Flexible Focus #56: Finding What Matters Most

by William Reed on June 2, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked at themes related to significance and focus, finding what matters most. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

PRAY FOR JAPAN (From Flexible Focus #47: Clearing Your Clutter)

It is certainly a clarion call to get back to basics…to devote your time and energy to the things and people that matter most.

Many are saying that both conservation and cooperation were essential characteristics in Japanese culture to begin with, qualities which are now surfacing in this time of need. Crisis tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. In this case, it turns out that there was a lot of good in people just below the surface, which has come out for all the world to see. It has also brought forth a massive and profoundly moving show of support for Japan from around the world, as people offer their emotions, donations, and physical resources in the movement called Pray for Japan.

In addition to the cooperation of people to pull through this disaster, there has been a shift in consciousness. It is almost as if we have been granted a degree of clairvoyance, a new transparency in which people’s hearts and intentions are far more transparent than before. Perhaps it was the clutter, the non-essentials, the bill of goods that we had been sold over the years that prevented us from seeing this clearly until now.

BE PROACTIVE AT THE EDGE (From Flexible Focus #48: The Principle of Initiative)

“With a brain in my head, and feet in my shoes, I can steer myself any direction I choose.” ~Dr. Seuss

One of the central insights of the Mandala Chart is that the world we see is actually the world as we see it, not a fixed reality to which we must succumb. While we share the same space, we do not see or experience it in the same way. Things do not look, feel, or taste the same when you are in love, as they do when you are broken hearted, because your heart and your mind are the lens and filter through which you see the world. Reality is subjective, but pliable. What you see is what you get. We are all co-creators of our world.

Your disposition determines whether you see the world in a positive light or cast a pall of darkness. This creates the quality of your experience, and it influences the experience of others with whom you share that space. In this way, some people  have the power to brighten a room and make others feel good, while others can sap the energy from the place itself.

THE MANDALA MIRROR (From Flexible Focus #49: The 8 Frames of Life: Personal)

Real personal transformation and lasting change is far more likely to come through the disciplined application of the strategies revealed, rather than the emotional enthusiasm espoused by many motivational speakers in this field.

In the Mandala view, it is in the Personal frame of life that you meet yourself and address your personal issues. This is a space for reflection, but of a particular kind, and this is where the Mandala Chart provides a unique perspective. We spend a lot of time interacting with the things and people outside of us. We need to spend some time as well exploring the world within. Reflection is deep thinking. Looking deep into the reflection, rather than just at the surface of the mirror. This is a space for clarity and insight, not for melancholy or self-importance. You meet yourself in the mirror, the person that has been with you from the beginning and will be with you until the end.

You may think you know yourself pretty well by now, but ask yourself deeper questions concerning your mission and core message, and you will understand the need for deeper reflection to discover your living legacy. Your personal happiness is related in part to the time you spend in front of this Mandala Mirror, and what you do about it as a result.

The Mandala Mirror is quite different from the mirror of Narcissus, the proud and self-admiring hunter of Greek mythology, who died for being unable to leave his own reflection in the water. The Greek roots of the word Narcissus mean sleep or numbness, a far cry from the clarity of self-knowledge.

CAPTURE YOUR DREAMS (From Flexible Focus #50: The Art of Idea Capture)

Make a wish, and write it down.

The quest to capture ideas is ancient and universal to all cultures. It is part of our DNA. The Native American Dreamcatcher bears a synchronistic resemblance to the Mandala in this illustration even down to the 8 sections. In Asian cultures the Mandala is often rendered in circular form. It’s meaning and beauty are evident to us in the physical form, and in the name, Dreamcatcher. We may need to be reminded that to capture your ideas is also to capture your dreams.

Until you start capturing your ideas on paper, or rendering them in some physical form, you may never realize what an astonishing amount of your experience floats by and is lost in the disconnected drift of time.

We need to notice, and to help others become aware of the significance of our insights, because each of us can offer another perspective on life, another degree of flexible focus. Artists, writers, and teachers cultivate the sills to take the raw material of experience and shape it into forms which enchant, entertain, and enlighten the people who engage with their works.

THE PRINCIPLE OF NON-DISSENSION (From Flexible Focus #51: The Art of Winning without Fighting)

There is an inherent sense of the folly of fighting, and the wider perspective which seeks a way to win without fighting.

The 6th Century BC Chinese General and military strategist Sun Tzu, best known today as the author and genius behind the classic text on strategy, The Art of War, penned a gem of a statement that has gained the status of proverbial wisdom.

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

This book held profound influence over Asian military thinking and the Way of the Samurai. It was translated into French as early as 1772. Ultimately the book had an influence on leaders and generals from Napoleon, to General Douglas MacArthur, to Mao Zedong. It is studied at West Point Military Academy, and has been applied metaphorically in business and management strategy. What is this powerful and apparently universal appeal behind Winning without Fighting, and more to the point, why is it that so few people throughout history have been able to master its lessons?

ADDITIONAL DEGREES OF FREEDOM (From Flexible Focus #52: A Sense of Significance)

Additional freedom brings with it greater appreciation for flow and serendipity, lesser need for control, and a higher tolerance for ambiguity.

We have already examined the limitations of the 2×2 Matrix in Flexible Focus #25: Assessing your situation with a Mandala SWOT analysis. A 2×2 Matrix can alert you to an insufficiency, cause you to reevaluate your priorities, or alert you to a missing element in your life. However, life is multi-dimensional, and most things in life do not easily fit into a 2×2 square.

What if you added even just one dimension, and looked at life as a 3×3 matrix, as a Mandala Chart? This alone gives you nine degrees of freedom instead of 4, and if you care to explore it further, the B-style Mandala Chart is 8×8, with 64 degrees of freedom. To anyone who values flexibility and freedom, by any measure 9 degrees of freedom is better than 4, and 64 degrees of freedom is better than 9, unless you prefer simple choices with everything fixed.

Additional freedom brings with it greater appreciation for flow and serendipity, lesser need for control, and a higher tolerance for ambiguity. The important thing is to determine what makes life better, more meaningful, and what serves to answer the bigger question of Why?

IN SEARCH OF A TOOLBOX (From Flexible Focus #54: Modeling Your Business)

To help others see the dimensions and qualities of our vision, indeed to be able to perceive these things ourselves, we need the help of tools which help us to make the invisible visible, and the impossible possible.

We have looked at the power of the 2×2 Matrix, as well as how to gain additional degrees of freedom with the 3×3 Matrix of the Mandala Chart. Any kind of Matrix can be useful, because it helps you compare variables that interact with each other, and it puts everything on a single screen. This gives you the vital element of perspective, something that is easy to lose when you are caught up in the fray. In business, this can spell the difference between success and failure.

Now there is another kind of Matrix which enables you to map out and test proven business model concepts, not only by seeing the parts in relation to the whole, but also with the ability to run interactive simulations and projections with numbers. Introducing The Business Model Toolbox for iPad.

Even if you don’t have an iPad, the Business Model Generation book can guide you through the process, with beautiful illustrations and real world examples of successful business models in action. This book is a remarkable innovation in itself, having been co-authored by 470 strategy practitioners from 45 countries. Ordinarily it would be nearly impossible to integrate that much diversity into a single package, but this book is held together by a highly integrated visual design, and the fact that the contributors speak from real world experience.

IMPROVISATION IN FLOW (From Flexible Focus #55: Make Music Find Flow)

Music is not a jealous mistress. It invites you to listen deeply, but releases your attention whenever you need to focus on something else.

We are blessed in this age to have access to most of the world’s music, to be able to carry it with us, and swim in its high fidelity flow almost whenever we like. This is a remarkable achievement, something akin to time travel. To take full advantage of this, and to use the power of music to experience flow, there are several things that we need to consider about music, and the way we currently experience it. What does music mean to you?

It might help to consider that question in the light of what music has meant to people over time. Leonardo da Vinci considered the painter to be the representer of visible things, and the musician the representer of invisible things. Leo Tolstoy called music the shorthand of emotion. The Chinese philosopher Mencius said, if the King loves music, it is well with the land. Reading quotes on music gives you a multi-faceted perspective on music, and what a powerful force it can be in our lives.

Can be, because for many it has degenerated into a mere distraction, auditory wallpaper. Music playing in the background is no guarantee that people will listen to or appreciate it. What’s worse is when the music is invasive, poor quality, or advertising masking as music. Lily Tomlin said, “I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else.”

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

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