In my current video series, I’m looking at a model that can prove helpful for dealing with stabilizing factors during uncertain times.
We already have two years of global pandemic behind us, marked by restrictions, social distancing requirements and fear, too. The current geopolitical situation has only further aggregated these feelings.
As I explained in my earlier blog article on Stephen Covey, it’s particularly important during such times to recognize the options we have for dealing with such challenging situations. One possible model is offered by Hilarion Petzold’s “5 pillars of identity.”
Hilarion Petzold is a German psychologist. His model offers us a way to develop an idea of how to strengthen our identity through subjective evaluation and self-awareness.
Petzold assumes that our identity, i.e., our self (the answer to the question, “Who am I?”), is like a roof supported by five pillars.
These pillars provide us with resources for dealing with stress, difficult situations, and crises. Each pillar stands for an area of life.
These areas are:
- Work and achievements
- Social environment
- Material safety
- Body and health
- Values and meaning
In each person’s life, the five pillars are filled up to varying degrees. Of course, this also depends on where in our life cycle we find ourselves at the moment of observation.
Ideally, the pillars are strong enough to support the “roof” of our identity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all five pillars must be equally strong, but we should at least have two or three strong pillars to support our identity.
The goal of working with this model is to fill the pillars in such a way as to permanently achieve solid inner stability through a balanced distribution of the pillars in our lives. If, due to illness, separation, etc., for example, this is not achieved, if a supporting pillar crumbles, this can lead to crisis. It’s also worth noting that the more significant a crumbled pillar’s supporting role, the more intensely we tend to experience the crisis.
Investigating the meaning of the pillars in our lives can enable us to become more closely aware of the areas in which we may have some “catching up” to do. In other words, we may find that we’ve neglected some area of our life or perhaps even completely ignored it. This is how we can develop an awareness for what might be possible and make adjustments or shift our focus so we can deal with rough times in a psychologically stronger and more stable fashion.
Let’s take a closer look at this.
Our society attaches particular importance and focus on the “work and achievements”pillar. This pillar includes questions of success, career decisions and efficacy. For many people, work in particular, as well as the achievements made, is closely linked with appreciation and recognition.
And isn’t it precisely this area of life that constantly confronts us with new challenges, lures us out of our comfort zone and stresses us with its speed and constant demand to remain flexible?
And please note: Housework as the focus of daily occupation also falls under the category of this pillar. In fact, it’s not about what I do to make a living, but with what kind of activities I fill my daily life.
So ask yourself:
- What is it that fills up this column in your life?
- Do you enjoy it? And if so, what exactly do you enjoy about it?
- What is it exactly that gives you fulfillment
- What would you like to do more of under this pillar?
- What other goals do you have?
The “social environment” pillar is about the connections that we have, and that we actively live and shape, with other people, whether friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. They may be able to support us during difficult times and provide us with a sense of relatedness and belonging that keeps us feeling connected, instead of lonely.
- Who are your confidants?
- Who can you call to ask for help, even in the middle of the night?
- With whom can you be yourself?
- Who appreciates and encourages you?
- With whom can you laugh and be exuberant?
- With whom do you feel you belong?
Another pillar that is getting more and more attention from my coachees and clients is that of “body and health.” You probably know the Latin expression: mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). We often have a “gut feeling” when something isn’t quite right. For instance, our hair simply doesn’t seem sit right when we’re coming down with the flu. And our heart races when we feel excitement or joy.
- What do you like most about your body?
- Do you keep moving and work out regularly?
- What’s your diet like?
- Do you get sufficient rest and recovery time?
- Do you sleep deeply, and sleep enough?
- How do you care for your body and soul?
- Where can you best relax?
- Do you take time for yourself?
Worries about job losses and financial worries are particularly prevalent right now. These are part of the “material safety” pillar. Financial and material safety describes a basic need for existential security. Of course, every individual’s needs are different when it comes to the money they require for their personal material safety as they perceive it. And this certainly depends on a person’s specific life commitments, too.
- What does material safety mean to you?
- Have you ever checked your monthly fixed costs against your respective income?
- Do you have financial protection in place?
- Are there any things you could do without?
- Who do you have in your life who could advise you on financial matters?
- What wishes or goals would you like to fulfill in your life?
The fifth pillar deals with “values and meaning.” In the past, most people never asked themselves questions about meaning until the last third of their lives, but today we’re seeing that even young people are increasingly seeking meaning. No matter our age, values and meaning serve as guardrails for our actions. When we’re challenged to make decisions, they can provide us with support and security. They define who we are and where we’re going and often carry us through times of crisis.
- Which values are particularly important to you?
- Do you live by your values?
- Do you see meaning in what you do?
- Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What for?”
- How would you like to be, and how would you like to be seen?
- What causes are you involved with?
- What’s important to you in life?
- Do you surround yourself with the “right” people?
- What makes you stand out?
- What do you believe in?
Maybe these questions have enabled you to take a closer look at your five pillars. Have you perhaps even painted and visualized them?
What did you realize? Did anything surprise you? Was one column less filled up than you thought it actually was? Or vice versa?
- Which of your pillars gives you the most strength and stability?
- Which pillar would you like to focus on more in the future?
- Which pillar do you want to fill up more and strengthen? And how?
I truly hope I was able to give you some insight and support on your journey through this model. And perhaps you even found a takeaway for action that will give you strength and confidence—that would be even better!
And always remember: No matter the result of your consideration, the journey itself is the reward and it begins by taking that first step!
In this spirit,
Go for it!
Your crisis manager