Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Towards Integrative Life Planning - How to value diversity - Part 4 of 6

In the previous discussions on Integrative Life Planning, the first three critical life tasks were discussed. The current article will provide a brief overview of Critical Task 4: Valuing Pluralism and Inclusivity.

Up to this point, we have dealt with quite a few challenges to be met if growth and development is to be achieved in this ever-changing world. 

Yet another challenge we are faced with is the need to demonstrate an ability to deal constructively with differences existing between people. We may be forgiven for thinking this is a uniquely South African challenge, our culture being very diverse, but this is a worldwide phenomenon. 

By learning from the principles of Integrative Life Planning (ILP), we will be enabled to start on the journey towards valuing difference, and creating inclusive communities.

In terms of this fourth critical task of ILP, people need to be assisted in determining how they are different, and how they should go about adapting to these differences. 

When taking a closer look at this, and specifically from the ILP perspective, we will learn that traditional approaches to personal growth and development need to be challenged. 

Thinking that all people have equal opportunity to choose from all possible alternatives when making life decisions, is simply not true, especially for low-income and other disadvantaged groups. We also need to realize that not everyone has what is referred to as a “sense of agency”, which enables them to control their own lives. 

Adding to this, we may even find that within some groups there is an emphasis on the individual and the attainment of self-actualization; others may base all decisions on their families, or communities, with a focus on joint decision-making. 

To attain wholeness and integration, as spelled out in the ILP approach, and addressing the above issues, we will be challenged to find ways through which difference can be embraced

Considering carefully the above statements, it seems appropriate to define some key challenges people need to address in search of the attainment of integration within this context:
  • Develop improved intercultural communication skills: identify ways in which we can better communicate with people from other cultural groups. Attempt to be more culturally sensitive in communication with people from different cultural backgrounds
  • Learn to value difference: be open to learning about cultures that are different to your own. Approaches such as diversity training may assist in this regard, but a cultural sensitivity should already contribute to a better understanding of others
  • Increase your self-awareness: before being able to engage properly with other cultures, we will first need to understand exactly our own cultural identities
  • Increase your knowledge of other cultures: this is a crucial component and people will be wise to learn about as well as from other cultural groups; an openness to learning is a prerequisite for this to happen
  • Work for social change: it is imperative that everyone in our society should work towards the total eradication of racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and all the like. This can only be achieved through an openness and sensitivity towards other cultures
  • Seek opportunities for cultural immersion: the best way to understanding will be through immersion. The challenge is to find ways in which communities can interact meaningfully and thus learn from another
  • Increase your knowledge of barriers to personal development for culturally different people: there are many known barriers to personal development, such as gender, social, political, racial, and financial barriers. It is important to establish how these barriers impact on the development of ourselves, but also culturally different people
  • Work toward integration: this is perhaps the key challenge to address. We are all required to embrace difference, also in the cultural sense, since this will be instrumental towards the achievement of full personal integration.
The above challenges address the same issue, which is not unique to our context, but certainly needs to be taken seriously if sound personal development and integration towards a psychologically healthy society is to be achieved. 

Within the above, there also lies a huge challenge for business. The embracing of pluralism and inclusivity needs to be regarded as a conditio sine qua non for business to remain relevant within our society, and the world. 

The next article (Part 5 of 8) in the series will provide a brief overview of how the need to explore spirituality and life purpose can contribute to full personal integration. 
This article was written by Hennie Scheepers and is used with his permission.  Hennie Scheepers obtained his doctorate at the University of Johannesburg and works as a Research, Career Development and Coaching Consultant.

Please feel free to leave your comments, questions or insights in the comments section below.  We would like to hear from you.  

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