A couple of questions that continue to challenge me in retirement transition:
- How can I be more like those who have learned to not care what others think and to focus on what matters just to them?
- How can I move away from doing things because I think I should or because that’s what’s done by someone like me?
I have a (recently retired) friend who continuously challenges me to give up my “Comparative Inferiority Complex” and to just enjoy what I’m doing. He constantly tells me he’s stopped caring what other people think or thinking he needs to do what other people do, and has focused on what he enjoys doing. I admire his attitude. It is so hard to give up the societal expectations I believe I hear in everyday conversation.
In considering how to be more like my friend, some recent reading on adult development lead me to Robert Kegan’s work which presents an increasing complexity of consciousness development in 5 Stages of Adult Development. He identifies that some adults never go beyond Stage 2, most are in Stage 3, and few reach Stage 5. I’m most intrigued with Stage 4:
Quick synopsis of Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development:
|Stage 1 – the Impulsive Mind||It’s all about the now; what is present; I want it & I want it now. Child like behavior…and some teenagers still.|
|Stage 2 – the Imperial Mind||It’s all about me & my needs, interests, agenda; competitive; self interest groups; care what others think b/c impacts getting my needs met; follow rules b/c fear punishment or want reward (not b/c believe in values that the rules represent); need respect. Solidly the “teen years”, but I know of a number of adults still in this stage.|
|Stage 3 – the Socialized Mind||It’s how it’s done; rules, regulations & norms; external societal beliefs & social expectations shape sense of self; you care about others opinions b/c others are source of validation – authority, acceptance, orientation/identity, guidance; with others it’s about mutual rewards/mutual satisfaction; feel personally responsible for others experience; relationships are reason I exist (I am me because you are you); team player; promises made/promises kept; believe in right & wrong (values)|
|Stage 4 – the Self-Authoring Mind||I define who I am (not others definition, not societal norms); internal independent ownership of thinking/own set of values defines actions; critical questioning to understand complexity of different ideologies; self-reflective/self-discovery (this is what I stand for, this is my path); non-judgmental; self confident in own abilities; relationships are part of my world|
|Self-Transforming Mind||Constantly changing self; interconnectedness and interdependency of everything; open to possibilities; Nirvana. (I honestly didn’t grasp the full context of this stage.)|
Stage 4 is what I am searching for: do what matters to me and not care what I think others think/expect. Stop feeling guilty for not doing the “should” or what’s expected. Give up comparisons against others that lead to feeling of inferiority.
What I found even more compelling in Kegan’s work is the ideas on how-to achieve Stage 4. (I love when there’s direction on how to do it!)
- Spend time in self-discovery and self-reflection, defining and reshaping what you believe (your values, your beliefs), your sense of self and relationship to others.
- Be able to articulate – this is Who I am; this is what I believe; this is what I value
- You are what you believe you are, so create the affirmations to change your (self-limiting) beliefs if necessary.
- Clearly determining what I think/believe so I can shift away from worry about what others think.
- Make sure your personal actions (what plan to do/what actually do) align with values. Shift from doing things think others expect to doing things that align with the person I want to be, the values important to me.
- Clarify what you believe are the actions associated with values. For example: If I value friendship, how do I know someone is a good friend? What defines friendship to me? And then, am I doing things that align with that?
- You do not need to do things to prove you love someone, or anything you feel obligated to do, or to meet others expectations. You need to do things that match what’s important to you, your values.
- How much dissonance is there between what I say I want (vision aligned with values) and how I actually behave (activities, time & energy spent). This is looking for alignment or difference between intention (plans) and action (real behavior).
Essentially, clarify what is really important to you, then commit yourself to pursuing the activities that bring that to life and stop doing things that are not linked to what’s important. I am hoping that my new focus this year on alignment of activities to my values will help me be less prone to worry about external expectations and validation.
This insight into adult development also supports other things I’ve been doing to break my comparative inferiority habit:
- Recognizing we are all unique and what is right for you might not be right for me. Continuing to clarify on what is right for me through self-reflection.
- Turning feelings of envy into admiration and inspiration. But inspiration only if what I’m admiring fits within my values, strengths, and motivations. (Like admiring my friend who doesn’t care what others think!)
- Recognizing it’s almost always a highlight reel that I’m reacting to when making that comparison.
- Practicing gratitude for what I do have. Create my own highlights reel!
Practice makes perfect. So I will continue to practice advancing in my adult development. And maybe someday I will be the one who is fully living my personal-values based lifestyle, self-confident in my own unique abilities, and not worrying about what others think/expect.
Do you look for external validation at this stage of your life? Are you doing things that link to your personal values? What stage are you in on Kegan’s Adult Development framework?
Picture Credit: Pixels and me – creating inspiring visuals for my word of the year SOAR.