Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Obliquity in Mental Health

Formulated by economic theorist and author John Kay, obliquity is the notion that complex goals are often best achieved indirectly. As Kay puts it 'happiness is the product of fulfilment in work and private life, not the repetition of pleasurable actions, so happiness is not achieved by pursuing it'.

Kay is hailed widely as a perceptive business and organisational guru, but his ideas have a great deal of relevance in the mental health field.

Kay is very strong on the question of goals and defining business and personal objectives. However his take is interesting as he does not have a straightforward linear viewpoint.

'We find out about the real nature of our goals in the process of accomplishing them, and our understanding of the complex structures of personal relationships or business organisations is necessarily incomplete', Kay writes.

John Kay underlines the importance of goals and goal-setting, which is commonplace in most business and personal development thinking. But he emphasises that even when we set clear goals, we only 'find out about the real nature of our goals in the process of accomplishing them'.

Nothing could be more true when this perception is applied to mental health, recovery and mainstream.

As a social inclusion bridge builder, I am employed to help enable clients set clear goals and prioritise a personal route into and through the mainstream environment. But even when a client has prioritised one specific pathway, it can sometimes be the case that this will not be the area of mainstream that he or she will end up pursuing.

I have clients who have prioritised music or the arts but who soon find a place elsewhere - in sports, volunteering or employment, for example.

It used to be somewhat discouraging to find that clients were not engaging in their originally prioritised mainstream domains. Now I check with other members of the bridge building team and find that many of my original referrals are now active in other areas.

Obliquity in action!

As John Kay puts it: 'the paradox of obliquity is all around us'.

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