Recently, I engaged in a project that caused me angst. As I wrapped up the most recent phase, I examined the roots of my worry. As I reflected, I found myself thinking about learning organizations and the concept of personal mastery.
Senge (2006) defined personal mastery as going “beyond competence and skills, though it is grounded in competence and skills. It goes beyond spiritual unfolding or opening, although it requires spiritual growth. It means approaching one’s life as a creative work, living life from a creative as opposed to reactive viewpoint” (p. 131).
According to Senge there are several basic characteristics which help define personal mastery.
“special sense of purpose that lies behind [an individual’s] visions and goals.” This requires me to continuously ask and re-ask the question, “Why do I do what I do? What difference does it make in the lives of others?” This requires a mindfulness, awareness, and reflection that in our busy lives we sometimes lose track of.
“learn how to perceive and work with the forces of change.” The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (1999) described transformation as gradual (p. 43). To perceive and work with the forces of change, I need patience and an open mind. I must find balance between my words and actions to influence the change I want in the world.
“deeply inquisitive, committed to seeing reality more and more accurately.” This is about technical competence and information that goes with it, but expands beyond. This inquisitiveness broadens to gather information about the relational nature of our world. As a learner, it is this relational nature I must be attentive to. Who and what am I in relation with?
‘feel connected to others and life itself.” I enter into stewardship as a learner and educator. It calls to mind: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children” (Ancient Indian Proverb).
“feel as if they are part of a larger creative process, which they can influence but cannot unilaterally control.” Everyone finds their voice in a new paradigm of leadership. Leadership is earned rather than given.
“live in a continual learning mode. They never arrive.” Learning is not merely technical. It includes learning about the world we live in, the relationships we engage in, and the relationship we have with our self.
Each of these quotes can be found in The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization by Peter Senge on p. 132.
The gentle rain permeates the soil of my soul. A seed that has lain deeply in the earth for many years just smiles (Thich Nhat Hanh, 1999).