The Importance of the Birth, Life, Death Cycle for Your Personal & Organisational Growth
Death is a very valuable process of the cycle of life and yet, associated with fear by many of us. How can we cultivate a relationship towards death that is actually life-affirming and brings the best out of us?
Before getting hung up on scientific & philosophical elaborations, let’s get straight to the point. Death is a natural component of everyday life and comes in many forms. We have the death of:
Natural ecosystems with its flora & fauna
Ideas, dreams & interests
Beliefs & perspectives
Projects & business ventures
Relationships & social networks
Versions of ourselves….
To talk about death considering what is happening on a geopolitical level… given the fact that already more than 1.600 people died in Ukraine because of a power game & ego-driven behaviour… takes courage. This article doesn’t intend to glorify death, nor does it ask for acceptance of behaviour that can’t be justified on any ethical, sociological or psychological level. What is happening in Ukraine, and what happened worldwide throughout centuries in the fight for power, money & resources, can’t be justified with the ‘natural process of human evolution’.
Even though I came into an internal conflict about Epictetus’ call “to always do our best for our fellows” in the context of covid-19, I do believe that this ‘strategic move’ is not doing anybody a favour. The death of peace & non-violent behaviour is detrimental on so many levels. To find here a life-affirming perspective is, indeed, impossible.
But that brings me to the cause and effect relationship of death in order to evaluate if the occurrence of death is something that was ‘meant to be’ or if it is something that could have been prevented and happened as a consequence of ‘mismanagement’, accidental or ego-driven behaviour, or simply through a lack of awareness. And mostly these causes stand in a cause and effect relationship themselves: Lack of awareness → ego-driven and/or accidental behaviour → mismanagement … which then leads to chaos, and eventually death.
Death, and the Laws of Entropy & Syntropy
So before we move towards very valuable questions that we can ask ourselves to evaluate the meaning and purpose of a death process, let’s go back to the basics to build a better understanding of the process of death from a scientific perspective.
All living systems have the death process in common, together with the ability to (re)grow new cells or tissue structure (=to regenerate). Looking at death on an atomic, ionic, or molecular level, we look at one of the universal laws of nature known as entropy. Entropy describes the diverging movement of energy and matter towards chaos and disorder. Imagine your cup of coffee in the morning. The fact that your coffee cools down after a while is due to an entropic process. Energy in the form of heat gets dispersed and not harnessed and channelled into another form of ordered energy. The same happens with the engine of a car. Only 10-30% of energy in the form of petrol is transformed into mechanical movement. The rest evaporates into our atmosphere. In fact, most of our technologies show a high level of entropy (energy dispersion). Entropy can ultimately lead to death if no other force enters.
From 'Your Practical Guide to Regenerative Leadership' (JR | Regenerative Leadership)
Syntropy on the contrary describes the converging movement of energy that brings energy and matter towards order & higher complexity. Syntropy allows the process of (re)birth & regeneration. Luckily, healthy self-regulating systems have a balance between entropy & syntropy. That’s why your body is able to recover from a 10 or even 42km run. But if you run a series of marathons with poor preparation, not enough time for restoration and a lacking intake of additional minerals, your body may not be able to regenerate ligaments and overused joints which ultimately lead to long-term degenerative (entropic) processes that may surface in the form of chronic pain.
However, both processes, entropy & syntropy, are important & valuable processes in natural ecosystems & in our lives. They are complementary components of the cycle of life (birth, growth, death) and as pointed out above:
Our lives are full of birth, life, death cycles. Therewith, our lives are full of entropic and syntropic processes.
Important to understand is that a syntropic process produces more energy than it consumes. An entropic process consumes more energy than it produces. If you read the last sentences again, you may conclude (correctly) that the world’s status quo (environmental pollution, social inequality, high rates of burnout, etc.) are triggered through a considerable imbalance of these two processes. The way we manage our resources & people obviously induce more entropy than syntropy.
Conventional farming is just another example of how systems lead to death (infertile soil) if the dynamics between entropy & syntropy are ignored and not made use of. Syntropic farming on the contrary respects these universal laws. Syntropic (regenerative) farmers create ecosystems that thrive by harnessing the power of syntropy, by taking nature’s interconnectedness and its synergy effects into account (you can learn more about Syntropic Farming in my article here).
How Death Supports Life
Alright, so why am I explaining the laws of Entropy and Syntropy in order to shape a more ‘life-affirming’ perspective on death?
Well, without death, there is no life, right?
Yes, we should all aspire to create more syntropy if we want to cultivate life-affirming, healthy ecosystems & long-term well-being for ourselves & others. Yet, the process of entropy is still as valuable. It is complementary and actually helps to reach syntropy in the bigger picture. Without recurrent death cycles, our natural ecosystems would have never had the chance to become as intelligent, resilient and complex as they are now (if we believe in the Theory of Evolution).
Let me give you practical examples in the categories I mentioned before to demonstrate how death (entropic processes) supports growth & regeneration (syntropic processes):
Natural ecosystems with its flora & fauna: If a plant dies it decomposes, and gives its nutrients back to the soil in the form of organic matter which helps the companion plants to thrive.
Human Life: - Our bodies work hard to renew cells every single day. While old skin, bone or tissue structure gets replaced, entropic (degenerative) processes are followed by syntropic (regenerative) processes. - Illnesses or the death of a beloved one may remind us of how precious our lifetime is. In that sense, these events might invigorate us. We might approach our relationships more thoughtfully, seek to create more memories with our family & friends, and more opportunities to have a positive impact in our communities. It may remind us of how important our lifestyle choices are and make us appreciate the little things in life more.
Ideas, dreams & interests: If a high school graduate dreams of becoming a doctor. After no university accepts him, he is frustrated (death of a dream). He ends up completing a training as a paramedic. Turns out it was the best thing that could ever happen to him as he thrives in his new environment (growth).
Beliefs & perspectives: If a manager believes he needs to work hard in order to succeed and ends up with a burnout (death). After world travels & new experiences that raise awareness about where his behavioural tendencies & patterns are coming from, he starts to cultivate a new belief system that helps him to implement more productive work systems & to maintain a healthy work-life-balance (growth).
Projects & business ventures: - If a team figures out that their idea & strategy don’t lead to their desired results, they conclude that it’s time to let go of the old way (death) and to re-strategize based on the new knowledge & experience they gained (growth). - If the top management fires an employee after a mediocre performance (death) and discusses with the HR department what criteria need to be added to the selection process to find a suitable fit (gain of knowledge = growth). - If a department detects ineffective (degenerative) working processes (entropy → chaos), and initiates interdepartmental discussion rounds in order to restructure overlapping work systems (growth).
Relationships & Social Networks: If a relationship breaks apart because of a lack of communication & trust (death), but regrows into a strong long-lasting partnership after each partner worked on their own shadows & communication patterns, and now act from a higher level of awareness, especially if critical situations arise (growth).
Versions of ourselves: If we believe that we are naturally shy with a considerable lack of confidence, but after taking part in a series of empowering dance or acting classes, we suddenly get in touch with the lion within us. We kick off a deep transformational journey that allows us to stand in our own power (growth) and let go of the old version of us (death) that tried to hide its bright light.
In all these described scenarios, we find an increase in complexity & order through an increase in information/knowledge, and awareness/consciousness. A rise in complexity doesn’t mean that a system appears more complex to the outside world, it may simply mean that the level of awareness upon which the system is created is higher than before.
If we look back at my last article, we realise that I described the same process of rising awareness in the context of another universal law of nature, that of ‘Trial & Error’. We try and fail (death), learn & readjust (growth). Nature and therewith, all human organisms, inherently strive to learn & to succeed in the given environment.
The Meaning of Death: To Reach Higher Consciousness?
In certain belief systems, we are taught that all personal experiences we go through are presented to us in order to reach a higher state of consciousness to live our lives to its greatest potential. This perspective certainly requires a shift from an ego- towards an eco-awareness and therewith, towards unconditional love.
Yet, it’s hard to believe that a bloody war would help human consciousness to rise long-term. Well, when the European Union or United Nations were formed, peace-making was certainly one of the major motivations apart from economic interests. These unions resulted from centuries of cruel battles & loss of life. However, now in 2022 we should know better.
But as much as we fall back into old tendencies & patterns due to unresolved trauma on an individual level, humanity does the same as a collective. We should never forget about the importance of trapped energy in our bodies & nations that induce entropic (degenerative) processes in our minds and reflect back on our actions.
I wished we had a strong network of geopolitical experts, knowledgeable psychologists and trainers for Regenerative Leadership to bring our political leaders on deep self-reflection journeys, to dive deep into individual & collective trigger and pain points, to prevent such events before they even arise.
Evaluating the Meaning of Death
So how can we evaluate whether the occurrence of death is something that was ‘meant to be’ or if it is something that could have been prevented and happened as a consequence of ‘mismanagement’, accidental or ego-driven behaviour, or simply through a lack of awareness?
Yes, we must keep in mind: Any judgement to ‘make sense’ of a death experience stays subjective. A death event mostly involves several stakeholders/ecosystems that are interacting and that are always closely interconnected on some levels. Therefore, we might only see a few sides of the story (perceptions of a reality), like a few rays from a disco light. Nevertheless, I believe that I have a set of very valuable questions that you can ask for any sphere of (your personal) life (e.g. project, business, relationship, health issues etc.). These questions will help you to not only reflect on the cause-effect relationship of a death event, but also on your relationship to this death event to eventually transform it into a possibility for growth.
You may want to choose a death event/process of your personal life now (project, business, relationship, health issues etc.):
What (series of) events, decisions, actions, habits and communication patterns (also in the form of nutrient/resource exchange) led to chaos/death?
Were these events controllable?
What was the intention behind?
Was there an intention or was it accidental?
Did it happen because of a lack of accountability?
Did it happen because of a lack of clarity, information and/or awareness?
If it was triggered by ego-driven behaviour, is it possible to clarify where this behaviour is coming from? (Never jump to assumptions!)
Did it happen because of certain tendencies & patterns of that stakeholder/ecosystem that are rooted in internal challenges?
What are the consequences of this degenerative process/death event?
Is it worth taking action in order to slow down or prevent the death process & if yes, what are the inputs, their placement & the habits of cultivation that the system needs in order to recover & thrive?
How can you prevent similar death experiences/progressions?
What are the possible lessons from this death experience? What was the opportunity for growth?
Memento Mori & Gratitude
Before this article comes to an end, I want to tell you about one of my best friends who carries a golden coin with him, every single day. That golden coin shows a skull and the Latin phrase ‘Memento Mori’ which means ‘Remember you must die’. When I first met him, I could grasp immediately that he is a very ambitious, hard-working man who sets himself various goals in different areas of his life. He is very focused, but very down to earth with a strong ability to find the opportunity for play & jokes in the little things and moments of life (that ability yo-yoes a bit, but it’s in him!). When he showed me his coin for the first time, he also mentioned that every single morning he would write down 5 things he is grateful for, in 5 different categories, such as people, experiences, things we often take for completely granted, … And the more we cruised through time and I got to experience him in various (difficult) situations of his life, I started to see a strong correlation between his gratitude practice, and his attitude & approach towards life. These rituals help him to cultivate a deep gratitude for the gift of life. And while many might take that reminder as a justification for instant gratification (party hard, waste money, etc.), I see that my friend takes long-term success as a guiding principle. That also means that he takes actions that might be very painful short-term, but in the long run it ensures him to not lose time. He always strives to tackle and solve bottlenecks & challenges immediately, before they grow in their destructive force and lead to chaos, decay or death. No matter if it’s about his health, business or relationships.
Well, whatever your life is presenting to you, Death is and will be ever-present. As long as we live, ‘Remember you must die’ and it’s up to us what relationship we cultivate towards this life-enforcing power in this big miraculous ecosystem, planet Earth, with its infinite possibilities for growth.
Learn more about Regenerative Leadership with our social media posts. Besides, articles will follow on how to increase syntropy to create long-term well-being for yourself & the organisation you are leading . Stay tuned.