Overturning the Stereotype of the Egocentric Boomer by becoming more World-centric and Being-centric
(Gail Liebhaber Interview with Sally Gelardin)
What do you mean by Egocentric Boomer and how can Egocentric Boomers become more World-centric and Being-centric?
Baby boomers tend to be work-centric, independent, goal-oriented, and competitive. We were interested in consuming, we were focused on work. We wanted our kids to go to the best schools and to have every opportunity to succeed.
Suddenly we reach midlife. Life catches up with work. We get laid off or choose to leave the fast lane and experience health, care-giving, financial, and relationship challenges. As confident, independent, and self reliant as we were, we are now caught off-balance, with no older generation to guide us into fulfilling later years. Fear of death, illness, depression, memory degradation, and rising health care costs pervade our consciousness. We need to learn how to manage stress.
What's different about how we manage stress now from how we manged stress in the 60s?
In the 60s, we sought travel and adventure (I hitch-hiked in Europe and worked on a Kibbutz in Israel), and participated in many consciousness-raising support groups. Some also took mind-altering drugs.
Where can we go now to handle stress?
Travel, adventure, and support groups - but in a different way. We now know how to travel through time and space (in other words, experience events asynchronically; for instance we can expand our mind by participating in distance-delivered groups, such as the Careerwell's Live or Recorded Tele-Interviews or the Boomer and Beyond telephone coversations. Now we know that to handle stress, we can start internally by becoming aware of the connection between our mind, spirit and body. I do this through yoga and walks along an inlet to the bay or by looking up from my computer every now and then to see filtered light streaming across my desk. Just as movie theaters were ways we could escape from our every day stresses in the 60s, now we can watch NetFlicks or view the Met Operas on our home computer screen.
You said to me that we can connect our passions with the world's needs. What does that mean?
Here's an example: Lisa Rueff, one of my Careerwell speakers, is also a yoga instructor. She chose to go to Haiti for a month and volunteer in the tent cities because she wanted to help the Haitians, who had just experienced an earthquake. She took her passion for yoga and dancing with her to connect with the needs of the locals to share their stories with others through movement and dance. I am a continual learner. I interview industry leaders to learn more about life and work and share their wisdom with listeners.
How can Integral Aging help us connect our passions with what the world needs?
Here are a few theorists upon which I draw to define Integral Aging and how it helps us connect our passions with what the world needs:
Integral aging articulates the practice of aging with "grace and grit" (Ken Wilbur). Ken Wilbur and his wife wrote about their love and short time together (she struggled with cancer and died shortly after they married). After his wife died, Ken came with Integral Theory to connect one's internal motivations (mind/body/spirit) with others (family, community, and global community).
She experienced discrimination against women in college. Realizing women needed to hear their voices, she came up with Integrative Life Planning Theory. She proposes that we carry out the following tasks:
- finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts
- attending to our health
- connecting family and work and changing gender roles
- valuing pluralism and inclusivity
- managing transitions and organizational change
- exploring spiritualty and life purpose.
In her Life-as-Career Theory, Anna Tiedeman says stop always thinking of the future or past. Go with where life is taking you. Focus on the present. What is the business at hand? Putting food on the table and paying the rent? Then do that first, then take care of future needs.
Jim Bright says, "Great jazz musicians continually improvise, re-interpret and reinvent to produce music that is fresh, vibrant and combines pattern and surprise. Successfully navigating personal or corporate change requires the same skills."
I developed the Tightrope Artist Model for making life transition. The art of managing career and life transitions can be compared to a "tightrope" artist. Walking on the "high wire," like conducting a job search, exploring a career change, deciding whether to open a business, coping with caregiving and career, or making retirement plans, requires balance and focus. Just as Julia Robert's guru in the movie and book, Eat, Pray, Love, says at the end of the movie, "sometimes one needs to let oneself go off balance to find balance," so I offer the tightrope artist metaphor to letting oneself go slightly off balance to find balance on the tightrope.
How does the Tightrope Artist Model explain Integral Aging?
Our goal is to integrate our whole self (mind, body, and spirit) with family, community and world community. Our intent is to overturn the stereotype of the egocentric boomer generation by becoming more world-centric and being-centric, characteristics that are more typical of younger generations. The Tightrope Artist Model provides a process for integrating your own needs with the needs of others. It includes four steps:
- Self Assessment: In addition to identifying career values, motivated skills, personal style, and career interests, (Knowdell's Career Development and Job Search Profile), in the Tightrope Artist Model, we examine family and environmental influences, innner motivations, and preferred learning styles. Once we understand ourselves, we can adapt our strengths to any situation.
- Step 2 involves both Internet and field research.You can't just surf the Internet to find jobs. You need to go out and talk with people who are doing the type of work or kinds of activities that you would like to do.
- In the Tightrope Artist Model, "Step 3: Focus on the Best Available Option for You" is fluid; it can change. In other words, you can choose an option, and later change this (job/career/business/caregiving/retirement) option to a different option. Go with the flow, but keep going - exploring options.
- In the Tightrope Model, time is fluid. The word "goal" is replaced by "intention" in the Tightrope Model. Therefore Step 4: Develop a Plan To Get You To Your Goal" becomes "Set an Intention and Develop a Plan" in the Tightrope Model. If you change your focus, you may choose to set a different intention and develop a plan of action, or you may choose not to take action at this time.
Why did you develop the Integral Aging Certificate training?
My intent is to model ways of guiding clients midlife and beyond through their career transitions, using multi-sensory approaches, such as visualization, physical movement, meditative practices, and a mapping process. For example, I invited listeners to drink a cup of tea during our interview and to take a “lite bite” from their cultural heritage. That's what our elders did - eat and drink and tell stories to make sense out of life. As career counselors and coaches, we can listen to our clients' stories and guide them through their life and career decision-making process.
Sally Gelardin, Ed.D. has over 30 years experience in the fields of education and training. She has earned 12 certificates, including the National Certified Counselor, Distance Credentialed Counselor, Job and Career Transition Coach, Certified Leave Light Facilitator, and Certified Job Loss Recovery Counselor. Sally was honored by the California Career Development Association with the Robert Swan Award for Lifetime Achievement in Career Development, and she received the California Counseling Association Service Award in Appreciation for Outstanding Leadership Contributions. Her work as an educator and counselor is based on her belief in the immense potential of all human beings to contribute their unique strengths to the world, no matter how old they are, their level of education, background, and challenges. She is an instructor and women's studies portfolio evaluator at the University of San Francisco; originator of the Careerwell tele-interviews with industry experts; author of three books on entrepreneurship, career and care-giving, and mother-daughter influences; former president and current board member of CCDA; and co-founder of the San Francisco Spiritual Eldering movement.
Gail Liebhaber (a member of the Boomers and Beyond SIG) has been involved in the field of career development for over 20 years as a trainer, consultant, coach and counselor. She has an M.Ed. with a specialization in career counseling and is a Licensed Social Worker in Massachusetts. She is a MBTI Charter Certified Practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Step I, II and III, the Strong Interest Inventory and the FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior), and MSCEIT Certified Practitioner of Emotional Intelligence,(EQ). Gail completed a spiritual psychology training course at the Concord Institute in Concord, MA in 2003. She established her private practice in 1994, dedicated to the mission of coaching adults through career transitions with effective and empowering results. Gail is former Career Director of the Harvard Divinity School and Design School. She is the author of Purposeful Listening: Spiritual Coaching Techniques for Career Development Practitioners.