What kinds of personal transformation help to drive system transformation?

by | Oct 19, 2018


What kinds of personal transformation help to drive whole system transformation? That was just one of the questions explored at a fascinating event hosted by Perspectiva earlier this week – if you don’t know them they’re really worth checking out, especially their great project on Beyond Activism.

It’s a really good question, relevant not only to politics, but also to what we need our education systems to do at a point when we’re less clear than ever on what kind of skills our kids will need in a massively uncertain future.

So here’s a first go at thinking through ten areas where progress in personal transformation would contribute directly to wider systemic transformation – and which (if we were smart) our societies would actively invest in training us on, throughout our lives:

  1. State management. Can we manage our mental and emotional states, and ‘untrigger’ when necessary?
  2. Perceiving. Are we mindful of our biases and framing assumptions? Are we able to think critically?
  3. Identity. How much do we see ourselves as individuals and how much do we identify with a larger collective? How big is the ‘us’ that we think we’re part of?
  4. Purpose. Do we have a clear sense of what we’re actually trying to do in – both individually and collectively?
  5. Ethics. Irrespective of whether or not we’re religious, do we have a clear ethical code, covering not just individual behaviour, but also taking responsibility for our share of collective behaviour (e.g. on social media)?
  6. Openness. Are we able to be honest about our feelings and experiences? Can we tell our story fearlessly?
  7. Empathy. Are we able to listen deeply to what others tell us back? Are we able to hold our views lightly, and be prepared to have them challenged and changed?
  8. Collaboration. Are we able to work with others, and how much are we able to do it through self-organisation rather than relying on top-down hierarchies?
  9. Creativity. How much are we able to create and think laterally? Are we able to do it with others?
  10. The numinous. Are we able to connect with and draw on a deeper source of inspiration – whether through silence, nature, meditation, prayer, or awe?

Am sure I’m missing lots here – do ping me on Twitter and tell me what I’ve missed…

[Image credit: Steve Greer]

Author

  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.


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