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Helpful, Peaceful, Purposeful, and Energy Efficient?

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

This morning I spent my time with my research colleagues discussing new approaches to measure the ways in which people habitually think and, therefore, their potential vulnerabilities to generating disruptive emotions and behaviours. It sparked my thinking and led me to revisit my textbooks to explore some of the patterns of thinking that promote and prevent change and human performance.

One area that caught my eye was the examination of the functional value of adopting certain perspectives. Usually, I help my clients assess this by asking them how helpful their beliefs are during the exploration of an emotionally triggering event. This is generally a useful assessment to make and leads to emotional release and change quite efficiently. The realisation that a certain viewpoint is the only thing that stands between you and striving forward towards a goal allows for a quick jettison of that thinking, much like the elegant engineering of products that allow for a quick release to take place when needed.

What I discovered, or rediscovered, in the perusal of my old textbook was that there is more to the functionality of thinking than its pragmatism, its ability to solve our problems. Other important functional assessments are the joy or purpose that a certain perspective promotes and its "heuristic value", its ability to help us efficiently on our way towards a given goal. Let's examine these additional elements one at a time.

When we consider the hedonic or, better still the eudaimonic value of a belief, we are specifically interested in assessing the amount of joy (hedonic) or purpose (eudaimonic) it generates. For example, if you thought that you were totally useless in achieving a specific, personally meaningful goal, how much joy, happiness or empowerment would that belief foster in you? Not much. On the other hand, if you change the quality of that belief from one that is an evaluation of yourself in all respects to one that focuses on the suspension of judgment, such as, "I haven't achieved that personally meaningful goal yet, I have some skills and I may also have some to learn to take me forward" it will follow that you will feel a different quality of emotion and an open willingness to take that next important step, knowing that your goal is to move closer to joy, happiness or fulfilling your sense of purpose. It's ok to think that you're not happy with a result or a situation as long as you don't over-extend your thinking and go global (see last week's article).

I think we can so often shy away from the goal of happiness, joy, peace, and fulfilment of a purpose. We can so easily get stuck in competition and attempts to prove our worth. It's important to remember that, in life, we, humans, are naturally striving for happiness and joy. We naturally want a genuine and peaceful experience of "all being good with the world" and we have a natural tendency for development and self-expansion. Mastery becomes a joyful and expanding experience when we get the balance of our thinking right, not only when we get our performances right. It's quite freeing to recognise that our focus in our performance development, be it leading an organisation or preparing for the next Olympics, is best placed on balancing our thinking so that we can be open to getting our performances right or better time after time as we continue to improve.

Let's turn our focus now to examine the heuristic value of our point of view. In this situation, we want to assess how our point of view helps to speed up the process of goal attainment or slow it down. In essence, we are interested in the efficiency of our thinking. Often, when we feel a strong emotion we are thinking in ways that slow us down or derail us altogether. Let's revisit the belief that we examined earlier which was, "I am totally useless in achieving a specific, personally meaningful goal". Does this way of seeing your situation help you to achieve your goal faster and with less energy? No, it does not. In fact, your emotional energy consumption has just skyrocketed making it harder to progress and possibly leaving you stressed out and burnt out.

The point of this reflection is to see just how detrimental our thinking can be to our performance progress. My advice is this, if your thinking doesn't help you solve a problem, doesn't help you feel at peace, and doesn't help to progress faster and with less energy expenditure, press the quick release button and let your thinking go. That way there will be mental space for more functional thinking that is helpful, purposeful and energy efficient.

Think helpful, peaceful, purposeful and efficient thoughts. Mastery is then your by-product.

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