The Breadth and Depth of Vertical Development Efforts and Activities

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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Young woman writing in her journal

Over the last two weeks, I have been asked one question at least three times. This question has followed my disclosure that I have been working with a therapist for two years as a part of my vertical development efforts.

The question is, “How do you take someone from zero (almost a skepticism of therapy and no knowledge of vertical development) to engaging in therapy (or doing the deep work of rewiring and upgrading their internal operating system)?”

Now, I don’t have a great answer to this question because everyone is different, and everyone’s situation is different.

But, I do think this question opens the door to exploring various different vertical development efforts, and attempting to rank them from most approachable to least approachable if someone were starting at “zero,” or no knowledge of vertical development.

Thus, below, I present the depth of vertical development efforts and activities.

Vertical Development = Upgrading Our Internal Operating System

Before we get into those various efforts, it is helpful to remember that vertical development is a process of upgrading our internal operating system such that we make meaning of our world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways.

It is a form of development that differs from the traditional and most emphasized form of development: horizontal development.

The focus of horizontal development is: Knowledge and skill improvement

The focus of vertical development is: Neural improvement

Each form of development requires very different efforts and activities. A comparison can be seen here: The Four Practices Necessary for Vertical Development.

The Depth of Vertical Development Efforts and Activities

In the table below, I list vertical development efforts and activities that I am aware of. It is not a complete set of such efforts and activities. But, it should give you:

  • Breadth – in terms of what vertical development efforts and activities are available to you
  • Depth – in terms of how approachable they are generally considered to be

Notice that the emphasis of the efforts and activities in the table are on improving our body’s neurology. And, the deeper you go into the table, the more intensely the efforts and activities are designed to improve our body’s neurology.

Below the table are resources associated with the different efforts and activities.

Vertical Development Efforts and Activities

Vertical Development Efforts and Activities (Resources)

Receiving an introduction to vertical development

Basic mindset development activities

  • Watching videos or reading books/articles in an effort to strengthen your positive mindset neural connections (check out my Libraries for a host of books, articles, and videos for mindset development)
  • My Digital Mindset Coach is an effective tool for mindset development

Engaging in basic journaling

Young woman writing in her journal

Engaging in self-directed activities to deepen one’s self-awareness


  • In an effort to refine our body’s nervous system
  • I like using the Insight Timer app

Receiving Vertical Development Coaching

  • Guided activities designed to deepen self-awareness
  • Receiving guidance on how to experiment with new worldviews
  • I have developed a vertical development coaching activity based on Kegan & Lahey’s Immunity to Change I use this in the coaching work that I do with organizational leaders.

Learning about the power of trauma

Engaging with a therapist

  • Awakening to our own trauma
  • Engaging in bottom-up self-awareness and trauma healing practices
  • I recommend finding a therapist who does EMDR and/or Internal Family Systems therapy

Therapy with psychedelic assistance

  • Research is finding that psychedelic-assisted therapy can speed up (1) the healing process from past trauma and (2) the rewiring of our internal operating system
  • A great resource to learn about this is: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

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