June 13, 2011 by Kathleen
Recently a good friend, Eve Lee, and I were sitting on her porch overlooking a pond where geese, ducks, and a family of sand hill cranes called home.In the nearby arena her three geldings waited for us to do “our work.”It was a beautiful spring morning with steam rising from the river beyond; an idyllic mid-west morning with a good friend and a great cup of coffee.
Our musings turned towards our life’s work and the impact we both felt we still wanted to make on the world.By previous generations’ standards we “should” be talking about retirement, but retiring from what?Subsequently, I have spent the last couple of weeks playing with words and ideas to describe how I want to live my life and inspire others.
Inpondering, I recalled Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of life concept.Erikson (1902-1994) believed that culture has a massive influence on behavior and that more emphasis should be placed on the external world.His teaching was contrary to the beliefs held by the Freudians of his time.Erikson felt that the course of development is determined by the body (genetic biological programming), the mind (psychological), and the culture (ethos) of the time.Interestingly, Erikson based his premise partly on his studies with the Sioux Indians.
When Googling his name I found that Erikson’s 7th stage – which he describes as “Middle Adulthood” (35 to 65) – is when we can be in the state of Generativity, or self-absorption and stagnation.This stage of generativity applies the basic human strengths of productivity and care. He believed that this stage, where an individual has the option of caring for others and being productive, is a necessary step in development; without this people may fall into a place of self-absorption and stagnation.
The last, or 8th stage (65 to death), he describes as Integrity or despair.The basic strengths of Wisdom can be felt when we can look back on our lives with contentment and know that we have made a contribution. We have gained wisdom and compassion through caring for others; committing to a cause or belief greater than our individual egos, and inspiring future generations. Since most of us do not have personal role models in continuing beyond 65 years of age, I believe that our opportunity is to combine the Generativity of the Middle stage with the Wisdom of the of Late stage,thus my concept of Conscious Generativity.I also realized that, although, the discussion was centered on how Eve and I want to live, teach, and inspire others, this concept of Conscious Gernerativity applies to many of the people I engage with on a daily basis.
For example, in the late 80’s and early 90’s IBM was laying off workers who once thought they would stay with IBM until “full retirement” at age 65.Many of the people were confused, scared and totally unprepared for a new career.An outplacement firm hired me to provide a series of inspirational talks designed to motivate and encourage a revised frame of reference for the former employees’ current situations.One of the talks I gave was called, “There are no more Gold Watches.” Some received the news of early retirement with anger and resentment feeling they had been “done wrong”.However, a few people took this as an opportunity to create and design a new life.Since the IBM lay offs I have counseled, coached, mentored, and taught these people, the ones who are interested in seeking a better way to live and to reach out to others.
The field of Equine Facilitated Learning was not even practiced consciously until the early 90’s.We did not even have a name for it then, but trust me the horses were doing the work and just waiting for us to listen (See “Unexpected Grace”) As I describe in “Unexpected Grace,” it was the horses that really taught me how to “hold the Sacred Space of Possibility” for people and for our animal friends.
One would have to be living under a rock today to not be affected by the confusion, fear, and uncertainty generated by the recent economic, political, and environmental events of the last couple of years.Since most of us are still in the process of Generativity (creating, providing and generating), it is more important now than ever for each of us discover our life’s work.When I talk about moving from possibility to probability—it is about living bigger from the heart.So please join me in this concept of Conscious Generativity and challenge others to do the same. As the Hopi elders teach, “We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for.”
Kathleen Barry Ingram, MA
© June, 2011