As mid-centurions, we have to discern the good from the bad voices. We must sort out the truth about our psyche from all of the false claims that swirl around us. We can always choose instead to ignore the voices. This is our first choice, which we described in some detail in a previous essay. Our second choice is to listen to the wrong voices. We are lured away by power, money, security, prestige, status, pride—all of the temptations with which we are all acquainted. Our third choice is to listen to the right voices. To be successful in making this third choice, we have to determine which of the voices seem to be responsive to our changing needs, values and life purposes. We must determine which voices seem to keep us stagnant and stuck where we are right now, which distract us from new-found pathways, and which turn us toward pathways that are destructive to ourselves and the people we love.
These distinctions are not easily drawn. As mid-centurions, we usually know very little about the process of discernment. We are accustomed to living in the external world, making decisions based on data that exist out there in reality: “How much money do we need to pay our bills this month?” “Which of these technical training programs is likely to prepare our daughter best for her future life?” “Where do we want to plant that new tree?” The process of discernment requires that we attend to internal data and make decisions based not on rational argument and analysis but on deep searching for inner truths related to our hopes and fears.
We must ask difficult questions about our inner life and about possible roles of generativity: “Which emotions are elicited when I think about enacting this long-deferred dream?” “Of what am I most afraid when considering a positive response to this invitation from my inner voices?” “What is old, safe and stagnant in my current life?” “What is new, risky and generative in my emerging life?” Every man and woman must find their own way to discern what is right and wrong for them. The first and most important step is to listen to the voices. Without this first step, there is no need to discern anything, for we have chosen to remain deaf and blind to our inner world. We have chosen stagnation over generativity. We have lost the extraordinary opportunity for Generativity Three and Four—the roles to which we turn in the next series of essays. It is in these following essays that we listen to the words of Sage leaders who offered their own insights. We also learn from the life narratives of our four Featured Players as they engage the challenging process of discernment and moving to the new roles of Generativity Three and Four.
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