Posts Tagged ‘benefits of deep practice’

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 #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.