Inner driving forces for vertical growth and development

Copyright © Peter Bluckert 2019. All right reserved.

People engage with vertical coaching for a variety of reasons, and from several different starting points – fulfilment of potential, self-improvement, and living one’s purpose being just a few.

These are positive, forward-looking statements of personal intent. They reflect a desire and energy to stretch yourself – to push your frontier and be all you can be – the established mantra in business life and most self-development programmes.

We can refer to these kinds of driving forces as:

The transformative pull to forge ahead and become a bigger, more spacious human being. It’s our ascending purpose.

Examples of these include:

  • A desire to understand yourself better and discover your life vision.
  • Wanting to create a life consistent with your highest aspirations and what you care most about.
  • Wanting to be able to express your thinking and emotions with greater ease, tune into others and be in better contact (connection).
  • Wanting to build the confidence and capacity of those around you. In the work environment, this will include your teams and wider organisation. It may also include your family, friends and community.

Inner driving forces of this kind are great examples of a self-authoring agenda and the key question to ask is –

‘how do the things I’m choosing to do and create, line up with my Inner driving forces’?

Other kinds of driving forces emerge out of tensions, dissonance or pain – a sense of things not being as you would want them to be. Or more accurately, you not being how you want to be.

They can arise from a crisis, a challenge or a set of problems that you don’t seem to be able to resolve from your current worldview. Developmental theorists point out that movement from one adult development stage to the next is usually driven by limitations in the current stage.

Confronted with increased complexity and challenge

When you are confronted with increased complexity and challenge that can’t be met with what you have and can do at your current level, there is a mismatch. And this is an uncomfortable place to be. You recognise that you’re struggling and your tried-and-tested ways of thinking and acting aren’t working anymore.

At some level, you know this is another of life’s invitations to step up and grow. Your container is now too small and not fit for purpose.

But, maybe you don’t hear the message, or you simply don’t know how to grow.

So, you do what people do in these circumstances – you do more of the same but harder. It doesn’t work but it’s the best you’ve got. And sometimes the knock-on effect of that is dissonance.

Your increasingly negative moods have a toxic effect on those around you and your inability to see the problems, and solve them, leaves people doubting your abilities and competence. This then becomes a vicious cycle.

Or, you try to simplify your life.

In the workplace, one of the most common creative adjustments is to stay in the job but ‘go missing’ and hope people are too busy to notice. And, if they do, and the pressure is ramped up, the solution can be to leave altogether and remove the source of the tension.

An understandable way of reacting

When you’re experiencing a high level of stress, this is a perfectly understandable way of reacting. And in these circumstances people usually feel very much on their own with the problem.

The idea of asking for help doesn’t often happen. Whether it’s pride, a fear of being seen as weak and not coping, or a belief that there is no-one out there who can help, the end result is the same.

Examples of driving forces that emerge from tensions include:

  • Regularly experiencing the limits of your current way of thinking, reacting and trying to solve things.
  • Repetitive patterns or historic shadow issues negatively impacting in the present.
  • Negative feedback or disconfirming data resulting in confusion and uncomfortable questions that don’t go away.
  • Feeing stuck.
  • The sense of having outgrown a level and a need to breakthrough – to go beyond where you are now.
  • Being in pain (existential).

Our capacity and the complexity

Some of these suggest the mismatch between our capacity and the complexity we face into. Others can be seen as our trailing edge, which can include our unfinished business – the big, black bag as the poet Robert Bly described it, that we spend our life carrying, and hoping to empty. Or, at least lighten the load.

Neither list is intrinsically better nor worse than the other, although the first one will tend to feel better.

Our hopes, aspirations and desires to be our best self are worthy and important. But we also have our struggles and it’s OK to be troubled. It’s both of these that makes us who we are.

Courage & Spark



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