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The Modern Evolution of Internal Enlightenment


I will confine my thoughts to the last four decades partially because of the limited scope of this forum and partially because those are the only decades I can attest to being physically in existence.  I am, after all, a meager 45 years old.

The 70’s were about disco, bellbottoms, a bicentennial in the U.S., and really square looking ugly cars.  The media was brimming with references to therapy.  Seeing a therapist was not something to be hidden and stigmatized, but a sign of maximal enlightenment.  Wooden Allen dominated the box office and Bob Newhart was everyone’s favorite shrink; so much so that he influenced me to pursue my degree.

The 80’s brought about big hair, outrageous colors, synth-pop music, MTV and a new generation of enlightenment seekers.  All of the inward focus of the 70’s may have contributed to the “me generation” of the 80’s.  Remember “greed is good” (yes, it pales compared to what we are experience now among the top financial engineers, but back then it was a fairly indicative sentiment).  Therapy receded as the prime mechanism for enlightenment and the self-help book became the sine qua non. Barnes and Noble was growing and displacing mom and pop bookstores and self-help books filled the best seller lists.  Books like “When bad things Happen to Good People”, “In search of Excellence”, “A Passion for Excellence”, “The Be-Happy Attitudes”, All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten” and most especially “Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life” (it changed my life- one of the top 10 non-fiction books of 1981-OK, not really).

The 90’s saw a massive upheaval in personal enlightenment and everything else.  As Barnes and Noble loosed creative destruction upon the bookselling industry, so did the internet loose creative destruction upon the world.  Want to know how to fix something?  “ Look it up on the web” was the popular refrain.   The web became the wild west of commerce and especially information.  It was easy to find advice on just about anything.  People were massively empowered by the unlimited access to all the information in the universe.  Unfortunately, as many have found out, not all information is created equally.  While the web acts as the great enabler, it also has the ability to distort the value of quality. Good and bad information is just as easy to access.  People may have saved time accessing information, but they now needed to spend more time vetting the sources of that same information (in many cases an  impossible task).

The naught’s, 00’s, millennial decade (what should we call it anyway) saw a paradigm shift, the rise of the professional coach.   In 1999 The International Coaching Federation (ICF) reported a membership base of 2122 members in 2009 that based had swelled 800% to 16,800 members in 93 countries.  People are now beginning to turn to caring, skilled, expert mentors to help them unleash their own inner excellence. The model of repairing broken frail individuals and structures has given way to assisted individual empowerment.  Coaches have become highly skilled, highly trained, highly valued partners in the quest for perfection.  Undoubtedly the paradigm will shift again, but due to the fast evolving informed coaching culture, the professional coach will continue to spearhead the quest for excellence, freedom and enlightenment.

Now, I am perfectly aware than any part of this thesis can easily be torn apart. However, I present this article simply as one way to look at things. After all, you can never have too many perspectives.