Stages of Adult Development - What's the Point?



In one of the workshops on the stages of adult development that my colleague Barbara Braham and I offer, someone asked, “What’s the POINT?” I love this question for its boldness and its honesty.

And there is no one answer to this question!

In this writing and subsequent ones, I hope to examine many notable points about how we as adults can continue to develop. I have studied stages of adult development for almost ten years, with various teachers and through reading all I could get my hands on. This theory is deep, strenuous, complex, illuminating. It has been around for decades, starting with Jane Loevenger’s work on the Washington University Sentence Completion Test, following on the inspired work of Piaget and Erikson. Many researchers have followed Ms. Loevenger’s solid foundation. Research is available and will start to swell (my prediction), though it is fair to say it is not yet mainstream. That said, the stage approach grounds all of the work I do.

Stage theory has been primary in my own personal understanding of my path of development for the last ten years. Not only have I found it freeing, it filled many gaps in my own understanding of my journey. It has held my interest! ~and that is real testament to the power of the possibilities it generates. Whether or not you find your own development fascinating (many people do), this theory was the first that spoke to me of possibilities beyond cultural norms, for myself and for those I work with who are captivated by the invitation and the struggle to realize one’s wholeness. And it is a theory that keeps unfolding. I will be learning about it forever, I think.

The POINT is…development is possible no matter where you are in your life, your progress, your hopes. There’s always room to expand. And development across stages brings hope for our world.

Wherever you are in your development, you are in the right place. We all develop differently, there is no one right way. What works for you may not work for me. You will move through stages in ways unique to you. This creates a sense of purpose and freedom.

Development can’t be hurried, and can be brought about by life events, or something you desire for yourself. And, there’s always mystery, the muse, the pull to something you can’t yet articulate or define. This creates a sense of uniqueness to each person’s journey.

Many points to be made. The ultimate one for me is this: Understanding and applying stage theory in daily practice is an expander. It expands you, your perspective, your heart, your presence. It helps you meet people where they are and is one more way to help you avoid judging them, opening you to compassion and acceptance. The more one develops, the more one’s capacity to embrace differences expands.

Imagine how this could affect our lives and our world! Leaders who understand stage development would be able to create forward-looking, professional ~ and even generative ~ conversations that help a person be all they can be, regardless of their stage. Coaches who understand this theory can help leaders see more perspectives and be more aware and focused on their inner landscape as they “do” their work. And global leaders could be open to conversations where everyone wins. We’d have more listening, more openness, less fighting, more peaceful means for reconciling our differences. In the end, this is why the theory speaks to me, and why its presence in my life continues to be important. Practicing seeing through multiple perspectives brings hope. And, it challenges us to live into an expanded version of self, where paradoxically, ego and righteousness can recede.


This entry was posted in Adult Development, General on July 17, 2014.

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