The different chapters of life

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The different chapters of life 

In 2008, Frederic Hudson published a paper ‘The context of coaching’ where he discussed the difficulty society has as we try to connect the different chapters of life, from childhood, through to adulthood and onto our elder years.

In his paper, Hudson sets out the four old rules many people still felt their lives would follow and could see that the old rules required a culture high in continuity, control and agreed upon authority. Yet over the previous 40 years, these old rules, which had thrived and worked well, were now leading us towards a sense of decline and discouragement.

He felt our perception of the world had slowly but surely shifted from a stable, orderly, steady-state model where we moved smoothly through the different chapters of life, towards an unstable, disorderly change driven one. The more we tried to live by the old rules the more we felt helpless and frustrated.


Exploring the four old rules

  • The linear rule – This rule promised progress for those who are honest and work hard. According to this rule, our lives, careers, economy and culture are supposed to get better and better, year by year, generation by generation, if we do our very best and follow the cultural rules.
  • The steady-state rule – This rule promised that if we work hard, we will each arrive at a steady-state or plateau of security and happiness for the rest of our lives. It’s like a cultural reward for falling into line, so adulthood would be a period of stability, achievement and devotion where everybody had one marriage, one career and for the most part, one geographic location.
  • The outside-in rule – This rule said our personal lives are defined and determined by the directives of the society around us. From this point of view, the boxes of life around us shape and determine our personal choices. To succeed you need to follow the cues around you, because the forces that surround you are more stable, permanent and reliable than you are.
  • The learning rule – Learning is seen as the central activity of children and young people, because it launches them into adult careers, family life and leadership roles. Once launched into adult life, they shift from learning to work as their main activity. Learning was seen as a function of young people, not adults and modelled to function like a personal dynamo to carry us through the rest of our lives.

Learning to adapt for the future

In reality, many of us still live as if the ‘steady state’ rule were fully operative and so we expect life plans, careers or organizations to lead us with assurance through the different chapters of life towards security, happiness and financial prosperity. And when people or society hold onto beliefs and rules that are dysfunctional in their daily experience, they become angry, scared and disempowered.

Hudson therefore set out new rules that would change the paradigm so we could empower people and organizations for the future. He felt the new rules would empower both our lives and institutions in the context of the rapid changes that now define our time.

No longer could we expect to move smoothly through the different chapters of life, because the way ahead needed us to change our expectations, our perceptions and our vision of how our life works. We would now need to learn how to maximise our natural skills and talents so we can navigate through any changes and acquire the ‘know-how’ needed to succeed, no matter what life could suddenly throw at us.

And for the professional coach, this could be a great opportunity to explore what natural skills or talents our clients have and work with them so they believe in themselves again, both as individuals and as a people or culture.

Hudson provides us with an opportunity to discuss any connection our clients feel towards the four old rules and then work with them to review the four new rules to see if they feel they are fair and empowering for our lives or in our kind of world. With help, your clients can start to restore confidence, quality of life, productivity and leadership so they feel more in control as change happens and can once again move smoothly through the different chapters of life.

If you would like to learn about the new rules and confidently explore the natural skills and talents your clients can use to help navigate the changes ahead, check out our exclusive ebook in the online shop:

  • Coaching Natural Talents – Help your clients develop their key strengths with this essential tool for coaching natural talents. It includes a simple step by step process to use in your coaching sessions.

Please note – Please include a reference and link back to this original blog if you wish to copy or share anything we have written: (cc) – 2022

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