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Linking personal growth to cultural transition

Rudy Vandamme

The Fork Linking personal growth to cultural transition Rudy Vandamme

Rudy Vandamme The Fork Linking personal growth to cultural transition Ecologize publications Š Rudy Vandamme, 2011 ISBN: 9789490384029 NUR: 130 Author: Rudy Vandamme Cover design: Prezns, Marco Bolsenbroek Layout: Prezns, Marco Bolsenbroek Illustrations: Prezns, Marco Bolsenbroek Translation: Pen and Sword Translation Services, Jeroen van Swaaij No part of this publication is allowed to be multiplied and/or published by means of print, photocopy, microfilm, or by any other means whatsoever, without the publisher’s prior written consent. Ecologize Publications Stenenstraat 9 8400 Oostende Belgium ++(32) 475 61 45 23 E-mail:

Life will develop if you allow it

Table of contents


The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

Foreword to the international edition


Introduction 11 1. The Development Virus 12 2. A pattern that has gone too far 13 3. Meaningful and lasting development 14 4. A multi-track model for development 15 5. Reader’s guidelines 17 6. The mission of this book 17 Chapter 1: Developing as a life attitude 1.1 Look closely at identity 1.2 Tell a meaningful story 1.3 Reframe Challenges 1.4 Connect to what is there in a creative way 1.5 Do not let it end 1.6 Allow it to organize itself 1.7 Do it together with others 1.8 Conclusion

21 23 25 27 30 33 37 40 44

Chapter 2: The Fork model 2.1 The model 2.2 The four tracks 1. Project: making plans work out right 2. Self-guidance: increasing your competence at guidance 3. Identity: defining yourself as a unique individual 4. Greater whole: having a place among the whole 2.3 The philosophy of each track 1. Projects: Grounded activity 2. Self-guidance: emancipation 3. Identity: using your selfhood as your touchstone 4. The greater whole: giving meaning 2.4 Multi-tracking as a test for lasting development 2.5 The track game: switching attention Create meaningfulness by linking project and identity. If you get stuck in a project, see what you can learn from the way you approach it. If you get stuck in a project, look for personal themes that block your way. Link your own development to your place within the greater whole. If you get stuck in therapeutic soul-searching, engage in a project. Learn to see growth in self-guidance as part of your personal development. 2.6 Conclusion

47 48 50 50 50 50 51 52 52 53 55 56 57 58 58 59 59 59 59 60 60


Table of contents

Chapter 3: Track 1: The project-based approach 3.1 The idea behind ‘the project-based approach’ 3.2 A system for a project-based approach 1. Define the challenge 2. Evoke the experience of the desired situation 3. Motivate yourself 4. Deal creatively with restrictions 5. Overcome or integrate obstacles 6. Carry out actions 7. Celebrate the project 3.3 Project types and their contributions to development 1. Managing complex projects 2. Learning new skills 3. Solving problems 4. Changing your behavior 3.4 Conclusion

63 64 66 67 67 68 69 69 72 78 78 79 81 82 84 86

Chapter 4: Track 2: Improving your self-guidance skills 4.1 The idea behind ‘self-guidance’ 4.2 Competence model 1. Name what is there 2. Be in charge of yourself 3. Work with gentle guidance 4. Follow ‘it’ 5. Allow movement 4.3 Assessing the skill of self-guidance 4.4 Progress methods 1. Use your project as your training area 2. Look at your success stories in other parts of life 3. Study self-guidance experts 4.5 Links to other tracks 1. Examine the obstacle in your project 2. Turn your self-guidance into development of your person 3. Work on self-guidance as you work on a project 4. Link your self-guidance to the greater whole 4.6 Conclusion

89 90 92 93 96 97 101 104 105 107 108 108 109 109 110 110 111 111 111

Chapter 5: Track 3: Development of identity 5.1 The idea behind ‘identity’ 5.2 Progress methods 1. Develop yourself as a ‘human’ 2. Reframe your core patterns as talents 3. Define yourself in the social field 4. Heal yourself

115 116 120 120 123 126 129


The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

5. Integrate your parts 6. Tell yourself the story of your life. 5.3 Connecting to other tracks 1. Find a project that takes you where you want to go 2. React carefully to opportunities 3. Reframe your current projects 4. Decide: quit or go on 5. Make a project out of developing your personality 5.4 Conclusion

131 133 137 138 140 141 142 143 144

Chapter 6: Track 4: Development of the greater whole 6.1 The idea behind ‘the greater whole’ 6.2 Envisioning the development of the whole 1. Ask for an outsider’s point of view 2. Look beyond differences 3. See how you are the whole 6.3 Progress methods 1. Work on yourself 2. Make yourself heard 3. Join like-minded people 4. Guide others in becoming comprehensive parts 5. Start up dialogues around the ‘we’ 6. Use your own mission in life 7. Development of the whole as a project 6.4 Conclusion

147 148 152 153 156 158 161 163 164 166 167 168 170 171 173

Chapter 7: Professionals guiding the development of other people 7.1 The idea behind ‘development-framed guidance’ 7.2 Professional development-framed guidance 1. Construct a goal-oriented project 2. Be an educator and work on integrating self-guidance of the client 3. Work with the whole person and the context around him 4. Let it work both ways 7.3 Development-framed coaching and counseling 7.4 Professionals are contributing to the development of guidance 7.5 Conclusion

175 176 178 179 181 183 186 190 192 193

In closing


References 197 The author



Foreword to the international edition


The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

This book is a translation of the best selling Dutch book ‘De Vork’. It has become a useful tool in many educational and professional settings to structure well-formed development of individuals, teams and organizations. Together with Jeroen van Swaaij at Pen & Sword Translation Services ( we produced an English version of my particular writing style. This collaboration was a big adventure in finding ways of expressing ideas. I am happy with the result and I hope that if you find unusual expressions, you will forgive me, and perhaps eventually send me an email with your suggestions. The name of the Fork model came about by accident during a training course, the very first course in Development-framed Coaching in the Netherlands, back in 2007. I am still grateful to all the people who took part in the creative process we built up together. Other groups have been part of the process as well. They have been the ‘lab rats’ for testing this method. I express my deep thanks to all of these students, who always made me feel like they were my colleagues. They have had to put up with me changing the method during classes – not always the easiest way to study! My thanks also go to the clients in my counseling, life coaching, and teaching practice. They may not have noticed much of it, as my coaching trajectories tend to be short, but I do think they enjoyed a developing coach trying out new patterns of working. I, for my part, enjoyed their company a lot. My gratitude also extends to the people helping out with production of the book itself, including the wonderful designer Marco Bolsenbroek at Prezns. Me, I am just a channel, a medium, someone who writes – someone casting language on something that is already underway. Development is profoundly relational, and so is the creation of an approach, theory, method, or book. A swirl of activity has come about around this approach, which is grounded in the Ecologize project at this moment. Together, we will spread this body of thoughts. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by people like my beloved colleagues in our company. They help me carry all of this. And last but not least, I have my two gorgeous daughters: ‘Rud, when will it be finished?’ But why finish; every ending is a new beginning and development never stops, there is only breathing in between






1. The Development Virus ‘We’ve got to move ahead’ is an idea that has been spreading across the world like a virus for centuries. Everyone has the virus. Changes, innovations, improvements, solutions; we simply need them. They have become our way of living. Cultures that have been organizing themselves according to their own patterns for 20,000 years are dragged along in the worldwide movement of change. I was in a small village in Nepal when I heard people say: ‘Our son is getting an education in the city, two days down the road’. As soon as this family has a little money, a television is sure to make its way into their home. This virus is spread by media, technology, consumer goods, and education. You can see the virus at work in your own living room. My father, aged 77, doesn’t want to use the internet. His grandchildren think that is a shame, because they would love to send him a quick E-mail sometimes. Those very same children ask me, a man in his fifties: ‘Why don’t you set up a personal blog to spread your message instead of writing some boring book?’ Should I follow the trend? We are right in the middle of a flood of changes, innovations, and problem solutions. We call it development. The flood comes from outside. It seems as if we have no choice but to go along with the demands of new developments. The flood comes from inside ourselves as well, however. People seem to have a growing need for change. We want to change our environment and we want to change ourselves, trying to be happy and successful. This need can come from the world around you, but it is inside you as well. The development virus of ‘changes, innovations, and solutions’ is a pattern of action used by people to make life, the world, animals, and nature work the way they want them to work. People want something. You want something. You fight for something you dream of while you fight against something else that you don’t want. You want change for the sake of change – just for the fun of it. The development virus is also a pattern of thinking. It is a belief, and many of us believe that changes, innovations, and solutions are the best way to give meaning to our lives. We construct our lives, but we don’t just make ourselves a place to live and to grow old in. We are moving away from living our lives in one place. We have become restless. We go back to being nomads, and we construct our lives by moving. We are humans, and we have always been good at moving. These days, moving seems to be all we do. I call this pattern a virus because it spreads so fast in all directions, making it almost impossible to think about any other way. Today, we can hardly imagine how farmers used to live meaningful lives while each of their days looked much like the day before. We can’t even think of spending a holiday without any activities. 12

The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

When you look at this trend like a philosopher, you could say that ‘becoming’ is more important than ‘being’. The meaning of what we do is always somewhere in the future. Instead of being, we are going to be. If you want to be, you have to become. Getting involved in the world, shaping it, reshaping it, and working on it; that is how people can be.

2. A pattern that has gone too far We have found out that the development virus is not a happiness virus. It would be a bit strange to say that our need for development has brought us to paradise. Problems seem to keep on returning. One problem is solved, and the next one is waiting around the corner. As soon as you get used to something new, an even newer something is already underway. Even success is not without worries. Moments of rest are short. Life offers you a mix of happiness and sadness, results and problems, success and failure, peace and worry. Life moves in ups and downs. What do all these changes, innovations, and solutions mean?

I clearly remember how a fully automatic washing machine arrived at our home to ease up our mother’s workload. We all hoped that someday, new technology would run the whole house by itself. It never turned out that way, however. My mother started using her new free time for work, only now she worked somewhere else. Becoming does not return to being at all, as Hegel would have liked it to. We have become restless, and we simply don’t succeed at being while we are busy at becoming. In the hubbub of modern life, it seems as if everything we do is running around as fast as we can. The way we live is an opiate of the masses – a trance to keep the people calm. Why do we trade our freedom of choice, which is a real freedom in our societies, for all sorts of activities that are supposed to make us happy at some point in the future? Why can’t we enjoy, dance, and sing like people in African cultures do? Why can’t we use the calm of Buddhism in our daily affairs? Is it some underlying Christian belief buried deep in western societies, telling us that happiness must be earned? Is it the daydreams of our economy, making everyone consume hard to play along in the game of capitalism? Are we repeating the mistakes of the Enlightenment, thinking that we can ‘construct’ everything? These days, you need to be wide awake to ask yourself: what do I want in life? What patterns of ‘being normal’ do I copy from the people around me without knowing it? How do I want to contribute to society? Do I value changes, innovations, and solutions? And if I want them, what is the price I have to pay?



3. Meaningful and lasting development I think that we are at a point where choosing non-development is no longer an option. Longing for times of peace and quiet is romantic and unrealistic. I think it is better to carry on developing the way in which we develop than to waste my time and energy on trying to stop it. This way of thinking about development is in fact development-framed in itself. It means thinking about what you want to retain, what you want to add, and what you want to let go of. A positive side of development is its power to keep people awake, moving along with the movements of life. Nothing can stop you from caring about what you want to keep. Nothing should stop you from adding new ways of living. If you react to the stress of development by saying that development is ‘wrong’, you are just being conservative and you are running a risk. You are resisting movement that is simply there. Maybe you feel balanced now, but that will change, because life always changes. I called development a virus, but I don’t mean to say that development is a bad thing. Development is good as long as it is meaningful and lasting. Meaningfulness is linked to your inner experience of the things you do. Whether you think of an activity as meaningful depends on yourself. You construct meaning by telling yourself: ‘Yes, this is what I want to do. This is important to me.’ This will make you feel calm and at peace with what you do in life. This depends completely on how you look at the world, and on what you think is beautiful and good. Try to find a match between the way it is and how you feel it should be. Development becomes lasting development if it has a long-term perspective. You link what you do now to the impact that your actions will have on the future. If you don’t, you may get results, but their effects will turn against you. You can decide to practice at sports so hard right now, for instance, that your body is damaged later on. Developing with a long-term perspective can mean keeping an eye on your diet today in order to keep your body fit in the future. You could invest in your talents now and profit from your investment later. We all have a choice to live our present lives in ways that allow our children to grow up in a better world. Lasting development allows people to participate in a movement that is far greater than just this present moment. This will make development mean much more than just getting quick and personal results. Meaningfulness is different for every person, but everyone can see when results are lasting. Meaningful and lasting are two qualities that need each other. Throughout the text, I will sometimes use different words instead of ‘meaningful and lasting’. You may read words like well-formed development, or ‘beautiful’ development. I am just trying to find words for development that matches the way life is.


The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

We have a long road of research ahead of us if we want to find the best guidelines for meaningful and lasting development. Until we find those guidelines, there are two important decisions that we can make at this point: choosing to develop, and trying to make the development we choose meaningful and lasting. This is why I decided to call this approach ‘development-framed’. The approach entails addressing life-events in the frame of well-formed development. It does not imply viewing life from a perspective of blind growth, solving problems, or endless innovation. The well-formed expressions and ecology of life have become too important for me to overlook in my way of thinking about life – and yes: I am still talking about development I prefer the annex ‘-framed’ over alternatives such as ‘-oriented’ or ‘directed’. Development is a frame of thinking, a perspective, and a worldview, rather than an object toward which we orient or directs ourselves. The challenge presented by this approach is to shape all activities in life by observing criteria inspired by wellformed development. ‘Framing’ denotes the act of conveying meaning, whereas ‘-framed’ is the name for this hands-on approach. The fact that we are developing almost goes without saying; the question is how we are developing. Development is typical of our species, of Homo sapiens sapiens, or at least of western people. The most important point for us is to find better ways to develop. What we should change is our current pattern of development that is going too far. We are looking into the way we develop. Our mission is to look closely at the virus, and to change it into an activity that matches the logic of life in the universe; an approach with respect for differences and for cultures with other opinions about development. That is the contribution this book intends to make to the ongoing process of cultural transition.

4. A multi-track model for development Development has been on my mind for over a decade. I have asked myself: ‘When does a person’s own development, or that of organizations or societies, match the patterns of life?’



Food for thought from everyday life • How can we expand our multicultural society and develop it in a meaningful way? • How can the process of becoming faster, richer and more successful make people happier? • If you really want to get a divorce, how can you do it in a way that keeps all the parties happy? • At what point does new technology become distorted, unsustainable, and impairing, and when is it lasting development? • When does a merger between two companies result in lasting development? • How can you look at losing your job as a chance to develop yourself? • How can you make old age and disease meaningful? • How is death an opportunity for development? • How can your childhood traumas make you a stronger person? • How can you regard problems with your adolescent child as a way of developing yourself?

Instead of just sitting back and thinking about development, I am firmly rooted in the practice of coaching, training, and counseling. This is why I look at my job as my field of research. I use my work to test my way of thinking. This is why I explain my method by looking at how it works in real life. If we begin by looking at how this method can help people live meaningful lives, we will have something to work with when we start thinking about how societies can develop in lasting ways. Of course, I didn’t just pick any method for development. My method is called ‘multi-track’ development. You could also just say ‘the Fork’. The Fork is a method for making meaningful and lasting development useful in real life. Roughly speaking, the method works as follows. First, development is divided into different building blocks called parts, which together make up well-formed development. Each of the four differentiated tracks must be taken into account in order to accomplish meaningful development. Any kind of development will become more beautiful if you link concrete activities to development of the larger whole. The mission of this book is to explain the different building blocks of development, as well as to show you how to employ each individual track, and especially to point out where the tracks meet and affect each other. You can use the Fork to shape any kind of development. You can look at your own development: how are you developing yourself? From there, we can look at development in other people: how can you, as a professional, guide others in their development? Finally, there are teams and greater wholes like organizations and 16

The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

cultures. This instrument will let you see activities like management, education, and social work in a broader development perspective. I am sure that the Fork can be useful in many areas, and in many ways.

5. Reader’s guidelines When I was writing this book, I decided that I did not want to tell my story in a straight line from start to finish. The book is meant to move in circles. The first chapter explains development as an approach and as a way of looking at life, and I will use it to explain what I think is well-shaped development. You will find seven guidelines to help you find your own way of looking at development. The second chapter is an introduction to my Fork model. This chapter explains the tracks and the philosophy behind the tracks. The next four chapters are detailed descriptions of each individual track in the Fork. I will show you how handle the tracks, and how to get a grip on development. The order of tracks is: the project (chapter 3), self-guidance (chapter 4), identity (chapter 5), and the greater whole (chapter 6). The seventh and final chapter is about professional coaching of development. It was written for anyone who has made it his or her job to guide others, such as counselors, coaches, advisors, psychotherapists, teachers, executives, doctors, physical therapists, nurses, architects, lawyers, and accountants. How do professionals guide development? What is development-framed coaching? And how do professionals add their own share to the development of professional coaching itself? You will find the answers to these questions at the end of this book.

6. The mission of this book I wrote this book for three groups of readers. Firstly, it is for all of us as individuals in society. Then there is the group of professionals. Thirdly, I hope to contribute to philosophy, and in doing so I hope to encourage you, the philosopher, to think of new and critical questions. Below you will find explanations of this book’s mission for each group of readers. Individuals With this book, I hope to reach a broad group of readers and invite them to join me in finding pleasant and more meaningful ways of handling life. I hope this work will provide some grip and a frame of thought for people. It would be great to see people connecting with each other to start doing this together. The ideas explained in this book do not make up a complete solution or a doctrine, they are simply one possible approach, but it is an appealing one. Fortunately, I am not the only one who wants to look closely at the way we live, and to try and make it a lasting and meaningful way of living. I am only a spokesman, a channel, a person trying to point out the direction we are moving in. Maybe you will say: ‘Hey wait a minute, I know what this is about’, ‘I am doing this already; here I see it explained as a system’. 17


This book was written for readers who, for a start, want to get going with their own development. You are probably already looking for ways to live a meaningful life, and to add what you have to the greater whole around you. Just thinking about theories of development is not enough. We should try to understand from within, as unique persons, what the development-framed approach is about. How are you engaged in living your life?

You are also someone who likes to keep it practical, always looking for tools that you can use in real life. On the other hand, you want a well-considered approach, because you don’t like one-sided thinking or cheap copies. This is not a quick self-help guide and it is not about self-development; it is a way of learning about life. Professionals The second group I aim for in this book are professionals in the fields of social work, coaching, and public welfare services in general, because they are the people that make social change happen. Their field of work lies between the people and the systems of society. Professionals are individuals and parts of systems at the same time. They have individual freedom as well as professional freedom. In addition, they can have a lasting effect on development. How development-framed are the patterns you work with as a professional?

All professionals have been trained in a specific way at some point, making them students of their own time. They haven’t stopped there, however. They are wide awake, they like to read, and they think about the methods they use. They are not afraid to take a critical look at the patterns they work with. They are not afraid to ask questions, or to move along with new approaches and ways of thinking. Do you meet lots of patients, clients, students, or customers? Or do you have an important position in an organization? If so, you have the power to make decisions and to create differences. My mission is to show you that your work will become much more meaningful if you fit it in a framework of development. It would be great to see you working along in the broader development of society. Philosophers A third mission lies in the field of philosophy. I want to lay a foundation for an outlook on the idea of ‘development’. This book is my attempt at actualizing the 18

The Fork. Linking personal growth to cultural transition

idea of development from the practice of life. Of course, in doing so, I have been inspired by some of the great philosophers, academic literature, and events as I see them unfold in the world. What does it mean to have an actualized outlook on development?

Development has been around for ages. The idea is not new at all. All civilizations have had their own ideas about development, about advancement, and about history. The way we have been thinking about development over the past two hundred years, however, is no longer tenable. Life doesn’t move along straight lines. We can’t control everything with our powers of reason. You cannot solve everything by yourself. We are looking for new ways of thinking about development, and we are searching for different ways of coping with the many movements of life. Although the idea of development has been with us for a long time, we need to drag it into the future to make it fit our modern way of life. This is what I mean by actualizing our outlook on development. We need a new outlook because modern societies have new and different needs. We need a guideline for coping with the complexities of the world around us in more meaningful and flexible ways. We should learn to see the greater whole. We feel the need to give meaning to the movements of life. All over the world, people need to find a balance between economical and political decisions on one side, and existential and religious desires on the other. The development-framed approach is just one possible answer to the question of what we should learn in the present stage of western and globalizing culture. With this answer, I try to contribute to the way our culture is developing right now. I am trying to update our idea of ‘development’ by making a few changes to the development virus as it exists today. I hope that the ideas in this book will spread like a virus too. What do you think you should do when you think about developing human ‘civilization’, of which you are part?

I hope that you will use your own inspiration when you put the method of the Fork to work. Remember that the Fork is just a model, which is simply a way to make the idea of development concrete. Feel free to make your own tool out of it. Let it live, and let it move. Take good care of the inspiration. 19

1 20

Developing as a life attitude

‘What is your idea of “development”?’ ‘When do the effects of development become meaningful?’ ‘How do you give personal meaning to what you do?’ ‘What would it mean if you really accepted the developmentframed life attitude?’


The Fork model