I’m currently working on the literature review of personality theory for my dissertation. So, I thought I’d share a concept I believe is very powerful—constructivism.
Abraham Maslow suggested that we interpret neurosis as “a failure of personal growth,” (Hall et al, 1957). Applying this to business, maintaining or growing a healthy business requires that we are constantly changing. If not, our business becomes “neurotic” and we’ve all seen how crazy things get when the business is not doing well. But, changing what? What we think needs to be changed and improved depends on what we see. And what we see depends on what we’re looking at.
Openness to Experience
According to Rogers, our life, who we are, and how we see the world comes entirely from our experiences. Therefore, to keep growing and avoid the neurosis Maslow mentioned, we need to expand our experiences. When you think about it, it’s kind of obvious—if you keep doing the same thing, you’re not really growing. If you’re learning piano and you keep playing the same song over and over, you may eventually play that song pretty well. But, then you’d be a one-song piano player. To continue growing you have to explore new songs and new styles. That’s what, in part, Rogers means by opening yourself to new experiences. Are you playing the same song over and over in your business? What new “songs” have you learned lately?
Evaluating yourself is really all about not letting yourself and your new ideas be measured by other people. If we constrain ourselves to how other people measure their world, including us, then we are submitting ourselves to unnecessary burdens. When we already carry our own “baggage”, why carry others’ baggage as well? You are the person in control of your life and your growth, so don’t relinquish that control to others.
Toying With Concepts
I interpret “ability to toy with concepts” as taking some risk. As my father often said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Do you have the ability to try something different? That depends on what reality you are constructing for yourself. If you look for excuses, you will certainly find them. Trying something different can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, especially when we’re trying to run a business and make a dent in an ever-growing to-do list. But, I like Rogers’ use of the word “toy.” Being creative and trying new things doesn’t have to be a burden. It can be fun. Every time I try something new, I learn something and am often pleasantly surprised. I’m very happy I did it.
So there you have it—some thoughts about “constructivism.” I have to give you one final example, though…
Trees or Trail?
Now that my sons are old enough to do some “real” biking, we’ve gone mountain biking several times this summer. Mountains tend to be full of trees and my wife would strongly prefer to avoid those trees as she’s riding. When she’s biking, all she sees is trees. So, she looks at the trees and tells herself, “Don’t hit the tree. Don’t hit the tree. Don’t hit the tree.” And Bam! She smacks right into the tree. My 14-yr old son tells her, “Mom, if you want to stay on the trail and avoid the trees, look at the trail—not the trees.”
What reality are you constructing for yourself? Are you seeing trees, or trail? Your reality is your choice. Choose to look for trees and your world will be full of trees. Choose to look for trails and your world will be full of trails. Your choice…your reality.
Hall, C. S., Lindzey, G., & Campbell, J. B. (1957). Theories of Personality. New York: John Willey and Sons.