Reaching Our Potential

By Chris Chittenden

Charles Darwin made an enormous contribution to our way of looking at the emergence of life on this planet when he developed his theory of evolution. Evolution can be said to be a process of growing complexity. As time has passed, life has developed from simple celled organisms through to human beings. As it developed, life forms were able to deal with greater complexity and this is particularly true of humankind as we have developed our minds to create and embrace an enormously complex world.

One of the fundamentals of coaching is that coaches help people develop their potential. Some theories of human development point to an expansion of consciousness to deal with the life conditions in which we find ourselves – a shift from ego-centric to ethno-centric to world-centric perspectives. In other words, we expand our ability to deal with greater complexity. These three perspectives have been broken down in sub-levels by various theorists, but one thing seems to be constant in the theories. We move from level to level without jumping over them. For example, we could not move from an ego-centric level to world-centric level without passing through the ethno-centric level. We can also see that we have healthy and unhealthy ways of being within each level.

The potential for each of us is a world-centric view (and beyond) embracing a global and holistic perspective, yet most people never get close to fulfilling that potential. They get stuck at a certain level of development and do not go beyond it. Life conditions are the key here. People live at a level of development that allows them to live with the life conditions in which they find themselves. As the complexity of the life conditions grow, then an individual seeks to utilise their current way of being until the point that they realise they must do something differently in order to continue. This might mean developing new skills, but often means a transformation of consciousness to a new level. As people develop their levels of consciousness, they also come to understand the impact they can have on their life conditions such that they can design those conditions to support themselves and others to more readily reach higher levels of development. We do not have to be a prisoner of our life conditions.

From an organisational perspective, the life conditions can be seen as the culture. In other words, an organisational culture is the conditions in which people must live. Different cultures promote or hinder people’s development. The lower levels of development are found in life conditions where fear and insecurity reign. Such cultures, which can be seen as more aggressive/defensive or passive/defensive in nature, minimise people’s ability to deal with complexity leading to more simplistic solutions that are generally less effective. More constructive cultures minimise insecurity and allow for higher levels of development to be attained and therefore better solutions in a complex world.

If you want to develop the people who work with you, consider the life conditions (culture) in which they live and what you can do to promote more complex thinking.

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© 2006 Chris Chittenden