Posts Tagged identity
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.