Posts Tagged ‘mandala’

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

According to neuroscientists, vision is central to our senses, and is closely integrated with our other senses in terms of spatial orientation, balance, and other ways in which we navigate our environment. Thomas Politzer, O.D., wrote in an article entitled Vision is Our Dominant Sense,  that “Research estimates that eighty to eighty five percent of our perception, learning, cognition and activities are mediated through vision.”

If that be the case, it makes enormous sense that we integrate more visual elements into our note taking and communications. Visual communication has far more bandwidth than text, and is the fast lane to better memory, enhanced emotion, and greater influence.

Image training is an integral part of goal achievement and enhanced performance in sports, music, and business. Ask any golfer, violinist, or entrepreneur if they use visualization in practice and performance. Better yet, ask them if they could even perform at all without it!

GOALSCAPE software is designed to improve focus, accelerate action, and achieve goals. Would you like to know how to increase its power by many orders of magnitude?

Enhance your Goalscapes with images!

There are nine basic graphical elements that you can add to a Goalscape file by using the attachment function under the paperclip icon tab in the Notes view.

I have created a Chart called Visually Dynamic Goalscapes on GOALSCAPE Connect, which includes each of the following elements. First read what they are, then click on the link below to go inside the chart to see what they look like, and how they relate to the text in the Notes view.

  • Video. Clicking on the center of the Goalscape, Visually Dynamic Goalscapes, opens the Notes view that contains links to my 33 minute Video interview of Guy Kawasaki.
  • Photo. Clicking on the section of the Goalscape called Photos opens the Notes view with a brief description of the man and the interview. Under the Paperclip tab you can find a Photo taken during that SKYPE interview.
  • Sketch. Clicking on the section of the Goalscape called Sketches opens the Notes view with a description of one of the scenes from the interview, for which I drew a Sketch of Guy Kawasaki that you can find under the Paperclip tab.
  • Mind Map. The interview got me thinking about style and originality, so I created a Mind Map exploring how you can go about generating original ideas to give your presentations more style and originality, which you can view or download as a PNG or PDF file under the Paperclip tab.
  • Matrix Chart. In this section are further thoughts on how our personality type gives us our natural strengths and talents, and how this is depicted in the Wealth Dynamics Square Matrix Chart, which you view under the Paperclip tab.
  • 3D Timeline. Even time can be depicted in a graphic way. Under this section, I posted a Beedocs 3D Timeline of my own life path in developing original ideas, which you can view under the Paperclip tab.
  • Numbers Graph. The experience of Flow is essential in developing original ideas, as well as in enjoying life! Under Numbers Graph section you can find a brief description, and under the Paperclip tab a 3D Graph of the Flow experience working for another company vs being self-employed.
  • Flow Chart. In this section I posted a description of how to create a Life Map using the visual elements described in a Flow Chart, posted under the Paperclip tab.
  • Mandala Chart. And we return to the Mother of all Matrices, the Mandala Chart, which is briefly described as a summary of this article, and posted for downloading under the Paperclip tab of this section.

To fully appreciate the power of uploading visual content to your Goalscape, I encourage you to take the mini-tour and experience the potential of telling your story with visual elements.

You can view and download the contents for this article on GOALSCAPE Connect by clicking on Visually Dynamic Goalscapes.

[NOTE: this file can only be viewed with a Flash enabled browser, so you will not yet be able to view it on an iPhone or iPad, but you can on a Mac or PC browser]

Download the VISUALLY DYNAMIC GOALSCAPE MANDALA to get an overview of the various types of graphics and images which you can attach to Goalscape for viewing or sharing.

Don’t STOP there!

It is one thing to appreciate the potential of visual thinking and Goalscape by looking at an example. It is another, and far more valuable thing to experience the process for yourself. Moreover, you can do so by downloading a trial version of the GOALSCAPE software with full functionality. Try creating and uploading some images of your own. It is best to create your own, but if the file is for your own private use you can easily find images on the Internet. Try to connect them to telling a story, making a point, or helping you to visualize and reach a goal. Taking that action may be all the catalyst you need to set your project in motion.

EMC QUEST Corporation publishes new book, A ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE. The book is by Active Garage columnist – William Reed, speaker, columnist, and martial artist, who also serves as Chairman and Representative Director of EMC QUEST.

This is a book of practical wisdom, exploring how you can develop flexible focus using the the powerful lens of the Mandala Chart to bring your life into balance, and your goals into focus.

It combines age-old questions with actionable ideas and tools, and helps you turn your dreams into real achievements. It is the first book ever to introduce the Mandala Chart in English, and contains many nuggets of wisdom which help you make the most of each day at work, at home, at play.

Each chapter explores the Mandala from a new perspective, with compact and insightful ideas for business and personal performance.

When read on an ebook reader such as Kindle, readers can also access the concepts through the online dictionary and web access, use the notes and highlight feature, and share passages on Facebook. This is particularly useful for readers for whom English may be a second language, making it possible to improve your English while you read the ZOOM LENS content. It is also a powerful companion for the EMC QUEST Personal Coaching Program.

A ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE is divided into 4 parts and 16 chapters:

Table of Contents


  • Chapter One: Are Goals Traps or Opportunities?
  • Chapter Two: Oceans of Opportunity
  • Chapter Three: The Principle of Interdependence
  • Chapter Four: The Principle of Initiative


  • Chapter Five: The Eight Frames of Life—Health
  • Chapter Six: The Eight Frames of Life—Business
  • Chapter Seven: The Mandala Business Diary
  • Chapter Eight: Finding Focus in the Frames


  • Chapter Nine: The Magic Eye of Metaphor
  • Chapter Ten: The Art of Making Sense
  • Chapter Eleven: Inside the Lines
  • Chapter Twelve: The Wonderful World of Flow


  • Chapter Thirteen: The Decision Trap
  • Chapter Fourteen: The One Year Plan
  • Chapter Fifteen: Determine Your Destiny
  • Chapter Sixteen: Move Less, Attract More

From the introduction

“Imagine if your view of the world was restricted to what you can see in front of your face. This was the case for much of human history. It is hard to fathom to what extent technology has changed our view of the world, giving us zoom access to the outer reaches of space, the microscopic world, cameras transcending time and space, and the web connecting our world.

What if there was a tool that acted as a zoom lens for your life? What if you could step away from the fray to see the big picture, zero in for analysis or action, without losing track of how everything is connected? The Mandala Chart is just such a tool, acting as a viewfinder with flexible focus. In all periods of history, the people with flexible focus have been able to dance circles around the rest.

The Biggest Room in the World…

My personal belief is that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. This is a proactive philosophy of always experimenting and implementing to improve.”

Words of Praise for ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE…

“A Zoom Lens for Your Life is an excellent introduction to the Mandala Chart, providing multiple windows on the method, and inviting readers to explore more.” ~Matsumura Yasuo, Founder of the Mandala Chart Method.

“What William Reed brings to us in A Zoom Lens for Your Life is a checklist, of sorts, on how to make the most of each day at work, at home, at play. And he accomplishes this through the use of the age-old Mandala.” ~Mark Gresham, Director of Cambridge University Press, Japan

“A Zoom Lens for Your Life is a practical book for business people, and it contains many nuggets of wisdom from Japanese culture.” ~Higuchi Takeo, Director of Idea-Marathon Institute

“A Zoom Lens For Your Life will help you prepare for an uncertain tomorrow, the only kind of tomorrow most of us will face.” ~ Bruce Rosenstein, Author, Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life

“The concept of the Mandala approach offers a powerful and realistic way to realize the important personal goals we set for ourselves.” ~Dermot Killoran, President of Calderwood Productions, Tokyo

“William Reed in A Zoom Lens for Your Life outlines how and why this ancient chart can be used to great effect in realizing our goals.” ~Philip T Gibb, President,British Chamber of Commerce in Japan

A ZOOM LENS FOR YOUR LIFE is available in digital form on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and can also be purchased in hard copy from and CreateSpace.

Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude

by William Reed on February 3, 2011

The roots of inflexibility

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today.

The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

Unfortunately, pride can be deeply rooted, and actually leaves visible traces in your posture and bearing. In Japanese there are many expressions for the body language of pride and its many moods: high nose (hana ga takai), big attitude (taido ga dekai), bent mouth (kuchi ga he no ji), twisted navel (heso magari).

We must become the change we want to see. ~M. Gandhi

It takes discipline and awareness to restore the flexibility you had as a small child, to be simple and natural. And there is a faster way to flexibility, based on a Mandala Principle from Buddhism, the Principle of Gratitude (慈悲喜捨 Jihi Kisha).

This 4-character compound contains the keys to that principle.

(Ji) Kindness, Love, Benevolence. Giving other people happiness or abundance.

(Hi) Compassion, Mercy, Charity. Offering support, or a helping hand.

(Ki) Celebration, Joy, Empathy. Feeling happy for other people’s happiness or success.

(Sha) Giving, Releasing, Forgetting. Giving freely without strings attached.

These four attitudes, or four gratitudes, will quickly open your eyes and your heart to a deeper level of flexible focus. Instead of looking for things, you will see and notice them, as well as understand exactly how you can help people in each situation. As a reminder, you can download the Mandala of Gratitude, and start using it in your daily life.

There is no limit to how far you can take this. But even if you do not approach the depth of gratitude and awareness of Mohandas K. Gandhi or Mother Teresa, the very intention to shift your awareness toward gratitude can change your life. It will certainly improve the lives of the people around you.

A new model for coaching

While the term Jihi Kisha comes from Buddhism, the importance of gratitude and giving thanks is universal to all religions and even in secular life in all cultures. Even the master of human relations Dale Carnegie, author of the world’s bestselling classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, said that the key to human relations was “to be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” For a great summary of other Dale Carnegie wisdom, visit My Choices, My Life.

Why not apply this to your own relationships, particularly those in which you are supporting or coaching another person, whether it be a family member or friend, or a coaching client?

While it may seem difficult to strive for high character ideals, the Mandala Chart gives you a structure and a tool that you can adjust and apply to your own situation. Using any of the PDF templates in this Flexible Focus series, or the Mandala Chart for iPad, you can start with eight key questions or points of focus, or you can create your own, and you will have a coaching tool with far more flexibility and functionality than a mere list of bullet points.

When you start doing this, one of the first things that you notice is that you are not the only one in trouble, and there are lots of ways that you can help other people, starting with those around you. The more you do this, the more good things come back to you, unless that was your reason for doing it in the first place. Give without strings attached. Give because we are all connected.

Lose the scarcity mentality and replace it with one of abundance, and make the world a better place. It all starts with you!

Flexible Focus #36: Charting New Territory

by William Reed on January 13, 2011

In the last eight articles we have charted some vast new territory, so it is time again to look back and gain some perspective on where we have been. 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.

SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS (From Flexible Focus #27: In Search of Solutions)

The Mandala Mindset…is a Quantum Leap

If the Mandala Chart were seen in 3D, it might resemble at Rubik’s Cube. The resemblance goes beyond the visual similarity, and extends to the lessons of flexible focus, which is fast moving, physical, multi-dimensional, and fun! We have also seen how in our search for solutions, we move from the logical to the artistic, as has been the experience of many of the great scientists, entrepreneurs, and inventors. Einstein reminded us that, “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Real solutions come in a Quantum Leap.

INNOVATE LIKE STEVE JOBS (From Flexible Focus #28: The Principle of Innovation)

A Master for a Mentor…Emulate don’t imitate

Although hindsight is 20/20, it is remarkable how far off the experts of any given area were when it came to predicting the future. They were, and we are also conditioned to the see the future as an extension of the present and past that we know. Flexible focus gives you a new perspective, one that recognizes with Heraclitus (ca. 500 BC) that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.” We learn to look inside and outside of the box using the Mandala Chart, and find much to learn about the process of innovation through the Wealth Dynamics Square, which is also framed like a Mandala Chart. Most importantly, we learn to innovate by emulating the Masters of Innovation, such as Steve Jobs and other Creators.

WE ARE FAMILY (From Flexible Focus #30: The Eight Frames of Life: Home)

Be an energy gainer…not an energy drainer

We looked at home through the metaphor of the Möbius Strip, a single seamless loop that remains so even when you cut it in half. This is the source of the recycling symbol recognized worldwide, and it shows how we are, or should be connected in a self-sustaining and energy gaining system. This is a challenge is our era of dysfunctional families and broken homes, but at the same time we live in an era in which there are new kinds of families, and new ways of seeing how we are all connected. The key to this insight lies in the hippocampus, or seahorse of the brain, which helps us feel at home in the universe when it is active, or puts us in isolation and despair when it is idle. The message to remember is that we are family.

MASTERING THE MANDALA CHART (From Flexible Focus #31: Mobile Mandala)

An overview of the Flexible Focus Series Column

We saw how flexible focus is a physical process, one in which you engage actively in the 8 fields of life, take action on your thoughts, present or write about your thoughts, and use idea capture software and tools. In this article we introduced the MandalaChart for iPad App, which is now available in the iTunes App Store, and we are releasing a series of templates, including one which I co-created called the Nanba Diary, which is available in the Contents Shop at MK-International. The seeds of your ideas may be mental or intuitive in origin, but their implementation is very much a physical process. This and other tools discussed in the article will make the task of implementation far easier.

GEOMETRY OF JAPANESE CREATIVITY (From Flexible Focus #32: Folding the Square)

Outside the box…or inside the square?

As shown by the traditional nine dots problem, illustrating the way of creativity as learning to think outside the box, the Japanese art of Origami, or paper folding, shows a remarkably innovative way of thinking inside the box by folding the square into an astonishing variety of distinct shapes, animals, geometric figures, and objects of all sorts. The lessons from this are contained in the Mandala Chart I created for this article, and explored in depth in a paper which I presented for the international conference of the Japan Creativity Society, which you can download at Folding the Square: The Geometry of Japanese Creativity. One of the greatest lessons you can learn from Japanese culture is the unity of discipline and spontaneity, which is at the heart of all of the Zen arts.

BENEFITS OF DEEP PRACTICE (From Flexible Focus #33: The Wonderful World of Flow)

Ancient ways…for finding flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi drew the world’s attention to an ancient phenomenon which is at that core of what makes life worth living, the state of being in Flow. This article looks at what the Flow state is, what benefits it has, how you enter it and maintain it. The Mandala Chart can also help you enter the Flow State, as can Deep Practice, which helps you: polish your skills, gain unconscious competence, discover new territory, develop skillful means, cultivate perseverance, gain perspective, guide or teach others, as well as get into the Flow state.

BEST YEAR YET (From Flexible Focus #34: Projecting Your Future)

How to Make this New Year Your Best Year Yet

In this article we looked at a circular Mandala software called Goalscape, which enables you to gain flexible focus in similar ways to the Mandala Chart, but adds the dimension of project management through progress and priorities, in a very attractive visual format. When resources in life are limited, you get the best results by focusing on the big picture with flexibility. The advantage of working with the Mandala Chart is that it puts your situation into a frame or context, while allowing you to shift perspective from the big picture to the small detail, without losing sight of the relationships. I call this integrate with eight. We also looked at how this approach can free you from the Tyranny of a To Do List, and has more flexibility than a calendar based Gantt Chart. Now is the time to step off the spinning wheel, drop out of the rat race, and gain the perspective to make this your best year yet.

MOVE LESS, ATTRACT MORE (From Flexible Focus #35: Move Less, Attract More)

Do you see a world of lack?…or a world of abundance

The abundance mentality is not just rose colored optimism, but in fact a highly practical way of solving shared problems by working together. This simple secret is missed or grasped on the strength of whether your mindset is one of giving in the grace of abundance, or one of taking on the assumption of scarcity. It is also the realization that you are not stuck with what you start with. One way to do this is to shift your emphasis from that of consumer to creator, and to find many ways to add value in business. The Mandala Chart can help you cultivate this attitude as well as put it into practice.

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.

Flexible Focus #35: Move less, Attract more

by William Reed on January 6, 2011

The Abundance Mentality

Martin Buber (1878~1965), the Austrian-born Jewish philosopher who became famous for his work on the I-Thou relationship, wrote of a Hasidic story in which a seeker prayed that God would show him the difference between Heaven and Hell. His prayers were answered in his sleep, when God took him to a place with a room of starving people seated around a large round table, though the table was covered with a fabulous feast. Each of the people had long wooden spoons tied to their arms, which could reach the food, but the length of the spoons made it impossible to feed themselves. So they languished and starved in the face of abundance. This was Hell. Then God ushered him into another room with the same table, the same feast, and a group of people seated around it who also had long wooden spoons tied to their arms. However this group was happy and well-nourished, because they had learned to feed each other. This was Heaven, in the face of the same abundance.

This simple secret is missed or grasped on the strength of whether your mindset is one of giving in the grace of abundance, or one of taking on the assumption of scarcity. Even though it is also ultimately in their interest as well to take the wider view, they miss everything through their tunnel vision.

The assumption, or some would say the illusion of scarcity can drive people to mad behavior, like two dogs fighting over a single bone, when there is a whole plate of bones nearby.

The abundance mentality is a shift in mindset, a broader and more generous view. It is also the realization that you are not stuck with what you start with. Regular practice with the Mandala Chart gives you the ability to take any idea and quickly multiply it by eight to generate new ideas, applications, perspectives, or connections.

From Consumer to Creator

The assumption of scarcity causes people to hoard things, and fight to protect what little they have. The assumption of limited resources leads to the idea of give and take, bartering, trading, buying and selling, the economy as we know it. While this approach is functional, it tends to divide people into haves and have nots, and when the gap becomes too pronounced, it leads straight back to the scarcity mentality and conflict, if not revolution.

The assumption of abundance, when based on experience and not blind faith, produces an interesting transformation in people. Where once you may have been mostly a consumer, now you become mostly a creator. Instead of give and take, your mindset becomes more one of give and give.

Creating Value in Business

This new mentality changes the way you do business. Instead of seeing people as targets for your marketing campaign, or as prospects to be persuaded to purchase your goods and services, instead you see opportunities to help add value or improve the quality of their life and experience. Imagine how differently people would respond to you if every contact they had with you left them better served, better off than before.

Businesses which operate from an abundance mentality are automatically more attractive than businesses which are always trying to sell or take something from you. This applies equally to interruptive advertising and promotion, which distracts your attention and adds little value. Research has shown that repetitive advertising, even when it is annoying, can still be effective. However, this is more likely to apply to commodities, in which all things being equal, you are more likely to chose the brand that you have heard the most of. Unfortunately, this is also true in politics.

To be more creative in your business, multiply the number of ways that you serve, and magnify the quality of the way that you help people. Chasing after customers is like chasing butterflies, you trap a few, but most will fly away. The best way to attract butterflies is not to catch them at all, but to cultivate a garden to which they be naturally attracted. You need to move less, and attract more.

All of this manifests in very tangible ways, but it begins in the mind with a thought process. The seeds you plant and cultivate bear fruit, or becomes choked with weeds through neglect. I covered how you create a system for doing this in an article called, How Does Your Thought Garden Grow?

As a reminder of the themes to consider here, download a PDF Mandala Chart called MOVE LESS, ATTRACT MORE.

Your Mandala is your mirror. What do you see in it, a world of lack or a world of plenty?

Flexible Focus #33: The Wonderful World of Flow

by William Reed on December 23, 2010

If you have ever been mesmerized by the sight and sound of flowing water, then you can appreciate something of the energized mental state of focus know as Flow. It is the process of full engagement in the task at hand, living in the moment, being in the zone.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi drew the world’s attention to an ancient phenomenon which is at that core of what makes life worth living, the state of being in Flow. The state of being in Flow is associated with intense enjoyment, deep concentration, and optimal performance. He describes it as a state of ecstasy, as if standing outside of oneself and watching things unfold effortlessly. The video of his TED Talk provides a good introduction to his findings.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written a number of books on Flow, Creativity, and the psychology of engagement in work and daily life, which you can explore on his Amazon Author’s Page.

His research has found resonance with people in a remarkable range of domains: education, music, sports, spirituality, martial arts, professions, and work itself. The state of Flow is consistently associated with feeling good and performing optimally. Something about this trance state works for race car drivers as well as orchestra conductors.

He identifies ten characteristics which accompany the Flow state:

  1. Clear goals or purpose
  2. Concentration on a limited field of attention
  3. Loss of self-consciously through immersion in action
  4. Distorted sense of time
  5. Direct and immediate feedback
  6. Balance between ability and challenge
  7. Sense of personal control
  8. Intrinsic reward and effortlessness
  9. Total absorption without distraction by bodily needs
  10. Merging of action and awareness

Finding Flow in the Mandala

Although Flow Psychology has a global following today, it has long been a part of Asian spirituality. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism all have developed disciplines for overcoming the duality of self and other. Zen Arts apply the concept to mastery of art forms as well as development of consciousness.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning Circle, and the concentric diagrams of the Mandala have been used in Hindu and Buddhist ritual and meditation for centuries. Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung described the Mandala as a symbol of the unconscious self, which he believed could contribute to wholeness in the human personality.

We have already seen how the Mandala Chart can actually free your mind by thinking Inside the Lines, and how much creativity there can be in Folding the Square.

The Flow state is associated with immersion of awareness in action. In a discipline such as music or the martial arts, this is called deep practice. The Mandala Chart can assist you in selecting and deepening your engagement in the art or discipline which best helps you find the Flow state. Self-discipline in the pursuit of such an art, or discipline under the guidance of an experienced teacher can facilitate your ability to stay in the Flow state.

Here are eight benefits of deep practice, eight reasons to engage in discipline:

  • Polish your skills. Whether you are learning to cook, speaking a foreign language, or mastering a musical instrument, you cannot improve without practice. It is the proverbial way to get to Carnegie Hall. In sports, music, and many other professional disciplines, it is estimated that to achieve significant mastery, you need 10,000 hours of deep practice.
  • Gain unconscious competence. Before you attempt something new, you may have no idea how difficult it is (unconscious incompetence). When you try your hand at it, for a while you may be painfully aware of how poor your performance is (conscious incompetence). With practice, eventually you become able to perform well if you concentrate (conscious competence). But you can only achieve mastery through extensive time in deep practice (unconscious competence).
  • Discover new territory. Though it seems counter-intuitive, the best way to discover something new is to revisit something familiar. We filter out far more than we take in, so there is always room for discovery if you approach it with a beginner’s mind.
  • Develop skillful means. In the process of trying to solve a difficult problem you find lots of ways that don’t work. If you keep at it, sooner or later you discover what does work. This is known as skillful means (kufū in Japanese, or kung fu in Chinese), the art of solving problems with finesse.
  • Cultivate perseverance. A Japanese proverb says that persistence brings power. In any endeavor worth pursuit, perseverance is a prerequisite to success. This is the mind set which drives deep practice. It also builds character by preparing you for other challenges.
  • Gain perspective. The more times you practice, the better you will understand. The more ways you look at something, the more flexible focus you bring to bear, the better your perspective will be. Perspective is also one of the benefits of expert advice or training.
  • Guide or teach others. Having developed all of these qualities through deep practice, you become qualified to teach them to others. Deep practice becomes a part of you, and gives you the authority of experience.
  • Get into Flow state. Deep practice is a traveling companion to the Flow state. It takes you there, and makes the most of your experience.

You can download a PDF Mandala on the BENEFITS OF DEEP PRACTICE, and use it as a reminder of how to enter the Flow state through the art or discipline you practice. Study the Flow state through the books of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and you will soon put together the what, the why, and the how.

Of the eight fields of life, one that will occupy a significant portion of your time and energy is your job, career, or business. What career you pursue and how you engage with your work is one of the determining factors in the quality of your life and your legacy.

While most people are concerned with the mechanics and features of their work, salary and benefits, customers and contracts, there is one question which should come first.

Are you engaged in your work with head, heart, and hands?

According to research on employee engagement, fewer than 30% of employees may be actively engaged in their jobs. Naturally, they are the high performers. But imagine how a team would perform in sports if only two or three of its members were committed to winning the game or playing their best!

You may have observed disengagement in your co-workers. As a manager or business owner, it may be one of your biggest challenges. But the greater challenge, and the one that you can most readily do something about, is addressing the question of your own engagement. Are you on a career path which is worthy of full engagement? If not, what can you do to improve your situation?

A life of quiet compromise

If only 30% of employees are engaged in their work, what of the other 70%? Some are so-called realists, defenders of the status quo. Others may be unhappy, but feeling that beggars cannot be choosers, lead a life of quiet compromise. Many are simply marking time.

Unfortunately, this leads to a situation in which both employer and employee remain disengaged in the workplace. This affects both pay and performance, in that employers pay just enough to keep people from quitting, and employees work just enough to keep from getting fired. That is a fine line to walk, and an easy one to cross.

Crossing the line

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, written by Leigh Branham and published by the American Management Association, looks at why people do cross the line and leave their job. Branham’s book is well researched and documented, based on surveys by the prestigious Saratoga Institute, of 19,000 employees who revealed their real reasons for leaving. This book addresses the problem of employee engagement with 54 Best Practices for keeping good people in your company.

There are 7 hidden reasons that departing employees give for leaving. In brief, the real reasons are:

  1. The job was not as expected
  2. There was a mismatch between the person and job skills
  3. Lack of feedback or coaching
  4. Closed doors or lack of advancement opportunities
  5. Lack of recognition or appreciation
  6. Stress and life-work imbalance
  7. Loss of trust in top leaders.

According to Leigh Branham, 90 percent of managers believe that people leave or stay because of the money, while 90 percent of employees say they leave because of issues related to “job, manager, culture, or work environment.” If this gap in perception were not so great, perhaps those employees would be loyal, not leaving.

The shift to positive engagement

What if these reasons were turned around and read as, the 7 hidden opportunities for increasing employee engagement?

Rather than engaging with your work in a minimalist way, why not turn the process around and make the shift to positive engagement? You can do this at any level from front line worker to business owner, and you can do it at any stage in your career.

The key is to keep your ideas flowing and your passion high. Direct your energy to making your situation better, and be prepared to get more active as you get more engaged.

  1. Raise your expectations. When things are not to your satisfaction, rather than disengaging, actually increase your expectations, and you will not be disappointed. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.
  2. Increase your skills. If you are finding it hard to achieve something, rather than stepping away from it, seek to increase your skills, knowledge, and experience. New technology can often extend your reach.
  3. Get feedback or coaching. If you feel cut off, rather than further isolating yourself, actively seek out advice or support. If you keep your eyes open, you will find abundant resources available to help you.
  4. Take initiative. If you are finding doors and avenues closed, rather than turning back, keep looking, keep asking, keep trying to find new ways to move forward and the passage will open up for you.
  5. Give recognition or appreciation. If you are feeling unappreciated, rather than feeling sorry for yourself, why not try giving appreciation to others. If you are sincere, you will find that the more you give the more you will receive in kind.
  6. Seek Life/Work balance. If you are feeling stressed by imbalance in your life and work, or by a mismatch between your work and values, then do what you have to in order to restore the balance. You cannot be effective if you lose your balance.
  7. Build trust. If you are troubled by lack of trust, do what you can to restore it. Lead by listening, keep your promises, be dependable.
  8. Engage head, heart, and hands. If you feel disengaged with your work or career, you can almost always do something to improve the situation by getting more actively involved mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Your business, work, or career is one of the eight major areas of life, or fields of engagement, which lends itself very well to strategic planning with the Mandala Chart. To help you apply this to your business, download a PDF template called OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENGAGEMENT. Use it as a reminder that you have at least 8 ways in which you can make the shift to positive engagement, which will make you happier, more productive, and better able to serve others.

Although business is just one of eight fields of engagement in life, it is affected by and also has an impact on the others: health, finances, home, society, character, study, and leisure. That is reason enough to get and stay positively engaged.

Flexible Focus #6: Peace in the Elements

by William Reed on June 17, 2010

A great way to gain flexible focus is to study elements of words, their roots, nuances, and varieties of expression. This can be done in any language, but in Chinese and Japanese you have the additional dimension of written characters (kanji), not only the elements or radicals which make up the kanji, but the remarkable range of expression made possible in writing with a brush.

Brush writing does for the written word what singing does for the spoken word.

Original brush calligraphy by William Reed, meaning 和 (wa, peace, harmony, Japan)

As in vocal music, as long as the word is legible and aesthetically appealing, the range of expression is limited only by your imagination and skill with the brush.

Let’s look at the elements in the character of 和 (wa). It is written with eight strokes in two radicals, 禾 (rice plants), and 口 (mouth). The image is distinctly Asian, that of families cultivating rice and being well fed. The character has multiple meanings: the congeniality of peace and harmony, the calmness of softening, and the country of Japan.

In Japanese the same character is alternatively pronounced wa (peace), yawaragu (to soften), and yamato (Japan). Moreover, Japanese also uses a syllabic hiragana character for pronunciation with unspecified meaning, and it so happens that the hiragana for the sound わ (wa) was originally created as an abbreviated way to write the Chinese character for 和 (wa). And this is only one of several thousand characters in common use, over 6,000 in the Japanese language, and possibly double that in Chinese. Now that is flexible focus!

Although the character of 和 (wa) is currently written with the radical for mouth on the right, there was a period in Chinese history when it was also acceptable to write the radical for mouth on the left, which is how I have painted it here. Just as the spelling and meaning of English words was quite different hundreds of years ago from what it is today, the kanji have also undergone an evolution, the knowledge of which gives them even more character.

The 禾 (rice plants) radical contains 5 strokes. In this painting, where the diagonal stroke at the top crosses the square, it created a chromatographic halo, with a serendipitous circle effect. I rendered the two lower diagonal strokes not as lines, but as a large red circle on the left, and a small red circle on the right side of the radical. This was both to highlight the circle theme, and to represent Japan’s national symbol, the rising sun. The 口 (mouth) radical contains 3 strokes, the left side, the right corner, and the lower side. I painted it using a more transparent tone of ink for contrast, overlapping the 禾 (rice plants) radical, and placed it on the left in the archaic-ancient style. The interplay of all of these elements creates a sort of ancient modern art effect, as well as an experience of flexible focus.

What I find fascinating about the character for 和 (wa) is that it contains three geometric elements which have deep symbolic associations in both Eastern and Western culture, the triangle , the circle , and the square . These are the very elements which I emphasized in painting the character 和 (wa), using different shades and colors of ink for contrast.

These three elements were used in the now world famous Zen painting by Sengai Gibon (1751~1837), a Zen Priest of the Rinzai School who lived in the Edo Period, and was known for his sense of humor and philosophical depth. This painting was untitled, and contains a circle, triangle, and square, painted in that order but from right to left. This painting has been appropriately given the title in English of, Universe. The circle contains all things and so represents the infinite. The triangle is the first form, and the square is the triangle doubled.

Sengai rendered a picture of the Universe in three elements, seeing the essential nature of things, and also implying the indefinite multiplication of forms which generates the world of phenomena, what the Chinese call the ten thousand things. The Chinese fascination for the connection between these elements and the many shapes that come from their combinations can be seen in the ancient seven-piece puzzle known as Tangrams.

Though Sengai’s expression may seem abstract, search the internet for the key words circle triangle square, and you find over 1.4 million references to the symbolism, many of them specifically about Sengai, Zen Buddhism, and Art. In Aikido, the same symbols are used to describe movement in circles, stance in triangles, and posture in the square, as well as to the deeper meanings in cosmology.

The circle triangle square also appear in another world famous work of art, the Vitruvian Man, created by Leonardo da Vinci in 1487. The fascination with these elemental shapes in the West goes back to 300 BC with Euclidean Geometry and its founder Euclid, whose primary work is known as Euclid’s Elements.

And we come full circle in returning to the Mandala, our primary tool for flexible focus, which itself contains each of the three elements, the circle in the view of the whole, the triangle in the division and the details, and the square in the flexible frames at every level.

Download a Mandala on Peace in the Elements of Wa to contemplate the rich meaning and associations of the simple character 和 (wa)

Flexible Focus #3: The Principle of Interdependence

by William Reed on May 27, 2010

Want a shortcut to improve your life? Change the way you see and engage with your world.

Things are not always as they seem. What you thought was a snake in the grass turns out to be a rope. A person you dislike says something good about you, and you suddenly see them in a better light. A flexible mind is free of fixed perceptions.

The sand under your feet can be material for a sand castle, or for a silicon chip. A cup becomes a cup if you use it to drink with. To another person it might be a pencil holder, or even a weapon. We experience things less by what they are, than by how we see them.

Abraham Lincoln said that, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. When you are dealt a wild card, you decide what it will be. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that, there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

There are 3 ways to engage with the world, each reflecting a different level of maturity. The same process applies to the development of individuals, organizations and nations.

Dependence is where you take your instructions from others, and depend on others for your material needs. Outside influences largely determine how you think, feel, and decide. It is the state in which we are born, and in which some remain.

Independence is where you feed and fend for yourself, and strive to break free from the controlling influence of others. It is the creed of self-reliance, the striving to be captain of your own life. It is also a state of limited freedom, a gilded cage.

Interdependence is where you realize and cultivate the power of connection, and strive for synergy through the power of relationships. Knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, you thrive by working for the good of others.

The progression from dependence to interdependence comes with growth and maturity. It is also possible to stagnate or regress, causing things to get worse. The cure for this is continuous improvement, for which the Mandala Chart gives you a map and a method.

Six steps to continuous improvement

  1. Give to others without expecting reward in return: While many people believe in give and take, this results in relationships tied to temporary transactions. A different perspective is giving without strings attached, knowing that givers gain. This results in long-lasting and rewarding relationships. There are many ways to extend a helping hand, if not through money or tangible resources, then through your time, expertise, and many small acts of kindness. Lighting the candle for others does not diminish your own flame.
  2. Maintain standards for the common good: Seek to act in a way that does not harm or inconvenience others. You can practice this in daily life simply by following rules that have been set for the common good. See that your lifestyle is one of health and sustainability (LOHAS). Behave in a way that is considerate of others. Some of these standards are set by law, others are dictated by common sense. You can also set higher standards for yourself that go beyond the minimum.
  3. Acknowledge and accept your current condition: Nobody is blessed with the best in all areas of their life. You may be financially secure, but not in good health. You may be happy at home, but miserable at work. Misery loves company, so you will find no lack of people wanting to pull you down to their level. However bad your current condition, complaining is likely to make it worse. You have to truly face and understand your condition before you can plan ways to improve it.
  4. Strive for continuous improvement: The power of continuous improvement is similar to the power of compound interest, which Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe. Don’t underestimate the results that you can achieve over time, nor the power of neglect over time. There is nothing in the world that cannot be improved, as long as you have the mindset to make things better. Though it may take time for outer results to appear, the best part is that you yourself will improve in the process.
  5. Be calm and act without confusion or haste: A Japanese proverb says that the hurried beggar stays empty handed. You might say that the beggar mentality is self-reinforcing. One thing people who rise above their circumstances have in common is a calm and steady commitment to improve.
  6. Polish yourself through practice: There are three kinds of people in life: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. You can live your life as a spectator or as a player. The best way to improve as a player is to practice. Continuous improvement is a verb.

In Eastern thought the word karma refers to the actions which actively shape our past, present, and future experience. Like the Celtic Knot, our world is closely woven and interconnected. It is through action that we engage more deeply in that connection. The rules of engagement are that if you engage in a positive manner, you get positive results in return.

Download a Mandala Chart showing the 8 fundamental areas of life. Ask yourself in your life, if they are happily interwoven, or a tangled mess? In future articles we will look at the 8 frames of life, and how to gain comprehensive life/work balance.