy to remember which would help me to locate and assess the type of help I was giving to clients. Thus was born the Zones of Impact model. The model attempts to classify different areas of client needs in four primary zones.

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