An undercurrent of perspective

Of late, I’ve been thinking of two streams at work and in life. The stream at the top is the one that dictates our response to the flow of the day-to-day. It deals with our plans for the future, the crisis of the moment, and the many other highs and lows that we deal with in our journey.

Underneath that stream is another which isn’t easily touched – but is one we can choose to access. It flows thanks to the undercurrent of perspective. Reaching for this undercurrent means reminding ourselves that we’re not here for too long and that nothing we do will last for long.

This undercurrent can be mistaken for a morbid thought that needs to be shushed away. But, it isn’t. Instead, in reminding us of the end game, it teaches us to focus on the little that actually matters. Our petty competitions, factions, politics, and rivalries are all going to count for nothing.

It reminds us that our life might be shorter than we think. So, we’d be better served dealing with today’s issues with a smile (they will pass). And, as we’re all fighting the good fight, we could all be kinder to ourselves and each other.

Consciousness and mistakes

I made a couple of small, avoidable mistakes recently. As with such errors in judgment, I felt my ears burn a bit as I felt the minor embarrassment that accompanies them. I try to avoid wasting time beating myself up. So, I didn’t.

But, I asked myself (both times) – was I disengaged / unconscious at that moment?

It wasn’t. I made these errors of judgment despite the engagement.

It occurred to me that I was missing the point of consciousness. The point of consciousness isn’t to avoid mistakes – it isn’t possible to avoid them as long as you’re attempting to do things. If anything, you become more conscious of them – even the small ones that you might have ignored previously.

Instead, consciousness provides us an opportunity to work on a creative, constructive and corrective response. And, what a wonderful opportunity that is.

So, a note to self – the mistakes and bad judgment aren’t going away. It is up to me to learn, make different mistakes tomorrow and develop better judgment.

Good judgment comes from experience. And, experience comes from bad judgment.

2017 Themes

I had 3 “look back” posts in the past ten days or so that all built up to my annual review. After all that looking back, the time has now come to look forward. I don’t like new years resolutions as I’m not a fan of “goals” based thinking. Instead, I prefer thinking in terms of direction and process. So, I prefer thinking of the new year in terms of themes.

My theme for the new year is engagement. I believe engagement is the answer to the debates around managing energy versus managing time. As with most important things, it isn’t an either/or. And, I also believe engagement is a principle that a good life is anchored around. And, as with all life principles, it is very hard to consistently live it. Also, I think of engagement and consciousness (the ability to be aware and to choose) as sister concepts. They share the same core.

While engagement is the high level theme, my audit and reading pointed to 3 sub themes.

The first theme is – “Seek to understand and then to be understood” – from my holiday re-read of “The 7 Habits.” I am way too impatient and, as a result, interrupt far too much than I’d like. I’d like to do better, a lot better. This isn’t something that’s easy to measure. So, I intend to just check in with myself every day for starters as I build my instincts around this.

The second theme is health. As I grow older, the idea of being very fit grows increasingly more appealing. I haven’t done as bad a job at this so far. But, there’s plenty of room for improvement. I used Mr Money Mustache’s excellent post on “Staying fit with no gym in sight” to reflect on this and piece together my health plan. The first part of this plan is to moderate my diet better – my diet is still pretty carbohydrate heavy (I love rice!). And, having just discovered the benefits of doing a full body work out during the week, I’ll aim to keep that going through this year.

The final theme is information. Again, there are two pieces. First, I’ve been working on streamlining my information diet over the past couple of weeks. I massively cut down on my news consumption and went through a review of every source I regularly consume on Feedly. I also took a good look at my work email flow and consumption habits and have made a few changes. The idea here is to be a lot more conscious about this as I still check my email and feeds far more than I’d like. The second piece of this theme is doubling down on reading books. I have a reading list that I cannot wait to get to. And, I’d like to spend more time on deep book reading over shallower sources.

I expect to see a step change in my level of engagement/consciousness if I work through these sub themes. But, as with all good processes, the journey is sure to be filled with learning. While seeking to understand will help me improve on my interactions with others, I see my approach to health and information as crucial. The better my health and information diets, the more energy I expect to have to be engaged through the day.

Lots of work to do. Onward.

PS: Peter Koehler, a reader, has done a nice job co-creating “The New Years Reader” – to be read aloud and shared with your close friends and family. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. I contributed a thought to it as well. The theme should look familiar to you. :)

“We are a by-product of our questions. Perhaps we stop asking ourselves about how we can be better/best at something this year and, instead, ask ourselves – “How can I be engaged every day? How can I make sure I am being conscious about my decisions?”

All this would take is a commitment to spend 3 minutes to ask yourselves these questions at the start of your day, every day. And, a calendar reminder to re-commit to this habit every weekend.

Wishing you more engaged, more conscious days this new year. As we live our days, so we live our lives…”

When is it your responsibility

The best proxy to our real age – not the number we get when we subtract our birth year from this year – is to observe when we consider something to be our responsibility.

If we can never find it in us to own up to a problem that affects us, we’re still where we were when we were children. It is anybody’s fault but ours.

If we understand we should take responsibility but don’t want to, we’ve hit our teens but haven’t quite made it past them.

Adulthood begins the moment we accept that anything that affects us is our responsibility. It doesn’t mean that we need to respond to everything that happens and make it our problem. It simply means that we are aware that it is a situation where we have the ability to respond and where we must choose whether or not to do so.

As an added bonus, taking responsibility for what happens to us is a big part of being mindful/conscious because consciousness is simply being aware of our choices at any given point of time. And, of course, the choices arrive the moment we decide to take responsibility for what happens to us…

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Consciousness and creativity

Let’s say you own a store. Let’s now use Fred Kofman’s definition of consciousness – it is the ability to be aware and to choose.

As you are conscious within your store, you become acutely aware of the process you use to check customers out. It could be faster, much faster. But, you’re not able to think of a better solution now.

However, you’ve planted the seeds for subconscious processing. As you take a walk a few days later, you suddenly remember the checkout at process at a tourist spot the other day that you thought was incredibly efficient. What was the principle at place? Ah – they had a single queue instead of multiple queues. It just worked a lot better and seemed to eliminate customer frustration. You had some space constraints in your store. So, a single queue isn’t probably all that practical.But, wait – you could do 2 queues instead.

You try it out. It works much better already. But, you soon realize that you’ve now found the next bottleneck. The process thus continues.

The ability to make those disparate links is creativity. However, creativity wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t acutely conscious in the first place. To know what to change, you must know what is. And, to allow yourself to make those connections, you must allow for your subconscious to kick in. That can only come after consciousness.

A Buddhist monk once described the essence of zen to be the ability to focus on one thing at a time. That is the principle of consciousness at play.

With consciousness comes creativity…

consciousness, creativity, mindfulnessImage Source