@PCI: Living Our Way Into A New Kind of Thinking

Influential theologian, the late Henri Nouwen, has written, “…you don’t think your way into a new kind of living but live your way into a new kind of thinking.” (1) That’s what I set out to do in developing the Parent Coach Certification® Training Program, 

Both for the family support professionals we train, so they pass on to the parents we serve.

To illustrate:

Recently a PCI student, just finishing Course 1, told me she missed having grades. Studying the course content and writing the final paper for a grade would motivate her. Without an “A” to aim for, she felt adrift and uncertain. How does she know she has learned what was required? How does her instructor know?

In previous e-mails, this same conscientious student shared how life changing the PCI course material was for her. Over the three months of Course 1, she thoughtfully put herself back on an intense healing trajectory that was proving to reap many new insights and unlock delightful creative energy for her.

Astute and sensitive, she was actually beginning to live the new kind of thinking introduced in Course 1.

She had integrated core PCI principles into her decision-making process. Taking self-nurturance seriously, as we want our students to do (so they can help parents do the same!) she spent considerable time reflecting on what actions to take to craft the life she wanted for herself, both professionally as an aspiring PCI Parent Coach, and personally as an inspiring woman with big dreams.

No outward grade could adequately assess the degree to which she embraced and embodied the content she read and studied. Not possible. In Leadership and the New Science (which students read during Course 1), Margaret Wheatley reminds us, “Every act of measurement loses more information than it gains, closing the box irretrievably and forever on other potentials.” (2)

A traditional test tells us one thing; living a new way of thinking, quite another.

The new way of thinking we introduce in Course 1 can be described as Living Systems thinking—which simply described means “thinking in terms of relationships, patterns, and context.” (3)

Fritos Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi explain:

“The great shock of twentieth-century science has been that living systems cannot be understood by analysis. The properties of the parts are not intrinsic properties, but can be understood only within the context of the larger whole…systems thinking does not concentrate on basic building blocks, but rather on basic principles of organization. Systems thinking is ‘contextual,’ which is the opposite of analytical thinking. Analysis means taking something apart in order to understand it; systems thinking means putting it into context of larger whole.” (4)

Thus in PCI Coaching, students are trained to understand the family’s context as much as possible; observe oscillating and advancing patterns in both parent and child, and focus on the primacy of relationships in order to catalyze the self-organizing principles inherent within all living systems—families included!

Incorporating Living Systems principles within the other 3 areas of the PCI Coaching Model™ creates a synergetic spiraling upward for sustainable positive changes. Our coaching model works because it’s based on how living systems work.

And we humans are still living systems—even though the wider culture may still treat us like machines. Think about the over-emphasis on testing in our schools. Consider the role of prescribed drugs as a quick “fix.” Note the pace of the corporate world with expectations to keep up harried schedules, with little or no support for parents’ “other” life with children.

How will we stop this insidious “human as machines” mindset?

At PCI we believe that the principles that govern atoms, cells, and universes are the same principles determine our fate, as well.

This new kind of thinking is a necessary imperative for long-term

sustainable change.

We can’t expect to grow, evolve, meet our challenges elegantly with wisdom, grit, and full-bodied creativity if we continue as individuals and institutions to operate from an underlying paradigm of “human as machine.”

That just won’t work. And if we are honest, we see it not working every day in many ways.

On the other hand, living systems thinking works. “Like magic” many students tell me. And each time I hear that, I think about how far we humans have strayed from understanding ourselves as living systems. Yet, at the same time, I gain hope, too.

As PCI students begin incorporating this new kind of thinking into their lives, they become parent coaches with a conscious Living Systems mindset.

And that new kind of thinking provides a new way of living for families and our collective future. I give us an A+!

Copyright, 2017, Gloria DeGaetano. All rights reserved.



  1. The Promise of Paradox, Parker Palmer, Jossey-Bass, 2008, p. Ix


  1. Leadership and the New Science, Margaret J. Wheatley, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1999, p. 65


  1. The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi. Cambridge University Press, 2014, p. xii.


  1. Ibid., p. 66.

, , , , , ,

Comments are closed.
I found the PCI course to be well researched and put together. I learned so much through the course, the reading materials and the interactions that I had with PCI instructors. It has been an incredibly enriching experience completing this course.
Laura MarkowitzCape Town, South Africa

Contact Us

Email Newsletter


(No Events Right Now)

© 2000 – 2018 Parent Coach International.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy