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04.25.2017 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

A Message to Baby Boomers: Seize the Amazing Zone between Compromise and Rigidity

If you’re a business leader with a proven track record of success, it’s easy to get stuck in rigidity. In fact your track record will almost always guarantee a certain level of inflexibility because, quite frankly, you have evidence to support that what you know and believe is right. After all, you have the results to prove it.

Allow me to suggest, however, that in an ever-changing complex society, leaders who cling to rigid models of the past are destined to crash and burn. Rigidity is the kiss of death in a world that is literally evolving moment-to-moment. Whether we like it our not, we are a diverse global society— one in which leaders are now required to lean into and respond to diverse perspectives—world views that often stem from sources outside and beyond our scope of initial understanding.

My husband recently reminded me that people want the world to stay exactly where it was when they were at their peak level of performance. As a point worthy of consideration, then, I’d have to add that Baby Boomers have a lot to reconsider if they hope to remain useful and relevant in  our post-post modern society. In other words, the 80’s and 90’s are but a memory, and Ronald Reagan doesn’t live here any more.

It’s a new day, and we’re no longer the generation in charge. We just have realized it yet.

The challenge, then, is to balance what we value, know, and believe to be true with our capacity to listen into and accept perspectives outside our own. Within this amazing zone between compromise and rigidity lies an open space of responsiveness that is cloaked in clarity, purpose,  ingenuity, and perhaps even greater peace and freedom.

When we seek to understand and embrace what we don’t know, we enter this amazing zone where the sweet spot of passion lives and thrives. It is the seat of innovation, and guess what, Baby Boomers, this is where the Millennials live. Don’t agree? Just look around and watch all that they are creating. Pay attention to how they are changing the landscape of the world.

They didn’t create today’s worldly chaos. We did. And, allow me to push your buttons a bit further: Failure to embrace this sweet spot of innovation results in stagnation, cynicism, boredom, despair, and even eventual defeat.

How does one get to this amazing zone between compromise and rigidity?

First off, don’t confuse open responsiveness with compromise. You can still hold fast to your values and listen into other perspectives. While you may not agree with the other person’s way of thinking or doing business, when you listen from a place of curiosity, you open the doorway of opportunity. You now have a chance to learn new ways of thinking and being that might enhance your own capacity for change.

Secondly, beware of any propensity toward rigidity because as Diane Hamilton1 states: “. . . what is violence except the primitive impulse to destroy another perspective or a different way of being.” She goes on to say that when we listen and learn to express our differences, we experience greater wholeness.

So, yes, if I sound like I’m waving my finger at the Baby Boomer generation, it’s because I am. And, am I over generalizing. For sure. But, I guess, when all is said and done, I’m saddened by the deafening sound of cynicism in my own peer group, a people that seems to be falling prey to the late night politics of hysteria and fear. If this is aging, I pray that God will take me now.

But, before we render ourselves useless or are beamed up to the heavens above, let me offer a challenge: Rather than sit before the news and complain that the world is upside down, what if we did the hard work and searched our hearts to ask:

How can I contribute to this period of evolution such that I am part of the solution rather than part of the problem? What if instead of criticizing the millennials, I set my heart on mentoring them?

Let me add:

There is nothing noble about being rigid in how we perceive the world because rigidity is rooted in arrogance and pride. Rigidity slams the doors shut and shouts through the crack in the door: I know everything and you know nothing at all.

Rigidity shuts down, divides, kills, splinters humanity, obliterates our potential to forgive, chokes our hearts, and destroys our capacity to love. It’s the dark side of who we are, and it does nothing but create barriers in our relationships, our businesses, and our lives.

Rigidity is a form of nuanced violence cloaked like a wolf in a blazing red cape that arrogantly clings to perceived truth as it hides the teeth of a violent heart and screams, “I am better, stronger, and wiser than you.”

We don’t have to succumb to rigidity. We were the generation that was going to change the world, remember? John Lennon told us to Imagine, and we did. Somewhere on the way to church and self-righteous indignation, did we forget how to love and honor those who may be different from ourselves?

I pray that it’s not so, for I believe that each of us still has much to contribute. In fact, I believe that the future of our world depends on our doing so.

I hope you’ll put down the remote control and at least give it a try.

A Reflective Practice for all Baby Boomers:

Seek out at least one individual that you have difficulty understanding. Practice listening into their perspective from a point of curiosity. Don’t interrupt. Don’t defend your position. Just listen.

What did you hear? What did you learn? Can you understand their perspective without feeling like you’re compromising your own position?

Once you’ve leaned into their perspective, see if you can express your thoughts and opinions from a 1st person point of view. You’re not trying to convince. You’re not gathering evidence to be right. You’re just expressing your own thoughts and feelings. Your own experience.

The point is to seek first to understand so as to be understood. I invite you to seize this amazing zone between compromise and rigidity so that you begin to experience radical abundance in every area of your life.

Seize this amazing zone of open responsiveness and watch what happens.


1. Hamilton, Diane. The Zen of You & Me: A Guide to Getting Along with Just about Anyone. Boulder: Shambhala, 2017."
Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. April 25, 2017