Development as Enlightened Pragmatism

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There is almost always the potential for a silver lining when we face periods of challenge at work. They reveal opportunities to grow in ways we would not have otherwise been able to anticipate. That’s what we’ll consider in this article.

Factors in Development

Development is personal. Whether it concerns our role at work or the roles we play outside of work, it implicates our self-identity and growth as a person. That means development is identity work. And it's prompted by the challenges (opportunities and problems) we face in our social roles.

These factors – roles, challenges, identity, and development – are constants in human growth. They’re also dynamic. Their essential vitality is revealed in change. And there is an inner and outer aspect to this change. If one aspect predominates at the expense of the other, the result is an imbalance.

Roles and challenges are assigned to us, but we are also, as responsible agents, free to construe them and adopt them in a manner most appropriate to us as persons. Similarly, identity and development are asserted and expressed as change from within, but they’re also appraised for their impact from the outside.

What makes our growth and development enlightened is the all-things-considered quality of judgment we use in appreciating the meaning of change for all parties involved. What makes it pragmatic is its practical efficacy and appropriateness in realizing the aims and interests all stakeholders.

Change and Development Are Messy

Much of who are and what we do in our chosen roles is guided by habitual ways of thinking, acting, and relating to others. That is, until those patterned ways of acting and relating fail us or cease to meet the needs of changed circumstances.

It’s in just these moments, we must interrupt our habitual doing long enough to notice what’s changed and what’s not working. It’s an inflection point. The problem we're now facing is different than figuring out how to assemble a piece of furniture that came with confusing directions. It concerns self.

It is because it concerns our self as a responsible agent of action, that this problem is an adaptive problem and not a technical problem. Therefore, it requires a different kind of sorting out, a sorting out of self in role, and in situation. If the struggle has persisted for long, it may also come with intense emotions and feelings of failure.

To complicate matters more, if it’s persisted for long, it may also be affecting how we are seen by our boss, superiors, colleagues, and external stakeholders. What’s at stake, then, when we’re missing the mark in a new job or challenge, can be our basic sense of well-being.

Timely Intervention

The term, in·ter·ven·tion, means to come between or interrupt, but also, in the context of health, it means to act for purposes of care. Of course, the notion of intervention as a means of caring for the well-being of another person implies something relational, a helpful other. This suggests that there's need to share our suffering - not so easy for some of us.

Timely intervention is action taken based upon a sound diagnosis (i.e., it’s not a fleeting situation). It's action taken soon enough to avert a crisis. For when we allow the stress, strain, fatigue, and feelings of failure to grow too long, we erode our baseline emotional resilience and capacities to cope.

Therefore, in the best of worlds, we find ourselves in a continuing relationship of open dialogue with our supervisor that enables us to notice issues early. Absent that, we may have a loved one or colleague with whom we’ve formed a relationship that invites a caring notice of such issues.

In any case, enlightened pragmatism is more likely to emerge and take shape in the presence of a caring other. Knowing when to slow down for a such reflective pause is critical. Anticipating the need for such a pause when starting a new challenge, and having a coach in the wings, makes it all the easier.