Written & contributed by Georgia Ellis
I have always found being human fascinating, and as I continued to dive into the different sciences that underpin our humanness, I soon learned there is still so much we don’t know… which makes me wonder, with the pace of scientific enquiry and discoveries, how long will it be before what I know today… is well… irrelevant and outdated?
For Humans to get along with each other, there is a need for all of us to increase our capacity for critical thinking. To move from thinking our way is the right and only way and from hunkering down on outdated thinking and paradigms, to being curious enough to seek more information, look at things from every angle and formulate a flexible adaptive opinion. In other words, not being stubborn in thinking that the conclusion I came to today, will still be valid and relevant tomorrow when more or new information comes to hand.
Whether they know it or not, everyone lives most of their life from a biased vantage point, their Mindset. Our mindset is as unique as our thumbprint. It consists of our various values, perceptions, conclusions, assumptions and beliefs. All of these components create a filter or lens that you view the world through. To be able to see things differently, to appreciate new and diverse information, and sometimes opposing perspectives, and even solve wicked problems, we all need to be able view life from different vantage points.
We must notice when we are experiencing cognitive dissonance and at least be open to the perspectives of those who challenge and disrupt our long held (and sometimes outdated) patterns of thinking. Open and curious dialogue can help us bounce between the black and white thinking that keeps us stuck, to meander and experiment in the grey between what we believe is right and wrong. We need to know how to get off of our self-imposed playing field and up into the grandstand to see the game of life being played out before our eyes. Then, and only then, can we join the dots, make the connections, see where we have gone wrong and more importantly what moves to make to improve the game of life, for ourselves and everyone.
Your ability to see life from new or even opposing points of view is one element of critical thinking, it’s a mental muscle and similar to your physical muscles, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
In 2018 a picture of Prince William that went viral. It showed what looked like the prince giving the “bird” to a crowd of onlookers. However, different photographers captured the same moment from different vantage points, revealing that Prince William was actually holding up three fingers indicating the birth of his third child.
If you had only seen the first image, you would have likely created a story about the prince, your clever brain filling in the blanks to make an erroneous assumption. This is just how we work, and if you didn't have the opportunity to see the same event from a different vantage point, you likely would hold on to your incorrect assumption for some time. This simple example shows you how even a slight change of view or stepping into the shoes of someone else (in this case a different photographer), allows you to perceive an event, problem or situation in a different way. It also builds your ability to think critically and enhances your mental complexity.
Perceptions are extensions of repeated and revisited thoughts and feelings. Strong emotions create very strong perceptions. You will only see the world, and people according to how your brain has been wired. This means that your beliefs and perceptions are completely attached to your past experiences and past thinking. Your perception may not be based on actual events and how they happened, it will be based on the thoughts, feelings and mental state at the time of an event.
Your perception is formed about a person, situation, thing or experience once you become aware of it. Your brain fills in any missing information from past memories and experiences or by asking questions or making assumptions. Finally, you develop an understanding or belief about the person, situation, thing or experience. It becomes your point of view. How you saw the situation, how it made you feel and the thoughts you had about it creates your unique personal experience which will often be at odds with how other people who were involved in the same situation experienced it. This is why the people we live and work with have a different point of view to ours. Often causing conflict, confusion and even a break down in relationships, especially when people stubbornly hold on to their experience as the ultimate truth.
This does not mean that there is no truth in someone’s account of a situation, there is often an element of truth to a person’s experience. Sometimes we can see their truth and sometimes due to our different perspective we can’t see what they see, often leading to disagreement. Rather than arguing, you can use a difference of opinion or perspective as an opportunity, an invitation, to become curious and better understand how or why people see things the way they do.
The three factors that can influence your perception are your experiences, your motivational state and your emotional state. In different motivational or emotional states, you will react to or perceive something in different ways. Also, in different situations you might employ a "perceptual defence" where you "see what you want to see" and disregard the facts. This is commonly known as ‘confirmation bias’, a unique way to distort reality to have it fit into how we believe the world to be.
Steve Jobs is well known for doing this, his success was largely driven by holding on to an idea or point of view that brought Apples products to life. When people, including his own team, believed things couldn’t be done, Steve often saw things differently. Biographer Walter Isaacson writes that Robert Friedland "taught Steve the reality distortion field." (RDF). The RDF was said to be Steve Jobs' ability to convince himself, and others around him, to believe almost anything. He used a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, marketing prowess, appeasement and persistence. This approach was said to distort his co-workers' sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and to make them believe that whatever impossible task he had at hand was possible. This was the upside of his distorted reality, however Jobs also used the RDF to claim other peoples ideas as his own, even pitching an idea back to its originator, after dismissing it days earlier.
Knowing that your point of view is based on your past thinking, and possibly outdated beliefs allows you to expand and strengthen your perception by taking on new points of view, perhaps like Steve, believing in possibility when no one else does. This is especially useful when you are faced with a problem you can’t solve. Changing the way you look at a problem, or changing the thoughts and beliefs you have about an issue can often lead to solutions and save many an argument. Most arguments are caused simply by the different ways in which we all see the world. Doing your best to put yourself in someone else's shoes can help to build stronger and more meaningful professional and personal relationships.
In our Life Reloaded suite of programs, we explore tools designed to help broaden perspective and increase mental complexity. We look at how a team or individual can map differing points of view to solve organisational challenges and polarising viewpoints. We also explore how to use a simple activity (shared below) to help people step into the shoes of anybody, at any time, in any given situation.
Einstein has been attributed as saying “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that caused it”
You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that caused it
We tend to approach the world from the same perception that causes and creates our issues, making it difficult to find a solution or a way through it. I personally started using this simple activity after reading about a similar approach recommended in the classic book “Think & Grow Rich”. This is how easy it can be:
Although it appears simple this activity allows you use your imagination to see things from another person’s point of view. Imagining that you are someone else shifts your thinking patterns, helps you to temporarily suspend your own mindset, release your biased point of view allowing new information to flow to you. You may find this to be a simplistic way of looking at your problems, however I encourage you to experiment with it the next time you feel stuck.
With a deeper understanding of perception and the right tools to shift your point of view, you will build confidence in your ability to resolve conflict, solve your own problems and shift your perspective in a powerful way.
Learning to walk in another persons shoes and manage polarisation are great tools to have, especially in the world we live in. This form or critical thinking allows you to tap into new information and to see the upside of the things that are opposite to what you personally value, and acknowledge that your side isn’t perfect, it allows you and those you live and work with to be better humans together.
Contact Blue Chip Minds to learn how to strengthen yours or your teams perception and increase mental flexibility.
In March 2020, life started to feel a little funky, and not in the cool hip, bluesy kind of way, more of a holy almighty what has just happened to the world as I knew it kind of panic funk, and I’m certain I wasn’t the only one feeling this heavy uneasy feeling.
Retrospect is a wonderful thing and six months on, I am grateful for all the knowledge and practices I had leading up to the occurrence of this global funk. I was able to navigate out of it, with a quick journey up to a higher perspective, noticing what was contributing to my personal experience of what was going on in the world, taking stock of what I could control, and then taking decisive action and maintaining practices that would allow me to weather this unrelenting onslaught of confusion.
Taking decisive action and maintaining practices that would allow me to weather this unrelenting onslaught of confusion.
There are many tools and ideas that I called on during this time, but the one I believe that served me the most was an idea I was introduced to in 2004 as part of a Leadership program I had attended.
The idea was simple; I could either choose to approach life from one of two narratives, that of a person who has mastery over their life or one who has adopted a victim mentality. I recall having to list all the traits of a victim and a master. Upon reflection, I promptly decided that Mastering my life was where it was all a. So began the long and never-ending path to Mastery of Self, I began doing my best to model my life on being a person who took full responsibility for their outcomes, I began reflecting and adapting behaviours along the way. This was a game changer for me, I was letting go of allowing external forces such as relationships, the economy, managers or any situation outside of my control define who I was and how I felt, I was determined to dive into the depths of my being to see what I was really made of, oh and for what it’s worth, I am still doing that!
Years later I would come across two other frameworks that expanded on these Victim / Master narratives. I was introduced to two new roles that keep us in a state of Funk and two additional roles that would allow me to show up as a better human to those I was sharing life with, move beyond the ongoing cycle of uncertainty and victim hood. Enter ‘The Drama Triangle’ (Stephen Karpmen) and ‘The Empowerment Dynamic’ (David Emerald). These ideas took me from looking at how I showed up for myself in life and introduced me to the roles I (and you) play in every human interaction and in every situation. I now had a detailed brief of the games we all unwittingly play together. The ongoing narratives we shift between that keeps us, and as we are experiencing on a global scale, the world in the funk of Drama and the roles we can choose to step into, to finally lift that funk.
Roles that keep us in the Funk.
The three roles in Karpman’s Drama Triangle are Victim, Rescuer & Persecutor.
Freeing yourself from the Funk, requires a shift from reacting in a situation to choosing to pause and consciously respond to life’s events. When you practice responding, you take yourself out of the situation and are better equipped to observe your behaviours. David Emerald ‘s book “The Empowerment Dynamic” provides alternatives to playing in the dysfunctional Drama Triangle. You can move from showing up as a Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer to interacting in a positive and empowering way. With curiosity and compassion, you can move from being a rescuer to a supporter, from a persecutor to a challenger and from being a Victim of Circumstances to Self-Authoring and creating your life.
Freed From The Funk
“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller
Using the wisdom of Buckminster Fuller you can switch out the Drama roles by creating new mental models that would look like this.
You will notice a clear difference between the roles, the roles trapped in drama keep everyone stagnant, angry, anxious and frustrated. While the empowering roles facilitate growth, and physical, mental and emotional well being.
It takes moments to read about these roles, however it takes a lifetime of application to master the empowering behaviours that will free you from the funk.
As you reflect on life right now, this perpetual funk that most find themselves in, ask yourself, am I keeping myself here, am I dancing around with my friends and family in Drama or are we empowering ourselves and those we care about to take responsibility and self-author our way to greater agency?
I want to leave you with this quote by Jim Rohn as food for thought and to inspire you to no longer being the victim to what is happening in the world we share, but to choose to take responsibility and create circumstances that turn the Funk into Funky (in a bluesy kind of way)
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” - Jim Rohn
Contributor: Georgia Ellis
Back in 2013 after leaving my Senior Manager Role behind and stepping into a new version of myself as a Business Owner, I took a trip to Iceland. The icy and snowy landscape was not only epic, but it also provided a timely reminder of the cortical landscape of our brains. Kinda a weird connection to make, but stay with me...
As I took in the landscape I couldn't help but see a resemblance to a Human brain and the way our continual thinking carves out new and unique neural pathways, it occurred to me that as en employee I had been thinking a certain way, which had led me to have a rather successful career... but that thinking, and those neural pathways, were not going to serve me as a business owner.
Fast forward to 2019, and with a deeper understanding of neurobiology and the interconnection of our thoughts, emotions and movement. I now appreciate the power of post conventional and complex thinking and the importance or rewiring our brain to steer us in a new direction... partly because of the science, and partly because it's exactly what I did to grow my business. I worked on my mindset first.
In the book "The Biology of Belief" by Dr. Bruce Lipton, he explains how our thoughts and beliefs impact our biology. Did you know if you continuously think thoughts with a negative bias about life or the future, that is tell yourself woeful stories or make negative judgements of a situation or person, that you create a neural pathway in your Brain that hooks you up to seeing only the negative? Just like crevices in the snow that have been carved out by a sled taking the same path over time, those continual thoughts create a deep seeded negative bias.
When you begin to understand neurobiology and neuroscience and even epigentics, you quickly discover that we can retrain our brains to “steer our sled” on to a new path with a positive outlook, then that pathway will show a physical change in our brains. Neuroplasticity means that our brains are continually firing and wiring new pathways, the more we think a thought, the stronger the connection or pathway, the less we think a thought, the weaker the pathway and eventually it prunes away. Each one of our thoughts and subsequent behaviors are responsible for this change in our brains. It's an empowering idea that we can literally begin to prepare ourselves for these extraordinary, complex and uncertain times with the nature of our thoughts.
Not only does a switch in thinking help prepare us for the future, it has other profound effects on us physically and can even help reverse anxiety and depression. Research has shown that regular positive pole thinking can lead to:
Unfortunately negative pole thinking produces the opposite results. Take the point above about being more attractive to other people, I most certainly are turned off by negative people.
The best thing about being in control of our thoughts is that we have a new opportunity each moment to enhance our emotional experience. I discovered many years ago that we always have a choice as to how we respond to situations, events and people. Armed with the knowledge that a positive attitude to life is worth nurturing, and that we can steer ourselves onto a different pathway on our habitual cortical landscape, then we can begin to work on strategies to make this happen for ourselves. Some strategies that I have found helpful for steering my thinking into a better future are:
The more I adopted these practices the easier it was to have a positive mindset. My cortical landscape was changing, and i began to naturally steer myself in a positive direction. Changing the way I thought about things, changed the emotional attachment i had with people and situations. I moved from being the victim to the external world to being the master of my inner world, which strangely, changed the way I saw the external events that used to trigger mental anguish. People who know me somehow think I have always had a positive outlook, the truth is I haven't, I had to teach myself and I am still a work in progress, with the know-how and tools to steer my thinking back on track towards an extraordinary future.
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