By Chris Chittenden
“And at each stage of development the world looks different because the world is different…”
… Ken Wilber, “A Brief History of Everything”
What do you think of when you hear the words “personal development”? Even though there is a huge industry involved in this area, there is no shared well defined answer to the question, “What is personal development?” Does it mean new skills, a new way of being, a higher level of consciousness, increased spirituality or something else altogether? At Talking About, we look on personal development as an unfolding journey in dealing with complexity in the world as an individual observes it. As a person develops, he or she is able to observe greater complexity in the world they see, generate more options to deal with that complexity and therefore take more effective actions.
What is amazing to many people is that the idea of personal development has little or no appeal for some. They just do not see the need. There are many reasons for this, ironically starting with the need to have achieved a certain level of personal awareness to even recognise that development is an option. However, even when some people see a need they do not want to willingly embark on a personal development journey. One reason for this is that for some people they see such a journey as an admission they are “not ok “in some way and they are not willing to admit to this. When this perspective is examined, we can come to the conclusion that people who feel this way may be taking a black and white stance. What they do is right or wrong, and they do not want to be wrong. From within their black and white world they cannot see the complexities of the shades of gray. Such a binary point of view lends itself to a way of being based on clear, though quite possibly unseen, values but where any evidence that might contradict that view is ignored.
One of the great insights coming from the domain of developmental psychology has been an understanding of human development through various stages of consciousness or our ability to observe and deal with complexity. A common theme throughout these studies has been a transition from an egocentric to an ethnocentric to a global centric worldview. Each stage of development does not replace previous stages rather, as Ken Wilber has indicated each stage transcends and includes the previous stages. Rather than there being right and wrong worldviews, the earlier one was adequate and the new one is more adequate.
One of the major daily challenges facing those of us in the “personal development” industry and those who hire us is to recognise the stage of development of individuals, groups or organisations and to design change processes to deal with that understanding. One of the major mistakes we make is to assume everyone can reach a certain and same level in a given time rather than reaching their own higher level based on where they currently are and whether they are ready for such a transition. When we recognise that we can tailor our efforts and generate a more effective impact and improved outcomes.
© 2006 Chris Chittenden