Monday, August 31, 2009

Addressing Mental Fatigue and Exhaustion

I’d been caught out! Looking down at the grease-spattering effect on the lower front of my T-shirt having ventured “out” I realised to my annoyance that the barbeque I cooked the previous evening had left its mark. My immediate thought was to zip up my tracksuit top—hiding the stain away from prying eyes. And mental fatigue has the same affect for me. I shrink away from the public eye. How does it affect you?

Mental fatigue and exhaustion is a real problem in this day where people are increasingly drawing from themselves reserves they don’t have. Capacities are exploited more and more and people often don’t know how close they’re skating to full-blown burnout.

I recall coming close to burnout in 2005. I was engaged in so much ‘good work’ on a number of fronts, due to some new-found energies, and the day I finally worked out what was happening to me, the most bizarre thing happened.

During a fun game of table tennis I literally couldn’t hit the ball—my mind felt fried. I couldn’t react. Even today I’m reminded of what I call ‘mental fog’ if I push things too far. From that day in April 2005 to the present day I’ve experienced it, and I’ll probably experience it when I draw close to mental fatigue for the rest of my life.

It is therefore my experience that burnout, once approached, stays with us and is an ever-bearing threat.

We are very wise in this day to always seek balance in life no matter how much balance we think we have. There are so many challenges and temptations around drivenness and the more we grow our capacities the more we push the dual-edged sword—capability we get, yes, but we also lend ourselves to faltering at some future stage; perhaps 12 or 18 months or a few years later—sooner or later it will bite us.

My fat-spattered shirt was a great metaphor for the mind that’s exhausted. I instinctively hid the stains and was embarrassed by them. Likewise, when we can’t think and people associate us that way, we want to shrink away and not be seen.

When we’re normally gregarious and then suddenly we feature as shy and withdrawn it really stands out. We lose a part of ourselves—then fear begins to reign, and we do things we’d not ordinarily do.

Mental fatigue and exhaustion toward burnout is best not even approached and ultimately avoided.

Working within our limits is a good thing; if we push them for a day or a week we get away with it. But for months on end… then we start to invoke a curse on ourselves.

To Twitter or Not to Twitter, that is the Question

One thing I’ve noticed about Twitter is the amount of salacious people who choose to follow me before I get the chance to block them—I’m so glad I get email notifications as some are plain XXX-rated and I’m sure these are designed simply to seduce and trap people to pornography addiction.

I use Twitter only as an extra feed of my EzineArticles. Other than that I leave it where it is, not truly understanding its power or purpose. Twitter seems to be something that you use when you want to follow interesting people and people can follow you because they find you interesting. Beyond that, I don’t really understand it; though I did notice a ‘Twitter For Dummies’ book at a bookstore recently—perhaps I should get myself a copy?

There is a another school of thought that all these social networking applications are actually making people lazy in interacting with each other and I think that’s a good point. Technology can undermine our efforts at interaction:

“Every technology has the ability to enhance embodied life or to subvert it. Take transportation. Planes, trains, and automobiles allow us to enjoy embodied fellowship with people who live far away from us. This is a great good. But speedy, cheap transportation also makes possible the transient culture we live in, where people struggle to put down roots in one place and ground themselves in their neighborhood.”[1]

Extending this, the writer makes the possible point that social networking over the ‘transient’ internet doesn’t ‘enhance embodied life (i.e. love)’ as opposed to real transportation that carries us to an actual destination. When we reach the end of a journey there are real people we connect with; some we haven’t seen in years or even decades.

So, we know that Twitter and Facebook and the like contribute to this transient connection, but the point would also need to be made that these mediums might actually whet the taste buds for people to connect more; in the embodied state I mean.

I’ve known people to get right into Twitter only to pull the plug on their accounts, because like me, they’ve been inundated with salacious (distasteful) followers as mentioned earlier. Anyone seeking to live a virtuous life is placed into an abhorrently foreign situation—they face the arrogant-dregs of the world in an instant, and this is not something they’d invite.

As with all of the applications I use, there is a fundamental purpose that outweighs the ‘maintenance cost’ of keeping it clean; it’s a chance to serve and help people.

With this end in mind, to serve, I attend my Facebook account for five to ten minute daily ‘fixes’ (and to interact) and sometimes if I have the time I’ll log in more than daily. But I try never to get trapped there.

As for Twitter it’s a tool for my few followers to receive my articles via another medium; the only reason to go there is to check and possibly remove followers who’re obviously not after the material I’m a purveyor of.

[1] Mark Galli, “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good? How the movement of the Trinity can help us decide” in Christianity Today (posted 6/04/2009 09:42AM). Retrieved June 10, 2009.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Getting Safety Right – There’s More To It Than Meets The Eye

Blood on the floor. A grimace... a scream. It gets everyone’s attention and it generates all sorts of emotion and response as a result at all levels and extremes.

The key challenge for all organisations in implementing safety at the level of its effect is to make it proactively-based, which is both opposed to and attending to reactivity.

And why do we do it? For no other reason than because we acknowledge the people we work with are very technically competent—but we also know everyone makes mistakes.

Confidence appears to be a key. When people are confident to challenge the status quo in any organisation they act in an empowered way. They intervene when their safety antennae are stimulated; they exercise personal courage, and in this they’re rewarded. The smart company puts processes in place that prove these employees are listened to.

These employees are prepared to ask people:

‘What are you doing?’

This is generally followed by a second question:

‘How could you get hurt doing that?’

And the logical third question, often requiring most courage, is:

‘What can you do about preventing getting hurt?’

We must stimulate a sense of “healthy paranoia” in people regarding risk so they never become complacent and normalise risk. “Damaging energies” are ever present and we only need to read the newspapers or watch the TV News to understand the power of these energies when we get into harm’s way.

Organisationally, there are five areas of foci that present the biggest bang for our buck regarding safety returns:

1. Solid, unwavering management commitment at the highest level (and the perception of same at the lowest level and every level between).

2. Good safety systems which don’t present, and actively remove, barriers to safe working.

3. Teams functioning cooperatively i.e. high-reliability teams.

4. Supervisor commitment – often safety process improvement leaves the supervisor behind, disengaging them; they who are one of the most important players in getting safety working!

5. A perception shared by all, especially those doing the high risk tasks, that safety is more important than production--whether you call it “safe production” or “safety before production” doesn’t really matter.

What drives worker behaviour when push comes to shove is what matters.

The Gorgeous Power in the Moment of Pain

Pain grips everyone. From the pain involved in the physical illness or injury to the pain of the emotional kind that brings on depression to everything in between, this sensation gets our attention and distracts us from all else.

I have a consultant colleague who suffered spinal cord injury in 1994 and has since had partial quadriplegia. Though he can use his arms and hands he has a bizarre mix of sensation and mobility issues with them. His right hand, for instance, feels extra sensitive and the slightest touch is actually painful.

Pain is a fascinating thing; at least if we’re not suffering from it. But there’s the point—each of us does, and many times daily.

Pain is actually not only a very good thing—it’s a miraculous thing. The physiology of pain itself is a marvel. It confirms awareness and proves to us we’re alive a billion times over. When we look at the control system of the human body, the central and peripheral nervous systems throughout to the last dendrite and axon of each neuron, we’re infested with the power to feel pain.

What We Can Learn From Pain

Pain needs to be our friend as far as possible. The only disclaimer to this is pain which requires pain-killers because relief is needed. My thoughts are mainly centred on the sorts of minor daily pains of life which simply guide and goad us.

Most of these minor pains of life many of us aren’t really that aware of. Awareness is key.

The pain at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels for the most part is telling us something. If we heed this ‘something’ and make changes to resolve (not avoid) further pain we’ve achieved the objective the pain was bringing to our attention in the first place.

Physical pains are relatively easy to feel and self-diagnose. Mental pain can be felt at the attitude/behaviour level via the matter of cognitive dissonance e.g. try driving without your seatbelt on if you’re conditioned to wear it. The cognitive pain tells us to put it on. Or more so, if we binge eat. Our full tummies reinforce with us pretty quickly we’ve done the wrong thing.

Emotional and spiritual pain is a little harder to diagnose and rectify at times, yet it’s no less important to attend to. Pain comes in the form of a rejection experience, for example, and we’re emotionally hurt and reeling. The emotional hurt impacts our spirits—we feel pain both ways. It’s a simple remedy, however.

The simple remedy is to not deny what’s happening and to face it full on. It simply takes courage to wish to be aware. Courage is created at the level of the will—it’s all in the mind, but the heart backs the mind up.

Pain is a very good thing if we listen to it in truth. Some people listen too much; enter the hypochondriac. Truth is critical. Becoming so self-aware of the actual stimuli impacting us in reality, in truth to how it affects our bodies, is the vital key in coming close to learning appropriately from pain.

The daily pains of life are our friend and we can and should embrace it at all levels. Pain helps us grow in wisdom.

For this reason there’s a gorgeous power involved in the moment of our pain. We feel the truth and an opportunity is presented. And life is hence all about taking opportunities.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Que Sera Sera – Whatever Will Be, Will Be...

The old Doris Day song from the 1956 movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much, is a true golden oldie. The song has three quite simple and tight cascading verses forming a woven inclusio around the chorus:

“Que sera, sera.

Whatever will be, will be.

The future’s not ours to see.

Que sera, sera.

What will be, will be.”

It’s perhaps a song of a girl expressing expectant hope as she grows through to womanhood, then into a relationship with her partner, before finally she issues the same ‘motherly’ advice to her children who’re expressing this same expectancy of hope typical of the age. It’s a hope that leads to faith; a faith requiring courage to simply let things be.

The song highlights what was in vogue in the era--that of looks and success--will we be beautiful or handsome… will we be rich… will we have the happy (‘rainbow’) life? So, what’s changed? Probably more of a social conscience and possibly a drivenness toward success.

Generation Y people might even want the right job which holds their interest, advancement prospects and perks without having to do some of the hard yards.

Whatever we’re facing in life it really does take faith to let things be. Whatever was, was; whatever is, simply is; whatever will be, will be--whether we like it or not.

It’s the acceptance of faith that underpins this attitude. Whatever we hope for it’s in faith’s hands entirely. We can’t bring it to pass any earlier even if we try.

We are best to hope and be expectant, but we must know the limits of hope. Wishing won’t get us there, though we’re destined to achieve a number of our goals, corresponding with the work and talent we put in.

Diligence and prudence toward personal mastery is the key to making our dreams reality.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Spiritual Amnesia – It’ll Bite Us Every Time!

Flossing my teeth is something I often forget to do. It seems when I remember, ‘Gee, I must floss,’ it’s often been a fortnight since I did. The dental technician at the dental practice I attend twice yearly has been quite forthright in lauding the benefits of flossing, especially to prevent gingivitis.

It seems I’m a bit of a slow learner. But, there’s a truth here for everyone—most people it seems struggle to implement new habits. And this can be due mostly to a sort of spiritual amnesia.

Take your fitness, for instance. How many aber-cisers have there been on the market over the years—selling by the millions—and only used for a week or two and then they find their quiet way eventually to the shed, attic or basement. We don’t take kindly to instituting good habits. It doesn’t come naturally.

And this is because we’re basically forgetful. We get inspired to change; we engage in it for a week or two with full intensity... we think we’re there; ‘FINALLY,’ we say. But it’s at this point that we then seem to drop our guards somehow.

The focus slips from the conscious radar and eventually into oblivion, when most of all we wanted (needed) to create the conscious habit at the subconscious level.

Giving up smoking and junk food to diet is the same thing. We forget why we’re doing it. Sure, we can remember at the conscious mind level why we’re doing these things but the emergent heart power, the power of drive for change, evaporates over time if we don’t carefully maintain it.

And we can carefully maintain our heart purpose to do these things by putting routines in that will assist us to remember and not forget. It’s vital that this positive power is tapped into. If we relinquish this vital power we’re apt to stumble and fall. It’s happened to me seemingly thousands of times!

Groundhog Day, reminiscent of the 1993 movie, is a horrible experience. When we finally remember what we were doing the change for, when it’s too late, when we’ve fallen off the wagon so-to-speak, we’re at that demoralising square one yet again. It’s maddening.

Retaining the power over our own lives (and habits) is dependent on the ability to remember; to recall the purpose in what we’re doing, and to do this at a truly heart, visceral, i.e. spiritual level.

Spirituality, hence, is the key to life change and growth.

Using the Power of W.I.I.F.M.

“Watch out mate, you’ll be pinged for parking there,” a contractor said to another as he leapt out of his car, parked in a visitor’s bay, at the front of an administration building. After I overheard this seemingly caring advice get issued I got to thinking about the base motives for our actions (which I was already thinking on).

What motivated this guy to warn the other I wondered? It seemed to me that his concern was more about helping his friend steer clear of a possible parking fine rather than keeping the parking area clear for visitors.

And this is the issue for most of us. It is an unfortunate fact that we behave in the many ways we do because of the many external factors impinging on us, and not merely our internal motivational drivers.

We ask, ‘What’s in it for me’ (i.e. W.I.I.F.M.), and we make a lot of our decisions at the conscious and subconscious levels due to this rationale. And avoiding punishment is just as powerful a driver as seeking a reward is, and for many, a lot more so.

But, when we think about it, conformance to external motivators opposed to our own values engenders the principle of disempowerment—not a good thing in anyone’s true view. Who’d choose to be disempowered? Unfortunately it’s a trap we tend to unavoidably fall into.

Now, in a much different way, the world runs on balance and adheres strictly to the principle of W.I.I.F.M. Prevailing governments rely on the business world in providing for the community, and the world of commerce relies on profitability to sustain its viability; this leads to employment.

The W.I.I.F.M. principle for each of these stakeholders is crucial therefore in achieving a balance that can sustain the world. (And those advocates of the Global Food Crisis might disagree to the effectiveness of this globally.)

W.I.I.F.M. therefore has relevance and impact at both individual and group levels. It’s at the individual level we need to be aware of its power over or for us.

Aligning our values to that of the world’s true needs resplendent in W.I.I.F.M. can only mean that our W.I.I.F.M.’s and the world’s are aligned, meaning more inner peace and less disempowerment at the personal level. This can lead us to better understand regarding W.I.I.F.M. at the group or community level, which is where it really does need to work for the benefit and sustainability of all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wisest Question: “What Do I Not Yet Understand?”

It’s an easy enough question to answer, isn’t it, but not many of us do. Not many of us often enough ask this crucial life-success question and we suffer in ignorance for it. Asking ‘What do I not yet understand?’ can open the door to all sorts of insights and revelations—that is if we can handle the truth that’s bound to come.

Life presents us with many challenges and tests, and these are also indicators—with our responses—of the things we’ve not yet mastered. The things we’re presently flailing upon or failing in or getting frustrated by (our relationships, tasks, situations, thoughts, skills etc) are the very things that present opportunities for us—opportunities to grasp.

It’s like our responses to things... watch these. The first heart/mind response that comes is likely to be at the root of the problem. We can’t help get defensive about certain things—it’s our basic proud human nature to do so.

Being aware of how we take these things can provide valuable self-reflective insight as to what to do to address these issues.

When we take a good, hard honest look there are many situations in life that we routinely deal with but don’t fully or properly understand. Ignorance is the prevailing human standard and default—partly or fully. We should actually be programmed to more often ask of ourselves, ‘Get more fact.’

Being a human being is a very humbling state if we’re straight about it. We’re quite often wrong and it doesn’t help when we deny reality in the quest to ‘be right.’ It helps no one.

This is, in a sense, not anything about becoming perfect—perfectionism is an errant goal in itself. But it is about being open more and more to the reality that we don’t know it all and quite possibly, from time to time, we might just lack some understanding. It happens.

There is a glorious flipside to this simple fact: the more we seek clarification in augmenting the learning process, situation by situation, the less misunderstanding we’ll actually get into and the more credibility we’ll establish.

Omnia Vincit Amor – Love Conquers All – Equals Success

Don’t you love checking out bumper stickers and personalised plates on vehicles as a means of wondering what the owner of the car’s worldview is? Only recently I saw a van with a Christian fish on it and a tiny little sticker with the words Omnia Vincit Amor on it. Researching its origins, it’s attributed to Virgil, the ancient classical Roman poet, from one of his three major works, Eclogues.

We’re fooled in life if we believe anything different. Love, as a constant response force, is an indelible universal law. We know this just as well by those who don’t use it as by those who do. Love conquers all.

When we, for instance, interact with someone in authority and they don’t exercise some level of love in the form of rapport and respect for the person i.e. us, we feel the pinch of injustice, don’t we? Words are not needed to sense this. On the other hand if that person in authority deals with us in grace and they have a spark of charisma and engagement about them, we actually feel quite special, even blessed. Love is the difference.

We see love’s power every day. When it’s there and it’s used to good effect we are left inspired and possibly even challenged—in a good way.

Love is beyond romanticism. It’s the way of life. It’s the way of engaging actively and proactively with the world. It’s positivity and the vehicle to greatness. No one who’s ever achieved a sustainable level of greatness has ever done it without love firing their engine room.

And we know, of course, that love links so tangibly with faith and hope... we need to have both faith and hope to love, and love propagates both of these too. In fact love is probably the basis of all virtue.

And it is virtue alone that assures our success. Virtue goes before us and prepares the ground. There are no short cuts to real success, no matter the differences of definition.

We choose love and we choose a chance to engage. We choose to engage and we choose success.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Simply Have This Desire...

... To write. When I feel low and confused and empty, in a place where my soul reaches out and embraces nothing, I just want to feel, express, journal, play with my mind—it’s a way of getting things started again.

Please forgive me if I take up this room called “time” in your life for such a useless endeavour. I feel compelled, impelled forward to press these keys and write something for you and for me that is inspiring, interesting, challenging and revealing. It’s really a practise exercise and who knows where it will lead.

I know it’s a risk. You might end up hating me for wasting your time intentionally. Worse still you might think me a bore. And this leads me to fear...

We live in fear from time to time. Fear becomes a real course, a pulsating destination. I was in a licensing centre only recently and I noticed all the nervy candidates pacing—all the officialdom and structure and straightness. Waiting is painful in these places. Where does one look? What does one do for thirty minutes as one’s daughter takes the test?

I feel empty from time to time; have I told you that? I can’t work out why. It’s a way station of the soul as the nudges and urges of an uncomfortable man take some twisted, tired, uncoordinated shape.

And this time that I and you have invested right here... what does that mean? Where does it take us? To some coherent nowhere, that’s where.

And the point? Why does there always have to be a point? Sometimes we just “are” and that’s all. The ‘blah’ days come and they go. We barely remember them. Yet they define our lives as much as the meaningful days. They take us back to a root where we belong nowhere but with ourselves, and even that’s debatable.

Come on, there must be a point to this!

No. There really isn’t.

Again, I can only apologise. Sorry.

Festina Lente (Making Haste Slowly)

Are you the sort of person who is so diligent you occasionally break the rules, or your lack of planning is revealed and there’s embarrassing re-work involved? Or, are you the sort of person who ponders things a little too long, perhaps toward procrastination; i.e. not likely to fail, but not likely to succeed either?

Our human nature dictates we all venture to one end of this Diligence-Prudence (or Intelligence) continuum or the other. We either produce a lot and some of it goes into the waste basket, or what we produce is like fine art, but it doesn’t go very far and doesn’t sate people. People see us as either, or more so, diligent or prudent (intelligent), but rarely both.

The key seems to be a balance right in the middle… or better still, the best of both worlds i.e. not either/or but and/both. What on earth do I mean?

Well, let’s set about thinking of this conundrum in a way that produces intelligently diligent deployment of tasks--what do we need? A plan. A skilful way of monitoring the plan. Agility in quickly responding to upsets the plan did not account for. These are to name a few.

I think most of all we need a vital ingredient that’s often missing in our busy lives; and this gets missed even when we know we should do it. It’s the discipline of focus, of being purpose-driven, and not being driven by the winds, which blow each way randomly--blowing us often way off course.

And what is it we’d focus on? Here’s a clue: “Festina lente is a royal motto.” –Gracian Balthasar.

We must make a pact to make haste slowly; be diligent as possible without being at the mercy of whims, and taking enough time to do things well. In my profession we tell people to “Take 5,” and in so doing, foresee the risks before starting or proceeding with the task. Take 5 is really a tool to assist in making haste slowly; at its zenith it is efficiency and effectiveness all wrapped in one. It’s simply the discipline to stop watchfully for a moment before engagement.

The sage also says, “Celerity [i.e. the rapidity of motion or action] is the mother of good fortune.” If we get going and keep going--not giving up--we end up making our own luck.

We can have the best of both worlds if our focus is correct.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Effecting Organisational Culture

One of the most fascinating ideas in incident investigation is defining the aspects of organisational culture that contributed to the failure. These are the collective practices of the group that preceded the event; the conditions, practices and inactions that were accepted or allowed, even promoted—including, especially, the things that went wrong.

Only after defining the organisational culture can we truly effect change to it—but this concept of culture change is actually much harder than most people think.[1]

There are two prevailing schools of thought with regard to how organisational behaviour and culture is affected. One is due to the direct process of behaviour modification i.e. setting up procedures, rules and systems as antecedents to desired behaviour, and the other is to impact values—a deeper process of attitude and belief modification.

The Trap – Impacting Values Alone

There is a lot of research to indicate that the latter approach is fraught with danger, particularly in the context of mature adults who don’t readily change their very personal values at the behest of external forces, and most specifically, enthusiastic employers.[2]

Acknowledging this point helps us understand that the best way to impact culture from the values perspective it to recruit (and then train appropriately) the right people in the first place.[3]

The Way Forward – Adjusting “Collective Practices”

If trying to impact values (a very personal thing) is fraught with danger and/or eventual frustration, the methods of adjusting the collective practices at two levels potentially gives us more room to move and hope for a solution.

Collective practices can be observed by either the actions of individuals (the way we do things around here) or by the interaction of individuals with organisation systems which cannot be “reducible to individual practices,” for instance, the design and use of reporting systems.[4]

The organisation, with some thought and intent in and of design, can create systems that will capitalise on opportunities to investigate failures to report and at the same time find inventive ways of rewarding good reporting behaviours. It can prove its interest in this area—and employees aren’t silly; they’ll endeavour to conform to what the organisation really wants by virtue of the level of its commitment to the end goal.

The Bridge to Great Culture

The final frontier in becoming a High Reliability Organisation (HRO) is addressing practices, not attitudes. And all the systems in the world do not create congruence in collective practices. It appears that mindful organisations rely on and produce mindful individuals and vice versa, so can it be deduced that the organisation’s culture is the sum of all stakeholders impacting on it in function with its systems?[5]

Furthermore, it can be said that what separates the HRO from an also-ran is their ability to initiate strong responses to weak signals of problems. They “organise themselves in such a way that they are better able to notice the unexpected in the making and halt its development.”[6]

Achieving great culture is a detailed science in itself with many convoluted factors impinging on it. It is interesting that, in the case of the BP Texas City Refinery disaster, BP had not taken seriously the very matters that would have proved their commitment to becoming a HRO—not the least of which a lack of commitment to process safety at the highest level, that of CEO, Lord John Browne.[7]

Organisations, like individual people, get back what they’re prepared to actually invest. They reap what they sow. It may in some ways be an oversimplification but I think we get the basic point.

[1] Andrew Hopkins, Failure to Learn: the BP Texas City Refinery disaster (North Ryde, Sydney: CCH Australia Limited, 2009), p. 141.

[2] Cited in Hopkins, p. 141… “Changing collective values of adult people in an intended direction is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Values do change, but not according to someone’s master plan.”(Italics mine.) (G. Hofstede, Cultures and Organizations (New York, USA: McGraw-Hill, 1997), p. 199.

[3] See the Jim Collins’ study and book in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t (New York, USA: HarperCollins, 2001). An excellent, very concise summary can be found at:

[4] Hopkins, Ibid, p. 141.

[5] Ibid, p. 145.

[6] Cited in Hopkins, p. 144… K. Weick & K. Sutherland, Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity (San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass, 2001), p. 3.

[7] Ibid, p. 148.

Thinking in Pictures – to Achieve Goals

Dr. Temple Grandin thinks like a cow. An amazing individual, she is not only Doctor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, best-selling author and animal advocate and activist, she’s intrinsically autistic.[1] In that, she’s typically bored in relationships and interactions, but not with animals, which primarily think, like her, in pictures.

This type of thinking is deeply rooted in the “now.” It’s deeply corporeal—relying on the very real and seen external stimuli. Dogs and cats, cows and pigs and other animals don’t think in affective ways like we do. This is a replicator for the extreme end of Myers-Briggs ‘sensing’ personality preference—to the utter rejection of the ‘intuitive’ mind, or the ability to intuit the deeper tones of relational rapport i.e. affinity with others.

And there’s something quite inherently admirable about such focus in one human mind to leave out ‘the possible’ in seeking the absolute seen reality.

Autistics are notoriously staid in their thinking, able not only to focus incredibly deeply, they’re actually not able not to. Change-resistance is part of their world, perhaps to their detriment, but one feature that’s incredibly endearing is their unbending passion, and this is something that Dr. Grandin has used throughout her career.

Perhaps one of the positive aspects of an autistic personality (if it can be harnessed and developed) is the capacity to achieve or perform at a zenith of human ability in one, or perhaps only a few, very focused pastimes.

We can imagine being so focused on a task, to the exclusion of distracting stimuli, that we give it such attention that the result created is basically perfect. Of course, it works best with mechanised tasks not requiring a high degree of relational perception or control.

There are times—many times, in fact—when the heat is on us to produce or deliver upon agreed objectives. Learning to think in pictures to the exclusion of our feelings is an incredible situational lever to pull upon occasionally in the management of our lives.

[1] Dr. Grandin has high-functioning autistim.

Embracing All Myers-Briggs Types in Your Personality

Everyone it seems wants it all; but was is it? Having it “all” means many different things to different people. It suddenly dawned on me only recently that the only thing or ‘possession’ of eternal goodness is the character developed toward a full personality i.e. one that can embrace every person and every situation possible with love, respect and understanding, in a word—unconditionality.

In essence, this means the acceptance of, and ability to work with, all kinds of different situations; it’s essentially the antithesis of bigotry, ignorance and arrogance. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a well established personality profiling tool. “Type” as it’s known, explains our innate preferences regarding how we like to live, work, and interact with people and life in general.

Its sixteen types cover essentially a complete sweep of the human psyche. Some of us are very tightly described in one of these sixteen areas, by virtue of strong preferences along the four continuums:

Introversion (I) at one end versus extroversion (E) at the other;

Sensing (S) at one end versus intuition (N) at the other;

Thinking (T) at one end versus feeling (F) at the other; and,

Judging (J) at one end versus perceiving (P) at the other.

Each of these four continuums, at its extremes, describes a dichotomy.

Some again sit closer to the mid line in one or two areas (lessening the effectual dichotomies), meaning that in some situations they’ll go one way, and in other situations they’ll go the other. Being closer to the mid line on any one of the four continuums is a distinct advantage in life as it means we’re more adaptable and flexible, and possibly more mature.

This is all assuming that we can change our personality profiles marginally over the lifespan—a belief that I hold. None of us are so set in our ways that we cannot, or won’t, change. It’s our choice at the end of the day.

The theory of a “fuller” personality is that we’d come close to the mid line on one, two or possibly more of the four continuums. The ideal, of course, might be close-to-mid line results on all continuums though it’s hard to see that occurring in many people in reality.

But, just think. The closer our preferences are to the mid lines, and the more we can appreciate life situations naturally from all sixteen perspectives, the greater scope we might have in our relationships, and the less conflict we might encounter, overall.

Is this the ultimate expression of humility i.e. acceptance of others’ viewpoints?

At the end of the day “Type” theory is most important for recognising how differences between us can enhance our lives and our contributions, mitigating misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Being “Expressive” – From The Thought-Enriched Mind

There are so many creative minds in the world that struggle to express themselves in ways and solutions that bring the glorious thought to fruition. They explore but cannot seemingly exploit their ideas. Others exploit their ideas but the ideas themselves are nothing to write home about because the exploitation of the idea hasn’t been fully explored.

Problem One –Beautiful Thoughts Undelivered

Balthasar Gracian writes about this regarding clarity of thought informing action:

“[To be expressive] depends not only on the clearness but also on the vivacity of your thoughts. Some have an easy conception but a hard labour, for without clearness the children of the mind, thoughts and judgments, cannot be brought into the world.”

This describes our first problem—people who find it hard to realise the potential of their thought-world. They’re artists cognitively but all the work’s locked up where no one else can admire it. The problem here is one of release.

For the rampant explorer who cannot seemingly exploit their ideas, there’s a lot to be said for further exploring the means of exploitation. By this I mean does an art form help? Does a jog in the park help? Does a good dose of courage help? There must be some way that the labour of thought might be facilitated without it becoming a forceps or caesarean-section delivery.

One thing for certain, trying new things is bound to realise for you and I ‘the how’ of this issue eventually. This ‘how’ is a personal issue; it’s uncovering the mystery of one mind (i.e. our minds individually) alone.

Problem one often leads to problem two—the two are linked.

Problem Two – Incoherence of Thought

Then there’s the second problem. People who have no problem expressing themselves—they just don’t express very well what they mean.

Our thoughts must have coherence about them. It’s no good stammering though our explanations of things. We have to first order our thoughts and self-audit them, checking their arrangement from the listeners’ likely hearing point.

Patience of method is required. It requires diligence. It also requires an acute understanding as to the audience’s real needs—perhaps they don’t even know what their real needs are. It’s therefore for us to explore the matter with this mindset.

A Vision for You, a Vision for Me

Imagine being so coherent and aligned in thought and action; so simplistic, yet so effective. Imagine the mind being a fertile playground where the richness of thought arises from a deep congruous well and forms speech and action through a fountain—as on a warm sunny day—to an unsuspecting, yet admiring, world.

This is your mind—nourish it! Think. Explore and exploit the mental processes. Become proficient at it—almost everyone can.