I’ve spent the past few weeks living away from home while we had some plumbing issues dealt with. Now I’m back and settling once again into my own space. While returning my home to some semblance of order, it is time to take stock of an acutely uncomfortable experience which has unexpectedly offered me an insight into the value of how we use our professional competences.
Life and work, of course, had to go on uninterrupted while all this chaos was happening around us but it took me a while to realise exactly why the experience was so difficult to contend with. Home is not just a place to ‘be’ or a place to come home to at the end of the day, nor is it just a place where you keep your ‘stuff’. It is also a place where you find the comfort of familiar or beautiful objects. The absolute sterility of the apartment in which we were living made me realise just how many times a day my eyes must normally pass over and acknowledge the things which nourish me – the photographs, the pictures, the sculptures, the objects gathered around me over the years and which feed me every time I see them, relieving stress, offering comfort by their very familiarity and creating a feeling of wellbeing.
Unsurprisingly, it’s also the place where everything you may need at any time and for any purpose just sits quietly in its allotted and rightful place until you need to use it. Then you just put out your hand and there it is, ready to serve, waiting to be of use. The action is instinctive because you know where it should be and have an expectation that it will be there. The problems caused over the last few weeks while unable to do this seemingly simple thing were simply staggering.
As we moved everything home, we also took the opportunity to throw out or replace anything which had outlived its usefulness, realising as we did so that familiarity had made us blind to the fact that they had become damaged or were no longer valuable.
So, as we settle back in and everything is now where it should be, I have started to work effectively again. This has unexpectedly made me realise that much the same arguments hold true for our acquisition and utilisation of professional skills and competences – also known as continuing professional development. We acquire them over a long period and gather them around us, extending our range and building layers of competence as we gain experience in their use. We take the time to evaluate what skills we currently have, we gain new ones to replace those that are no longer useful or relevant, or worn out and out of date. We use them at will – we can just put our hand on them because we know they are there – and that is very comforting as well as being an expression of our particular abilities.
But it also means that we use those competences to build a framework which supports everything that we do. Our competences are as important to us as the beautiful and familiar objects with which we surround ourselves at home. They offer us comfort and security by just being available. If they weren’t there, if we hadn’t taken the time to update and extend our skills, if we weren’t aware of the need for regular assessment of our capability, then we could not rely on them to be available when we need them, whether during an average day at work or when it is time to spread our wings and take on a new role. Comfort and security – who could argue with that?