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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 19/05/2008 | 2 Comments

One of the things Iíve become a wee bit allergic to is the well-worn phrase used by many educators that what they want to do is develop childrenís Ďfull potentialí. Iíve no doubt it is well-meaning and they really want to appear aspirational but to my mind it fails to understand something about human development. Developing your full potential is not what childhood or youth is about: this is a lifelong challenge. Iím in my fifties and I really hope that Iíve still not developed my full potential. I might not have a new career left in me but I hope Iíve still to find all sorts of undiscovered abilities to do things Iíve never had the time to try Ė painting, cordon bleu cooking, story telling or simply being able to keep my desk and my life organised. Iíve little doubt that since Iíve spent my life being a busy extravert what later life might bring is the desire and opportunity to introvert more and to spend more time in quiet contemplation. When I look round at the many people I know who have retired Iím often struck by how much pleasure theyíre getting from being freed up from their day job is due to this joy of discovering a new self.

One of the ways that this new self often emerges in midlife and beyond is when logical thinking types start to pay more attention to feelings and are more drawn to harmony or other things they may have though a bit soft when they were younger. This mellowing can often be seen in older men who were once hard driving types in their youth but have softened as they aged. Of course, this can happen to certain types of women as well but it is more common in men.

For me one of the great tragedies of all the management downsizing of a few years back is that the people who often got paid off were the older managers many of whom who had gone through the mellowing process and were now a real asset to the organisation as the ageing process had made them much better people managers. Indeed one of the reasons why we may have been seized by all that management by objectives stuff is that so many organisations were increasingly controlled by young, task focussed types who hadnít started to appreciate different ways of doing things.

However, that being said Iím also aware in the world I now inhabit of the dangers of the older guru who has now discovered the world of emotion and is determined that everyone has to wake up to this as well. They then start to become prescriptive and think that everyone else now has to be on the same trajectory as them.

I fundamentally believe that we are social being who need to be in relationships with one another. However, I also think that individuality Ė being different Ė is one of the aspects of our human existence that we need to allow, celebrate and nurture. I have no problem in supporting the idea that rules and some amount of external discipline is important for young people and is an inevitable part of growing up and becoming a responsible member of society. But I do have a problem with the idea that everyone has to become a particular personality type. Why shouldnít young people be accepted as quite, analytical introverts who have the rest of their lives to discover other aspects of themselves?

Comment By Comment

Comment Posted: 20/05/2008 00:40
Right there with you Carol! Not surprising seeing as I work with a company which delivers personality preference based workshops and profiles, but it is so important to let people (young and old) be themselves and grow and develop at their owm pace. We seem to have a set of standards for achievement, success and 'full potential' that assumes 'one size fits all'. A young person at a secondary school workshop once asked me to define success, but of course I couldn't success means different things for all of us - yet increasingly those in charge of education and public organisations seem determined to tell us who we should be, and who our young people should be. I am tempted to shout, 'let them be!' You don't force emotional and psychological growth. You create the right conditions and stand back and let it happen - like gardening. Keep up the good work. You inject a note of sanity into an increasingly insane world!
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Laurence Reid
Joined: 12/06/2007

Comment Posted: 08/06/2008 10:49
With you all the way on this one...the continious drive for uniformity is a real pain,and the 'good bits' tend to get lost in the 'tick box' mentality. However things do go in cycles...and as an optimist I am sure that this will settle down..primarily due to the fact that we have an ageing population/workforce. As for young people what facinates me are Adults that I know well (and remember what they were like as students)who seem to expect behaviour/achievement from young people that they never went anywhere near! and are suprised when their input has a negative effect!Thankfully there are not the only type of Adult!
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