What is Transformational Learning?

Robb Smith Article, Free, Integral Post, Perspectives, Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Transformation is the process by which a person “grows their mind” by building a broader worldview, deeper skills, better habits and expanded perspectives.

Integral Life is a member community designed to offer experiences, media and practices that help you grow your mind and evolve your life.

Transformation comes in packages large and small. Think about who you were 20 years ago, and contrast it with the wisdom and skills you have today, and that can feel like a pretty huge transformation.

But it also comes in small steps, and in fact, with a few exceptions (like life-changing epiphanies), the only way transformation happens is through small, incremental steps:

  • Pausing one moment longer to really empathize with the perspectives and fears of someone who doesn’t share your political views
  • Breathing just a little bit deeper when confronted with bad news
  • Catching yourself before you reach for your mobile phone when your child comes into the room to spend time with you
  • Noticing how hard it is to resist that extra bite of dessert
  • Encouraging your team to stay in an innovative growth mindset when a failure arises, etc.

If the twenty-year journey you’ve been on has been transformative, than these and thousands of other small, slowly-building shifts of mind, emotion and behavior have formed the real asphalt of transformation upon which you’ve traveled. And for those of us who live fully into the opportunity and challenge of 21st century life–as leaders, students, parents, managers, coworkers, investors, citizens, activists etc.–this journey never ends; it’s a lifelong movement towards greater freedom, fullness and functioning in every aspect of our lives.

To qualify as transformation, something has to change shape.

Transformation does not come from book learning, so new knowledge alone often does not transform the shape of your mind. This is why many of the existing learning tools are simply not getting at the hard problem and the core opportunity of helping people to grow, evolve and learn in the ways that truly count.

We see cognition, emotion and behavior as part of a holistic system that constructs meaning from life conditions, creates stories and internal narratives to make sense of them, generates emotional reactions that impel action or withdrawal, and responds to social contexts and situations with patterned behavior.

To transform one’s listening skills, it’s not enough to just try a new behavior, it’s far more robust if a deeper inquiry is made into what resistance or deeper fears stand in the way of the sought-behavior to begin with. Integral Life supports your ability to grow your mind through just this kind of practice.

As Robert Kegan, professor of adult learning at Harvard and a featured expert on Integral Life, states, there is a need across contemporary culture to grow our minds:

“[If we view] contemporary culture as a kind of ‘school’ and the complex set of tasks and expectations placed upon us in modern life as the ‘curriculum’ of this school…it remains for us to look at [this] curriculum of modern life in relation to the capacities of the adult mind. Expectations of us…demand something more than than mere behavior, the acquisition of specific skills, or the mastery of particular knowledge. They make demands on our minds, on how we know, on the complexity of our consciousness.”Dr. Robert Kegan

In an era of rapid change, adaptive learning is the bedrock of a successful life.

Just ask any employer why among their top priorities are finding talented people who don’t just have domain knowledge, but also are resilient, innovative, communicate well and capable of leading others in just such a world. The data shows that corporate leaders are, as Kegan says, “in over their heads” relative to the complexity they’re facing.

From a transformational learning point of view, only a dialectical process of differentiation (e.g., getting distance from one’s current viewpoint) and integration (e.g., allowing a more complex, higher-order viewpoint to emerge that subsumes the prior viewpoint), can give rise to new skills that are capable of meeting this complexity.

Growing our minds in applied and systematic ways is no longer a luxury.

At Integral Life, our mission is to support people who think of themselves as global citizens to grow their minds and become more complex, more conscious and more skillful in their lives across the full-spectrum of their lives (i.e., it leaves nothing out). We want people to feel more free and fully human in every dimension of their lives, and give them a roadmap and tools to do so. Only you can judge whether we’re successful, and we appreciate you joining with us to do so.

Robb Smith

About Robb Smith

Robb Smith is a leading thinker on the Transformation Age and the global Integral Philosophy movement. He is the co-founder and CEO of Integral Life and Integral Ventures.

Leave a Comment