Vertical development is enhancing our ability to make meaning of our world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways.

The concept comes with two assumptions:

  1. People vary in their cognitive and emotional sophistication
  2. Those with higher altitudes of cognitive and emotional sophistication will navigate life more effectively, be better leaders, and be more positive influences within their sphere of influence

There are different levels or altitudes or levels of vertical development/cognitive and emotional sophistication. I call them Mind 1.0, Mind 2.0, and Mind 3.0. Each serves as our internal operating system that causes us to focus on different goals and needs as follows (click on hyperlinks to learn more):

  • Mind 1.0 – Focused on safety, comfort, and belonging
  • Mind 2.0 – Focused on standing out, getting ahead, and winning
  • Mind 3.0 – Focused on contributing and adding value

Understanding this should leave us with two questions:

  1. How do I elevate vertically? (i.e., How do I become more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated, with particular interest in Mind 3.0)
  2. Because we have elements of all three mind levels within us, we also need to ask: How do I spend a higher percentage of my time in Mind 3.0?

In this post, I want to answer both of these questions.

How Do I Elevate Vertically?

There are three general things that need to occur in order for us to vertically develop.

snail, before and after upgrade, 3d rendering

First, we need to desire to vertically develop and we have to believe that it is possible.

The desire to vertically develop comes in one of two ways: we feel we want to or we feel we need to.

If we feel we want to, we are not facing the external pressure to do so. This is less common.

If we feel we need to, we are going through an experience where we feel that the complexity of our world exceeds our cognitive and emotional sophistication. Essentially, these are trials or crises that we experience. Let me give you a few examples:

  • We have just moved from being an individual contributor to being a manager and feel over our heads
  • We are a Freshman in college, having to learn how to live on our own, make friends, get a job, do well in school, and pursue extracurricular activities
  • The COVID pandemic has caused our world to be much more uncertain and complex than what it was prior to the pandemic and we feel overwhelmed

Often, the byproducts of operating in a situation where the complexity of our world exceeds our cognitive and emotional sophistication manifest in the form of stress, burnout, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety. There is a reason why 39% of college students have “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function at least once.” And, over 60% of college students have felt overwhelmed by anxiety at least once in the last 12 months.

But, the reality is that not all people (in fact, very few) vertically develop as the result of trials or crises. This is either because they do not know how to, do not recognize that is an option, or they don’t believe they can.

Second, we need to push against our “meaning makers.”

Vertical development is improving our ability to make meaning in cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways. The foundation of this definition is: “improving our ability to make meaning.”

To improve our meaning making, we need to expose ourselves to different perspectives, we have got to challenge our existing mindsets and mental models.

This can come from directed learning and reading, talking to people different than us, or talking to people more vertically developed than us.

Third, we need to develop elevated sensemaking.

It is one thing to push against our “meaning makers,” and it is an entirely different thing to integrate the new perspectives we have gained to such a degree that we do make meaning of our world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways. One question to ask is: has our worldview advanced AND has it stabilized?

Spending More Time in Mind 3.0

The last part of this prior question is important because (1) all of us have the ability to be in Mind 3.0, but (2) none of us spend 100% of our time in Mind 3.0.

So, it is important to ask: how do I stabilize into Mind 3.0 or how do I spend a high percentage of my time in Mind 3.0.

I believe that one answer to this question is to strengthen our mindfulness and metacognitive muscles. This can include:

  • Meditation
  • Regular “check-ins” with your body and self throughout the day
  • Gratitude practices

Two books that I would recommend on this are:

Another answer to this question is to do, what is termed shadow work, which involves healing the traumatized parts of yourself, which generally hold rather tightly to either Mind 1.0 and Mind 2.0. There are a couple of therapy modalities that I have found extremely helpful: EMDR and Internal Family Parts Therapy. I have hyperlinked short videos about each to learn about them.