Social Identity Vs. Personal Growth

Pictures Dale and Mom January 2013 156

I have the luxury of working in a place that has a large cross section of new employees who are in the process of finding their place in the organization.   I also have the opportunity to hear the concerns they have over how their job fits together with their private lives and what is ultimately important to them personally.

In the past generations our parents told us that if we worked hard and kept our nose clean we would be “successful”.  This next generation of worker has been primed with little of this work ethic based model of personal success.  In fact, through informal questioning, it seems that the word “success” has little influence.  “Social” connectedness and identity seem to be king in this group.

Predictably there seems to be a gap opening as a result of this single social balance.  Just as all work and no play is not healthy, almost singular focus on the social identity is leaving people unfulfilled and leaves them feel wanting more than ever.

I do use coaching skills in the work environment, but I keep it work oriented and of course avoid personal coaching from a leadership role.  Not being able to go down this path is killing me, as these people could highly benefit from finding a new direction of personal expansion to better fill their needs for personal fulfillment.

I don’t pretend for a minute to know exactly what will provide true fulfillment for each of these individuals, but based on the questioning thus far my general coaching direction would be this:  It’s not who you are, its what you do (that is personally meaningful)… and to do anything meaningful and fulfilling will require a balance across a few areas to include social health.

In a day and age where success is often found through things gone “viral” it is too easy to associate this success with identity and social identity.   From a different perspective things that go viral have made a real contribution and have fulfilled in some way a public need.   In other words the people and skills that go “viral” were a meaningful contribution backed by practice and (god forbid) work ethic.  This means that the base model really has not changed (its just more public), and personal growth and balance is still the key denominator to success.

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