Home Concepts Ethics Generativity and the Greater Good: The Life and Work of Two Professional Coaches

Generativity and the Greater Good: The Life and Work of Two Professional Coaches

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Schwartz’ protagonist, Pippin, has initiated a journey of discovery not unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and many other protagonists in novels, plays and myths (as noted by Joseph Campbell in his examination of dominant world myths). Initially there seems to be a difference between Pippin and Dorothy. Pippin is traveling on a path that enables him to explore various ways of relating to other people. Does Pippin fight them, lead them, govern them, escape from them or care for them (generativity). Dorothy is focused on a much simpler task—finding her way back home. Perhaps this is because Dorothy is much younger than Pippin.

Ultimately, they both seem to be journeying toward deeply caring relationships. What might Dorothy’s journey be like if we were to provide a narrative of Dorothy years later in life when she is a caring parent, modeling the attitude and behavior of Auntie Em? Perhaps, as a mature adult, Dorothy would become a mentor or guide to young women who are restless about growing up in Kansas. She might even set up a scholarship program so these young women can spend a summer in a foreign land (perhaps Oz), or she might help to establish a museum that features the artifacts of traveling magicians and peddlers (like the Wizard). Dorothy’s journey to deep caring outside herself and her desire to return home might take on a shifting generative character as she grew older.

Generativity, Stagnation and Professional Coaching

Like King Arthur, Pippin and Dorothy, we have choices to make. Do we choose generativity or stagnation? Do we undertake the risk of teaching and learning, or do we accept the status quo and refuse to take a risk? When we are stagnant rather than generative, we continue to do the same old thing. We settle for mediocrity, allowing our dreams and personal aspirations to wither away. We come to resent and even block the ideas and achievements of younger people. We dwell on the past, while abandoning the future. We might seem to be guardians of our heritage, but are actually blocking the full, accepting appreciation of this heritage as it helps us plan for the future. We become a jazz musician who curses the sounds emanating from across the street, and as a result never evolve our own musical style. Typically, stagnation sets in because we are afraid of change. We don’t believe for some reason that we can keep up with the next generation.

In our own work as professional coaches, we find that our clients often speak of personal fears associated with confiscated dreams of the future. They have sacrificed so that they might realize personal aspirations and fulfill dreams about family, career, and even retirement. Their life has been directed toward being Successful. What happens to so many of our coaching clients during late midlife? They no longer have a future, for the future is right now. They have confiscated it and must now either savor the present day or create a new set of plans for the future. These new plans often are directed not to success, but rather to Significance—working toward the Greater Good. This is the process of Generativity. Alternatively, if they live primarily in their past, lingering on old dreams, they are not the generative guardians that Vaillant identified. Instead, they are regressive defenders of a past that sometimes never really existed. They don’t want the past to be incorporated into the present and future. This is the process of Stagnation.

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