We are living in the age of Collapse―a period of ecological breakdowns and societal disruptions that will lead to sharp declines in human population, social complexity, and standards of living. At this unprecedented and incredibly challenging historical moment, the world is in dire need of individuals who can provide authentic and altruistic leadership, who can act in leaderful ways without any desire for titles, authority, or external rewards.

Even though most people seem oblivious to how vulnerable our societies are to climate change and ecological collapse, that awareness is actually growing faster than at any other point in the past. Around the world, people are waking up from the modern dream of never-ending material and technological progress. They are beginning to recognize that three centuries of unsustainable practices have already led humankind beyond the earth’s carrying capacity, and that we must now face a rather unpleasant “banquet of consequence.”

Predictably, this growing awareness is also causing a state of crisis in the human psyche. As our understanding of the scale and scope of the human Predicament deepens, we inevitably find ourselves struggling with a variety of unwelcome emotions—including fear, anger, disillusionment, guilt, despair, and grief. The awareness challenges the dominant story of modernity and therefore interrupts some of our most basic beliefs and assumptions. As a result, unprecedented confusions, ambiguities, and uncertainties arise, threatening to overwhelm our culturally conditioned sense-making abilities. 

All of this may seem like pointless suffering, but it actually has a powerful upside—the experience of psychic turmoil and disorientation is indicating a potential for previously unimaginable levels for personal growth. As our past habits of thinking and acting become increasingly obsolete, novel opportunities are emerging for a radical transformation in who we are and how we relate to ourselves and the world.

Your suffering is meaningful. First of all, the pain you feel is a sign of your love for the world; if you did not love people you’ve never met, living beings you’ve never seen, and landscapes you’ve never visited, you would not care what happens to them. Second, your pain contains a message from your loved ones, both human and nonhuman; it is a direct and personal invitation, or perhaps a challenge, asking you to step up and fulfill a specific purpose that’s unique to you.

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