The illustration above is the sum total of my entire philosophy and approach to life.  Regardless of the context in which I find myself, I apply the model that illustrated with usually successful results.  There are no guarantees in life, but I have found that this model leads to positive outcome.  I will explain the model and then provide a brief example of how it works.

The model contains three (3) ellipses and three (3) rectangles.  The ellipses are entities and the rectangles are collections of criteria that the entities should meet.  Really, though two (2) “roles” are depicted, there can be many roles, or one role, depending upon the context.

What is a role?

A role is a very specific way to relate with a context.  By my definition (the evidence and research associated with this approach is all in my eBook: A Model for Contextual Leadership), roles are collections of attributes and actions that people can take within the context.  For example, a “Web Developer” is a role that probably develops websites. A, “father” is a role that provides “male” guidance, protection, and sustenance to his child.

When someone acts within a role (and we all do, whether we realize it or not), he or she should reflect and understand the “SSAF” criteria.  The first “S” stands for being “Situated:” That is, a person should understand whether or not he or she is capable of filling the role and what the role means to him or her.  If the role doesn’t provide value (or anything of meaning) then he or she must either leave the role or find the value and meaning within the role.

The second “S” stands for “Social” that a person should understand that we are interdependent and connected.  The “A” stands for “Autonomous,” meaning that we are in the role through our own choice and not because someone has made us fill the role.  The last letter, “F,” is the recognition that sometimes, life changes things and we need to be “Flexible” within our roles in order to be able to adapt to those changes.  To summarize, “SSAF” is the criteria:

  • Situated
  • Social
  • Autonomous
  • Flexible

Once a person in a role has reflected and come to understand the SSAF criteria, he or she should work, along with other roles in a context, to develop a “Mutual Context,” that is, an environment in which all role members:

  • Are respectful of everyone’s natural personality
  • Participate in decision making
  • Are free to express themselves
  • Share responsibility

If we can create that type of environment, our odds of success increase greatly.

What is a goal?

A goal is something to be achieved.  Really, goals should meet the “SMART” criteria in that they should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable: There should be some way to know if the goal was met and how well
  • Achievable: This links to the “Situated” component of role criteria because a role needs to be capable of completing the tasks within the goal.  If so, then the goal is achievable
  • Relevant: Activities within the goal must be associated with both the contextual roles and the goal’s measurable success criteria.  If activities are not consistent within the goal’s attributes, then they should be omitted.
  • Time-boxed: There needs to be a deadline for completing the activities within the goal

So, to illustrate the model, I will use my own personal goal of becoming a hockey player by this time next year.  First, do I meet the SSAF criteria? I can honestly say that I do not meet the criteria for filling the role, “hockey player.”  I cannot skate, nor do I know how to handle the stick.  Therefore, I am not situated.  I don’t have a coach or trainer or a team, so I am not social within the role.  Since I don’t meet criteria, I either have to give up my goal or becoming a hockey player or develop the skills I need to be a “hockey player,” which I fully intend to do.  I will learn to ice skate, I will learn the basics of hockey playing, and I will join a team by this time next year.  My goal is specific: Become a hockey player, it is achievable because there are teachers and coaches from whom I can learn, skating and hockey lessons are relevant activities and I have a one-year time-boxed deadline.

The model works in almost any situation and if applied, it works.  It’s a simple strategy that takes a lot of work and self-awareness.  However, if you put in the work and are honest with yourself, I am willing to bet that it will work for you, too.  Try it and let me know how it goes.  I’m always up to argue its merits, as well.