The Great Breaking Open—Navigating a Complex and Uncertain World (Part 2)

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Home > Articles > The Great Breaking Open—Navigating a Complex and Uncertain World (Part 2)

 The Great Breaking Open—Navigating a Complex and Uncertain World (Part 2)

Alan Seale | Today's Manager
September 1, 2017

Genuine evolution and growth in a VUCA world requires us to “break open” by stretching our perception, beliefs, and worldviews rather than “break down” in the face of challenges. Part 1 was published in Issue 2, 2017.

The great breaking open of the human spirit: it is not the first time that this has happened, and it won’t be the last. Yet it is critical that we pay attention now. The human spirit is stronger and more powerful than many of us have ever imagined. It is much bigger than any company, any national spirit, or the spirit of any political party, religion, or economic class. The human spirit has no business, economic, political, or religious affiliation. It has a human affiliation. And it has a strong sense of its place within a more-than-human world. The human spirit is breaking open to let us know in no uncertain terms that we have been dreaming too small a dream and holding too small a vision. The next iteration of our world is waiting to be born.

When the dam holding back feelings and emotions in the human consciousness breaks open, the full spectrum of response comes flooding out. The full spectrum of human experiences and emotions is much wider than many of us can even begin to wrap our heads around. Intellectually, it is difficult to comprehend the depth and breadth of what some of our fellow human beings are experiencing. Nor can we intellectually understand the actions that some of our fellow human beings take or the massive system breakdowns that are happening everywhere. In our efforts to put what is happening into a simpler context that we can understand, we just put a label on it, such as calling it a “VUCA world”.

Yet while our intellectual minds are easily overwhelmed by all that is happening, our hearts actually have the capacity to take it all in. And herein lies the fundamental shift that is trying to happen through the Great Breaking Open. If we are willing to step beyond the intellect’s fears, anger, doubts, and discomfort, even for just a few moments, and focus our attention on the awareness, understanding, and wisdom of the heart, something changes in our perception of where we are and what is happening. The human heart has an uncanny ability to embrace the full spectrum of what is happening without judgement, and, somehow, to begin making sense of it. Somewhere from within our greater knowing, a new level of understanding begins to emerge.

As a society, we are not very practised at acknowledging the deep feelings of the heart and letting the heart show us the way forward. We are not very practised at sitting in uncomfortable emotions and experiences. Instead, we tend to become quickly overwhelmed by our feelings and run to the head (where it feels safer!) to “figure out” how to deal with these feelings and what we should do next.

As a result, two things happen. First, we don’t give the heart a chance to do what it’s really good at—to intuit the bigger picture and bring us clarity and understanding.

Second, we create a split within ourselves, both individually and collectively, further separating head from heart, intellect from intuition. We keep breaking apart the partnerships within us that are essential to realising our full potential as individuals and as organisational systems.

As that split grows wider, we increase the odds that, at some point, we will crack open in search of our own wholeness and greater potential, just as the seed must crack open in order to grow. Our innate potential, individually as well as collectively as companies, organisations, and societies, is a powerful force that wants to be fully experienced in form. If we don’t acknowledge that potential and create the best possible conditions for it to come into form, it will eventually burst open out of its desire to be fully expressed and experienced. To return to the seed analogy, the increasing pressure within the seed for life and forward evolution will ultimately be too great, and the seed will explode.

And that is what we see happening today. The floodgates holding back human, organisational, and societal potential, experience, and emotion are breaking open. The wider the split gets between head and heart, the more we will witness circumstances and events such as we have now. Instead of creating stability and safety, we will continue creating a VUCA world.

The heart is well attuned to recognise and acknowledge the human spirit. It is also fully attuned to the emerging potentials, both within us as individuals as well as within our relationships, systems, organisations, projects, and visions. At the same time, the heart has an enormous innate capacity for embracing the full spectrum of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as well as the big picture of circumstances and situations. It has the capacity to accept everything simply as information, without judging it as good or bad, right or wrong. The heart integrates that information into our awareness and communicates its new understanding to the intellect. The intellect can then organise that information and store it in its extraordinary “filing” system so that we can access it on demand.

Our VUCA world presents us with unprecedented challenges. Yet if we drop underneath those challenges, we also find enormous opportunities. One of the ancient wisdom teachings that can help us better understand how the world works is the Principle of Polarity. This principle tells us that nothing can exist without the possibility of its opposite also being present. Therefore, a challenge cannot exist unless there is also potential for creating something new. This is why I refer to what is happening today as the Great Breaking Open instead of the “great breaking down.”

It is time for a shift in our fundamental approach to life and to business. At the mass consciousness level, we are conditioned to first engage with whatever may be happening from the head. Occasionally, we might then engage the heart to soften the edges. It is time to turn that around. It is time to engage first from the heart to gather information and see the big picture, and then bring in the intellect to do what it does best—to organise, strategise, and move into effective action based on the big-picture view of the heart.

However, we need ways to talk about this so that people can understand and immediately begin to apply in their everyday lives and work. To just say, “You have to open your heart!” can be perceived by many people as overly simplistic, naïve, and disconnected from reality. It can be interpreted as a feel-good-warm-and-fuzzy approach that has no substance. It can give the impression that you are in denial of the magnitude of what is happening.

If we want to navigate our way through this VUCA world rather than be trapped by it, we need simple, practical, and immediately applicable tools and skills for accessing the power of the heart and for transforming awareness, perception, and understanding. We need a new set of skills and tools that builds inner capacities for perception, awareness, understanding, navigating complexity, and taking effective and sustainable action.

Nobel Prize winning physicist Mr Max Planck said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Our job as leaders and managers within the context of the Great Breaking Open is not to change what people think, it is to open up how they think by giving them tools and skills that transform their understanding, awareness, and perception, and ultimately expand their worldview.

The fundamental change we can make in how people think, starting today, is to engage the awareness and intelligence that is rooted in the heart. As the heart shows us a bigger picture, our perception and understanding of what is happening expand. And as our perception and understanding expand, we begin to sense our next steps. Heart and head then partner to create a strategy and move into action for a more whole, equitable, and sustainable future.

As companies, as organisations, and as individuals, the Great Breaking Open is asking us to stretch our perception, our beliefs, and our worldviews. It is asking us to push beyond the boundaries of our imaginations and begin to sense a new world that is waiting for us. Something more wants to happen. The Great Breaking Open is asking us to dream a bigger dream of who we can be and what we can do.

No one person or organisation can see or sense that bigger vision alone. It will take all of us together to dream the bigger dream and then bring that dream to reality. We may not see that full realisation in our lifetimes. It has taken us many generations to get to where we are now, and it will take time to birth the new approaches to business and societal systems that are waiting to be born. That doesn’t matter. Transformation happens through process. And when the process serves the well-being of the human spirit, we create effective and sustainable outcomes.

The Great Breaking Open continues all around us. The human spirit has broken open. There is no turning back. What comes next is up to us.

Seale, A, 7 November 2016, A way forward for the VUCA States of America, The Center for Transformational Presence,

Seale, A, 22 Aug 2016, Consciously Choosing What We Create and What We Allow To Die, The Center for Transformational Presence,

Seale, A, 15 Aug 2016, The Danger of “Dumbing Down” Reality, The Center for Transformational Presence,



Mr Alan Seale is an award-winning author, speaker, transformation catalyst, and the Director of the Center for Transformational Pre-sence. His leadership and coaching programme, Transformational Presence for Leaders and Coaches, created in 2010, now has graduates from more than 30 countries. A global coach, Mr Seale serves clients from five continents. His books have been published in six languages. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Copyright © 2017 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 3, 2017

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