Every helping professional works with other people based on his or her particular orientation to science specifically and the world generally. (Scholars call such philosophical orientations epistemology and ontology.)
- Personal change. Everyone may change. Learning and adaptability define humanity. Only the severest pathology would prohibit constructive growth and development over the course of the lifespan.
- Interpretations color perception and action. Based on the findings of cognitive science, we know that each person perceives, and acts out of, a highly individualized perspective on the world. As a result, every person interprets the world distinctly. To fully understand a person’s actions requires understanding, through dialog, of how one construes their world.
- Sui generis. There are seven billion personality types on planet earth. As such,no so-called standardized assessment instrument can capture the complexity of human sense-making. Assessments that purport to identify your personality or behavioral style or otherwise would categorize or label you, by design restrict and limit. They forsake your uniqueness, force fitting you into the instrument maker’s pre-made categories. Such attempts to catalog persons into brief, prefabricated descriptors unfairly belie both the richness and diversity of humanity.
- Personal growth is a function of choice. Growth as a person (and much of human action), results from choice and volition. Personal evolution is not inevitable. It results from intentional adaptability.
- Goals for personal development. Each developmental goal should be selected intentionally, informed in the fullness of rich self-understanding and by the context of current circumstances. Your potential, and your goals for its realization, may shift through the course of your life. Development, therefore, is always conducted in the context of at this time.
- Strengths. Intentional, volitional development is most effective and most meaningful when it builds on a person’s inherent strengths. The opposite of one’s personal strengths is not weaknesses. It is limitations and absences: every one of us lacks some capacity. We only “have a weakness” when we pretend to harbor a strength that we lack. In development, focusing on strengths tends to provide greater leverage than striving to redress one’s deficits. Should Yo-Yo Ma set aside his cello to spend more time practicing the tuba?
- Role of the past. Past is prologue, but only to this moment. History is not destiny. Your trajectory to the future depends more on the course you set than the path you’ve trodden.
- Role of environment. Environment shapes but it does not mold. Your mind is not a prisoner of your surroundings just as it is not captive to your personal biology or your biography to date.
- Potentialities. Each of us enjoys multiple possibilities for growth and development over a lifetime. There is no one ultimate potential. One’s personal potential for development is a product of: 1) their individual biology; 2) their particular circumstances and the developmental
opportunities it yields, and 3) the choices they make and actions they take. I refer to this as the Tripartite Model of Development.
- Systems. Each of us participates in the dynamics of the multiple, complex social systems of which we are part. We cannot stand apart from, nor act independent of, those systems. At the same time, we exert influence on those systems. Our actions, therefore, are both functions of and contributors to the systems in which we operate. That means that you affect your world; the changes you make in yourself inevitably will affect your environment. When you change, the world changes.
- Import of relationships. We think of our self as a singular entity, but our I only exists in relationship to others. Not only are we physically dependent on others to survive, we need others so as to even define our very self. Without we there is no me.
- One life, many identities. In the course of daily life we move from environment to environment (such as from home to work and back), and from role to role (such as spouse, boss, son or daughter, community member, and so on). However, these variations do not exist in isolation from each other. As we move, we carry inseparable influences from one domain to another. Our identity is in part a function of this holism. Any intentional personal change is most effective when it encompasses a full recognition of the whole Self.
- Growth vs. development. There is a significant difference between growth and development.