Tag Archives: common good

Even Short Periods of Meditation Will Reduce Racial Prejudice

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.01.45 PMNovember 24, 2015

Now this is encouraging news: A new study finds that just seven minutes of meditation can reduce racial prejudice. The study, from the University of Sussex, was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion. It used the Buddhist mediation technique of loving-kindness meditation, which promotes unconditional kindness towards oneself and others.

The lead researcher Alexander Stell, said: “This indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.” This form of meditation is aimed at generating feelings of happiness and kindness towards oneself and others through conscious focus on repeating thoughts and phrases that are positive and beneficent, while visualizing a particular person.

According to Stell, “We wanted to see whether doing loving-kindness meditation towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group.”

In the study, a sample of 71 white, non-meditating adults were each given a photo of a gender-matched black person and either received taped LKM instructions, or instructions to look at the photos and notice certain features of the face. Both conditions lasted just seven minutes. Details of the experiment are described in this summary from the University.

The researchers found that just seven minutes of loving-kindness meditation directed to a member of a specific racial group (in this case, a black person) was sufficient to reduce racial bias towards that group. Additionally the researchers measured levels of positive emotions that were either ‘other-regarding’ (e.g. love, gratitude, awe, elevation) and those that were more self-directed (e.g. contentment, joy, pride). They found that people doing loving-kindness meditation showed large increases in other-regarding emotions. Those emotions were found to be what drives the reduction of bias.

Credit: Bigstock

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A Leftward Shift on Key Moral and Political Issues

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 5.02.39 PMJune 2, 2015

As our society becomes increasingly interconnected and generational shifts occur, we’re witnessing continued evolution in peoples attitudes and behavior about “moral” issues, as well as increasing acceptance of diverse values and ways of life. This recent Gallup survey highlights the direction of these shifts. It reports that “Americans are more likely now than in the early 2000s to find a variety of behaviors morally acceptable, including gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage and sex between an unmarried man and woman. Moral acceptability of many of these issues is now at a record-high level.”

At the same time, another Gallup survey finds that more Americans now rate themselves as socially liberal than at any point in Gallup’s 16-year trend, and for the first time, as many say they are liberal on social issues as say they are conservative. This reflects a shift from older surveys that tended to show greater numbers who identify as conservative on social and political issues. Currently, thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999.

Moreover, according the Gallup report, Americans are becoming more liberal on social issues, as evidenced not only by the uptick in the percentage describing themselves as socially liberal, but also by their increasing willingness to say that a number of previously frowned-upon behaviors are morally acceptable. The biggest leftward shift over the past 14 years has been in attitudes toward gay and lesbian relations, from only a minority of Americans finding it morally acceptable to a clear majority finding it acceptable.

The key trends that Gallup cites include:

  • The substantial increase in Americans’ views that gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable coincide with a record-high level of support for same-sex marriage and views that being gay or lesbian is something a person is born with, rather than due to one’s upbringing or environment.
  • The public is now more accepting of sexual relations outside of marriage in general than at any point in the history of tracking these measures, including a 16-percentage-point increase in those saying that having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable, and a 15-point increase in the acceptability of sex between an unmarried man and woman. Clear majorities of Americans now say both are acceptable.
  • Acceptance of divorce and human embryo medical research are also up 12 points each since 2001 and 2002, respectively.
  • Polygamy and cloning humans have also seen significant upshifts in moral acceptability — but even with these increases, the public largely perceives them as morally wrong, with only 16% and 15% of Americans, respectively, considering them morally acceptable.

For a longer description of the survey’s findings, click here.

Credit: CPD Archive

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Look Over Your Shoulder: Generation Z is Rising!

Screen shot 2015-04-01 at 2.54.40 PMMarch 31, 2015

“These children are so mature and they learn so fast, they might just be ready to take over by the time they’re 22.”

Generation X and the aging baby boomers often have trouble understanding and dealing with the millennials. But now, Alexandra Levit’s article in the New York Times calls attention to the rise of Generation Z. Take note, in case you forgot: Everyone grows up and everyone becomes older. Levit writes, “While executives have been fretting over the millennials, though, a new generation is growing up behind the scenes — Generation Z (born starting in the mid-90s to the early ’00s depending on whom you ask). Within the next three years, Gen Zers will be the college grads in my audiences, and they are poised to be somewhat different from the millennials.” Moreover, “These children are so mature and they learn so fast, they might just be ready to take over by the time they’re 22.”

Levit describes her own encounter with them and, more seriously, points out some of their attitudes, values and behavior regarding work, diversity, and activism on issues that concern them. They are the future, and the older generations would do well to pay attention to them — and maybe even learn something from them. She writes:

I recall the exact moment the temperature changed in the workplace. It was 2005, and I was speaking to an audience of 100 young professionals. I was relating my experiences building a career as a Gen Xer (born 1964-79) in a world of traditionalists (born before 1945) and baby boomers (born 1946-63).

Every time I threw out phrases like “paying your dues” and “playing the game,” the audience stared at me blankly. This was not the reaction I had come to expect from early twentysomethings. Usually they took notes on how they could get ahead in corporate America as quickly as possible. Continue reading

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Why Having A Vision Is Important — In Business And Life

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Writing in Entrepreneur, Virgin founder/CEO Richard Branson cites the importance for a company to develop a vision. I find Branson’s views relevant not only to business, but to life itself.

In response to a reader’s question, he writes, “You do need to develop an overall vision for your company — one that is strongly supported by a more targeted strategy at each business that falls under your umbrella. The two things are not mutually exclusive, but complementary: One should not override the other.” And, “…we have started up more than 400 companies…and as the success of our group has proved, your vision for your company should not be so restrictive that it limits your team’s imagination.”

This applies to one’s personal development, as well, in my view. That is, we need an overarching vision of what we’re living for; a sense of meaning and purpose to our lives that provides overall integration and direction. And that requires flexibility and adaptability as we “evolve” along the way. Branson reflects this same perspective with respect to business, writing that “Starting up a business is always an adventure, and not everything comes together for every entrepreneur in the same way. As you face the challenges of keeping your business going, you may find that your vision for the company needs to be adjusted as you go.”

That’s a valuable perspective for your life development, as well — in your relationships, your career, your life goals. Branson adds, “Looking back, our goals certainly changed and expanded over time, but there was a key element that was common to all of those enterprises: They were created to enhance people’s lives.” I think that latter point is relevant to your personal and societal development as well, because in out interdependent world personal success is interwoven with support of and enhancement of others’ lives — the larger common good. It’s clear that this reality is stirring major turmoil in business, public policy and personal lives, today.

For Branson’s full article, click here.

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We Need To Wake Up To ‘The Next America’

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 2.22.27 PMThe new report from the Pew Research Center describes significant shifts and ongoing evolution in American culture. This emerging face of “the next America” will have profound impact upon our lives, work and politics. I plan to write a longer piece about the implications of the Pew report as they relate to new challenges for personal relationships, careers and public policy. But among the basic findings are that America is becoming less white, more diverse and older.

The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza has summarized the key findings and their implications, writing, ” The America of today bears little resemblance to the country of 50 years ago. It is older. It is less white. And those two demographic trends will only accelerate over the next 50 years.” Cillizza quotes Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center: “Each of these shifts would by itself be the defining demographic story of its era,” writes “The fact that both are unfolding simultaneously has generated big generation gaps that will put stress on our politics, families, pocketbooks, entitlement programs and social cohesion.”

For Cillizza’s full article, click here.

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Six Traits Common To Empathic People

Screen shot 2014-02-04 at 11.37.48 AMAs the impact of empathy and compassion upon social and personal wellbeing receives more public attention, it’s good to see accumulating research that documents it. A recent article by the sociologist and empathy researcher Roman Krznaric, “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People,” describes six attitudes and behavior common among empathic people. They illustrate, as well, how those patterns can be cultivated by most anyone. The article was published in  Greater Good, from the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, which “studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.”

Krznaric writes, “…empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. (Research) reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us.”

The six habits he describes are, in essence: curiosity about strangers; searching for commonalities beneath differences and prejudices; envisioning oneself in the life of another; two-way openness — giving and receiving; active engagement with some purpose larger than yourself; and putting yourself in the mindset of those whom you disagree with. To me, this last feature is similar to the third, but all are practices that build positive emotional connection with others and are worth cultivating.

For the full article, click here.

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Why “Learning” Compassion Leads to Greater Altruism

Screen shot 2013-06-08 at 10.12.13 AMIt’s good to see research that demonstrates our capacity to awaken and evolve our consciousness and become more fully “human” – in our mental perspectives, our emotions and our behavior towards others. Two recent strands of such research illustrate this. One is the increasing, legitimate research on the beneficial powers of psychedelic drugs, especially psilocybin and MDMA (ecstasy), being conducted after a long stretch of unwarranted legal prohibition. The other strand provides accumulating knowledge of how we are able to alter our brain, our attitudes and conduct through conscious effort and practice. And, that meditation is powerful vehicle for this.

For example, new research demonstrates that you can “learn” compassion through specific meditative practices fairly quickly; and, intriguingly, that teaching yourself to become more compassionate directly translates to altruistic behavior. This latest study was summarized in a University of Wisconsin press release. Conducted at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, founded by Richard Davidson, the leading researcher in this field, it investigated whether you can train adults to become more compassionate; and whether that results in greater altruistic behavior and changes in related brain activity. Well, you can, and it does. Continue reading

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The Life and Work of Albert Hirschman

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 11.59.46 AMI’ve long-admired the writings of economist and public intellectual Albert O. Hirschman, who died a few months ago at 97. In addition to his ideas, he had a remarkable, little publicized and heroic life during World War II, as this New York Times obituary reveals. And this essay by Roger Lowenstein in the Wall Street Journal shows how Hirschman offered some interesting perspectives about the role of dissent, relevant to politics and organizations. Lowenstein writes, “Once you start looking at the world through the Hirschman lens, the paradigm of exit and voice is all around. Suppose you are unhappy at work: Should you complain to the boss or simply quit? Or maybe you are the boss: How much should you mollify employees—or customers—to keep them from leaving? It might depend on the presence of a third Hirschman factor: loyalty. Broadly speaking, markets are all about exit, while politics deals in voice. What Hirschman grasped is that the strongest organizations (in either sphere) foster exit as well as voice.”

The complete essay: Continue reading

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Gun Violence, Mental Illness and Their Hidden Roots

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 1.40.33 PMI expanded my previous post for this Huffington Post article, as follows:

Much of the discussion about gun violence, mental illness and public policy is like looking at the branches of the tree and its trunk. But we don’t consider the roots, which fuel how the tree grows. Those roots lie within some of our cultural values and aspirations that we absorb as we grow through our families, schools, and into adult relationships and careers. They are murky, hard to see. But here I suggest some worthy of facing and dealing with.

First, it’s quite likely that not much will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. As Dana Milbank recently wrote inThe Washington Post, the tendency has been to “slow-walk” discussion about change. And then it never occurs. But if a sea change of attitude and action does result, it would require a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans to summon the courage to confront the political power of the NRA, and enact reasonable gun laws, one’s that would be enforced. Such laws would respect the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want firearms to protect their homes. But they would also limit the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. Protecting the public from the danger of being killed by people wielding assault weapons with multiple rounds of ammunition is no less a “right” than that of possessing a gun.

At the same time, Continue reading

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Understanding The Disappointment Of “Red America”

It’s crucial for our own personal growth and development to be able to step outside ourselves, our own perspectives, and experience the world through the eyes of those who see it differently. Seeing and understanding through the lens of others – especially those with whom we disagree — builds empathy and compassion. And that’s vital for strengthening that which is shared, and for working towards common goals – beyond differences. Bill Clinton is a master at conveying understanding to those who feel scared and angry about changes occurring in our country. And Eli Saslow’s recent portrayal of the disappointment felt by Romney supporters in the Washington Post does a good job at that, as well. He writes:

She arrived early to take apart the campaign office piece by piece, just as she felt so many other things about her life were being dismantled. Beth Cox wore a Mitt Romney T-shirt, a cross around her neck and fresh eyeliner, even though she had been crying on and off and knew her makeup was likely to run….Her calendar read “Victory Day!!” and she had planned to celebrate in the office by hosting a dance party and selling Romney souvenirs. But instead she was packing those souvenirs into boxes…Here in the heart of Red America, Cox and many others spent last week grieving not only for themselves and their candidate but also for a country they now believe has gone wildly off track.

For the complete article, click here.

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Wealthy People Less Likely To Help Others In Times Of Trouble

 

Some new research finds that less well-off people tend to reach out to each other in times of trouble, but the more affluent opt for comfort in their material wealth and possessions. In a study conducted at UC Berkeley, and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that the rich are ” more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones,” according to the lead author, Paul Piff. One interpretation is that the more wealthy take comfort in material possessions when threatened by feelings of chaos, crisis or disruption in their environment. The study was described in this Science Daily summary:

Crises are said to bring people closer together. But a new study from UC Berkeley suggests that while the have-nots reach out to one another in times of trouble, the wealthy are more apt to find comfort in material possessions. “In times of uncertainty, we see a dramatic polarization, with the rich more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones,” said Paul Piff, a post-doctoral scholar in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. These new findings add to a growing body of scholarship at UC Berkeley on socio-economic class — defined by both household income and education — and social behavior. Results from five separate experiments shed new light on how humans from varying socio-economic backgrounds may respond to both natural and human-made disasters, including economic recessions, political instability, earthquakes and hurricanes. Continue reading

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People Are Motivated To Help Others By Thoughts Of Giving, Beyond Self-Interest

This research from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan adds to the evidence that people are more prone to help others when they focus and reflect on giving and helping. I think this helps you move beyond self-interest and towards awareness of connection with others – which underlies service to others, promoting the common good, and actions that are an antidote to greed and self-absorption.

The study was summarized in Medical News Today, from a report in the journal Psychological Science, as follows:

 

We’re often told to ‘count our blessings’ and be grateful for what we have. And research shows that doing so makes us happier. But will it actually change our behavior towards others?

A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that thinking about what we’ve given, rather than what we’ve received, may lead us to be more helpful toward others.

Researchers Adam Grant of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Jane Dutton of The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan wanted to understand how reflection, in the form of expressive writing, might influence prosocial behavior. They observed that when we reflect on what we’ve received from another person, we might feel an obligation to help that person, but the motivation to help doesn’t necessarily extend to other people. And reflecting on what we’ve received from others may even cause us to feel dependent and indebted.

The researchers wondered whether thinking about times when we have given to others might be more effective in promoting helping. They hypothesized that reflecting on giving could lead a person to see herself as a benefactor, strengthening her identity as a caring, helpful individual and motivating her to take action to benefit others.

In their first experiment, Continue reading

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Green Leadership: Learning It And Doing It

A previous post described what a green business leadership mindset consists of. I argued personal buy-in among leaders is essential to establish, communicate and enact sustainable and socially responsible practices. Here, I describe how leaders can learn to build that mindset, and how that underlies successful and innovative practices.

I see two linked pathways to developing and applying green leadership: First, acquiring and learning relevant facts and evidence-based understanding about emerging global and workforce realities. These require new actions for long-term survival and success. The second is leadership self-development, through self-awareness awareness and other sources of learning. Both must become part of the leader’s “DNA” in order for sustainable practices to be successful.

Two Pathways To A Green Leadership Mentality

Learning Facts and Information

This includes acquiring information: Documented research findings; related, science-derived data; and evidence-based understanding and interpretation of current environmental and workforce realities. For example: Continue reading

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Why Obama and Romney Both Misunderstand “The American Dream”

As Romney begins his pivot, he and President Obama are highlighting their competing visions for growing prosperity and riches: One, building from the bottom up; the other, trickling from the top down. The data show that Obama’s argument is more correct, but don’t look for any bipartisan compromise towards creating a sane fiscal policy. Nor, for that matter, towards progress on any other major issues. From a political psychology perspective, one can interpret the policies adovcated by the Republicans as increasingly extreme and reactionary. They are likely to create suffering for large segments of society. At the same time, the party is resuscitating social issues from decades ago.

These have dangerous consequences, and you can’t help wondering what’s driving their positions with such zeal. There are many sources, but a major one is psychological. It has three strands which culminate in policies that pervert what politicians like to call The American Dream the possibility for all members of society to build a successful and fulfilling life. But that dream is increasingly pointed towards the few who can become rich, at the expense of the many. Let’s look at the three psychological strands that underlie that twist, and how they impact peoples work and lives.

Little Boys Play-Acting As Grown-Ups

The younger Republicans often sound like little boys making demands and arguments that they imagine big, grown-up men do and say when they have power, like I will have my way, and you must obey me. Interestingly, most of them are baby boomers now in their midlife years. Perhaps this reflects a psychological and cultural theme of this generation worth exploring. But their posturing does appear to reflect a twisted sense of what it means to be a psychologically mature adult man, who — in reality — must be able to engage with collaboratively to achieve anything. Continue reading

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Romney and Gingrich Share an “Inner Life” Problem

Both liberal and conservative political writers have been commenting on the negative public reactions to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, despite their being the leading Republican contenders for their party’s nomination. For example, conservative George Will portrays Romney as the personwe don’t trustwritingof the“… impression many Republicans seem to have of his slipperiness…(and) the suspicion that there is something synthetic about him.”Liberal Eugene Robinson describes Gingrich as the personwe don’t like, citing bothFox and CNN pollsshowing that Gingrich has about a 57% disapproval rating.

But there’s something both Gingrich and Romney share — though in opposite ways — that contributes to these negative perceptions: It’s a problem within theinner lifeof each, as it drives their outer life personas and behavior.

In essence, Mitt Romney is perceived by many as stiff and too scripted; unable to connect with ordinary people or be spontaneous in his interactions with them, even when trying to be humorous. Writing in theNational Review,Jonah Goldbergrefers to Romney’s“… 2 percent milk personality… his authentic inauthenticity problem isn’t going away. And it’s sapping enthusiasm from the rank and file.”I don’t think Romney’s patrician background can account for this. The Kennedys, for example, generated a strong sense of connection with the lives of ordinary people, despite their wealth.

On the other hand, Newt Gingrich has, in fact, aroused a strong connection with Republican voters, who seem to feel a shared anger and resentment about current problems. And yet, he’s simultaneously perceived as arrogant, grandiose and unstable — both by the very voters who support him as well as by conservatives. For example,Wall Street Journalcolumnist Peggy Noonandescribes himas“… a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!'”and Charles Krauthammerwritesthat“Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.”

So, what’s their inner life problem? To explain, your inner life is Continue reading

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Why Our Political Culture Looks Insane

The ugly spectacle of political gridlock reflects a political culture best described as insane. It’s increasingly disconnected from realities of our current world. We’re living in the midst of massive, worldwide transformation towards a highly intertwined and increasingly transparent world. The impact of this transformation is visible in economic shifts, new political movements, changing social norms and personal values, business practices and in individual behavior.

The products of this transformation call for policies and actions that respond to them in pragmatic, positive ways. But here in the U.S., our political culture of both left and right operates as though these new realities either don’t exist or don’t matter; as though the old order still prevails.

Examples of the political insanity include:

  • From the left, President Obama is attacked for not achieving and pushing for a more progressive agenda, despite a range of accomplishments that he’s achieved. But the greater insanity is that he’s operating with the new “requirement” instituted by Republicans: That every piece of legislation must now be able to overcome a filibuster threat, rather than be hammered out through compromise and then subjected to a majority vote.
  • On the right, the Republican/Tea Party vilifies Obama’s “socialist,” “anti-American” or — in Newt Gingrich’s description — “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” agenda, despite an ironic reality to the contrary: President Obama’s policies and behavior are much closer to those of a moderate Republican of yore; the kind that doesn’t exist anymore.
  • Then there’s the ongoing clown show — Republican presidential hopefuls who argue for returning to policies that — as data show — have created the economic mess we’re now in. Moreover, they try to outdo each other to embrace anti-science, anti-knowledge positions, whether about climate change or evolution; and they vocally embrace anti-human rights positions when those rights concern gays and lesbians.

Contrast the above positions and policy objectives with some of the transformations whose impact is increasingly visible in everyone’s lives. On the surface, they appear disparate; unrelated. But collectively, you can see a theme: A rising change of mentality. That is, a mixture of values, world outlook, emotional attitudes, and conduct. It’s simultaneously a response to and a driver of the rise of interconnection and interdependency. And it has cascading political, economic and social implications.

Here are some of the seemingly unrelated shifts that reflect the reality of today’s world: Continue reading

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Why It’s Hard To Find Your “Life Purpose”

Every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose.”
— Sa’di, 12th Century Persian poet

I’m often asked, “Why can’t I find the purpose of my life?” Over the decades I’ve heard many men and women — whether they’re psychotherapy patients working to build healthier lives or business executive trying to create healthier leadership — say at some point that they don’t know what they’re really here, for, on this planet. They’re not necessarily religious or spiritually inclined, but they feel a longing for that “certain something” that defines and integrates their lives.

Many turn to the various books and programs purport to identify their life’s purpose, but most come away dissatisfied. No closer than they were before, they identify with Bono’s plaintive cry in the U2’s song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

And yet, many do find and live in harmony with their life’s purpose. Here are some of my observations about why many don’t, and how they differ from those who do.

First, I think everyone feels a pull towards some defining purpose to his or her life, no matter how much it may have become shrouded over along the way. In fact, you can say that all forms of life, all natural phenomena, have some purpose. There’s always movement or evolution towards some kind of outcome or fulfillment — whether it’s a tree that produces fruit or clouds that form to produce rain. But we humans become so enraptured by our daily activity, engagements, goals and so forth, that our awareness of our own unique life purpose is easily dimmed.

And there are consequences to not knowing or finding your purpose. I often see men�and women who’ve become successful in their work or relationships — their outer lives — and yet they feel hollow, empty, unfulfilled. They describe feeling “off-track” in some way, or incomplete, despite a conventionally successful life. Sometimes they wonder if they’ve been on the “wrong” path all along — chosen the wrong career, or the wrong life partner. Or that perhaps they Continue reading

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The GoodMakers Street Team — A Mother Watches Young Activists Empower Global Change

The following is a guest blog by Tilo Ponder, a Los Angeles based Writer/Producer of documentary films. �Tilo Ponder has spent her career as a catalyst for dynamic and integrated campaigns across all media, working with major�entertainment and consumer brands in her 20+ years of working in�the advertising agency world. Given the chance to parlay that experience into a more purposeful existence, she co-founded GoodMakers Films. �Tilo’s intense passion is�a driving force behind�GoodMakers Films,�a�non-profit organization which creates�dynamic�promotional�documentaries that empower charities to get their message�out to a�global audience. �tilo@goodmakersfilms.org

When my 21-year-old daughter suddenly left�NYU Tisch a year and a half ago and came home to Los Angeles, she didn�t really know what she was returning to do — only that she was deeply concerned about how rapidly the deteriorating economy was impacting the world around her. She reported that her college friends were feeling anxious and depressed, some of them dropping out of school as their parents, who had lost their jobs, were unable to keep up with tuition payments.� In our home, we were scrambling to keep everything going, but were committed to keeping our daughter in college, no matter what.� My husband is a�freelance commercial director, I was at an ad agency heading up production and also running our own production company. Add to this, managing investment properties in other states, shuttling our 5-year-old son to pre-school and sports activities, while also supporting an 18-year-old daughter living in Scotland and a 2-hour daily work commute — our lives were jam-packed, but worked somehow.Our daughter�s announcement that she was taking a �semester break� created unrest and an ominous feeling that a small piece of our intricately maneuvered lives were being un-wedged in a dangerous way. I secretly wondered why she couldn�t just stay put.� Having tucked her away at a good college, I had assumed that she’d be set for 4-5 years, and that afterwards she�d be on her way to a prosperous career.� I challenged her assertions that her generation was apathetic and directionless, citing how it was her generation that only a year earlier ensured our nation�s first black president because of their passionate involvement in the final days of the campaign.� My daughter�agreed on that point, but added that after so much build up to��change� and the subsequent downfall of a global economy, her�generation had even less to believe in than before.

Given that, I wasn�t prepared for what followed. Continue reading

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Here’s How You Can Evolve Within Your Lifetime

You may not think that you can consciously direct your own evolution. But there’s increasing evidence that you’re able to evolve your conscious being – the driver of yourpersonality,cognitivecapacities, emotions and actions.

Of course we normally think of evolution in terms of physical changes over eons – though some recent observations raises the possibility that some evolution is occurring right now, perhaps spurred by need or desire. For example, the noted nature writer and photographer Boyd Norton recently caught onthis video a baboon that suddenly began walking and running upright. And the Moken people of Southeast Asia, who live off the sea, are able to evolve thecapacity of their eyes to have superior vision underwater, by maximally constricting the pupil to achieve superior vision. This is something other humans are unable to do.

But even more interesting, I think, is the prospect of being able to evolve your whole person in specific new, healthy directions. I’ve often heard mypsychotherapy patients as well as my corporate executive clients ask – or lament – why they don’t think they can change, or grow.

Here, I’ll describe some of the evidence that conscious evolution is possible, and a part of buildingpsychological health; and then show five steps you can take to evolve yourself.

Much research indicates that the capacity for self-evolution — of your personality, mental capacities, relationships and actions in the world — is based on conscious intent.
That is, shaping your being is an art form – the way an artist develops, evolves and creates a painting; or a composer creates music. You can make your conscious being and all that emanates from it a work of art. Continue reading

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Obama’s Call to “Win the Future” Requires a New Definition of “Success”

When President Obama urged Americans to “win the future” in his recent SOTU address, he called upon the innovative, communal spirit that’s enabled us to “do great things.” Ironically, that part of his message exposes a glaring contradiction: How we’ve defined achieving “success” in our lives has become outmoded and maladaptive in our 21st Century world. To meet the challenges of our “Sputnik moment,” we need to revamp our thinking about what success is, as well as what psychological orientation is necessary to achieve it.

Consider this: The old, conventional view of a successful life is mostly defined by financial and self-interested criteria — getting, consuming and possessing for oneself. As Ronald Reagan once said about pursuing the “American dream” everyone “...wants to see an America in which people can get rich.”

But as President Obama pointed out in his address, “That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful.” The reality of today’s interconnected, highly interdependent world, greed is not good. It’s psychologically unhealthy; it undermines the values, mindset and actions people need to strengthen in order to meet the challenges we face as individuals and as a nation.

That is, our security, success and well-being now require strengthening communal values and behavior; working towards common goals, the common good. Acting on self-interest alone, especially in the pursuit of personal power, steady career advancement and money Continue reading

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Gen X and Gen Y Workers Are Driving The New “4.0” Career

I often hear the following laments from younger and older careerists — about each other:

Younger workers: “These older people just don’t get it. They expect us to just fall into line, follow bureaucratic rules, and they don’t show us respect for what we know or what we can do.”

The older workers: “These young people just don’t understand how to function within an organization. They want recognition, promotion, everything before they’ve earned it, step-by-step, like we had to do. That’s not how reality is.”

They remind me of a couple who said about each other, “It’s not that we see things differently. It’s worse than that: We’re seeing different things!”

In a way, they are. Different career orientations are like lenses through which you view the world. In my recent post on the rise of the 4.0 career, I wrote that this shift is most visible among Generation X and Generation Y workers, but that it’s a broader movement as well, originating with baby boomers and the 60s generation who are now moving through midlife. But as the 4.0 career orientation grows, it’s also spawning the above differences in perception. In this post I describe the younger generation’s contribution to the 4.0 career transformation. It began before the economic meltdown and will continue to have an impact on organizations and personal lives in the years ahead, post-recovery.

To recap a bit, what I call the 4.0 career orientation includes but extends beyond the 3.0 career concerns that emerged in the last 20 years. The latter are about finding personally meaningful work and seeking a good work-life balance. In essence, the 3.0 careerist is focused on self-development. In contrast, the 4.0 orientation includes but also moves beyond those more personal concerns. It’s more focused on having an impact on something larger than oneself, contributing something socially useful that connects with the needs of the larger human community. The vehicle is opportunity for continuous new learning and creative innovation at work. The 4.0 orientation links with the movement towards creating successful businesses that also contribute to the solution of social problems. Continue reading

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How Does Volunteerism Affect The Volunteer?

During our increasingly stretched-out holiday season, it’s easy to feel a bit cynical about people who suddenly want to do some volunteering. The staff of service organizations often wince at the prospect of receiving more offers of help than they actually need. “Where were you therest of the year?” they mutter silently.

To be fair, many people are not just a once- or twice-a-year volunteer. In fact, volunteering one’s time, service and expertise ison the rise among all age groups. For many, it’s an integral part of their lives, an expression of their core values. That’s raised a question in my mind: Does volunteering time and service impact the life of thevolunteer? And if so, how?

In recent years, I’ve researched this a bit through seminars we’ve held at the Center for Progressive Development for volunteers interested in exploring how their volunteering affects their personal and professional lives.

We’ve found that volunteer activity often reshapes or redirects people’s values, perspectives and even their life goals in several ways. It can spur new growth and awareness, both spiritually and emotionally. Sometimes the changes are slight, but clear — like the person who committed herself to ongoing work with a mission that she had initially chosen at random, in response to her company’s suggestion to employees that they consider volunteer service.

In other cases, the impact of volunteer work is more dramatic: changing the company one works for, or, asone man did, changing his Continue reading

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Is Serving The Common Good An “Un-American” Activity?

One likely spin-off from the recent election will be a creeping redefinition of programs and policies that serve the common good as “un-American.” Some of the Tea Party’s most vocal members, including Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann, and others have already suggested having a “conversation” about privatizing or phasing out medicare, social security and even abolishing the Department of Education.

So I’d like to move the “conversation” along and state outright that, yes, promoting the common good is, indeed, un-American. And, that recognizing it as such is a good thing. Here’s why: The Republican/Tea Party’s stated vision for “taking America back” is a doctrine of extreme self-interest and greed. It both reflects and fuels what I described in a recent post as a “social psychosis” in personal and public life.

This “pro-American” vision is maladaptive to the realities of today’s world and our own changing society. Self-interest and the pursuit of individual power are twin agents for subversively undermining a healthy, thriving society. But that vision is likely to be with us for some time, with potentially devastating consequences.

However, there’s also a rising shift towards serving the larger common good throughout our society. I described the evidence for this in a subsequent post. And it is, indeed, un-American, with respect to the extreme Republican/Tea Party doctrine.

That is, serving the common good goes against grain of thinking that Continue reading

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A “Social Psychosis” Rises In Our Culture

Much of the ongoing debate in political, business and social/cultural arenas is rooted in an underlying disagreement about what best serves national interests and individual lives. Is it promoting the common good, or serving self-interest?

As interdependence and interconnection on this planet become ever-more apparent, new challenges and conflicts arise for personal life, the role of government and the conduct of business leadership. In response to these new realities, people’s attitudes and behavior are shifting more towards serving the larger common good; now necessary for successful, flexible and psychologically resilient functioning.

However, these shifts clash with a long-prevailing ideology, that the primary pursuit ofself-interest best serves the public interest and personal success. That ideology has also prevailed in our views of adult psychological health and maturity. In essence, the pursuit of greed, self-centeredness and materialism have become the holy trinity of public and private conduct. And it’s generating a growing “social psychosis.”

That is, the benefits of self-interest in personal lives and public policy supposedly trump any that accrue from serving the common good; the latter would undermine the former, if put into practice. For example, the argument against helping the unemployed, extending health insurance for all Americans or addressing climate change is that they would hurt the economy and therefore negatively impact your well-being and life success.

To question or critique this ideology might even be called “un-American.” That would be correct; a good thing, actually, because the values and conduct that seem to have “worked” for so long now falter in today’s rapidly changing world. No longer do they ensure long-term success, well-being or security. Several observers have written about the faltering of the old system in today’s world. For example, Jeff Jarvis of CUNY, who haswritten about a

…great restructuring’ of the economy and society, starting with a fundamental change in our relationships — how we are linked and intertwined and how we act.

Or Umair Haque, who has been describing

…the new principles of a new economy, built around stewardship, trusteeship, guardianship, leadership, partnership.

in his Harvard Business Schoolblog posts.

The Social Psychosis Backlash
The reaction to the growing interconnection is a creeping “social psychosis.” Like the frog in the pot of water who doesn’t notice the slowly rising temperature Continue reading

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Political Pandering Continues To Trump Middle East Peace Advocacy

A major ongoing tragedy of American political culture is fear of the political consequences of even appearing to give equal weight to both Israeli and Palestinian concerns. Such fear always trumps advocacy of what is needed from both sides to create a lasting peace.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, describing the recent meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, provides a good example. With a tinge of ironic humor, Milbank writes that

A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender.

Milbank was referring to the Obama administrations decision four months ago to condemn Israel over a new settlement.

The Israel lobby reared up, Netanyahu denounced the administration’s actions, Republican leaders sided with Netanyahu, and Democrats ran for cover. So on Tuesday, Obama, routed and humiliated by his Israeli counterpart, invited Netanyahu back to the White House for what might be called the Oil of Olay Summit: It was all about saving face.

He continues:

The president, beaming in the Oval Office with a dour Netanyahu at his side, gushed about the “extraordinary friendship between our two countries.” He performed the Full Monty of pro-Israel pandering: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable” . . . “I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu” . . . “Our two countries are working cooperatively” . . . “unwavering in our commitment” . . . “our relationship has broadened” . . . “continuing to improve” . . . “We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up.”

Milbank then targets the core problem, writing that

Obama came to office with an admirable hope of reviving Middle East peace efforts by appealing to the Arab world and positioning himself as more of an honest broker. But he has now learned the painful lesson that domestic politics won’t allow such a stand.

And that feeds the continuing tragedy for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and for all of us. Our political leadership engages in one-sided political pandering, based largely on shoring up political support. In so doing, it fails to promote peace and reconciliation, which should be the aim. But doing the latter requires acknowledging that BOTH sides have engaged in destructive actions and atrocities, and that BOTH sides have legitimate, valid interests.

When one attempts to do so, however, one risks Continue reading

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Learning To “Forget Yourself”

“Becoming Sane…” Part IV

In Part III of becoming sane. I wrote that our prevailing model of psychological health needs revision for todays world for outward success in a changing world, and for internal well-being. I concluded by saying that a key to emotional resiliency and, more broadly, psychological health, in current times is learning to forget yourself.

So what does that mean? Not thinking about your own needs? Not looking out for yourself? Not quite. Im using the phrase forget yourself to highlight an important capacity for health, survival, and happiness in todays tumultuous, interconnected environment: the capacity to focus more on problems, needs, and solutions beyond just your own. That is, the person who is too absorbed in his or her own self, own conflicts, own disappointments, and the like is much less able to engage the larger dilemmas and issues in positive, solution-oriented ways. And that deficiency circles back to create dysfunction, damaged relationships, and career downturns.

Along the way Ill be writing more about specific ways you can learn to forget yourself in your work, your relationships and your role as a global citizen. Here are some guidelines that help lay the foundation.

Three Responsibilities:

Think about your responsibilities as a human being living in todays world, and on this planet. Specifically, consider the following three responsibilities. They can serve as helpful guidelines for moving through and beyond the tendency we all share — to focus too much on our own selves.

Responsibility for your own mind-body-spirit

Recognize that its your job, alone, to continue learning and developing your emotional, mental, creative and physical capacities. Enlarging these capacities helps provide the flexibility and adaptability you need to deal with changes, good or bad. Dont become like the character John Marcher in Henry James The Beast In The Jungle, who waited passively, believing that something significant was going to happenand ended up with a failed life.

Responsibility for those less able

Part of the new criteria for psychological health include this awareness: You grow through your efforts to help and support others, less able than yourself, to find and follow a healthy path in this world. Find someone who needs and would welcome your aid, whether your children or family member. But stretch further, to include a stranger or those within the extended world community who suffer from lack of clean water, from famine, disease or torture. Organizations and individuals who could use your help are a click away on the Internet.

Responsibility for the planet

Reflect on the fact that your actions at home or in your community can help maintain a healthy, sustainable planet for future inhabitants, including your own descendants. Or, they can further jeopardize the environment they will live in. Look at your own actions in your home, your community, and at work. Ask yourself, are you becoming a good ancestor?

Some Steps You Can Take:

Loosen the grip of self-interest

Use self-awareness to observe and contain your Continue reading

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Today’s Psychologically Healthy Adult — Neither Adult Nor Healthy

Becoming Sane….Part III

In previous posts on the theme of becoming sane in a turbulent, interconnected, unpredictable world, I described why conventional emotional resiliency doesnt work in the 21st Century; and what that means for building a psychologically healthy life in todays world.

In this post Ill explain why many of the conflicts men and women deal with today stem from this contradiction: The criteria for adult psychological health accepted by the mental health professions and the general public doesnt really describe an adult. Nor, for that matter, does it describe psychological health.

A contradiction, to be sure, so let me explain: As we entered the world of the 21st Century our definition of psychological health was largely defined by the absence of psychiatric symptoms. The problem is, thats like defining a happy person as someone whos not depressed. Moreover, sometimes what appears to be a psychiatric symptom reflects movement towards greater health and growth in a persons life situation.

But more significantly, our conventional view of psychological health is, in effect, a well-adapted, well-functioning child in relation to parents or parent figures. Or, a sibling who interacts appropriately in a social context with other siblings. Either way, it describes a person functioning within and adapted to a world shaped and run by parents, psychologically speaking.

That is, we pretty much equate healthy psychological functioning with effective management or resolution of child- or sibling-based conflicts. For example, resolving and managing such child-based conflicts as impulse control; narcissistic or grandiose attitudes; and traumas around attachment, from indifference, abandonment, abuse, or parenting that otherwise damages your adult capacity for intimacy or trusting relationships.

Healthy resolution of sibling-type conflicts includes learning effective ways to compete with other siblings at work or in intimate relationships; managing your fears of success or disapproval; containing passive-aggressive, manipulative or other self-undermining tendencies; and finding ways to perform effectively, especially in the workplace, towards people whose approval, acceptance and reward you need or crave.

Its no surprise, then, that many people feel and behave like children in a grown-up world. Examples permeate popular culture. A good one is the popular TV show, The Office. It often portrays the eruption of these sibling-type conflicts, as the workers act out their resentments or compete with one another to win the favor of office manager Michael, another grown-up child who is self-serving and clueless about his own competitive motives and insecurity.

Unconscious child-type conflicts are often visible within intimate relationships and family life, as well. They provide a steady stream of material for novels and movies. You can see, for example, fears of abandonment in a man who demands constant attention and assurance that hes loved; or low-self worth in a woman whos unconsciously attracted to partners who dominate or manipulate her.Of course its critical that you learn to become aware of and manage effectively whatever emotional damage you bring from your early experiences into adulthood. We all have some. Thats a good starting point for adult psychological health, but its not sufficient. A well-adapted member of a community of other children and siblings within a psychological world of parents is not the same thing as a healthy adult. Especially not within todays interconnected, non-linear world.

So without a picture of what a healthy adult would feel, think and do in the current environment, youre left with questions but few answers. For example:

  • How can you maintain the mental focus to keep your career skills sharp and stay on a successful path at work when you suddenly acquire a new boss who wants to take things in a new direction? Or if your company is acquired by another, or goes out of business?
  • How can you best respond, mentally, if you have a new baby and a drop in family income at the same time that globalization sidetracks your career?
  • How can you handle the pressure to work longer or do more business travel when your spouse faces the same demands?
  • Whats the healthiest way to keep your relationship alive with fresh energy or avoid the temptation of an affair?
  • And how do you deal emotionally with the threat of terrorism always lurking in the background of your mind while enjoying life at the same time?

We now live within a world where the only constant is change, and where a new requirement is being able to compete and collaborate with everyone from everywhere about almost everything.

Doing that with self-awareness and knowledge of how to grow and develop all facets of your being thats the new path to adult psychological health. But you need to know where to find the path.

Learning From The Business World?

Actually, I think we can learn a lot about whats needed for psychological health from changes occurring in the business world. Continue reading

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Becoming Sane In A Turbulent, Interconnected, Unpredictable World — Part 1

Why Emotional Resiliency Doesn’t Work In The 21st Century

It’s becoming clear that our understanding of emotional resilience – what it is and how to achieve it — (and, more broadly, psychological health) doesn’t mesh very well with today’s realities. Conventional descriptions of resilience and pathways to mental health don’t enable you to handle the challenges and stresses we face in the 21st Century.

Let me explain. Resilience is generally defined as the ability to cope successfully with misfortune or traumatic events. Being able to bounce back from adversity and keep on going. What helps you do that includes, for example, reviewing your strengths, focusing on positive thoughts and feelings, learning stressmanagement, looking down the road to what you can manage better. And, by getting psychotherapy and medication when you’re unable to bounce back very well on your own.

Prior to the 21st Century, that view of resiliency and how to build it was more relevant than today. The adversity and disruptions you were likely to experience were more stable, in a sense. The world was more predictable, more linear, with respect to the kinds of stresses and disruptions that would occur – as emotionally troubling as they might be.

Most of our thinking about emotional resilience and healthy functioning, then, fits a world in which unanticipated negative events are fairly predictable. They follow a fairly understandable course, following which you can reasonably anticipate a return to some form of previous stability. In that world, wars eventually ended. The economy went through recessions, then recovered. You might suffer a career or relationship setback but could assume that there was a path to recovery.

That notion of resilience and the ways to build it remain an important foundation for mental health. But they don’t help so much when you’re faced with the challenges of today’s environment. That’s because the very notion of resilience and the strategies for bouncing back are reactive. They focus on responding to something that happens to you, rather than on what you need to be doing proactively, as part of your way of life.

Starting with 9-11, and especially since the economic meltdown that began in the fall of 2008, we’ve been living in a world that’s rapidly transforming beneath our feet. Today’s world is an interconnected, interdependent, diverse, unpredictable and unstable global community. And that’s created new psychological challenges for everyone, challenges that require a highly proactive mentality.

Without it, you might feel like the woman who consulted me recently. Even before she sat down she said, ”I don’t know whether to reach for the Prozac….or Prilosec!”

Her grim humor masked her “recession depression” and other emotional battering. She didn’t know what would help. I’ve witnessed that a great deal in the last few years: Career and financial worries or losses; the ripple effect of those upon family life; anxieties about what sort of future one’s children are headed into, especially with climate change and terrorist threats; and the increasingly polarized views about our government’s role in people’s lives. Research and clinical observation show that all of the above are taking a psychological toll on relationships, families, career expectations, and on people’s entire sense of what they’re living and working for — their life purpose.

Unfortunately, those of us in the mental health professions haven’t been much help with these issues. Most of us continue to look through the rear-view mirror at a model of resiliency and health defined by coping with and managing conflicts in relationships and the workplace; conflicts that you can bounce back from and reestablish some kind of stability…all while continuing to pursue self-interest, such as getting your needs met, your personal goals achieved, your “happiness” acquired.

But today’s world of ongoing disruptions, continuous uncertainties and insecurity has become the new normal. Seeking to bounce back to stability and focusing on self-interest, which we’ve learned to think is the pathway to success, health and well-being, isn’t the right ticket.

In short, there’s no state of equilibrium you can bounce back to. In this highly diverse, interdependent, interconnected world. Trying to do so is a fast ticket to dysfunction and derailment. You can’t reestablish equilibrium within a constantly shifting world. But engaging these new realities in positive ways will support your success and well-being.

Research shows that you can proactively build specific emotions, thoughts and actions that are effective for adapting to life in the non-equilibrium world we now live within. That’s encouraging, because I think we’re evolving towards a new definition of psychological health via rethinking resilience.

The criteria of a new, proactive resiliency – maybe call it “prosilience – may sound contradictory because they include letting go of self-interest in your relationships and work. The new view of resilience emphasizes being flexible, open and nimble; being able to shift and redeploy your personal resources – emotional, creative, intellectual – towards positive engagement with others.

Resiliency grows from putting your energies, your values, emotional attitudes and actions in the service of the common good – something larger than just yourself. That’s what supports both success in your outside life and internal well-being. And in today’s rapidly transforming world, you need both.

In the future look for new posts about perspectives, research and actions that relate to “becoming sane in a turbulent, interconnected, turbulent world.” Through them I hope to contribute to a revised and needed reformulation of what psychological health and resiliency are in today’s world — in all realms of life: intimate relationships, career challenges, engagement with diverse people, and in our responsibilities as global citizens.

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Your “Life Footprint” And The 4.0 Career

In a previous post I wrote about the rise of the 4.0 career, and how it contrasts with earlier orientations to work. In brief, the 4.0 version is an emerging shift towards a broader vision of career success. It includes the desire for new learning, growth and personal meaning from work increasingly visible themes over the last few decades, and what Ive called the 3.0 career orientation.

Whats different about the emerging 4.0 career is that its an expansion beyond looking for greater meaning and sense of purpose through ones work. It also includes a desire for impact on something larger than oneself, beyond ones personal benefit. Its becoming visible in the pull men and women report towards wanting to contribute to the common good - whether its through the value and usefulness of a product or service.

The 4.0 career is part of the emerging new business model focused on creating sustainable enterprises. Its part of whats known as the new triple bottom line — financial, social and environmental measures of success.

In this and in future posts lll describe some 4.0 career themes and how men and women illustrate them. This is important because the transformations now underway in global societies, which became more dramatically apparent following the economic nosedive in September 2008, have tremendous implications for career survival and success. The unstable, unpredictable new world upon us makes the 4.0 career orientation the path towards both outward success and personal well-being in the years ahead.

As a step towards finding the 4.0 career path, consider this little historical nugget: Continue reading

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