Author: George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.

Welcoming Uncertainty with Self-awareness

Everyone confronts fear. Either they maintain clear-minded focus or react with denial or panic.

Individuals, teams, and organizations perpetuate dysfunctional policies and procedures because they are afraid to open Pandora’s Box of transformative change.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

While it takes effort, ‘a hard time’, it is possible to overcome the fear of the unknown and by doing so alleviate the suffering caused by dysfunctional performance.

 Fear of the unknown

The unknown, uncertainty, is at the root of worry, anxiety, and fear. Since what will happen in the future is unknowable, Project managers, executives, and all the other stakeholders face uncertainty. Sure, we can make plans and analyze trends and past performance, but no one knows the future with 100% accuracy. Uncertainty is a certainty[1].

Many attempt denial – “We have a plan and it says that the work WILL be done by the target date for the budgeted cost.” Others realize that change and uncertainty are natural and inevitable but are fearful, worrying about what might happen if the project slips and spending goes through the roof. Some will experience fear but won’t be fearful.

Advertisement

Fearful Reactivity vs. Responsiveness

To be fearful (full of fear) means to be driven by fear. Courage is about using the energy of emotion to remain calm enough to think, act, and communicate clearly and effectively. It is what makes the difference between highly successful project managers and others.

To be responsive, to think clearly, and make effective decisions, requires cognitive readiness or VUCA tolerance. VUCA is volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The higher your tolerance for VUCA, the more likely you will be able to handle stressful situations.

 Inner Workings

VUCA tolerance requires that you confront your inner workings. These are beliefs, biases, denial, clinging to impossible goals, emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, greed, and jealousy, and their causes. Confronting these put one face to face with the unknown.

What if my beliefs are unreal?

What will happen if I confront the ‘inner workings’ that are behind my fear, my perfectionism, procrastination, anger, and whatever else gets in the way of effective behavior?

 Self-awareness

Facing these natural inner dynamics is to be self-aware. Self-awareness enables self-management and self-management is the key to VUCA tolerance. Self-management is the part of emotional intelligence that allows fear or any other emotion to be fully felt and then choosing what to do be responsiveness.

Cultivate Self-awareness

How does one cultivate self-awareness? The process begins with the recognition that it is an essential ingredient – some say, the most essential – for being able to perform optimally. Self-awareness “lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust. It explains our successes and our failures.”[2]

Until you make the connection between performance and self-awareness, you are likely to be reactive, driven by emotions, beliefs, and biases. And that is true for individuals, teams, and organizations.

Self-awareness implies objectivity, looking at yourself and your performance as if you were looking at anyone else. It is taking a step back to see yourself as others see you and to see what is going on “under the hood”, internally. To be self-aware combine the following:

  • Use mindfulness meditation to cultivate the ability to objectively observe whatever is happening within and around you
  • Identify your goals, priorities, values, beliefs, biases, and intentions and track your performance with them as a benchmark
  • Inventory your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Get feedback as individuals by taking character/personality assessment tests to better understand your character[3]
  • Get a team and organizational feedback using assessment tools and open dialog
  • Get feedback from those you live and work with
  • Create a relationship with a coach or mentor.

Teams and Organizations

Teams and organizations are subject to the same dynamics as the individuals that make them up. The “self-aware” team or organization will explore its character and environment to identify the things that get in the way of optimal performance.

Based on objective criteria there will be conscious effort to improve by eliminating what gets in the way and making maximum use of the strengths of its members to overcome weaknesses and avoid or manage risks.

But not all teams and organizations are self-aware. They do not shed the light of performance analysis on themselves for reasons such as lack of time, insufficient assessment skills, and fear of exposing their weaknesses.

Many pay lip service to objective performance assessment and continuous improvement. They may collect performance data and have reviews, but they don’t use the results. Some hide results that are too embarrassing. Some never act upon identified opportunities for improvement.

Transformation

We are living in a time of transformation. Transformational change is frame-breaking. It completely changes the way you think and work. It alters relationships and changes values and policies. With transformational change, there is no going back, and the way forward is unknowable.

Digital transformation brings technologies like artificial intelligence, process automation, robotics, and data analytics into play. Their application breaks new ground and significantly impacts people’s roles and responsibilities.

Transformation to Agile and Lean approaches from more highly structured ways to manage and perform projects change relationships, roles, and responsibilities. It changes the techniques used in planning. It changes project managers’ and other stakeholders’ skill set requirements with a greater reliance on collaboration and communication. It opens teams and the organization to greater transparency.

 Moving Forward

Moving forward into the unknown is scary. Self-awareness is possible but cultivating it is not necessarily easy. It requires that you objectively assess your inner workings and the way they influence personal and group performance and use the insights you get to improve.

Related resources:

Ready For Anything – Mindfully Aware – PM Times

https://www.projecttimes.com › articles › ready-for-any.. .

Ready for Anything – Courage and Insight – PM Times

https://www.projecttimes.com › articles › ready-for-any…

Managing Project Expectations and The Courage to Push Back

https://projectinsig

The Key to Performance Improvement: Candid … – Project Times

https://www.projecttimes.com› articles › the-key-to-per…

ht.com› project-management-tips

Cognitive Readiness in Project Teams: Reducing Project …

https://books.google.com› books

Improve Performance by Mindfully Managing Stress by …

https://www.mindfullifemindfulwork.com› 2021/06/04

Self-aware Living
www.self-awareliving.com

[1] There are notable exceptions like, change and death, but we won’t get into those here.

[2] Harvard Business Review, “5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware” by Anthony K. Tjan, https://hbr.org/2015/02/5-ways-to-become-more-self-aware

[3] There are many self-assessment tests. For a sampling see Psychology Today “Self Tests” at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests and “14 Free Personality Tests That’ll Help You Figure Yourself Out” https://www.themuse.com/advice/14-free-personality-tests-thatll-help-you-figure-yourself-out

The Art of Assertive Waiting

Waiting is a fact of life. We wait because we want something to happen. We want the bus to come, to get to the front of the line, we want some work to be completed or some event to take place.

The way you wait effects your health, relationships, and performance. There are choices. You can be active or passive. And if active, you can be aggressive or assertive. You can make waiting for an opportunity to relax, do something productive, and cultivate mindful self-awareness. Or you can grumble, complain, and stress-out.

“Waiting is” is a quote from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. It refers to waiting without wanting things to be different from what they are. The bus hasn’t arrived yet, there is nothing you can do to make it come. If you accept that and make the best of your situation, you are happily waiting for – stress-less peace caused by accepting things as they are and knowing what you can do to influence things going forward.

Advertisement

Waiting in Projects

In the realm of projects, project managers wait for resources, decisions, and deliverables. Schedules predict task duration, the wait time to completion. The more critical the task, the more difficult it is to wait for it to be completed.

The art of waiting is in the way performance is managed. Your project control process makes a difference in the quality of your waiting and the way you wait for influences the way you control your project and manage your relationships.

Decisions and work by functional managers and contractors are often more difficult to manage than other kinds of deliverables. Decisions, particularly the more critical ones that can hold up a project, are made by powerful stakeholders like clients, sponsors, and regulators. These folks are not as likely as others to have a clearly stated due date, and even if they do, they are subject to dynamically changing priorities. Most often they are not held accountable for missing a target date.

The contractors and functional groups contributing to your project have conflicting priorities as they juggle your work and the work they do for others. Direct project team members may be late in completing their deliverables, and late and inaccurate in reporting progress for any number of reasons.

So, there is waiting and with waiting, uncertainty. Uncertainty anxiety and annoyance arise and they make waiting more difficult than it needs to be. You experience the stress of not knowing what is going on.

Waiting happily is up to you. The trick is to decide what to do (or not do) and how to do it while you are waiting. Do it, and be happy.

Assertive Waiting

There are choices – assertive, aggressive, and passive waiting. ‘Aggressive’ is sharp, there is a flavor of violent forcefulness. “Assertive” on the other hand is confident and connotes a softer active effort to achieve a goal.  Both connote action, doing something to move things along. In “Passive” waiting, there is no action beyond observing.

Assertiveness implies confidently speaking up for a point of view while respecting others. Here we are using the term to mean being

skillfully active while waiting. Your action is motivated by the goal of assuring success. You respect others. You can choose to act or not act.

Project Control

Effective project communication and control procedures influence the waiting process.  In an ideal world waiting for a resource, deliverable or decision is easy.  People know what they have to do, by when, and they do it without prompting. A reporting process keeps everyone up to date. If people become aware that they can’t fulfill their commitments, they make that known. The project manager monitors progress and does not need to do anything if things are moving along well.  If they are not, he, she or they would assess cause and impact and manage expectations – adjusting the plan and informing stakeholders.

But what if things are less ideal? For example, if the progress reporting process is not effective because it either does not exist or some players don’t update their plans or report inaccurately.  Then greater assertiveness is required.

What can you do?

Ask questions with kind inquisitiveness, be gently assertive. Be sensitive to the other parties’ sensitivity to hierarchy and control issues, their fear of being judged for not performing to plan. Maybe they do not have the information needed to accurately revise their estimates. Maybe they just don’t care or they don’t believe in schedules and progress reporting.

Understanding others, you can craft the most effective response.

For example, you can call, email or message a contractor or functional manager to say something like,

“I am submitting a progress report to the boss/sponsor/steering committee/etc. and I need to give them a sense of where you are in your task and your estimate to completion.  Let us know if there any issues that might get in the way.”

At first, there is no need to copy anyone besides the people with the information you need. Depending on the level of awareness of the players and the cultural setting, there may be sensitivity about letting others know that there might be an issue.

If there is no adequate response, then call. If still no response, you have a problem. Send a reminder of your request and cc someone to create accountability and an audit trail. Avoid exhibiting your frustration, remain calm and persistent.  Make a resolution to fix the project control process to make waiting easier for everyone.

Be patient, persistent, compassionate, and, if you can, help others to get what they need. Be patient but don’t stand for abuse.

What Makes Waiting for a Challenge?

Antsy feelings – restless, nervous, impatient, anxious, a gnawing sense of worry – are at the root of aggressive behavior.  With mindful self-awareness hard to be with feelings that can be observed and accepted, and you can choose the behavior that suits the situation best.  You become responsive rather than reactive.

Without mindful awareness, there is a tendency to impatiently react. The opportunity to develop greater self-management is lost. You may get what you want but not what you need, and you lose the respect of those you work with. You may lose your best players. You lose the opportunity to rest peacefully at the moment allowing things to unfold while being appropriately active.

Happily Waiting

There is a time for everything. Projects rely on activity. But that doesn’t mean there is no place for inaction – not doing. You need time for rest and reflection. There are periods during project life when there is nothing for a project manager to do but wait.

When you are waiting, let go and trust in the process. Relax. Find your calm center and let your intuition and experience lead you. Respond mindfully and skillfully. Choose between anxiously waiting and happily waiting.

For more on waiting happily, see the article “Happily Waiting: What to Do with Your Impatience” http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs179/1102273237048/archive/1121285490509.html

The Power of Silence in Managing Communication

Silence can be a self-caring haven. A retreat from the noisy stressful realm of everyday life – bathing in silence. It can be a ground for becoming more self-aware and for collecting one’s thoughts. It can be a way to get someone’s attention. And it can be uncomfortable.

In groups, silence can lead to suboptimal performance when used as a conscious passive-aggressive tactic or is a withholding of information. It may be driven by feelings like conflict aversion, anxiety, shyness, unworthiness, or laziness. Sometimes it is nothing more than forgetting to respond to an email, text, or call that has gone to the bottom of the to-do list. Sometimes it is a means for holding on to power and control.

Advertisement

Silence As a Tactic

A long-respected model identifies five stages of team development – forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Of these, storming is the most critical and the most difficult to work through, particularly if one or more members of the team are averse to conflict.

Silence as a tactic is the purposeful cutting off of communication, without warning or explanation, to avoid conflict or to freeze out someone who is seen as an opponent, an annoyance, or as a threat to the status quo. This is colloquially called ‘ghosting.’

An Example

In one situation, a manager, Jim, felt threatened by a team member, Sue, who challenged his ideas and raised the need for greater attention to project management processes. The manager did not respond to Sue’s calls, texts, or emails that addressed her concerns. Jim ignored her when she requested a one-on-one conversation. In one instance Jim publicly complemented another team member for something initiated by Sue. Jim made a show of being cordial to Sue in front of others while avoiding any one-on-one contact.

Silence Gets in the Way of Storming

It becomes impossible to address conflicts and address relationship issues when individuals do not allow for dialog by disengaging, ghosting individuals, or otherwise cutting communication. This becomes even more damaging when the team has not gone through a forming process to identify roles, goals, and ground rules.

Without well-managed storming, the team is faced with unhealthy relationships and ineffectual conflict throughout its life. The result is suboptimal performance.

Withholding Input: The Abilene Paradox

Another type of silence in teams is the silence of withholding. It leads to poor decisions and unhealthy relationships because it robs the team of valuable information.

The Trip to Abilene is a story by Jerry B. Harvey about how four intelligent and well-meaning people took an unpleasant trip to somewhere that none of them wanted to go.   One came up with a suggestion to take the trip. Each of the others failed to say that they did not want to go because they did not want to disappoint the others.  The one who made the suggestion also did not want to go, he thought the others might like the trip. Had anyone spoken up and said what they felt and why the group would have been happy to stay put and enjoy their time together at home.

The Abilene Paradox is a phenomenon that takes its name from this anecdote. It is the cause of many a misstep by teams and organizations. People do not speak their mind when what is in their mind is opposed to the perceived general opinion of the people around them. In the paradox, people are consciously aware that they oppose the idea and are acting contrary to their own thoughts and insights.

People don’t speak up because it takes effort to come to the table with a compelling argument. More often they may think that what they have to say is unimportant, stupid, and/or bound to upset someone. They may fear retribution and censure a fear that is quite rational given many examples of persecuted whistleblowers and of the negative effects of arguing against a favored idea, design, plan, etc.

Harvey quoted Herbert Porter a Nixon campaign aid as saying that he “was not one to stand up in a meeting and say that this should be stopped”, a decision he then attributed to “the fear of the group pressure that would ensue, of not being a team player.”  Porter was referring to the Watergate scandal.

Few will risk saying that the emperor is not wearing any clothes. Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes brings out the difficulty of saying what you think. In this story, a vain emperor is tricked into believing that he was getting a suit of clothes that could only be seen by the most intelligent people.  No one but a child had the courage to appear unintelligent and tell the emperor that he wasn’t wearing any clothes.  The emperor himself was too vain to admit that even he couldn’t see the new suit.

Whatever the reason, not speaking up results in suboptimal performance and trips to Abilene.

What to Do – Mindfully Manage Communications

Silence whether it is used as a tactic or is the withholding of information, damages team performance.

It can be addressed by paying conscious attention to the communication process.  Managing communication is arguably the most important aspect of project management. With well-managed communication, teams can avoid or heal unhealthy relationships, address conflicts, and make the most effective decisions

The communication process must be a subject for team discussion and fine-tuning to address the issue of silence. This is best done during the forming stage of team development as part of setting ground rules. Regular attention to the communication process is needed throughout the team’s life to make sure that the ground rules are effective and are being followed.

Mindfulness, self-awareness, self-management, as well as respect and empathy for others, are foundations for effective communication. Cultivate these and do your best to ensure open communication.

Performance, Attention and Focus

The way you and your teams pay attention and focus is crucial to achieving sustained optimal performance.

A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention.”[1] Daniel Goleman

Optimal performance is sustainably achieving goals efficiently and effectively, to your best ability within current conditions.  To perform, individuals, teams, and organizations manage and apply situation specific technical and administrative skills, project, program, and process management, supported by relationship capabilities like communications, conflict management, decision making, and expectations management.

These capabilities rely on attention and a realistic perspective informed by positive values like objectivity and servant leadership. A realistic perspective realizes that change is inevitable and that there is uncertainty because we live and work in a complex system (our environment, organization, etc.) [2]

While attention, perspective, and values are equally important, this article focuses on attention. Let’s look at what we mean by attention, its importance, and what you can do to cultivate it.

Advertisement

Attention

According to Amisha Jha, a neuroscientist, there are three kinds of attention:

  • Focused attention – directed to a specific object. It is concentration like shining a flashlight on an object, for example, a person in a conversation or work on a task. On an organizational level, focused attention directs resources to a specific project or process.
  • Open attention – seeing or being objectively aware of what is occurring in a broad expanse, mindful awareness. Open attention enables a stepping back from focus to be in touch with what is occurring in and around the object of focus.
  • Executive attention – deciding what within the field of open attention to attend to and what to do about it, regulating responses with awareness and discernment.

Objects of Attention

Objects of attention may be anything – a project, an organization, a task, presentation, thought, sound, physical sensation, or any observable phenomena.

According to Daniel Goleman focused attention has three modes: awareness of self, others, and the wider world. [3]

With self-focus, the primary objects are thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings. With other-focus, the principal objects are other people and things and their behavior.  Focus outward is diffuse open awareness without focusing on any particular object. It is seeing the big picture and disengaging from routine attentiveness to allow for creativity and exploration.

Projects are Objects

A project is an object. It focuses an organization’s attention by dedicating human effort and other resources to create or change a product, putt on an event or make a change of any kind. Effective project stakeholders are aware of the impact their actions have on their environment and the way the environment impacts the project. Executives govern to manage a portfolio of projects, avoid distractions, and choose the most effective places to focus attention.

Projects, tasks, or activities, whether performed by teams or individuals, are objects of attention. A project team focuses on the project. Teams and individuals focus on performing, attentive to the way they perform and interact, aware of what impact they are having on their environment and how their environment is affecting them, their tasks, and projects.

Why Focus Matters

Lose focus and performance suffers. Fail to be attentive to what’s going on in and around you and performance suffers.

Concentration and skillful attention elicit a Flow experience, being in the Zone, a state of optimal performance and deep relaxation.

Consider what happens when sponsors or clients lose interest in a project, they once considered important. Other “interesting” things crop up to grab their attention. Resources start getting pulled away. The project manager is less able to influence some stakeholders to fulfill commitments. Performance suffers. The same kind of thing happens when you as an individual are distracted. Performance suffers.

The more undistracted the focus the greater the quality of performance. According to Cal Newport:

“Decades of research from both psychology and neuroscience underscore that undistracted concentration is required to learn complicated information efficiently.”

“Focus also produces better results. Recent research on the attention residue effect,  for example, reveals that when you switch your attention from one target to another, there’s a residue left behind from the first target that reduces your cognitive performance for a while before fading. In other words, if you quickly check your phone or e-mail inbox, your brain will operate more slowly for the next 15 to 30 minutes.” [4]

Fatigue and Distractions Get in the Way

Attention is a natural capacity that varies in strength depending on one’s energy level and powers of concentration.

The tired mind easily slips away from objects of focus and lacks the strength to bring focus back to the object. Open attention and executive function suffer because the mind is too easily drawn to the many distractions that call to it and it is too weak to return to awareness.

It may seem relaxing to just go with the mental stream of thoughts, feelings, and external distractions. However, when you regularly allow yourself to flit from one thing to another as they randomly appear, you weaken your concentrative powers.

Improve Your Attention

Three things enhance all the aspects of attention – focus, open awareness, and executive function:

  1. Strong concentration, mindfulness, and objectivity aided by minimizing distractions and managing the ones that cannot be avoided
  2. A process and systems view that recognizes the realities of interdependence, cause and effect relationships, and continuous change
  3. Values upon which to base skillful decision making.

Exercise Your Mind

Let the practice of consciously managing distractions seep into day to day, moment to moment experience. When you notice that your focus has slipped away, make the effort to bring it back. The more you bring your mind back to a chosen object of focus, the more you strengthen your power of concentration.

There are many exercises to strengthen your power of concentration. One is to take a few minutes a day to sit quietly and count your out-breaths from one to ten. If you lose count (it is quite normal if you do), don’t beat yourself up for it. just start from one again. Don’t worry if your thoughts stream like a waterfall. Persist and the concentration will calm the mind.

Cultivate relaxed concentration. Distractions will come. Congratulate yourself for noticing and going back to the counting or whatever your object of focus is. No need to strain or over think it. Your open attention notices distraction and your executive function brings you back or lets the mind wander.

Mindfulness meditation is a highly effective means for honing your focused attention, open minded observation, and executive attention. See www.Self-AwareLiving,com for exercises and information on how to integrate meditation, and systems and process thinking into your life.

[1] https://hbr.org/2013/12/the-focused-leader

[2] For more on perspective see “Putting the Power of Process Thinking into Action[2]  and Vision And Systems View To Improve Performance[2].  For more on values and decision making see “Making Effective Decisions: What Is The Truth And How Important Is It?[2]

[3] https://hbr.org/2013/12/the-focused-leader

[4] {https://time.com/4166333/focus-is-the-new-iq/https://time.com/4166333/focus-is-the-new-iq/}

The Power of Not Forcing

If your goal is to perform optimally, as an individual, team, or organization, cultivate the power of not forcing.

A friend asked my view on Wu Wei or Flow. “In work and life, should one apply the notion of Flow in full?” My response was, “Yes, aspire to apply Wu Wei in work and the rest of life, being effortlessly present and aware, focused and active.”

Wu Wei – Flow

“The Taoists speak of wu wei, “non-doing,” and the paradox of wei wu wei, “doing without doing” or “action without effort.” In more modern terms, it is Flow – the quality of being totally immersed in action so that there is a loss of the sense of self and time and a natural application of skills, knowledge and awareness unencumbered by self-consciousness, worry, judging and other distractions.”

Wu Wei is not about being passive and accomplishing nothing – floating down the river on a raft and going with the current. It is about working smart. It is about not forcing.

Action without Effort

Life is a stream of thoughts, feelings, sensations, conversations, actions, decisions, intentions, plans and all the rest of the things we do. It occurs in a complex social and physical environment that is constantly changing.

It is as if you were in a fast-moving river. If you go against the current and try to force things, you use a lot of energy and risk getting nowhere. If you go with the current, navigating as best you can to achieve a goal, you use the energy of the stream’s current to your advantage. There may be times when struggling against the current is necessary, but for the most part it is a poor choice.

Advertisement

The Master Butcher

There is the story of the master butcher who says the knife he has used for nineteen years needs no sharpening. He says it is because he goes at his work by spirit,
“Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and following things as they are. So, I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.” His knife never touches bone.

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until — flop! the whole thing comes apart … . Then I stand still and let the joy of the work sink in, … I wipe off the knife and put it away.” Chuang Tsu

Mastering Your Work

There are many stories like that. They point the way to optimal performance, to master your work and let go into it with confidence and mindful focused care. Then there is a joy in not only completing the job but in the process, in the work itself.

Managing people in projects and organizations is more complex than cutting up an Ox. Master managers work with communication and collaboration tools. They use them so skillfully that they cut through the conflicts, complexities and ambiguity to clarity and a way forward that optimally applies the team’s energy to achieve common goals.

The master manager works towards personal and team Flow.

Flow

In Flow, stress and its causes dissolve, time becomes irrelevant, doing happens effortlessly, perfectly in sync with the needs of the moment. The ego steps out of the way and lets intuition and knowledge do their things. Master managers let their mastery do the work.

Flow experiences are common in activities that fully engage the body and mind. Many people experience Flow while immersed in sports, writing, dancing, or doing whatever turns them on. Some experience it during threatening events that trigger fight, freeze, or flight responses.

The challenge is to make everything you do a Flow experience. Imagine being in Flow in a boring meeting (which becomes no longer boring), or during a crisis or conflict.

As I told my friend, aspire to be effortlessly present and aware, focused and active in everything you do, everywhere.

Presence and Aware Knowing

In Flow, in the Zone, you are entirely immersed in the activity at hand, while there is presence and knowing. The doing is unfolding. There is a felt sense of being fully engaged and aware of what is going on.

Note how it feels when undistractedly watching a good movie, identified with the characters and feeling their emotions as your own. Is there a heightened sense of awake awareness of the overall experience? You are not thinking about what is going on or critiquing the film. Your thoughts are not getting in the way of fully experiencing the movie. There is awareness.

Distracted Doing

When not in Flow your mind is in a monolog of judging, commenting on, and monitoring what you are doing. Distracting thoughts take you out of Flow. You think-about instead of experiencing.

It is like a football player thinking about just where and when he or she is going to kick the ball with what part of their foot, worrying about it, as opposed to letting his or her training and natural capacity kick the ball.

Distracted doing is far less efficient. Thinking about the action creates stress and takes the focus away from the doing. It gets in the way of optimal performance, the kind of performance that happens when you are in Flow.

Being in Flow is sailing as opposed to rowing. The sailor works the natural movement of wind and water, steering the boat and adjusting the sails as the wind shifts. The master sailor is in Flow. Distracted doing is more like rowing against the current, much more effort, less effect.

Transition to Doing without Doing

It takes training to go from distracted doing to “doing without doing.”

Learn the skills required to do your work. Become an expert user of your tools and fully know your process. Learn from each experience. Shoot for but do not expect perfection.

On a deeper level, cultivate the mindfulness and concentration required to avoid the distractions that take your focus away from your performance. Cultivate the trust in your capability to perform so you can let go of the reins and let yourself go into the flow.

Be self-aware enough to know when you are reacting rather than responding.

Learn to let things happen, confident in your abilities, as opposed to forcing them to happen.

References

[1] Pitagorsky, George Breakthrough Nov 2017 Three Pillars for Optimal living 

[1] http://www.bopsecrets.org/gateway/passages/chuang-tzu.htm