Tip #801: Being an Adult

“Successfully functioning in a society with diverse values, traditions and lifestyles requires us to have a relationship to our own reactions rather than be captive of them. To resist our tendencies to make right or true, that which is nearly familiar, and wrong or false, that which is only strange.” Robert Kegan

We know that children grow in stages (for example, we’ve heard of, if not experienced, the terrible two’s). Well, according to Dr. Robert Kegan, a former Harvard psychologist, adults also transition through different stages. Becoming an adult isn’t about learning new things, it’s about transitioning into higher stages of development and maturity.

Natali Morad describes these five stages:

  • Stage 1 — The Impulsive Mind (early childhood). Here the focus is on one’s emotions: “I perceive and respond based on emotion.”
  • Stage 2 — The Imperial Mind (adolescence, 6% of adult population). Here the focus is on one’s own needs, interests and agendas: “I am motivated solely by my desires.” Relationships are viewed as a means to an end and rules are followed because of external rewards or punishments, not because of a belief in them.
  • Stage 3 —The Socialized Mind (58% of the adult population). Here the focus is on the ideas, norms and beliefs of others: “I am my relationships and I follow the rules.” They spend energy trying to avoid hurting other people’s feelings and seek external validation for their sense of self. They no longer view people as a means to an end because they care how others perceive them.

Social maturity for a majority of adults ends at Stage 3.

Kegan believes that, if most adults remain at Stage 3, they will be ill-equipped to function successfully in our current volatile and ever-changing world. Transitioning to the higher stages involves moving to a greater sense of control over ourselves: our emotions and reactions, our ideas and beliefs, our senses of self, and our lives.

  • Stage 4 — The Self-Authoring Mind (35% of the adult population). Here the focus is on self-definition: “I have an identity and make choices.” They question expectations and values, take stands, set limits and solve problems independently. They take responsibility for their own inner states and emotions. There is a realization that people are constantly changing.
  • Stage 5 — The Self-Transforming Mind (1% of the adult population). Here the focus is on continually evolving: “I hold many identities and embrace paradox.” They not only question authority, they also question themselves. They see the complexities of life and are open to continually reinventing their identity. They can hold multiple thoughts and ideologies at the same time.

I think in general I would conservatively place myself 50% at the Socialized mind stage with family and friends and 50% at the Self-Authoring mind stage in the world of work. However, this may not be true, since Kegan observes that we all believe that we’re at a higher stage than we are!

The goal is to pay attention to which stage we are at, when and with whom. Then we can deliberately work to change our perspective, thoughts, feelings and actions.

Where would you place yourself? #adultdevelopment #Kegan #theselfauthoringmind #theselftransformingmind #thesocializedmind

May your learning be sweet.


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