The real problem underlying the myriad challenges we face today, is the problem of disconnection, and returning to a deeper sense of connectedness. Connection across self-other-world: connecting into our deeper truer-nature, connecting more authentically with each other, and connecting to life itself in all its fullness. This article shares some insights around this challenge of disconnection and re-connection.
At the age of 50 I realise that well over half my life has been spent working in business. For the most part as Head of Business Transformation for KPMG, then as Global Head of Sustainability for the multinational IT services provider, Atos, with over 100,000 employees internationally. In both roles I found myself helping all manner of organizations through various transformations, from chemical companies to charities, from manufacturing plants to medical bio-techs, all facing similar challenges of dealing with change upon change. Since leaving corporate life over a decade ago, I’ve engaged with hundreds of leaders and organizations as a coach and sounding-board to help them myriad shifts towards becoming regenerative. (see here these recent podcast series with some of these clients).
It has been for many more decades of my life that I have felt, deeply in my heart, that underpinning our plethora of problems – whether it be rising mental illness through to rampant consumerism, or rising climate change through to the widespread destruction of life on Earth – there is a root source; a root problem that spawns the downstream effects of consumerism, individualism, rationalism, capitalism, anthropocentrism, and the like. It is a disease of the psyche – one might say a crisis of spirit. It is due to a profound mental dislocation of self-identity from nature. With the risk of trying to define something fluid, complex and inter-relational, which is itself part of the problem, it is commonly described as fragmentation or disconnection: disconnection within ourselves (our deeper sense of selfhood), disconnection from each other (the relational nature of our communality), and disconnection from Nature, Life and Universe.
This disconnection manifests in our inner and outer worlds in varying ways. In our outer world it manifests in the stories we tell ourselves about how we think the world works and our sense of place and purpose within it. Our mythologies, cosmologies and worldviews influence our socio-economic narrative, which in turn influences the way we behave in business, politics and beyond. Enter dog-eat-dog red-in-tooth-and-claw hyper-competitive capitalism, where we exploit others through business transactions for short-term gain, leaving the world polluted and poorer.
‘Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony: these are not vices anymore. No, these are marketing tools. Lust is our way of life. Envy is just a nudge towards another sale. Even in our relationships we consume each other, each of us looking for what we can get out of the other. Our appetites are often satisfied at the expense of those around us. In a dog-eat-dog world we lose part of our humanity.’ – Jon Foreman
In our inner world, this disconnection manifests in how we attend to each evolving moment in our midst, and the perceptual filters and constrictions we habituate and acculturate. These habituations and acculturations are influenced by, and also influence, the outer narrative or worldview we tell ourselves about how the world works. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas eloquently notes:
‘Our world view is not simply the way we look at the world. It reaches inward to constitute our innermost being, and outward to constitute the world. It mirrors but also reinforces and even forges the structures, armorings, and possibilities of our interior life. It deeply configures our psychic and somatic experience, the patterns of our sensing, knowing, and interacting with the world. No less potently, our world view – our beliefs and theories, our maps, our metaphors, our myths, our interpretive assumptions – constellates our outer reality, shaping and working the world’s malleable potentials in a thousand ways of subtly reciprocal interaction. World views create worlds.’
It seems that we are individually and collectively participating in an inner-outer worldview which – according to the scientific evidence now available to us – is rapidly undermining our own well-being and the very fabric of life on Earth. Something is deeply flawed. This disconnection is wreaking havoc.
The time to address this flawed way of attending and flawed worldview appears to be upon us. We are living through an epochal moment in our human history, what former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moo refers to as Great Transition where, he says, ‘the decisions we make will have a deeper and more lasting impact than perhaps any other set of decisions in recent decades’. This is a time of simultaneous breakdown/breakthrough, a supreme moment within which we must act consciously and coherently to avoid catastrophe.
The contemporary philosopher Joseph Milne notes that, ‘there is a tendency in our age to rush to change the manifest effects of wrong actions without seriously considering the root causes.’ This tendency is built-in to the dis-connected mind-set which creates the problems in the first place. We filter our perception of life through a polarizing reductive filter that separates ‘things’ into siloes, objects and others. We then seek fixes to the problems created by this logic, by applying the same mechanistic perspective that created the problems in the first place. And so we fail to reach beyond the symptoms, often unwittingly exacerbating the very situation we are trying to solve.
Einstein’s overly-used and heavily-hackneyed insight – we cannot change our problems with the same level of consciousness that created them in the first place – is a perfect insight for the manifold problems we face and our way beyond them. Yet, so often we find ourselves doing just this, and we simply don’t have time for this anymore. It’s time to get radical and deal with the root cause, our now pathological disconnectedness.
In this TEDx talk I gave a few years back I explore the vital Revolution in Consciousness from disconnection into reconnection:
And this is where leadership comes in.
Leadership is essentially about creating the conditions conducive for ourselves and others to continually deepen our understanding of how the world works, in so doing deepening our sense of place and purpose within the world, and understanding how best to create and deliver value while shaping a viable future. This imperative to call forth a viable future for all of humanity and the wider fabric of life on Earth is, I believe, an inherent quality of Homo sapiens (wise beings). While we may unwittingly do a great job of distracting ourselves from real wisdom, there is something within our kernel of selfhood that impels us to deepen into this wisdom as we explore life-affirming futures.
It reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s insight,
‘We are made wise not by the recollections of our past but by the responsibility of our future.’
Here’s a short talk I gave about our way through this illusion of separation, and how we attune with Wisdom innate within Life:
It’s increasingly apparent that the critical problems facing our planet and society can’t be resolved with the same fragmented and disconnected thinking that created the problems in the first place. The source of our current social, economic and environmental ills springs from the inherent flaws in how we see and construct the world.
These challenging times are demanding that we evolve our worldview into one that is more in-tune with life on Earth, one that is more wise, more connected, more real. Life on Earth is actually showing us how to evolve if we so choose to see. Hence my latest book Leading by Nature which goes right to the heart of this worldview shift to inspire practices, tools and techniques that help our leaders and organizations contribute to life-affirming futures.
We are living through a once-in-a-civilization moment marked by great upheaval, where the breakdown of global systems has become impossible to ignore, and signs of breakthrough are starting to emerge. How we place each step of change informs this metamorphic moment, either aiding our evolution or sowing our own demise.
How we attend to the world shapes our world and in turn shapes us. The time has come to wake up to who we truly are, while tuning-in to how life really is.
Regenerative Leadership Coach and Adviser Giles Hutchins’s latest book and podcast series Leading by Nature, along with tools and techniques, can be found here: https://gileshutchins.com/leadingbynature/
Feel free to join the LinkedIn Leadership Immersions group here https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/