“The best part of life is not just surviving but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.”
Maya Angelou


Are you feeling the whirlwind? Does it feel like you’re often just trying to survive while wondering how to thrive in our increasingly complex world? 

We live in very chaotic,  unprecedented times, dealing with change at an alarming rate. We are processing so much information at one time that it is hard to keep up. Moving so fast, we are maxed out, stressed out and in way over our heads in most aspects of our lives.

In his book Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life, American psychologist Robert Kegan says that we are not equipped to deal with all this complexity. According to Kegan, “There are only two logical ways to mend this mismatch—reduce the world’s complexity or increase our own.”

It’s clearly time to increase our own… 

Understanding the Whirlwind Through VUCA

In my leadership consulting work, we teach the idea of VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. 

The unknown or unstable liability to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse. 

The unpredictable or unreliable; change is possible, but not given. 

The state or quality of being intricate or complicated.

The quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness.

Yesterday, I was speaking with marketing maven Jen Lester of Philosophy Communication and she spoke of our current experience—both personal and collective—as a whirlwind. In the context of my consulting and coaching world, I realized that she was speaking about VUCA—but in a much simpler, easier way to understand the VUCA concept.   

The Merriam-Webster definition of a whirlwind is a “very strong wind that moves in a swirling motion.” It is also described as something that involves many quickly changing events, feelings, etc.

In a nutshell, we seem to be living in a whirlwind of VUCA in which many of us are surviving rather than thriving, all while wondering how to thrive and live a balanced, empowered and enjoyable life. 

Are You Feeling The Whirlwind Too? 

Take a minute and ask yourself how you are doing. Are you thriving or just surviving? How are you caring for yourself? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you stressed out? Depressed? Are you able to get it all done in a day? Are you hard on yourself thinking you should be able to do it all? 

In my many years of practice, clients have come to me feeling inadequate, stressed out, overwhelmed and often uncertain of who they are and who they are supposed to be in this crazy world. Health challenges, relationship issues, addictions and troubles at work often come up. Rather than knowing how to thrive, so many of us are just surviving, wishing we could alter the world’s ever changing and complex ways. While that’s a lovely idea, I do not see that happening. But, what we can do is increase our own capacity to deal with the chaos of the world!  

A Framework On How To Thrive  

What would it mean for you to thrive—to grow or develop well or vigorously? As humans, how do we increase our own ability to grow, develop well and handle the complexity of our lives? In my years of study and learning, I have developed a framework that integrates all the teaching and models that I have found helpful in my own life, and those I teach to my clients.

I use the symbol of a tree as a teaching tool, which helps me explain the many aspects of human development and conscious evolution. And, guess what? It all begins with a seed. A seed is encoded with what it is to be. Seeds have an innate urge to grow and express. They inherently know who they are and how they will express themselves. An apple seed knows that it will make an apple tree that will make more apples and apple seeds. Oak seeds grow into oak trees that make more oak seeds. The same is true for us. We are uniquely encoded to be who we are. My seed is Christy and your seed is you. Every seed has its own unique code. We are innately given all that we need to be fully expressed, even in this complex world. The key is learning how to let this unique code become expressed as you. 

Buried or Planted? 

I often ask clients if they were buried or planted. 

What do I mean by that? 

Some seeds are planted. They were intentionally put in the ground, watered, nurtured and cared for so that they can have the best chance to make it through the density of the soil and other obstacles. The newly sprouted bud is recognized, embraced and protected so it can continue its growth into maturity. 

Other seeds are buried. They are in the ground, but do not get care and attention other than that of nature. There is no nurturing. Buried seeds may grow and develop, but many times do not have the nutrients needed to fully blossom. 

This analogy ties into what I know about human development. It is fundamental that we have to have our basic needs met before we can develop anything else. Just like the seed has basic needs of water, sunlight and soil to grow and develop, humans have basic needs too. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

To better understand how humans develop, let’s look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is a motivational theory in psychology comprised of a five-tier model of human needs. It’s often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.  

Looking at development in our world today, it’s clear that many of us are just surviving. Our whirlwind world has many of us constantly on guard and ready to keep ourselves safe. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, we are still functioning at the need for safety.

What is it going to take to move us up this scale? What do we need to see, do or accomplish to know that we can move into a greater awareness of love and a sense of belonging, greater self-esteem and, ultimately, self-actualization? 

Using the analogy of a seed growing into a tree, there is a very specific process the seed must go through. It first must establish itself in the desired destination. Next, it starts to build its root system. This happens in two directions. The radical root anchors the seed once it breaks through the surface. Next, the embryonic shoot comes out. At this point, there are two options for the shoots. They can either push up through the soil or stay underground to die. This process is called germination. 

So how does this tree analogy relate to living an empowered life? Like most things, such as cars, icebergs, bedsheets, we, as humans, must also look below the surface to really see what is going on—and there is a lot going on below the surface of each one of us. There is a common way in which trees grow and produce their fruit, and there is a common way in which we grow and develop giving our gifts to the world. 

You Can Learn How To Thrive! 

I am here to help you identify and resolve your patterns so you can learn how to thrive and live as your fullest self. In spring 2020, I’ll be releasing a curriculum called Uproot that is designed to help adults understand themselves as a seed, their personal root systems and who they innately and uniquely are so they can develop their talents and live more authentic and empowered lives. For more information, please contact me today.  

Here’s to thriving!