Friday, July 22, 2011

Conceptual Clarification of Integrative Life Planning – Part I

Hello – and welcome back to the newest blog where we will be considering further aspects of the Integrative Life Planning (ILP) model! In keeping with what has been said before, we need to emphasise that the model is constantly undergoing change and renewal – this is due to the impact of a constantly changing world and the reaction of the ILP model to these changes.

In her original work, Sunny Hansen mentions that when she first started working on the conceptualisation of the model, she found herself vacillating between using the concepts of PLANNING as opposed to PATTERNS. The purpose of this current posting is to briefly consider her thinking around this choice – in conclusion, I will pick sides and make my choice with regards to this challenge!

As we usually do, let us take a quick look at what connotations are made in respect to each of these words; we will then be able to deliberate which of the two concepts is more apt or descriptive of what ILP is about.

The concept of PLANNING is seen to describe a process where someone follows a scheme or process, which has been worked out beforehand. According to Hansen, the concept of planning is indicative of a linear, rational process or method, which is usually associated with a fixed or known outcome. In terms of the general use of the word, planning is associated with lowered levels of stress or anxiety about future events – if we plan, we are supposedly ensuring that our ideal goals are achieved in the final analysis. This reminds me of the popular saying that failing to plan is planning to fail! At this point I feel pressed to state that using the concept of planning seems quite alluring, as it has the potential to curtail uncertainty…yet, if we look at the seven reasons posted on the blog as to why a new approach to career management and development is needed, we will possibly agree that we have no option but to opt for a more open, fluid approach.

Turning our attention to the concept of PATTERNS, most would agree that patterns are usually associated with someone making use of a guideline when they are making or producing something (often patterns are associated with sewing or cutting forms from wood). If one follows a pattern, chances are that some kind of known outcome will be achieved. As anyone who has ever followed a pattern or recipe would know, the mere fact of following said set of instructions does not imply that a desired outcome is guaranteed. Hansen therefore views the concept of pattern to be more fluid; yes, direction and guidance is provided, but the outcome will never be the same.

Further to the above, using a pattern implies that we are – in a planned way! –bringing different and sometimes (un)connected pieces together to form a new whole – this is exactly what the ILP model stands to achieve.

Upon due consideration of the pros and cons of each concept in relation to the ILP model, Hansen decides to rather use the concepts interchangeably in the explication of the model. She argues that both these concepts are focused on “bringing together the parts of a life” and not on the jobs or careers only.

If I look at my own professional and academic development, I was raised in the linear model – at that time, it was appropriate and managed to offer solutions to most career planning and development scenarios. The world of today is vastly different from the one I was raised and trained in in the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties. Considering this, and having been exposed to life-changing visits to Minnesota where Sunny Hansen resides and puts patterns to the test, there was only one way to go: realise that linear thinking and approaches are of value, but that they are hardly able to react suitably to the new world and the constant effect of change.

Thus, considering and respecting Hansen’s thinking on the conceptual framework, I would have preferred referring to the model as Integrative Life Patterns, while fully acknowledging the importance of planning with regards to life and everything we associate with it!

In the blogs to follow, I will continue unpacking the ILP model – in addition to providing some insights into the model I will also make applications to the contexts of personal and corporate lives.

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