Vertical development is a process of personal development that focuses on upgrading our body’s internal operating system.

What developmental psychologists have found is that there are three primary internal operating systems that one can operate from at a given time. These internal operating systems vary in cognitive and emotional sophistication.

I call these systems Mind 1.0, Mind 2.0, and Mind 3.0. Each is programmed to fulfill different needs as follows:

  • Mind 1.0 – We are programmed to ensure our safety, comfort, and belonging (Good Soldier)
  • Mind 2.0 – We are programmed to stand out, advance, and get ahead (Progress Maker)
  • Mind 3.0 – We are programmed to contribute, add value, and lift others (Value Creator)

Research has found that 64% of all adults operate at Mind 1.0, 35% operate at Mind 2.0, and only 1% operate at Mind 3.0.

Introducing the Half Steps

In my work with leaders and executives, part of what I do is help them identify what mind level they primarily operate from. As I have done this work, I have come to realize more and more that there are half-steps in the vertical development ladder: Mind 1.5, Mind 2.5, and Mind 3.5.

group vs themselves

The distinction is on the degree to which one is focused on themselves or a group beyond themselves. You should be able to see this in the following:

  • Mind 1.0 – I am programmed to ensure my safety, comfort, and belonging
  • Mind 1.5 – I am programmed to ensure the safety, comfort, and belonging of my group

 

  • Mind 2.0 – I am programmed to ensure I stand out, advance, and get ahead
  • Mind 2.5 – I am programmed to ensure we stand out, advance, and get ahead

 

  • Mind 3.0 – I am programmed to ensure I contribute, add value, and lift others
  • Mind 3.5 – I am programmed to ensure we contribute, add value, and lift others

Why This is Important – 1

Commonly, what I am finding is that Mind 1.5 people think they are in Mind 3.0. Because they aren’t focused solely on themselves and have their eyes on a group beyond them, they don’t connect with Mind 1.0. But, they commonly fail to get in touch with whether they are focused on safety, comfort, and belonging or on contributing, adding value, and lifting others.

But, to be fair, this isn’t easy to distinguish.

Let me give you an example.

Mind Levels at Church

From my personal experience attending church my whole life and through the lens of vertical development, I believe that most of the people I go to church with are in Mind 1.5, but they think they are in Mind 3.0.

They think they are in Mind 3.0 because they profess to believe in characteristics like charity, humility, love, compassion, etc. But, when they are exposed to ideas that run contrary to their beliefs, they are quick to be protective (seeking safety, comfort, and belonging). And, they interpret their protectiveness as a way they are contributing and adding value to the group.

But, what they have a hard time recognizing is that their protectiveness is something that decreases psychological safety and creates a bigger barrier between the “in group” and the “out group,” which helps ensure safety, comfort, and belonging, but it also prevents growth and development.

Why This is Important – 2

I also think understanding the differences in the half levels, helps us be more precise in our development recommendations.

For example, if I am helping someone to develop from Mind 1.0 to Mind 1.5, I should give them a book that helps them to think outside themselves and to see the bigger group around them.

But, if I am helping someone to develop from Mind 1.5 to Mind 2.0, I should give them a book that helps them to think less about protection and more about advancement.

Book Recommendations

Here are some book recommendations that I have for each of the mind levels:

Mind 3.0 -> Mind 3.5

Mind 2.5 -> Mind 3.0

Mind 2.0 -> Mind 2.5

Mind 1.5 -> Mind 2.0

Mind 1.0 -> Mind 1.5

If there are book recommendations that you have for any of these developmental upgrades, let me know.