The third LQ Review: A little more about “Self”

What happens when you are not yourself?

A good question and one that takes us back to the link between LQ and “self”. This time I explore how our “self” may be more a reflection of others than a reflection of our passions and drives.

In the article about “Self” and LQ published earlier I referred to Bruce Hood’s comments on the concept of self.

  • The concept of ‘self’ is not associated with any organ in the body other than the brain
  • There is no ‘self’ centre in the brain
  • We have an image of ‘self’ that we develop
  • ‘Self’ is a reflection and can change according to your social environment
  • ‘Self’ is a set of behaviours others are accustomed to
  • ‘Self’ appears to provide some behavioural control function

I was challenged as to how this fitted in with the work of Boyatzis[i] and his model of Intentional Change (no, I had not heard of his work before either and so thank you principledlearning !). I have not fully explored his work yet, and perhaps discussing it is foolish as it exposes my level of understanding and lays me open to being criticized (but how does learning happen without risk?). Two points have stood out for me so far. First there is an acceptance of the existence of self. Secondly he has divided self into “ideal self” (who do I want to be and is a result of both the inner self and societies influence) and “ought self” (influenced by others or a desire to please others – peer pressure influences “ought self”).  In his diagram “Theory of Self-Directed Learning” he shows the need for a support system needed to help in the transition of the real self into the ideal self.

Internal Change Theory

Traditionally I would claim that we often look outwardly and not inwardly in developing these support stems, we look to others to help us change “self.” If we accept “self” is characterised by behaviours such as patience, ‘cleverness’, confidence, resilience, and others then what we are seeking is to change our behaviours. By building relationships with others who possibly exhibit those things, those behaviours which we see as characteristics of “self”, which we wish to be part of our “ideal self”, we may believe we can be like them. Then use of sports coaches who themselves are past masters of their sport is commonplace in top level sport. The problem may arise when there is no one within our current environment with whom we can build such a relationship, and one that genuinely defines who that other person is rather than perceived. We could build the support systems on false beliefs about the other person because we have no genuine relationship with them. We may idolise a sports person or actor and wish ourselves to be like them but we have no way of really knowing who they are. We could build an “ideal self” based on their outward behaviours, wishing to copy them but not knowing the motivation or events which shape them. We do not see the hard work, dedication, failures they have experienced and challenges that they have faced and overcome. The consequence might be that we omit these characteristics from our “ideal self” forming an image or behaviours without foundation or depth and easily challenged. This dependence on others also opens the way for significant people within our environment to have a profound impact on who we are, our “ought self.” Boyatsiz highlights how the “ought self” is the view of your “ideal self” held by others. How others wish to see you, their goals for you and not your calling or passion.

Is the basis of many education systems not based on the “ought self”?  Do we ask learners to conform, to exhibit behaviours, to have goals which we set for them? Have our goals for them become corrupted through standardisation and target setting, are they now no more than grades or scores? Something to reflect on and so is the consequences of what happens when the “ought self” is removed or an individual fails to achieve the goals set by others. Perhaps it exposes the weaknesses in a target orientated education system that does not seek to develop the individual but instead require only a demonstration of what is required by the system.

I would claim that the development and application of LQ provides an inward support system, a genuine system, and one from within. The ideal self says this is who I want to be and LQ explores ways that can both achieve and sustain that change. LQ can help the learner take from their environment and relationships with others those things that supports their inner vision, their “ideal self.” LQ shows it is okay to fail, to struggle and that both are a part of learning. LQ helps to look at those to whom we aspire to be like and exposes the struggles and challenges they face in being who they are. The sports person, who practices long hours and who recovers from injury and battles to win is seen for who they are and there is an understanding of what must be done to achieve the same success or recognition.

In relation to developing and implementing LQ I can see a number of useful building blocks within the model of Intentional Change, it certainly provides a language with which to discuss and describe the actions needed to work towards developing LQ to manage your environment to meet your needs. As to whether the “self” exists and if there is an “ideal self” and “ought self” in some ways does not matter, one again it provides for the language we need to develop those attitudes and behaviours that make taking ownership of learning that much easier.

A word about the courses and presentations I have developed around LQ.

Having recently used the principles of LQ in coaching learners in literacy and numeracy I know LQ “works” and  it brings about improvements in learning. Two presentations which can be part of a morning course if required are available. One is aimed at teachers and will develop the insight and tools necessary to promote LQ in learners and the second focuses on developing an understanding of LQ and the implications for learning in pupils/students (this can be customised for learners from the age of 9 up to adults). If you are interested in finding out more about the LQ presentations or courses then please contact me at ace-d. My e-mail is:

Link to the original article on Learning Quotient

LQ teacher


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About AcEd

"4c3d" (AcEd) is the abbreviation for Advocating Creativity in education, a company I set up to challenge how we think about and deliver education. The blog champions my concept of Learning intelligence, how we manage our learning environment to meet our learning needs as well as detailing those needs: Power Belonging, Choice and Fun - PBCF. Kevin Hewitson 2019

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