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The Context of Coaching

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The Learning Rule

Learning is the central business of children and young people, to launch them into adult careers, family life, and leadership roles. Once launched into the adult years, adults shifted from “learning” to “work” as their main activity. Throughout the rest of their years, training outside of work roles played a minor role. There was no basis for thinking there were skills and human competencies to be learned and developed throughout the lifecycle. Learning was a central function of young people, not adults—to prepare the way for success and progress. Each of us would get molded during our younger years and then hopefully function like personal dynamos the rest of our lives.

Our Cultural Crisis and What We Can Do About It

Ever so gradually but definitely throughout the past forty years or so, these old rules—which thrived and worked well since the founding days of the United States—led us to a sense of decline and discouragement. The old rules require a culture high in continuity, control, and agreed-upon authority. As those features eroded during the past few decades, we began to feel that something was wrong with us. The more we strived to live by the old rules, the more we felt frustrated and helpless. In and of themselves, these rules are not wrong; they functioned well in a world of predominant order. But they don’t provide functional and useful guidelines for our lives in a world of permanent whitewater.

When people or a society hold on to beliefs and rules that are dysfunctional in their daily experience, they become angry, scared, and disempowered. Their optimism, hope, and expectations for the world around them shrink until they are replaced by a pervasive pessimism. The world around them—including their own governments and corporate powers—seems less friendly and less promising. This is basically what Americans have experienced during the past twenty to thirty years. Although we are, without question, the only superpower in the world, with many industrial, technical, and cultural superlatives, we are more tentative than ever about our manifest destiny, and less sure than ever before of ourselves and families.

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