On occasion, I will be posting thought related to our Journeys to find a life well lived on Psychology Today.
Learning about the stages of adult development has given me great perspective on knowing myself and what actions I need to take to improve and get to the next level. I’m hoping you will find this research useful as well.
Dr. Robert Kegan, a Harvard psychologist, has been the preeminent researcher in this field. His thesis holds that developing as an adult is not about learning new things or adding things to the container of the mind. It is about personal transformation, changing the manner in which we know and view the world. Instead of changing the contents of the mind, it is akin to changing the actual container.
That transformation is metaphorically a Copernican shift, realizing that the Earth is—or you are—not at the center of our solar system, but the sun is at the center. When we realize this, nothing really changes, but rather our entire conception and perception of the world transforms.
We experience this often in life. I remember moving back to a town I’d lived in earlier in life and found the people to be so much more friendly. But I was the one who had changed! Only through transformation can we truly move from one stage of human development to a higher stage.
Most of the time, we are in transition between stages, and we behave a bit differently with different people in our lives. The goal is to know where we are, what behavior looks like at that stage, where it comes from, and how it is serving us and others—the impact. When we know those elements, and we have motivation, clarity, and focus, we can deliberately work to change ourselves at the belief, thought, and feeling levels.