Comprehending the 21st Century


We’re almost two decades in, and every day it gets clearer that the 21stCentury is going to be unprecedented. Full of threats and challenges.

For three reasons...

 Ever since 9/11/2001, we’ve all been living in a world that’s flooded with threats to our personal safety. There for example are the threats posed by Islamic Terrorists and White Nationalists. And, there are the threats that come as unexpected secondary consequences of raging wild fires, cyclonic rain storms, and catastrophic hurricanes. And threats embedded inside world-wide trends like automation, the internet of things, and globalization. Most of these phenomena don’t threaten our physical safety. However, in one way or another, they all create the kind of existential confusion, frustration, and anxious uncertainty that feels threatening.

In particular, there’s an unsettling idea going round these days that suggests this century's most radical ideas about how the world works are probably better ways for us to understand the world than anything we learned growing up. Everyday now scholars, researchers, and pundits of all sorts are telling us that there are more and more reasons why each of us should seriously question the fundamental ways we see the world, especially the core belief systems we learned from our families. There are reasons, these experts say, why we should actually dismantle and rebuild the architecture of our homespun worldviews.

New Challenges

More often than many of us are willing to admit we, these days, are beginning to see that many of the strange new situations that are showing up in our lives are there because we’re unwittingly holding onto belief systems that we learned in our playpens and backyards. We’re discovering that these new, unsettling encounters we’re having are popping up in our lives because the assumptions we took on when we were toddlers and teenagers no longer serve us. When we were young, these family beliefs did serve us. But now — as adults living in the adult world — the truisms we inherited from our families can no longer offer us the kind of real-world wisdom that we need. Particularly if, as adults, we have a desire to understand the polarized and polarizing conflicts going on all around us. Or, if we want to understand why the worlds outside our daily routines have suddenly become too complex for us to comprehend.

The truth is, the 21st Century is pushing into our lives complex multi-dimensional situations that, when we encounter them, drown us in a flood of information that sucks us down rabbit holes filled with disruptive ideas and incomprehensible threats, challenges, and opportunities. They do this partly because they’re so complex, partly because they’re challenges we’ve never seen before, partly because they’re situations that are hard to face, and partly because we’re still embedded in our old family-of-origin ways of thinking. Evidently, at least some of us are trying to live our lives through old, outdated schema, maps, and scripts. We’re trying to respond to a world that’s full of complex, new challenges through an outmoded worldview that’s not yet sophisticated enough to help us see what works. Or help us figure out how to deal effectively with what amounts to some serious, new, real-world problems.


With this in mind, I've recently taken all that I know about experiential, transformational, and self-directed learning and integrated these elements into my own unique way of thinking about these new challenges. An approach that I’m calling “Developmental Coaching.” This approach is something I’ve developed for myself to help me recognize the glitches in my own habitual modes of thinking and recognize the mismatches in my own ways to comprehending the world’s new complexities. Developmental Coaching is also the approach I’m using with my clients as a first order of business. For both myself and my clients, the first order of business is creating an increased appreciation of the possibility that the truisms each of us learned in our mother’s lap are not necessarily as trustworthy as they once were. And as trustworthy they now need to be.

Our very first developmental task is coming to terms with the idea that the beliefs we once absorbed at the dinner table listening to our dads, or at the park swimming with our pals, are clearly no longer reliable modes of thinking. Once we’ve absorbed this lesson, what comes next is struggling with the proposition that, in today’s new environment, our old family beliefs will work sometimes, but at other times they won’t work at all. The toughest developmental task to master is identifying theme and places in our lives where our old beliefs and the 21st Century’s new realities are mismatched.

Once we accept these three lessons, we’ll be well-positioned live with the realization that this three step developmental learning sequence is gong to be part of our lives for a long while now. They’re going to be our new way of seeing, thinking and/or feeling. The way that we keep pace with the new mismatches that we will have to learn how to notice and respond to, on an on-going basis.

In this new developmental coaching approach, the base idea is that we all need to learn how to create for ourselves a realistic appreciation of the mismatches that exist between our habitual modes of thinking and the complexities inherent in the situations facing us. In a Developmental Coaching effort, the basic task is uncovering and identifying our old outdated family-of-origin belief systems, our instinctive threat responses, and the ways that each of us comes to know what we know. In this effort, we need partners to work with who can help us develop the meaning-making skillsets that are key to growth and development. Developmental Coaching’s core point is to position each of us with the new more inclusive and expansive perspectives, resources, and skills that we need to thrive in the years ahead. 

Just below there’s a link to details about this developmental coaching approach. There’s also a link that lets me know you’d like to talk directly about your needs and interests.