Tag Archives: Observer State

The Second Cornerstone: Mindfulness

Originally posted March 24, 2015

First you must still the mind - Bill Harvey

In last week’s post, we made the point that better decision-making and higher performance is achieved mainly through Positive Thinking and Mindfulness. We included tools to increase Positive Thinking, which we also call Solution Orientation. We promised to investigate the nature of Mindfulness in this post.

Mindfulness is a form of attention control.

The need to be master of one’s own attention has gotten progressively greater over the centuries as a result of information overload and its distractive effects. We have given this condition the name Acceleritis™, the vast increase in the amount of information needing to be processed by our brains each day. ADD, ADHD, and a fairly obvious reduction in the general population’s ability to stay focused on one problem long enough to solve it, have been the result.

Watch a video about the cure for Acceleritis.

The need for Mindfulness has never been greater.

The Vedas, some of the earliest writings on the planet, recommend three yogic mental/ emotional methods to achieve the conscious and willful control of our attention.

  • Concentration is the focus of the mind on a single object.
  • Contemplation is the focus of the mind on a single subject.
  • Meditation is the contemplation of the Self.

What then is Mindfulness?

We define Mindfulness as the optimal allocation of attention for maximum effectiveness. When one is mindful, attention optimally allocates both inwardly and outwardly at the same time. This helps us understand our own motivations in the moment, to consider not only our needs but the needs and probable responses of others, and to greatly improve what fighter pilots call situational awareness. This is in sharp distinction from our typical behavior, which is to allocate virtually all attention outwardly whenever the eyes are open.

It takes attention and effort to be mindful, but practicing persistent mindfulness not only allows us to be more present in each moment, it also allows us to shift into a higher state of consciousness to reach the Observer state more often and launch into the Zone or Flow state, the highest known state of consciousness in which right actions seem to do themselves effortlessly.

Mindfulness and Positive Thinking with a solution orientation — overleaping the focus on the problem once it is defined and going right to the focus on the solution — are the cornerstones of what I practice to achieve superior decisions, highest effectiveness, and creative innovation in all aspects of my life. Try this approach for yourself to see if it works for you.

Best to all,

Bill

Read the latest post at my media blog, “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com

Originally posted 2015-03-24 12:35:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Improve the Creative Result by Goofing Off

Originally posted February 24, 2015

In our present culture in which multiple jobs are held by most people just to keep up with their latest Jones, and in which Acceleritis™ necessitates massive multitasking, the creative process tends to become shortened into a two-step process of absorbing information (never enough), and implementation. In other words, no Aha! Moment.

Pfeiffer Beach at sunset in California courtesy of Craig Colvin Photography

Take a break, a mini-vacation at the right moments in your creative process, and the Aha! Moment reveals itself. 

The absorbing of information part was easier before the Internet. One saw the logic of not going too far because it would cost too much time. Now one can keep drilling down further and further without an apparent end in sight.

Finding information however, continues to be the major complaint of executives and their teams. You know you have it somewhere and you can go searching for it but it is so boring and annoying given the time pressure. Give me a dashboard where I don’t even have to remember what it is called and yet can still find it in a second. Until then, just send that thing to me again, please.

When you break down how much time goes into the absorption (including searching) and other aspects of the process, the two middle stages — turning away (“sleeping on it”), then the Aha! Moment — take almost no time compared with absorbing and implementing. And yet those two middle processes account for the quality of the outcome or creative result. With only the bookends and no middle the result may be passable but it does not rock. Are we here just to do stuff that’s passable, without the satisfaction of Flow state-level outcomes? No way — makes no sense. Life is about living large, not just robotically coping.

Are you letting your mind go wherever it wants?

The creative process goes through four stages: absorbing information, turning away, the Aha! Moment, and implementation.

A third of a second before the Aha! Moment — a type of Flow state experience happens. Daniel Goleman explains it as a burst of gamma activity, signifying the rapid creation of a new network of neural connections in the neocortical right temporal cortex of the brain. Simply put, the Aha! Moment is a scientifically measurable event, i.e. it’s real.

However, this only occurs if your mind is in a certain state receptive to the sense of Aha! That state can be described as the indirect observation of undirected mentation. Let’s break it down.

Undirected mentation is when you let your mind go wherever it wants. Indirect observation is (by my definition) the alert watching of something as if seeing it for the first time.

So you get the Aha! to the degree your mind can do whatever it wants to do with no pressure to perform or achieve anything, while a very alert part of you is watching your own mind, as if from outside.

When you do this, the tendency is for the Observer state part of yourself to go to sleep. That is, your point of view tends to get reabsorbed into the part of the mind that is just playing and you forget to look at it from the detached Observer point of view. You get caught up in some attachment motivation, some feeling/emotion, which identifies you with the relaxing, playing, wandering mind. This may feel wonderful; however, it doesn’t help you if the objective is Observer and then Flow states. “Identification with” leaves the attachment turned on. “Detachment from” is the goal. Stay in, or keep returning to the detached Observer state.

So how do you increase the Aha! Moments and improve the creative outcome? Take a break, a mini-vacation at the right moments in your creative process, and the Aha! reveals itself. Trust that if you remain the scientist, the objective observer when goofing off, Aha! Moments WILL come more often.

Best to all,

Bill

Photo credit: “Pfeiffer Beach” courtesy of Craig Colvin Photography

Read the latest post at my media blog  “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com.

Originally posted 2015-02-24 12:20:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Rediscovering that Ancient Territory: Your Own Mind — Revisited

Originally posted February 10, 2015

All of us are naturally curious about our own selves. When someone who knew us when, someone older, tells us a story about something we did when we were too young to remember it, we are raptly attentive.

Looking inward at oneself is the first step toward clarity.

If it were not for the culturally ubiquitous time pressure, we would have the same curiosity if offered a searchlight method to see more deeply into our own mind than ever before. Here we offer just such a searchlight.

This posting is a brief exploration into the architecture of inner experience and offers tools to look into your inner Self, through observation and experience. Why bother? Because in order to get into the two higher, most effective states of consciousness — the Observer State, where we can really see what is going on inside ourselves rather than being puppeteered by software in our heads, and the Flow state (Zone), where we are spontaneously doing everything just right — we need to become experts in the empirical study of our own minds and inner life.

What Is the Architecture of Our Inner Life?

Carl Jung defined the four functions of consciousness as perception, feelings, intellect and intuition — the latter referred to in day-to-day life as “hunches”. These are four kinds of events that can go on in consciousness.

Within consciousness, what we experience first is something inside that motivates us and moves us toward or away from something. Those are feelings. Instincts — hardwired genetic carryovers inherited before birth — are partly responsible for some or all of our feelings. The rest arise from motivations we accumulated during our lives, stuff we learned or decided to want or not want as a result of our experiences since birth.

So what are these things you call your thoughts, your feelings, your hunches, your perceptions? Consider, or reconsider, all of the experiences you have had of your own mind, your own inner life.

When I watch what goes on inside of me, it often starts with a feeling that is also somehow an image at the same time. Another part of me then takes that feeling/image and interprets it as a conscious thought — putting names, categorizations, and other specific recognizable details onto the original amorphous feeling/image.

I think that’s what a thought is. An interpreted feeling/image. Diverging from Jung, I posit that thoughts and feelings are the same thing, at different stages of development.

Thoughts add details to feelings/images, turning them into specifications, bringing out additional information that had somehow been packed into the feeling/image.

Possibly feelings are the most substantial and primary actor, coming out of our most intimate connection with our self, and arising to be transmuted into intuitions and/or thoughts and/or emotions and/or images/visions.

Perceptions coming in from the “outside” accompanied by an equal stream of feelings from “inside” suggests that feelings are another sense, like seeing and hearing. In which case, we simply perceive, and the rest of the functions are what evolves from our perceptions. In other words, feelings are inner perceptions, and what we call sense perceptions are outer perceptions. Inner and outer perceptions are the raw stuff of experience, and as we turn them over in our minds, those perceptions turn into thoughts and/or intuitions.

I suggest that perceptions evolve into what Jung classified as thoughts (intellect) and/or hunches (intuition). Outer perceptions — the five physical senses — are what Jung called “perceptions” — and the inner perceptions are what Jung called “feelings”. In my own experience, the raw stuff of my inner life is comprised of feeling/image arisings that I then articulate internally as thoughts, with either words or not, or observe as hunches, without inner words.

Intellect and intuition have always been seen as similar functions. Intellect reaches new conclusions step by effortful step. Intuition gets there in one leap, involuntarily, all by itself. Sometimes when the intuition or hunch is particularly credible and important and came out of nowhere, we call it inspiration, suggesting help from some outside invisible source.

The Searchlight to Our Inner Self

We need maps to study consciousness. We also need meditation to concentrate on seeing what really goes on inside by understanding the basic building blocks of all inner experience — thoughts, feelings, intuitions, and perceptions.

Try this. Find five minutes when you can’t be interrupted and there is nothing dragging you away like a deadline. You might not find time to try this until the weekend, so leave yourself a note somewhere you’ll see it Saturday or Sunday morning.

Sit with your eyes closed and back straight, with your head drawn up toward the ceiling. First, still the mind by experiencing your breath going in and out, without trying to control the breath in any way. After a half-dozen breath cycles or whenever you feel as if your mind is relatively still, begin the exercise.

Now simply watch for what happens at the very beginning of a thought or feeling. A thought or a feeling is going to arise. You are in a state of concentrated sharp attention and the game is to see that arising as quickly as possible, identify what it is, and be able to remember the experience of it as accurately as possible.

This is not as easy as it sounds because we tend to get so instantly caught up in the thought or feeling we forget that we are doing this exercise. That is, until through exercises like this, we find that we have gained true control of our minds in a gradual process that we get better and better at over time. By looking inside, we can begin to cut through dogma and other people’s beliefs, and see for ourselves who we are in our inner worlds.

Best to all,

Bill

Read the latest post at my media blog  “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com.

Originally posted 2015-02-10 12:51:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

You Are a World Changer — Part Three

Originally posted January 27, 2015

In the last two weeks you have begun committed work on a problem/challenge condition in your current situation. You started using the techniques and tools we presented beginning with trigger notes, then you created a table with problems and approach directions toward the solutions of each problem or challenge. Then you began to apply solutions from your plan to your situation, evolving the plan with changing circumstances and new information. And you began to practice being unpredictable. All with the overarching goal of transforming your current situation into one that affords you more power to do good.

Let’s face it, the world needs changing.

World problems need changing

We see world-class threats at all levels — military, economic, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental… In my 9-5 life, I see the first solution in 50 years to make companies more profitable — yet it can only in the most brilliantly-led companies make it quickly through the thicket of confusion and lack of communication. This is all due to Acceleritis™. Changing the world means tackling Acceleritis, the pandemic shock reaction to unprecedented information overload that has most of us in its grips.

Tools for Clearer Thinking

Getting people to think more clearly and to reach the right decisions more quickly, scraping aside the emotional historical perceptual baggage, requires releasing people from Emergency Oversimplification Procedure (EOP) so they can spend more time in the Observer state, where they can slip through into Flow.

Perhaps you want to change the world in ways that seemingly have nothing to do with changing people’s effectiveness levels, but I submit that your desired change will occur all the more easily if your audience of co-workers is at a higher level. If they are in EOP, scared to come out of the meeting having lost something, good luck getting the best decisions.

How do you get your colleagues out of EOP? One on one. Take them to lunch or coffee or drinks and just talk — but mostly listen. You’ll find out what they really want and what you have that can help them. You’ll also see how certain of your ideas are not yet covered on some particular flank, which is pivotally helpful. Are you doing enough reconnaissance? Are you doing it in the right spirit — nurturing, guiding, mentoring, listening, being a friend and/or ally?

The number one thing everyone is feeling is fear.

One of the biggest fears is that the game is going too fast to keep up effectively. This is a rational fear, because it is true that the game is going too fast. That’s Acceleritis for you.

However it is not rational to hold onto that fear. Fear is an alarm clock, and you turn off the alarm clock once you get its message. Move on from fear to dealing with the challenge slope such as it is. Fear only degrades your performance on that slope. Rationality therefore dictates removing the fear as a preliminary step to functioning at all.

A contemplation for burning out fear is to dwell on it until you hit bottom. Since this doesn’t usually happen overnight, schedule times for this contemplation over the course of days, preferably when you are alone. Visualize the worst possible outcome in the most complete detail possible, actually feel it as if it is happening. When the “so what?” feeling comes over you, you know you have burned out that circuit. If the feared scenario ever happens that way, you won’t seem to care as you simply deal with it, and you will have a great chance of turning the whole thing around just by your state of being in that moment.

You won’t be able to talk to all of your associates about the inner life, as some will not be ready. Follow your intuition. You don’t have to address these subjects directly to communicate the essence of attitude adjustment — people see it in you. Just hanging out and being a friend is more than enough to get the entire process to work perfectly.

You certainly don’t want to become manipulative and try to brainwash people. That’s what got us here. We’re trying to go the other way now.

Ultimately you want everyone to make up their own mind. You just want them to do it in the Flow State.

As we all work together to change the world, one situation at a time.

Best to all,

Bill

Read more. Read more about Acceleritis™.

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Originally posted 2015-01-27 13:09:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Are you balancing activity and stillness?

Originally posted June 16, 2015

If we are always pushing toward our goals, we are inadvertently setting ourselves back from reaching them.

There is a stage in the creative process in which it is wise to turn away from the challenge and do other things, for it is during this turned-away phase that the Aha! moment comes.

not creating may be essential to creativity

Certain batteries get recharged when we take ourselves temporarily off the wheel that is always driving us. This can happen when we are entertained — on our screen devices, reading, watching stage or other performances, spectator sports, vacations, making love, being with family and/or friends.

The subtlest batteries, however, only get recharged when we are alone with ourselves. This can take the form of sitting meditation but it doesn’t have to. We can be alone in nature, alone at home, alone on an airplane, anywhere. As long as we are not working down the TO DO list, there is a greater chance that we will slip into the Observer state (the precursor to Flow state) effortlessly.

To help bring on Observer state — a mindset in which you are able to simultaneously observe and analyze your emotional reactions to situations somewhat impassively — this works for me:

  • Look more closely at the place from which thoughts/feelings arise.
  • Don’t add to what you observe inwardly/outwardly, i.e. stop interpreting everything.

If we spend too much time doing, our conscious mind will block the functioning of our subconscious mind, and we’ll interfere with the stream of consciousness. If we spend too much time not doing, we will under-actualize our own goals. The movement associated with creative energy is a good thing, but stillness in body and mind is also valuable.

Balancing movement and stillness is optimal for maximizing effectiveness toward all our goals in life for love, creativity, and ultimately spiritual fullness, intuitively knowing and feeling connected with all beings and all things.

Strive to achieve the right balance between times spent doing versus time spent not doing.

L’chaim! (Hebrew toast “to life”)

Best to all,

Bill

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Originally posted 2015-06-16 14:04:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

A More Alert Reaction

Just one of the benefits of Observer and Flow States

Originally posted March 1, 2012

 “A word to the wise is sufficient.” Confucius may have said this. The same conditions causing Acceleritis™ also reward those of us who can spend some time in the two higher states of performance. In the sped-up culture that continues to accelerate, we are more successful if we can extract learning and act on it quickly without delay.

The techniques, which we call psychotechnology, to help us stay in the Observer and Flow states therefore become important to learn and put into practice.

The wise are able to learn from a single experience without repetition because they are counting the cards. In the same sense that Captain Picard would say “more power to the shields”, the wise person has wordlessly said to himself/herself, “more power to observation”. This is why we say the entry into Flow state is through the Observer state.

It’s easier to turn on the Observer state than it is to just decide to turn on the Flow state.

The Flow state is a delicate balance of many variables. Having prepared by practicing being in the moment, not being attached to how well you perform or to anything else, being in the Observer state, having your skills in some degree of close balance with the challenge slope of the moment — these all must click for Flow to engage.

For the Observer state to take you over, there are fewer requirements. You must be single-pointedly focused — intensely following the thread of what is going on in the now, including and especially in your own mind and body, but equally in the “external” world. You must be intellectually honest with yourself, objectively critiquing your own last thought and feeling. You can’t critique what you don’t notice and so you are paying such close attention inwardly and outwardly that you are catching every inner impulse. You are bringing into your conscious awareness some of what would normally pass by subconsciously.

Getting into these “altered” states of consciousness is a “yogic” process — it is exactly the same kind of process one goes through in order to gain control of normally-involuntary muscles in the body, except in this case they are normally-unused “muscles” of the mind.

Some of what the Human Effectiveness Institute has rediscovered can be found in ancient Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga texts. I found it there years later, having discovered Flow state on stage at age 4 in the Catskill mountain resorts (then in their heyday).

An early experience worth sharing is one in which my Flow was so in the moment that I was unable to hear or even later remember the words I had adlibbed that got such huge laughs. Here’s an excerpt from a memoir I wrote for my Dad, bandleader and MC Ned Harvey:

Fat Jack was considered to be the hippest comic in the world by the denizens of the Borscht Belt. Jack E. Leonard was an insult comedian who may have created the genre. Don Rickles was next in the insult comedy lineage.

Speed and cleverness were the two main criteria. Fat Jack could backhand a comeback over the net even before the incoming line had ceased to echo in the air, and his riposte was both unpredictable and used the raw material of the incoming line. This was the stuff of genius.

Later I would think in terms of the terabytes per nanosecond of computing speed that would allow Jack to search his files, put together alternative combinations, and select the optimal response.

We were in our room in the Frat House, under the canteen…

In the room besides Ned, my mother Sandy, me and Fat Jack were a few other musicians and Bernie Klein the stage director. Jack was holding court and the other adults in the room were convulsed in spasmodic laughter. I was silent and missing a lot of the humor. I was maybe 5 years old.

For some reason Jack singled me out with his gaze and threw me a line. Then something weird happened — something that had never happened before.

I said something back and after an instant’s shocked silence the group broke up in surprised laughter. I was not able to hear my own voice. I had no idea what I’d said.   

Jack smiled too but threw me back a clever counterpunch that I also couldn’t hear — I answered him in the same voice that everyone else but me could hear. Again my line got a big laugh, bigger than the first. This went on for a while.

When it was over and the conversation moved on, I began to be able to hear again. Jack gave me a sweet goodbye, not characteristic for him. I had no idea what had happened.

There are levels in Flow we have written about here before. The level at which one is so sewn into the universe that subject and object merge, and there is no inner rehearsal — this is the level where it’s possible to eject words so effortlessly one cannot later recall what they were. The first words are not checked in any way and are just allowed to flow through motor control without a second thought as to result or risk. This has only happened to me one time since, with the same audience appreciation. The great standups did it almost every night.

Incidentally, “don’t attempt this at home” as they say on TV gator domination and hotdog skateboarding crash shows. Don’t run off at the mouth trusting that it will be Flow. Actions should be in the opposite sequence: first sense that you are in Observer state and then when you are in Flow state. Only then can you loosen the valve on top of your mental stream of consciousness as a firehose without embarrassing consequences.

The standard state of human consciousness in all industrialized cultures has as one of its aspects the psychic spark gap between the thought of what to say next and the act of saying it. That distance is enough to take the average person at the average time out of Flow. However, using Fat Jack as our above-average model, he might have had an inkling of what his foil was going to say next, so Fat Jack might have had a split second to forethink an answer and another split second to do a gut check before he was delivering the line with perfect command of his voice.

Flow neurology will be very interesting to study. There is a significant speedup in the thought process and ability to see one’s own mind (thoughts, feelings, images) clearly.

Let there be no miscommunication: we are not recommending that you say the first thing that pops out of your mouth. Definitely wiser to not interrupt. Wait for the moment and then if you have something significant to say, say it, letting yourself have the added time to refine and challenge whatever it is you think is worth saying next.

You and the people in your team don’t need to get to such levels of Flow in order to vastly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your operation. (And obviously it would not be helpful to have no memory of what you’ve said.) Everyone else being in EOP most of the time, if you can move yourself and your people up to spending a quarter of work time in Observer state, you’ll be in the top percentile of high-performing teams, analogous to a winning sports team and elite paramilitary units.

What you want are sensible procedures for instilling this level of alertness.

Here are a few starter steps:

  1. Share the model of EOP, Observer, Flow. Present it as a model, a construct, a lens, a useful fiction, a stimulant. If it is later scientifically validated, that’s great, but for now the thing is to test and observe results. The only reason we founded the Human Effectiveness Institute is because in our experience the techniques we share are useful in increasing innovation and success.
  2. Create an atmosphere where there is nothing to fear. Support people when they make mistakes, while correcting them in good spirits and being on their side.
  3. Take side notes to keep the mind clear of distractions. Ultrabrief one- or two-word trigger phrases that will remind you of the thought or feeling. Stay observant and connected in the now, with the inner/outer attentional focus described earlier in this post. Share this technique with your team as well.
  4. Reset all beliefs and expectations back to zero, except for agreements and dutiful obligations. Reconsider all possibilities. Erase assumptions. Especially the hidden ones. Root out hidden assumptions and expose and neutralize them.

Here’s to more alert reactions, and to even more anticipatory and effective pro-actions!

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers. Read my latest post.

Originally posted 2012-03-01 12:08:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter