The integral approach for realizing sustainable change – 4 steps

In this article I’m going to shortly cover all perspectives which you ideally want to focus on. By doing so, you’ll successfully guide any change for yourself or others.

The need for using the integral approach

It’s good to know that everything which is happening, from unmentionable changes to noteworthy changes, can be seen from different angles. Those different views are especially important to take into account if you want to guide a sustainable change for someone (including yourself). If you don’t do that and focus on just one perspective only, you’re more likely to neglect important areas for successfully guiding the change. This will slow down your change. This unnecessary delay leads to frustration.

The steps covered in this article will positively contribute to experience more fulfillment and success. Simply because you know you take into account everything which will positively affect sustainable change.

The different perspectives which you could take

Everything which can be experienced has a changeable nature. Depending on the person and the situation, you’re tend to only see a part of the angles from that which you’re experiencing. Simply because you’re used to do so.

For example, in general people are likely to only take into account the objective part of the goals they set for themselves, like measuring the amount of books they’ve read in a year of time. Or making an x amount of yearly revenue with their business. But in both examples just one of the four perspectives are activated and the others are neglected. An opposite example would be that a spiritual seeker may only take her inner experience seriously for determining her spiritual growth. While that is certainly something which you want to be aware of, it’s again not the only thing. There is more to it on both individual and collective level.

The difference between the multiple perspectives you can take on life, are best seen in discussions between spiritual oriented and scientific minded people. To give you an example of this, check the discussion between Deepak Chopra and Richard Dawkins by clicking here. Try not to take sides but just observe the different perspective they take on subjects.

Introduction to the 4 quadrants of the Integral Theory

Because of the difference in angles you can take on any subject, there is most of the time no good or wrong interpretation. But the interpretation is just a part of the total truth. Discussions are usually meant to try to make people aware of the other ways of looking at something and vice versa. Your primary perspective may be right for you, but it’s not the complete truth. By now you might be wondering which views you can take in order to get an integral picture of something. So let’s dive into those right away!

Ken Wilber, known as the Einstein of philosophy, makes distinction between four different angles, which is:

  • The subjective referred to as ‘I’
  • The intersubjective referred to as ‘we’
  • The objective referred to as ‘it’
  • The interobjective referred to as ‘its’
Integral theory

The subjective and objective quadrants are both individual from nature, whereas the intersubjective and interobjective quadrants are focused on a collective level. Next to the individuality and collectivity, there is another distinction which can be made. The subjective and intersubjective quadrants are focused on the interior side. On the oppositive you’ve got the objective and interobjective quadrants which are exterior focused.

Some examples per quadrant of the integral approach

Now that the distinctions between the four way of looking at things are clear, I’m giving you a few examples so that you get a better understanding of the quadrants.

Let’s start with the subjective quadrant of the framework. To this quadrant belongs all of your inner experiences (thoughts, emotions, feelings) and intrapersonal matters (personal mission, identifications, values and beliefs). The objective quadrant on the other hand focuses on all physical aspects which can be externally perceived. This could be anything related to the physical body or brain. Also, measurable behavior and competences are labeled as part of the objective quadrant.

We now shortly covered the top part of the framework which are focused on the individual. People who are living in a small bubble of reality, will most of the time focus only on these parts. That’s actually the opposite of having an integral approach on life. In order to activate this integral approach, you want to also involve the bottom part of the framework.

The bottom part includes the intersubjective and interobjective quadrants which are both collective views. Activating those views will enrich your experience on life greatly. Also, it will help you to make better decisions. This will lead to a better guidance of that which you want to change. Luckily, you can definitely develop the integral approach by repeatedly following the steps in this article.

To also get a better understanding of the collective quadrants at the bottom, I’m sharing a few examples. For the intersubjective quadrant you can think about all interpersonal matters (shared vision/mission, values, beliefs, communication, relations) and cultural matters (language, cultural background). Whereas the intersubjective quadrant is focused on the intern, the interobjective quadrant is extern. Social and systemic matters are part or this quadrant. This means it includes systems theory/analysis, communication networks, living structures, systemic processes, and technology.

Activate a successful integral approach with these 4 steps

Now that we’ve covered a bit of theory about the integral framework, it’s time to put it into practice right away. For this I’ve got 5 steps which I’d highly recommend you to follow in order to get the most out of the integral theory.

Step 1.

First of all, think of something which you want to change. Preferably something substantially, so that it’s easier to go through all of the quadrants. If the change already goes naturally and effortlessly, there is no need to pick it. Focus on the change in which you’re experiencing resistance instead.

Step 2.

Next up, you want to go through each of the four quadrants and write down per quadrant what you want to achieve. Make the preferred situation per quadrant as detailed as possible.

You may find out that the substantial thing you want to change (identified in step 1) is actually just one part of the four quadrants. If it’s a financial goal for example, it could only be part of the objective quadrant. But of course there is much more to it. It also contributes to the other quadrants, either if you’re conscious or unconscious about that.

Step 3.

After you’ve written down the preferred situation for each quadrant, write down the current situation. So what’s the current status per attribute you want to change for each of those quadrants?

Really challenge yourself by extracting as much relevant information about the current situation. Aim to make the analysis of the present as transparent as possible. It will help you to check which attributes you have to focus most on in order to make the fastest jump towards your preferred situation.

Step 4.

In this last step you want to pick one quadrant which you’re giving the least attention to. Ask yourself on which attributes you can best focus on so that you’re putting more emphasis on the (partially) neglected/unclear quadrant. Include those attributes in both the preferred and current situation which are connected to the associated quadrant.

By now you’ve got an integral picture about where you want to go to and how far you’re away from that. Of course, this is just a snapshot. That’s why, ideally, you want to repeat step 2 so that your preferred situation won’t be outdated after some time. Also, repeat step 3 in order to track your progress regularly. And to also stimulate the integral approach on your desired change, you want to keep repeating step 4 as well.

Good luck with integrally guiding a sustainable change from the identified current situation to your preferred situation.

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