The Content

Bright Future Now offers you a fast-track introduction to a new culture – a new way of being and of getting results!

Distilled from Context Institute’s 40-year involvement with cultural change, the course synthesizes key learnings from neuroscience, psychology, systems thinking, history, group facilitation, project management and more into an approach that frees you from the things that hold you back – both inner and outer constraints.

It does this by connecting the dots in new ways so you can see past the limitations and blind-spots in modern cultures that we’ve all internalized. It’s also designed to help you thrive in the world that’s emerging and to support you in helping that world to emerge.

It’s hard to categorize because it combines intellect with emotions, personal growth with group skills, frameworks with practice, love with results-oriented creativity. Yet the experience of it is whole, like coming home to a world that a deep part of you recognizes. As one of our graduates put it:

“This course is like that map you’ve been looking for. It touches on so much, so concisely. It’s like this simplicity on the other side of the messy complexity.”

In this page, we’ll outline the content that supports you on that journey. Let’s start with this visual overview:

Produced by OmniGraffle 7.12.1 2019-11-18 22:29:34 +0000 Week 3: Child Development and Adult Character Week 1: Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion Week 4: Integration Week Week 5: Systems and Habits Week 2: Objects, Categories, Territories and Maps Week 6: Collaboration Week 7: How Change Works Beyond The Enlightenment Human OS Tribal – Empire – Planetary Systems Thinking Embody the harmony within, with others, with nature

The course content is conveyed primarily in two ways

The course is quite different in style from, but complementary to, the presentations – more experiential, while the presentations are more conceptual. Each without the other is a bit like the sound of one hand clapping.

With that as prelude, let’s turn to the specifics:

Foundation Stones

In the image above, there are four green boxes along the bottom. These stand for four topic areas that provide important frameworks and concepts for much of the course. This content is freely available as part of our Foundation Stones series of videos.

Tribal-Empire-Planetary – We begin with the big picture of cultural evolution over the past 50,000 years. We look at human culture as an evolving living system. When we do this, we see two long stable periods in the past (which we call Tribal and Empire), with a major transition (the Neolithic, with the start of agriculture and settlement) in between them. Moving forward, we see ourselves (now and since the Renaissance) in another major transition toward what we call the Planetary Era.

Each era has key cultural characteristics:

  • Tribal Era
    • Main livelihood: hunting and gathering
    • Basis of social organization: kinship
    • Characteristic form of communication: speech
  • Empire Era
    • Main livelihood: agriculture
    • Basis of social organization: dominance hierarchies
    • Characteristic form of communication: writing
  • Planetary Era (based on what’s emerging)
    • Main livelihood: diverse
    • Basis of social organization: collaborative networks
    • Characteristic form of communication: multi-media

The transitions blend the eras on either side. In our current transition, we’ve already gone well beyond being primarily agricultural and we are immersed in multi-media. Dominance hierarchies are still quite visible but if you look at the deeper trends, they are steadily losing their power relative to the rise of networks.

This historical framework helps us discern where the momentum of cultural evolution is headed and how we can work with it.

This framework is explored in the What Time Is It? video series.

Beyond the Enlightenment – We move next into the past few hundred years. The Age of Enlightenment (18th century) was a major step forward in the current Empire-to-Planetary transition. It brought a lot of improvements: natural sciences, representative government, human rights and the market economy, to name a few. Yet it also had its blind-spots:

  • Its blindness to the interconnectedness of life due to its focus on individualism in a mechanical world
  • Its cluelessness about psychological dynamics due to its focus on objectivity and rationality
  • Its abandonment of context and humility in its pursuit of one-size-fits-all supposedly universal timeless absolute truth
  • Its continued use, even if softened, of the Empire Era’s pattern of social organization through dominance hierarchies.

Bright Future Now provides practical ways to go beyond each of these blindspots while still keeping the strengths of modern culture.

These issues are explored in We haven’t been able to have this much fun for 5,000 years!

Human OS – The evolution of culture depends on the Human Operating System (biology) as well as history. We draw on the latest neuroscience and the best understandings in related sciences to understand our human potential. We see that what most people think of as “human nature” (illustrated in the last few thousand years of the Empire Era) is based on traumatized people and thus a quite limited slice of our full potential. This Human OS perspective stays grounded in the best science while opening up major new possibilities for human culture.

An important insight is that we are most creative and compassionate when we are in our Optimal Zone – the psychological space of non-defensiveness between fight/flight and depression/freeze. Developing the skills to spend more time in one’s Optimal Zone is an important contributor to being both more effective and more at ease.

This territory is explored in the Human Operating System Literacy video series.

Systems Thinking – Modern culture, with its roots in the Age of Enlightenment, tries to understand the world as a collection of separate objects or, at best, an assemblage of machines. In Bright Future Now, we don’t see it that way. For us, connections and relationships are as important as parts. The course helps you see, understand and use a systems approach and to look at people, groups and whole cultures as living, dynamic, evolving systems, full of surprises, mystery and opportunities for new patterns. 

This territory is explored in the Systems Literacy video series.

Weekly Themes

The course is designed to expand your capacity to accelerate the emergence of the Planetary Era – for yourself and for the world. Each of the six content weeks (i.e. all of them except for the Integration Week) has a theme that contributes to that goal.

The weeks move from a more inward focus to a more outward focus but they all work together as a system. As one of our graduates put it:

“The genius of the course is the way it uses the self as a reference point for a complex system. I found that this focus made the material personal, real, and meaningful to me. The mood of the course is deeply optimistic and for me that in itself feels nourishing and new.”

Week 1: Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion – We begin with the most fundamental of relationships, how you relate to yourself. You will explore your inner territory with Optimal Zone Hygiene tools that lead you to a deeper inner understanding and inner harmony.

Week 2: Objects, Categories, Territories and Maps – We turn next to how we perceive the world around us and how we think. We discover that we can choose to see systems rather than just collections of objects. We also find how potent it is to free ourselves from the limits of categorical thinking and step into Planetary Era cognition. This week deals with issues that are in the cultural blind-spots of most participants, yet once you see them, you see the implications everywhere. It’s turned out to be a surprisingly profound week for many participants.

Week 3: Child Development and Adult Character – We all carry chronic psychological defense patterns born out of commonplace childhood traumas inherited from the Empire Era’s thousands of years of physical and psychological violence – patterns passed from generation to generation through our cultures and families. These defense patterns are so common that we think of them as “normal” yet they aren’t. In this week, we learn how to recognize and start to heal these patterns and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. We free ourselves up for the Planetary Era.

Week 4: Integration Week – There is no new content this week. Rather, it is a time to reflect on the first three weeks and integrate their content more fully into your life.

Week 5: Systems and Habits – Building on the previous weeks, we explore the tools of systems thinking to bring understanding, tame complexity and discover skillful interventions in all levels of the world around us. The default focus is on a personal habit as a system, knowing that if we can learn to change our own habits we will likely be more successful in changing the habits of larger systems like organizations and cultures.

Week 6: Collaboration – Real-world effectiveness often requires collaboration. During this week, you’ll explore essential collaborative skills like decision-making and leadership, continuing to build on the previous weeks.

Week 7: How Change Works – We wrap up the course and provide a bridge to the network by diving into the world of living systems and how they evolve. Cultures, human groups and even each of us as individuals are examples of such systems, known technically as complex adaptive systems. We explore the tools and understandings that can enable us to be conscious co-evolvers in the great flow of life.

Embody the Three Harmonies

At the heart of the program is the the goal of embodying the harmony within, the harmony with others and the harmony with nature – what we call the three harmonies. This is woven into all of the material rather than being a separate topic.

One way to describe the Planetary Era is as a time when a culture’s people and institutions embody these three harmonies. The course focuses on harmony within and harmony with others but always in the context of the harmony with nature. In the Bright Future Network, we are living into the practice of all three.

The aspiration of “living in harmony” has been around for thousands of years. What’s different about the Bright Future Now approach? 

In the past, this aspiration may have been noble and idealistic but not particularly practical. The practical way to succeed in a culture built on social dominance was to “enforce the three dominations – over self, over others and over nature.”

The Bright Future Now perspective is that because of the direction of cultural evolution, embodying the three harmonies is now the practical, smart approach. Getting more and more people to embody the three harmonies is the fastest, most strategic, most sustainable way to resolve the core challenges of the 21 century.

Embody is a crucial word here. It’s time to live the three harmonies as normal daily life. In our approach, this means developing the skills to live those harmonies in increasingly challenging areas of your life as well as share those harmonies with others where that’s possible.

It all takes time and attention. It obviously has its personal benefits but it’s more than personal. It’s at the core of building Planetary-Era culture.

Join us in this journey to the future

If you’d like to learn more, please visit the other pages that provide an overview, go into depth on the process and describe the network of course graduates.

If you’re ready, we’d love to have you join us.