Each of us has a worldview and a personal story about how we perceive reality. Our worldview combines the cultural and personal beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, values, and ideas we hold to form maps or models of reality. Our worldviews come from our collective experiences in society – from our parents and friends, the books we read and movies we watch, the music we listen to, our schools and churches. We then interpret these experiences into an individual worldview.
In practice, we use our worldviews, without necessarily being conscious of it, to construct complex conceptual frameworks in order to organize our beliefs about who we are and about the world we live in. These maps or models help us explain how we view the world and why we act as we do in it.
Our experiences within the contexts we live in, be they religious, geographic, or cultural, all contribute to how we interpret reality. Often this vision of reality is not fully articulated in our conscious awareness. In fact it could be so deeply internalized that we don’t question where it comes from. As leaders, practitioners and hosts of the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter, organizational leaders responsible for creating inclusive workplaces and engaged teams, OD consultants responsible for change initiatives, continuous learning and restructuring and HR consultants (internal and external) responsible for leadership development and policies on diversity, equity and inclusion and social change agents inside and outside of organizations, this is first an invitation into personal inquiry. Understanding our own worldview grows our capacity to host and work with others better. Especially because our worldviews influence every aspect of our lives – what we think about, how we act, what assumptions we make about others, what motivates us, what we consider to be the good, the moral and the true. It gives coherence to our lives. It is the channel through which we interpret reality as we see it.
Worldviews are an individual phenomenon and a group, organizational, community and cultural phenomenon. Everything we hold to be true is found in community. A community is not just a geographic or placed-based clustering of people living together as a village, town, city or nation. A community can also be a discipline in science, a faith community, a community of practitioners of a type of music, art or sport or a community of practitioners of Worldview Intelligence; and these communities are part of a world of multiple simultaneously existing local realities. These local constructs or realities are primarily constructed through language based processes such as the written word, art, music, dance, speaking, symbols, sign, etc. Thus, it is through ‘language’ that we represent our worldviews and it might be through language that we will begin to understand another’s worldview.
Worldviews are not necessarily or always fixed. Individual and community/cultural worldviews often shift or change. These changes can be quite small and hardly noticed at first, but eventually have a transformative impact.
Worldviews can also change quite significantly as evidenced by many changes in the past century resulting from scientific advances (flight, Internet, space travel, atomic energy, etc.). Some shifts can be so transformative (or converting) that people change religions or physical characteristics. So, while worldviews are locally constructed, they can shift based upon changes in local or global constructs as well as individual or collective experiences. On a personal level, these types of changes often manifest in some form of spiritual experience that impacts a person’s view of self in the world (Schlitz, Vieten, & Amorok, 2007). In effect, we have the ability to change our worldviews with awareness, consciousness and intentionality.
If our worldviews are mainly locally constructed, then we could ask, “What consequences do these local, cultural worldviews have for our ability to work together?” One answer is that they can create barriers to understanding and finding common ground for working together. Which raises questions of “What to do about it?” and “How can we avoid collisions of worldviews and instead come together in ways that build understanding and respect and allow each of us to hold on to that which is most important?”
The invitation, individually and in our work, is to be in inquiry, to be curious; to be nonjudgmental; to approach our work from a stance of not knowing; to practice generosity; to value good conversations and recognize that good conversations can lead to wise action; to remember that the practice is the work and to remember that manyworld views can exist in the same place when we step out of either-or thinking into the welcoming of many different perspectives in the same space and time, celebrating difference rather than insisting on sameness. Growing our capacity to invite multiple worldviews on the individual and collective levels creates more invitational space for ourselves and for others to show up in the fullness of who we each and all are.
Some references related to this post:
Jenkins, O.B. (2006) Worldview Perspectives, http://orvillejenkins.com
Schlitz, M., Vieten, C., & Amorok, T. (2007) Living Deeply: The Art & Science of Transformation in Everyday Life. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Schlitz, M., Vieten, C., Miller, E., Homer, K., Peterson, K., & Erickson-Freeman, K. (2011) The Worldview Literacy Project: Exploring New capacities for the 21st Century Student. Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, California.
Hosking, D. M. (2011) Telling Tales of Relations: Appreciating Relational Constructionism, Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht, Netherlands.