It's the End of the World (as we know it)


So we’ve arrived at December 21st 2012, the end of a 5000 year cycle in the Mayan calendar and the much vaunted “end of the world.” Whilst the destruction of the planet by gigantic asteroids or solar flares seems highly unlikely, we are nevertheless witnessing huge social, economic and environmental challenges that promise to change our lives beyond recognition in the years to come. So let’s take a brief look at the trends pointing, not to a definitive end, but to the end of the world as we know it and what this demands of us.

A faster, more complex world

If we look at the trends in society all over the world the structure of our daily lives is changing. The ever increasing connectivity of the internet age means we’re having to cope with increasing amounts of information. Think back just three years ago – how many electronic messages did you receive per day? And now…?  The rate of change itself is speeding up.  The complexity and networked reality of the 21st century means a lot more is being demanded of everyone .  


Our present era has been characterised for centuries by pyramidal, hierarchical social structures. Those at the top have held the power, the knowledge and made decisions through processes of command and control. However centralised, hierarchical organisations and work places are now revealing themselves to be increasingly inefficient, expensive and unable to respond to rapid change. Businesses are awakening to the necessity of ‘workplace empowerment’. This model encourages staff to make their own decisions, form effective teams and take responsibility for their decisions and actions. At the same time companies are increasingly outsourcing to more cost effective independent contractors and freelancers. We are moving into the era of the creative freelancer, each catering to a specialised niche, a decentralised, networked, ecosystem approach to work that is ultimately much more sustainable and resilient to change. This will have profound implications for society . 


The Age of Transparency and Accountability

Have you’ve noticed that it is getting increasingly difficult to remain hidden and out of public scrutiny for the institutions and individuals that are prepared to engage in socially harmful practices like fraud, tax avoidance, sexual abuse, closed door deals etc.? Reputations are easily broken these days. Trust in governments, corporations and authorities of all kinds is at an all-time low. The internet is giving birth to an age of transparency which means we all have to be more rigorous in facing up to how we behave. The times are forcing us to more honest and trustworthy. In a connected age the degree to which we can be trusted is paramount. 

Increasing Instability

Whilst governments are at pains to admit it if you look at what is happening in the US and Western Europe it is clear that the era of economic growth is coming to a close. Since 2008 economies everywhere have remained jittery. Our environment is continually degraded and ecological systems are broken so that it looks like more hurricanes, floods and natural disasters are likely. Also this year has seen droughts and very poor harvests to the extent that the UN is talking of chronic food shortages in 2013. 

Unfortunately these are just a few of the crises that may well lead to greater instability and social unrest in the years to come. 

This means that individually, in our life times, we will certainly have to learn to adapt to new circumstances.


New world, new mindset

Which brings me to the point of this blog. All of the changes in circumstances outlined above require a new mindset with which to deal with them. Up until now the majority of us have been educated and brought up to deal with how to get along in the old system which is on its way out. This has tended to mean finding our place within a structure, taking orders from those above and giving them to those below. Looking for possibilities within those existing structures will start to look and feel increasingly bleak. 

With such tumultuous change on the horizon it is vital we learn new ways of being and thinking. 

The blueprint for thriving in the new world is as follows:

  • Recognise what your own natural qualities and gifts are.
  • Find ways in which to incorporate them in your existing work or remodel your career.
  • Seek out ways to empower yourself and think for yourself
  • If an opportunity doesn’t already exist, work out how to create it
  • Reach out, collaborate and seek win/win solutions (you will lose kudos with the winner takes all approach in the networked age.)
  • If collaboration doesn’t come naturally make a point of learning the soft skills (listening, empathy) that will enable it.
  • Trust your intuition
  • Think about the consequences that your actions have on individuals, communities, societies and the planet.
This is not about doom and gloom. This is a blueprint for a satisfying, sustainable life!
Once you start to think and act in line with these principles, you’ll see it’s only the end of the world as we know it… and you’ll feel fine!

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Comment by Brian E Shumsky on December 30, 2012 at 2:52am


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