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Whole Person Engagement

In the post entitled Four Uses of the Word Engagement – Part 1, I suggested that “an engagement” is an interaction. In this post I will explore how people interact or engage with the world as whole people; physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual beings.

We interface with the world through our senses and motor functions. Between sensing and doing lies our constantly emerging being. One of the most fascinating things about people is that we do not have fixed identities. Every interaction with the world changes who we are and how we will engage in the next interaction. These shifts are so subtle that we are generally oblivious to most of them. Some experiences are so profound that our way of being radically and consciously shifts.

From a simplistic perspective we constantly engage with our world and its individual parts, choosing moment to moment the sensations on which we wish to focus. The more focused our engagement the deeper the impact on who we are and the more likely we are to respond in some way with personal investment.

Our interface with the other entities in our context occurs through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004). Contrary to what we may believe, our physical sensations are not delivered to us in pure form. We filter every sense through our perceptions which are informed by what we believe, what we already know and how we feel – our whole personhood in its current form.

Once we perceive a sensation, our minds actively work to process that data to make sense of it. We compare it with how we currently believe, think, feel, relate and act. In this process our whole way of being is transformed ready to engage in new ways with our world and its constituent parts. Part of that transformation may involve an intention to act in response to the stimulus; to invest physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually in action with other entities.

Thus, we invest all aspects of who we are in our engagements with our context; in our sensing, our sense-making and our doing.

The next post will examine The Three Dimensions of Engagement.


Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E., 2004. Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. MIT press.

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