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Walking the Path to Mastery

February 8, 2013

PHI is a strong supporter of the Eden Alternative®, an international organization seeking to improve the well-being of elders and their care partners by transforming the communities where they live and work. PHI has collaborated with Eden Alternative to include skill-building curricula in Eden’s “Path to MasteryTM” — a phased guide to organizational culture change. Language is very important in the Eden Alternative organization, and the selection of the phrase “Path to Mastery” was both thoughtful and intentional.

What does it mean to be on a path to mastery? Fundamentally, it is an ongoing process of learning, discovery, and application. PHI Organizational and Executive Coach Sara Joffe describes the path in this way:

As leaders, we are consistently working on building our own awareness and the awareness of others; we are modeling new ways of being and doing. The more we practice and model these new ways of being and doing, the closer we get to mastery. In organizational culture change, perhaps we can say something has been mastered when it becomes “the new normal.” In other words, this new way is so deeply embedded that we do this naturally as the unconscious default mode. This can refer to our own personal behavior, and to organizational norms.

Another excellent resource on the topic of mastery is author Peter Senge. In his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Science of Becoming a Learning Organization (1990), Senge delves deeply into personal mastery. He states that “organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs.” Senge goes on to describe personal mastery as a process:

People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never ‘arrive.’… Personal mastery is not something you possess. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline.”

Personal mastery sparks new awareness — new understandings of what can be possible. With each new awareness, there are opportunities to practice and model new behaviors and achieve a deeper sense of mastery. This is why mastery is best referred to as a path, or journey.  

Eden Alternative’s CEO, Chris Perna, says that “Eden Principle #9 captures the essence of the ‘Path to Mastery.’ It states that ‘Creating an elder-centered community is a never-ending process. Human growth must never be separated from human life.’ For people and organizations to be truly alive, they must be constantly learning, growing, and moving along their own path to mastery.”

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