Coaching Blog

Your Sofa May be Killing You

Posted by Julia Stewart

Sofa may be killing you

Should you finally write that novel while you're staying at home or should you cut yourself some slack and take it easy?

Some productivity gurus seem to encourage us to use this time to reach all those goals we never had time for, while others say this is a tough situation and we should take it slow for a while.

That's a false choice and a dangerous trap...

The first choice is problematic if it discourages you from practicing sufficient self compassion, an attitude that few in our society have mastered. Without self compassion, reaching for major goals during a difficult time is a workaholic response that is usually unsustainable. Sooner or later we burn out and our loved ones pay the price until we do.

The second choice invites us to use the pandemic as an excuse to be less than our best and there's a hidden danger to that. For example, I'm hearing from people who say they're having trouble getting out of bed, or off the sofa, and are engaging in old bad habits, like overeating and binge watching TV they don't even like. Those are symptoms that, over time, can be deadly, and I'm not just talking about becoming unfit or overweight.

When we give up on what gets us out of bed, even for a while, we're telling our bodies that we are no longer needed. When that happens, our bodies tend to shut down and age. Sometimes, people begin the process of dying when they no longer have a purpose. We've all heard those stories of elderly couples who die within days of each other. That is, perhaps, a dramatic example.

The psychologist, Jim Loehr, who specializes in helping people optimize their energy, has a theory. He says shutting down and dying, when we no longer have a purpose, has adaptive value for our species. Because it frees up resources, like food, for those that do have a purpose.

I remember hearing a story from psychologist, Don Beck, who teaches Spiral Dynamics, about an indigenous family in the Canadian arctic. They had too little food to survive the winter, so the grandparents volunteered to commit a traditional sacrifice. The grandparents climbed onto an ice flow and the family pushed them out to sea...


They sacrificed themselves to free up resources for their families in one last act of purpose.


I'm guessing that your situation does not require you to die for the survival of your family. But you do need a sense of purpose to survive the pandemic. You can can reach goals that matter. You can grow and transcend. But you need a little extra self compassion when the new abnormal gets overwhelming.

I'm teach a free course on how to thrive in the pandemic in which I share numerous positive psychology and neuroscience tools and practices. One of the tools that participants have found most impactful is an act of self compassion.

Here it is. Take your hand and place it on your cheek (make sure you've washed your hand, of course.) Then tell yourself, "I understand. It's okay. I forgive you. Everything will be all right."


One participant cried when she did this.


Try it. If it touches you deeply, you probably need to do it regularly.

Your short-term purpose may have changed temporarily. But you can replace it with something meaningful, right now. Maybe even complete that novel you've always wanted to write. And it may be possible to work toward your long-term vision if you're willing to be flexible and creative. I'm offering a taste of this in the free course.


But that sense of laziness, of slacking off and becoming one with the sofa, could slowly be killing you.


Don't make this an either/or choice. Do pursue important goals. Do practice self compassion, as needed. Do thrive despite the pandemic and help create a better world.


There's a new free Fully Alive course. Sign up below to attend.


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Topics: Free, life purpose, Spiral Dynamics, positive psychology coaching, coaching with neuroscience, Don Beck, resilience, Covid

What is Spiral Dynamics Coaching, and why haven’t we heard of it???

Posted by Angela Goodeve

Spiral Dynamics CoachingGuest post by Coach, Angela Goodeve, CCC. Angela is a member of School of Coaching Mastery's Ultimate Coach Training Program. Visit Angela's blog here. Angela is a contestant in the Best Coaching Blogs 2012 Contest.

Ok, Spiral Dynamics Coaching is a little complex, so if you are in a light mood, or it starts giving you a headache, you may want to bookmark this post until later!!!

When I first started leaning about Spiral Dynamics at School of Coaching Mastery, my first reaction, like many others, was “huh??”; My second reaction was “hmm, this is interesting…”; my next was “wow, this is REALLY interesting”; and my next was “Why haven’t we heard of this before???”.

I have a four-year degree in Psychology, have attended many educational conferences, and have been into personal development for a very long time, but not once have I heard of Spiral Dynamics until studying it at School of Coaching Mastery, at least not in a meaningful and detailed way!


This is what I have learned so far about Spiral Dynamics:

  • Spiral Dynamics has been used with individuals; governments; and in marketing, and has been beneficial in all of these settings;
  • This psycho-social-spiritual theory was first proposed by psychology professor, Clare Graves, PhD, in the 1950’s, and has been referred to as the “The Theory that Explains Everything” by MacLean’s magazine.  It was later clarified by Dr. Don E. Beck and Dr. Christopher Cowan in their seminal book, Spiral Dynamics, Mastering Values Leadership and Change; and
  • The theory combines biology, psychology, and sociology in trying to describe differences in human thinking and behavior.

So, what IS Spiral Dynamics???

Spiral Dynamics describes human thinking in terms of an evolution of individual and societal value systems.  According to the theory, each individual, culture, and society follows a succession in levels of thinking, that are characterized at each stage as a different value system that guides not only the person’s thinking, but their behavior, and their interaction with others, and the world around them.

Each stage, for simplicity, has been organized into a color system that describes different value systems and ways of thinking. 


The key things to remember when learning about these value systems and stages are:

  • There is no “right” or “wrong” way of thinking;
  • That the world needs people who think at different levels along the “spiral” to survive;
  • When we move on to the next “stage” we integrate the values of the previous “stages” so that we can utilize them if needed;
  • A person, culture, or society can “spiral” back to a previous stage in certain circumstances, and may become “stuck” at an earlier way of thinking;
  • Lower levels are not aware of the existence of the higher levels;
  • Individuals and Societies are best served by leaders, including coaches, who are thinking at the higher levels, who can recognize others at different stages along the “continuum”, and use this knowledge to help solve issues according to the applicable ways of thinking, or value systems.

The “stages” are as follows (they will be described in terms of the individual for simplicity):  

  • Beige – At this stage, the individual’s mainly thinking of survival, much like an infant ‘s physical concerns and biological needs;
  • Purple - The individual sees the benefits of a Family/Tribe, and safety and security in numbers.  Much like a toddler they are influenced by ritual, and believe in the “guidance” of their “Chief”, or Parents.
  • Red - This stage is very egocentric, and adheres to the principles of:  dominance, power, and control, much like teenagers typically assert themselves;
  • Blue - Sees the world, and interacts with it, according to rules and authority that they believe brings stability, order, and meaning;
  • Orange - Evolves in their values and thinking towards achievement, competition, and success.  They thrive on opportunities, and are driven to a “better way of living”.
  • Green - Is concerned with humanity, love, harmony, and purpose (think 60’s hippy!!)
  • Yellow - Places high value on flexibility, independence, and a certain knowing about themselves.  They care less about what others think, and more about doing what one chooses, an existential way of being.
  • Turquoise - Is a more holistic way of thinking, in terms of consciousness, life force, and the “global community”.

So, what does this all mean to coaches, and how is learning about this going to benefit us in terms of our interactions with, and understanding of others?

For one, it reminds us that we are all individuals, with different value systems, ways of thinking, and different ways of interacting with the world.  It therefore follows that we cannot assume that any individual does, or should think the same way we do.

Knowledge of this theory can also help us in coaching and communicating with others, whether it is on an individual level; through professional coaching, via marketing; or in a more global sense.  If we can understand where another person is coming from in term of their values and thinking, then we can tailor our communications to that person, audience, or community to foster a stronger connection.

As Coaches, if we can understand where our Clients are coming from in terms of their values and thinking, we can help them find solutions that are appropriate for them, and that will resonate with them much better!

Since this is a pre-pre-101 to Spiral Dynamics blog article, you may want to visit some other sites to read more about it:  I found this one helpful in deepening my understanding.

You can also take the Introduction to Spiral Dynamics for Coaches at School of Coaching Mastery.

If you have heard about Spiral Dynamics, I would love to hear your comments!  Let’s get the discussion going!

Peace and Love,

Ang :)

School of Coaching Mastery teaches a Spiral Dynamics course tailored to the needs of business and life coaches. It's part of the Ultimate Coach Training Program:

Click me

Topics: Coaching, Best Coaching Blogs, School of Coaching Mastery, Coaches, coaching clients, Business Coaches, Life Coaches, clarifying, Spiral Dynamics, Don Beck, Dr. Clare Graves

Are You Stuck in the Green Meme?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Spiral Dynamics CoachingI've been fascinated by Spiral Dynamics, lately. It's a theory of human development that helps to explain people's paradigms, both individually and culturally. (You can read a brief synopsis of it in Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything, or the whole enchilada in Spiral Dynamics by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan.) 

This theory neatly explains why people think what they do and why there is so much disagreement about values in today's world - and it's weirdly color coded. 

Spiral Dynamics & Ken Wilber use the word, "meme", differently than we do as coaches. In SD, the word, "meme", closely resembles the word, "paradigm". It's a come-from more than an idea. Another term for this is, "meme complex" or value system. 

So, SD organizes paradigms, or memes, into levels that are color coded. The dominant memes of Western Society are the Red Meme, which is war-like and features a "might makes right" ethic; the Blue Meme, which is based on absolute truths and is dominant in our major religions; the Orange meme, which is evidence- and material-based and is seen in science and corporate ethics; and the Green Meme, which is socially conscious, multi-cultural, and teaches that truths are relative and dominates in the social sciences and academia. SD arranges these memes in ascending order, with Red on the bottom and Green on top. There are other memes, as well, but these are currently the dominant ones.

One thing that all the above memes have in common, is that they tend to view each other as wrong. The reality is that individuals and cultures all need to pass through every stage in order to progress. But because they see each other as wrong, the world is suffering from a kind of global auto-immune meme disease.

Here's an example of that: in the US, we're currently divided between the "red" conservatives and the "blue" liberals. Those colors have nothing to do with Spiral Dynamics, but conservatives are basically of the Red warlike and Blue religious memes. Whereas liberals are of the Orange scientific and Green socially conscious memes. And each side thinks the other is nuts.

Ken Wilber says Cultural Creatives are primarily of the Green Meme and also that this meme rose to ascendancy with the Baby Boomer generation. I'm thinking that the Green Meme is pretty common amongst coaches. Do you agree?
Here's the hitch: There are levels above the Green Meme. In fact, there's a whole Second Tier of memes in SD that begins with the level above Green. And between Green and the next one up, the Yellow Meme, which is about "Flex & Flow", there is a huge leap in consciousness. This leap goes from thinking that everyone who doesn't subscribe your meme is wrong, to thinking that all the memes have value and must exist. In other words, it's all perfect.

I believe coaching, itself, belongs in the second tier. That you might see the value of coaching if you're in the Green Meme, but you won't really get it, until you're in the Yellow Meme. This may explain, at least in part, why there are frustrated coaches out there, because only a tiny fraction of society has reached the Second Tier. (They have research to back this up.)

[UPDATE 5-9-13: In a live teleclass, yesterday, Ken Wilber mentioned that research shows that 5% of the world's population has reached the 2nd Tier and that if current growth continues, it will be 10% within 10 years. Historically, when a new meme system takes hold in 10% of the population, a tipping point is reached, which results in immense cultural change. This may be good news, since today's global problems require an unprecedented degree of cooperation from the global population.]

[UPDATE 9-12-2016: In a private conversation, Paul Ray, the sociologist who conducted the original research that was shared in his popular book, Cultural Creatives, told me Ken Wilber was wrong about SD and Cultural Creatives. He said Cultural Creatives fit more fully with the so-called, 2nd Tier Turquoise Meme, which is often confused with Green. People thinking at Green are much more political and often become activists. Turquoise is more spiritual and has a deep connection and sense of Oneness with Earth. Instead of marching, they are more likely to be redesigning culture and redefining what it means to be human. Both levels are highly concerned about Climate Change, but respond differently to it.]

The problem with a coach who thinks on the level of the Green Meme is that they are not going to understand some important ideas at the heart level and that can get in the way of their success. They may get it cognitively, but not at the all-important Being level.

So, how do you know if you're stuck in the Green Meme? Well, I haven't done research on this, yet, but here are some possibilities:

  • Do you have trouble understanding some coaching concepts? (Like recognizing perfection in every situation or knowing that people are doing their very best, even when they're not. I don't mean intellectually, I mean really get it. That definitely requires Yellow or Turquoise Meme thinking)
  • Do you feel uncomfortable with business and marketing, or with making money? (that's Orange Meme territory - Remember, Yellow and Turquoise Memes appreciate all levels of thinking.)
  • Do you have a problem with competition? (you need to make peace with Orange Meme thinking)
  • Do you believe there can be no hierarchies and no absolutes? (Except the absolute that there are no absolutes? If so, you are definitely at Green and will have a big problem with Blue and Orange thinking)
  • Do your biases get in the way of your coaching many clients and do you get annoyed with people, because you know they are wrong? (then you are stuck somewhere in the first tier)

How do you make the shift to Second Tier thinking? Ah, that's where coaches come in! That's what many of us are in the business of: Helping people shift up to the Second Tier!

My prediction is that Green Meme coaches will have more difficulties with their career than will coaches thinking at the Yellow or Turquoise Memes. And it's a BIG shift. No wonder becoming a coach is such a huge transition!

Learn About "Spiral Dynamics Integral" Coaching


Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2005 - 2021



Topics: Coaching, Spiral Dynamics, Ken Wilber, Don Beck, Second Tier, Cultural Creatives

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