When was the last time, you were in a state of flow? Getting lost in thinking about the same! We all are always in a state of flow. But mostly we don’t recognize those and neither we try to capitalize on those. Before we get into this state of flow, let’s understand what is flow?
Flow means the action or fact of moving along in a steady, continuous stream as per the online dictionary. It’s a state in which one is aligned seamlessly with the thing. For example, when a river flows, it’s in a state in which it moves continuously and steadily across the terrain. In this state of flow, it carries every small pebble, gravel, sand, fishes along its current flow. The flow is smooth and rhythmic. Give in your ear to listen to the river flow, you can always hear that rhythmic sound.
Whenever the river comes across a hurdle, a boulder or a valley, it creates over time a force to navigate, passthrough or fall to comeback into its state of flow. That’s when you see any river as it originates is in a smooth state of flow, before it navigates through all mountains or valleys and then recovering back to its original state of flow. Thus, as humans we easily get into a state of flow, without realizing the same. When one is in this state of flow, it’s a meditative state too.
Let’s delve to understand, when are we in this state of flow? In our day to day tasks, for example, when you listen to the favorite music of yours, you indulge in it – That’s a state of flow; similarly when you take a walk or go for your jogging or in your work, when you start to make that proposal or the presentation where you can see yourself your work flows at a rhythmic pace, you are in the state of flow. During those states, we are one with the flow or the music or the task or the jogging etc as to what we do.
You would have always felt after listening to that music or completing that task in your flow state or relishing the coffee as you read the book etc, you feel a kind of relaxation. That’s the strength of being in the state of flow. It actually relaxes the one. We are in the state of meditativeness during the state of flow.
The challenge with the state of flow is that, it’s addictive in nature. The moment you realize that, you are able to focus when you have that refreshing coffee or you listen to that music or take a walk and come back; which initially starts as a rhythm becomes a habit of addictiveness. Eventually, we start to feel that without that music we are not able to focus. Our mind gets accustomed to this routine. Is this good or bad? That’s a question one’s own mind needs to ponder. As long as one is able to have a watch over it, then it’s not a challenge. Else, these state of flows rather than being supportive engines for oneself, become more of a relaxation engines. What do I mean by here is that, they actually become your stress reliever or attention seeker. For example, we start to play the music to get relaxed of the stress, which at first go started as a channel of focus; similarly we start to take a smoke to relieve, which initially started as a time to think; so how can one be watchful of the state of flow.
In a state of flow, it’s being mindful of what drives you to make it happen. Keeping a watch on the instruments of flow and then occasionally trying to break the rhythm shall help the oneself in the state of flow. As a tamil proverb goes,
too much of elixir can turn out to be a poison.
Thus, try to look out to your state of flow. The moment you understand your state of flow and the instruments that influence the state of flow, you are in control of the actions in your hand. Actions are nothing but the thoughts pushed into a momentum.
A word we as humans aren’t mostly ready to accept. Well, let me say this way – The color which you like is a conditioning of your mind from the day you were born; the ice cream that you say your favorite one, is again a conditioning of your mind. The same way the list can be added upon. That morning wakeup call to check the tweeter feeds or the insta stories are also a kind of conditioning of one’s own mind.
So how did we get conditioned to this kind of conditioning? We just need to travel to the past to meet our fore fathers the sapiens. The simplest relatable example close to us can be seen in our pets. Why would your pet dog, just listen to your voice and sit calmly? Isn’t that dog can be more ferocious in its nature than a human? Just because the dog, through the adoption by you, it is conditioned to listen to you. The same way it had happened from our evolution.
The adoption of our mind from the natural impacts, to the seasonal changes aren’t the only factors that had made us to what we are. The conditioning of our mind was carried out through various factors. From the religious belief, to the education system, the political climate, the society in which we are brought up, to books of choice which we seek are all because of the conditioning of one’s own mind.
So how does this happens. These are like sowing of seeds. You sow the thoughts from your novice age. The thoughts that gets repeated again and again. The repetition that leads to a pattern. A pattern that gets registered forever. When those scribbles gets in as a marking on a soft stem, as it grows to a tree it remains as a mark on the branch. It’s the same with a human mind.
The belief is of white is pure and black is dark is also one such conditioning of human mind. The reason is most of the times our minds are conditioned not to reason. Before even white became the symbol of pure and cleanliness, it was black. The black was considered as the royal and was related to power. White was in non-existence during those times. However, as the expansion happened in terms of territories and association of black by few people of power, eventually led black to the color of poor and dark.
Such, is the conditioning of our mind, that most of the times we never try to question the rituals or customs or premises for sake of its own existence. The disconnect is due to chalk and talk system of education. Probably, one of the fundamental systemic practice that was brought in had become one of the strong foundation for conditioning. The system of education just covers the basic aspects of know how and the numerals for counting rather than questioning the fundamentals of evolution. The nature of existence.
As Sapiens we are more interested to have an order in place than chaos. But what we don’t understand is that Chaos is nothing but an non-understandable order and order is nothing but an understandable Chaos. In both the cases, the understanding is in relevance to time. When we don’t try to look in an objective way, we fall for the presumptions and premises of the respective times. That leads to a belief. A belief eventually turns out to be a conditioning of mind. Can this conditioning be challenged and changed?
Though the above question seems as a simple one to answer, let’s try to delve into it to understand, what’s in a name?. A name, though means a set of words to identify a person, the probable question is whether name came to existence the way we have known it. The name was a probable something, that was initially used to address a thing or a person. Well then, why did the name came into such a prominence?.
In the early years, the name would have been relating to a set of traits or by activities carried out by a person; either by his act of his natural instincts, or eventually then, by the profession. Along the course of time, to give a specific identity, people started to relate the name with the things or people they believed or loved. Thus name came into existence the way we know today. However, why the name plays such an important role in one’s life?
It’s not the names that identifies us. It’s our actions. However, eventually our actions gets defined by our names.
Then let’s understand what we are? We are a set of patterns. I know, you didn’t expect such a reply. Though we are common, like any other humans in terms of flesh and feelings, what makes each one of us different from other, is their patterns. So what do I mean by patterns is that, its the assimilation of all your thoughts. The thoughts that made into memories. The existence of memories by way of learnings, experiences and watching. These memories get associated with our past and present. They form an identity of oneself. This inherent identity which we have formed for us, relates and reflects in our name.
Though the name, was initialized in early past by traits, then by profession and then by belief or the things that one loved, this name grows and locks oneself up by his or her own belief of what he or she is. A belief that rose out of perception by others, creating one’s own perception in oneself. This perception builds and locks oneself with its own boundaries. Thus, the name becomes a powerful identity for oneself as well as for the outside world.
How does it became so prominent in oneself? Basically, we are nothing but patterns. Our mind as out of freshness, is thoughtless. With each experience, they register. As they register they form memories. With every memory, in the subsequent thought, we start to form patterns. The patterns when become undeniably mechanical are nothing but habits. These habits gets interlinked with our behavior. That’s when we have the first identity being formed for the outside world as well as for the one inside.
Our mind starts to link the identity from these patterns to one’s own name. Thus a name is an association of certain values one’s mind perceives for the patterns, which the outside world addresses as an identity for its understanding of oneself. Now, understanding about our own name,
What’s in a name?
The name evolves with oneself. Though the name, becomes a mere chronological order in a family tree or the society hierarchy after one’s death, their existence in history timeline depends upon their actions. Well, this being the case, how the name controls oneself with such strong boundaries. A prison sort of, that bounds oneself. Most of the times, one thinks when he or she acts something new or faces a situation of failure or demoralizing event, the mind builds a catastrophe syndrome. It quickly builds opinions, beliefs as to what will happen when the name, the so called one’s own identity fails. These built opinions, beliefs, by the mind are nothing but the thoughts that are registered as experiences, than the real life experiences registered in one’s own memory.
These thoughts had created that guardhouse for oneself. The one, which one starts to fortify by his or her behavior. When this name is nothing but assimilation of experience, learnings upon a repeated pattern by thoughts, can it become irrelevant?. When one starts to delink, that name is nothing but a repeated pattern of relevance to one’s identity. This understanding then starts to create a ripple. The ripple where in even the segmentation with in humans by humans doesn’t stand.
This shows, that names where the reason in first place to bring the segmentation with in humans. The one which started as an identity by traits or profession, had eventually become the one for segmentation. The segmentation of various kinds within humans by humans. Can just delinking or eradicating the name of oneself can resolve these issues? Though the societal change is farfetched, however the change with in oneself with the association from one’s own name can be delinked.
When one can understand that the name is nothing but a mere reflection of their own perceptional thoughts. As one understands, that these thoughts make him or her; brings the identity for him or her, proves that name is an association of identity for him or her. When one decides that, its the work that’s of importance than the name, then name starts to loose its shine. When such a thought starts to sprout and spreads within the tribe, then the tribe becomes powerful for their actions. The actions, which in order eventually to be identified by their traits, leads to naming convention. When one disassociates their relationship or identity of their capability with their name, then name doesn’t carry value, as they start to associate with a larger conscience of human kind.
As and when everyone understands the significance of their work than the association of name to their work, then one starts to value the human conscience. We rarely understand that most of our thoughts and emotions aren’t a representation of our own. They are imbibed in us from our early years because of the society to which we belong. When such an understanding happens, and the how the name’s gets associated with it, we realize
Most of the times, we think about meditation as state of blissfulness. The one which we want to achieve by an act of self control. A state in which, we are meant to feel serenity and calmness. An abode of peacefulness. The way we follow to attain the same is through various methods. But this topic isn’t about the steps that we follow to achieve the state of meditation. The topic is about what is meditation and how it relates to our thinking.
Meditation is a state of focus. A state where in an individual follows a certain activity with focus. A focus in which his attention, awareness becomes one and is singular. That state is the state of meditation. A state in which everything is calm and stable.
When you work on a subject or task, it can always lead to a meditative state. Meditation is not only by practicing a certain practice and breathing technique to reach. It’s present always around us and with in us. When you visit a serene beautiful blue lake surrounded by beautiful colorful plateau, and the lake reflecting a mountain. This view as you see in front of you and the moment you relish it as a presence, you have entered the meditative state. Because in the meditative state there are no thoughts. A state of feeling one with the state itself, while there are no thoughts. A state where in actuality, you have merged with the one to become singular for that moment in time. Thus meditative state is one in which you are thoughtless.
Then why you do we relate meditation to thinking. Thinking by far for majority of us is purely by empirical thoughts. A relation of experience that had happened or visualized. A sensory perception. The moment we are thinking about meditation we equate it to serenity, peaceful, calmness, white and etc. Can a woodcutter or blacksmith or sharpshooter or a sweeper can be in a meditative state as they work?
Yes! Everyone can reach the state of meditation in their work. None requires a separate meditation as a practice to reach. Meditation as said earlier is all about singularity. A state in which you become one. You become your task. You become your own practice. You become your work. A sweeper, becomes effective in his sweeping by repetition of the work. The repetition of work, with observation helps him to adopt better. This practice of repetition of work, makes him effective. The moment he becomes effective, he reaches close to a state of singularity. In this state, his body, his actions everything flows with a certain pattern, an artistic movement. It’s like the dance steps smoothly and graciously flowing on the floor as he moves sweeping the floor. His hands tuned to some music, where in we can see a pattern of flow aligned with his movement of his steps.
His whole body understands and embodies the work in that sequence of activities. In that finer moment of work, he becomes his work. His work is nothing but himself. That’s when he is in the meditative state. In that state, he would be thinking anything and he would be completely immersed in his actions. His eyes, his mind, his fingers, his feet everything aligned to one purpose and the purpose is sweeping the floor. To keep it clean and shining. This is the state of meditation.
The goal of being in a meditative state is not to create a flow. Is to be the flow
Most of us can easily achieve the state of meditation by the nature of your work. But basically we try hard to reach it by other ways of practice. Where in we force ourselves to focus or visit places of practice to reach the meditative state. The reason, we are tuned to this is, because of empirical thoughts. We read, we heard, we visualized, we watched about meditation in this way. The moment we think about meditation we relate to the following. A serene music. An environment with fresh air or fragrance around. A hall or room in complete silence. A retreat surrounded by beautiful nature. These empirical thoughts have led meditation to be a subject of elusiveness. In order to attain, it we try to practice based upon these empirical reference.
In a meditative state its being thoughtless. Can someone be thoughtless? Is it possible to be thoughtless? Well, when you are in the singular nature, you become one. The one which is what you do. As mentioned above a sweeper, when his work becomes his rhythm he is singular. In the state of singularity, the mind is fully focused on to the work. A work of sweeping the floor, to look for any dust and cleaning it properly to make the floor shining. A thought shall pop in when there is disturbance, or you find an interference to the work you do. The interference can be external and rarely internal when you are in a meditative state of work. The control of senses to the external environment helps you to swing back to the work and easily get into the state of meditation.
The meditative state is always attained by every great worker. Generally we refer this state of attainment to artists, be it the musician, a painter or dancer. When we watch a ballet dancer smoothly flowing as a swan on the dance floor, that moment of exuberance in us, is due to the fact that the ballet dancer is performing the dance in a state of meditation. A dance where in she and her movements are the one. A singularity of body, mind and motion. It’s the same case with respect to any work. Be it a craftsman, a regular accountant, a clerk, a receptionist, a sales guy. We rarely acknowledge their excellence in work. The best excellence in work is achieved, when you enter the state of meditation. This can be attained by every one.
So, when you work, how can be one thoughless? How is it possible for the one in the state of meditation during his work to be thoughtless? To understand thoughtless, we need to understand about thinking. A thought.
A thought is a relative cohesion from an event. The moment you delve into that it’s called as thinking. When you work and suddenly you get a thought about donuts, its because there was an event or color or smell or back of mind process that made you to think about donuts. The occurrence of donut is the thought. The moment it occurred in your mind, you started to think about the donut, the donut shop, the varieties of donuts, the color of donuts, the taste of donuts, and probably you started to think, who you would like to eat the donuts with, to whom you want to buy and further you went on to, when you would buy the donuts, where would you buy it from; from here you moved on to planning it as a complete step. As you were reading this, if you have started to think about donuts and started to plan for the same, then this writing is an influence creator of a thought which had led you into thinking.
A simple thought of donut had led you into thinking. In this scenario, when you work, how can be one thoughtless?. Let’s go back to the example of sweeper. A sweeper when he starts to clean the floor, then wets the mob in the liquid/detergent water and starts to mob the floor. As he continues to do his work, he comes across a dirt which is hard enough to remove. There can be only two options. In option 1, where he tries to clean the dirt and as it is hard enough, he starts to think why it is not getting cleaned. Stops, analyses and then takes an acid base and mixes with his liquid as a small sample to clean the floor. In this course of action, his tactical time to understand and to think, would actually distract him to thinking and then he tries to get to his work of cleaning. That’s where it’s mentioned earlier, that any distraction to the state of meditation can only be extrinsic.
In option 2, as he cleans and gets struck with a dirt, he immediately makes a sample with an acid base and water in the same state of flow. Then wets his mob again and wipes its clean. This method of smooth transitionary flow without any hurdle of stop over is attained by experience. An experience, where in his mind is tuned for every action or hurdle with a build in solution approach. The approach that’s stitched so well. When this happens, you don’t find a surprise or stopover in his action. He smoothly switches/pauses to make the acid base liquid and then sweeps the floor. You can literally see that, he is a same state of flow even though with external interference in his work.
In such a state of option 1, where one is wired to tasks in singularity is always thoughtless. Being in this state of thoughtless, is attained by deep understanding of the state of work. Can a writer be thoughtless? Yes obviously. A writer who knows the subject which he wants to share, and has a deep understanding of its flow, will be thoughtless as he scripts his work. The scripts flows like a perennial river. In its smoothness and elegance. Thus, in the state of meditation one is always thoughtless. When we approach meditation through thinking, then it becomes tough. It’s cumbersome. Suddenly so elusive, that we find it as forsaken fruit. The one which can be attained only by priests and yogis.
The presence of being in the current moment of work and being deep into it by focus can easily help one to be meditative enough. This state of meditation can bring the calmness amongst the chaos, the silence amongst the storms, the smile amongst the anxiety in oneself.
Touch your inner space, which is nothingness, as silent and empty as the sky; it is your inner sky. Once you settle down in your inner sky, you have come home, and a great maturity arises in your actions, in your behavior. Then whatever you do has grace in it. Then whatever you do is a poetry in itself. You live poetry; your walking becomes dancing, your silence becomes music.
The one who is in the meditative state of work always in a spacious place. A place wide open as wide as a universe.
This was a question that arose suddenly, as “empirical thoughts and how it’s related to our thinking?”. A question which repeated in me for a week long. This led to understand learn about empirical thoughts. Also, it was able to answer few of the queries related to our thinking. The basic underlying question is always “Why we think, the way we think?“.Before getting into empirical thoughts, we need to know a little detail about “Empiricism“. It is a theory that states, that knowledge is only through sensory experience.
Empiricism emphasizes the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas. It’s also argued that any tradition or custom or rituals is due to the earlier sense experience. Empirical evidence means the information is received by the senses. This happens by observation and documentation of patterns, behavior through experimentation. particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation.
The concept associated with empiricism historically is called as “blankslate” concept. This is similar to the blank slate. As a kid, we learn to write on a blank slate and get to capture the numerics, alphabets, the pattern to write and the representation. Once we are able to register those, we start to create words and the relativeness. The same way, in empiricism it is believed that, human when born are like a blank slate. They develop their thoughts only through experience.
The blank slate concept and its growth can be attributed to John Locke. Account to him, the human mind is a blank slate. In the words of Locke, it’s a “white paper”. A white paper on which the various experiences of the person derived from sense impressions are written. When viewed from this concept, the ideas are only by two sources – Sensation and Reflection. Though the ideas can be simple or complex, a clear distinction can be made between them.
Though, empirical thoughts through experience is simple to understand from a high level, the complexity increases as we delve deep into the qualities of thought or idea origination. Between the simple and complex ideas, the simple can be broken down into two main qualities – The primary and secondary qualities. Primary qualities are the essential things for the object to be as what it is. The primary qualities becomes the base for us to understand the object as it is. Without primary qualities, the object can not be what it is and does not exist to be as what it is.
Banana as Banana
Let’s taken an example of banana. The banana is banana because of the arrangement of atoms, the atomic structure. When the atomic structure of banana is different, for example something similar to apple, then it would not be a banana. Instead it would be an apple. Then we come to the secondary qualities. Secondary qualities are all the related sensory information that comes out of the primary qualities. This helps us to perceive the banana as banana even though there are variations in the secondary qualities. For example, a banana can be of different sizes, different colors like yellow, red etc, texture. Yet we identify it as banana and probably by the secondary qualities, we might infer a different tag for the same banana. Thus the secondary qualities can be called as the attributes of the object, while the primary qualities defines what the object essentially is.
A combination of simple ideas which can be divided into substances, modes and relations are the complex ones. The complex ideas. Thus, when we relate the object primary and secondary qualities from the time of our first understanding till now, we can easily understand it’s a perception. Thus our knowledge of the things around us is a perception. A perception of the ideas that are in coherence and in accordance or non-coherent and in discordance with each other.
Though the existence of almighty or nature in the creation of these objects shall be taken in a different blog. Thus, when we look into our learning, we can clearly understand that most of the objects and their relativeness is by our perception. A perception, which was perceived to be so from the early age as a kid. The perception that was taught to us generation by generation. Thus, this leads to early sapiens, how would they have perceived a banana as banana and not apple? Why they had perceived that way?
Banana and not apple
Thus when such a question arose, Scottish philosopher David Hume made an argument not from a philosophical approach but referencing a scientific way. Where in he said, it would have been by proof. Which means, the banana is considered as banana and not as apple, just by recording the banana at various use case scenarios before it got formalized as banana by our grand sapiens.
Hume took empiricism to a whole new level of skepticism. He argued that the all knowledge are derived from sensory experiences, but also gave a new point of view. He wrote for example,
“Locke divides all arguments into demonstrative and probable. On this view, we must say that it is only probable that all men must die or that the sun will rise to-morrow, because neither of these can be demonstrated. But to conform our language more to common use, we ought to divide arguments into demonstrations, proofs, and probabilities—by ‘proofs’ meaning arguments from experience that leave no room for doubt or opposition.”
As we look into this view of Hume’s perspective, from the proof and probabilities, the question that arises is there might be a reasoning behind to arrive at the approach to call for a proof or a probability. Thus we need to go back again to the banana example. What would have made our grand sapiens to think in such a way. Probably, this can be their initial days of reasoning. A reasoning approach to understand why this specific object (banana) is different from the other object (apple). Can we elucidate from here, that reasoning is the cause for an original idea?
Proofs and probabilities
When the original idea is the object identification as banana by its primary and secondary qualities, then the reasoning to make this argument of banana to be as banana, can never be considered an original idea. For the simple reason, its an experience, and the experience can never lead us to conclusion. Because, for an object of existence itself is an experience, more than the quality. And that quality need not exist either at the initial stage, the very beginning of existence.
When we approach, with the object identification by primary and secondary qualities, and being established by proofs and probabilities, the interesting factor of conviction comes by its associated reasoning. To make it simple, let’s look at Sun. The moment we hear Sun, the first thing that comes to our mind is a circular ball of fire. The associated secondary qualities are its brightness, can be seen by naked eyes, rises in east and settles in west, summer is very hot etc. Hume, makes a startling argument here. For an instance, we cannot know with certainty that the sun will continue to rise in the east. Instead, we expect it to do so, just because Sun has repeatedly done so in the past by rising in the east. The reasoning which we give to an object just because of its repetition pattern.
“No one has the right to destroy another person’s belief by demanding empirical evidence.”
As look from the eyes of Hume, we can understand that our beliefs are results of our own accumulated habits. These habits got developed in response to accumulated sense experiences. Thus the general truth in the Sun’s example is that Sun will rise tomorrow in the east. This is arrived by our own experiences and observations, including what we learned from our surroundings and others to come with a general truth. This is called as inductive reasoning. However, Hume conclusion towards the inductive reasoning is that there is no certainty that the future will resemble the past.
When we have such experiences with inductive reasoning, how banana still remains as banana and not an apple? The reasoning for this can be approached as
The object of knowledge are real things.
The properties of real things do not depend on our perceptions of them. They are intrinsic to them,
Thus one who has sufficient experience of real things will agree on the truth about them.
The above three points where conceived and became the basis of the empirically based scientific method. The credit goes to Peirce, who added a new concept of abductive reasoning to this. It starts with an observation or set of observations and then seeks to find the simplest and most likely conclusion from the observations.
When we relate the empiricism, we can get a glimpse of our thinking process. Any inference is dependent upon the habits we have developed. The habits that have been built by various experiences either direct or inferences but not arranged for any logical purposes. When our grand mom says “it will rain tomorrow”. We as a kid would have asked “why do say so?”. Grand mom replies stating that “Sky is dark and low as the sunsets”. We asked “how do you say so?”…Grand mom would explain “It generally rains in such cases after a sunset, but I don’t know why?”
Thus in this above cited example, Grand mom did not perceive any connection for the rain or the sky being dark. Also, it is not factual based upon certain principles or any laws. However, from a repetition of frequently recurring events, has led to think that a dark lower sky during sunset leads to rain. This is by association of one with the other. When our grand sapiens were living under the open sky, this pattern recognition and the relativeness to one another were framed. In order to communicate the same, from the language of symbols, to proverbs to traditional folklore cam into place. Thus, when there was no understanding as to why certain events occur during those times, or how the relativeness between events can be correlated were considered as foresight gift for few. There it was completely empirical.
When we understand this and relate to our thinking, we can elucidate that most of our thinking is also empirical. From the reasoning with a sore throat, one can get cold to mathematical deduction of numbers are all empirical patterns developed by our grand sapiens. We developed ourselves in that system and 90% of our actions are one way or the other is empirical. Because we started as “blank slate”. Yet we have instincts. We can sometimes foresee the future. Are these because the objects are nothing but atoms with a primary quality, we are also atoms. Atoms, that carry the empirical prints in them carried over generations. Giving base to this assumptions proves empiricism is strong in all of us. Our thoughts are modelled by empiricism.
If this is scenario, is it good to conclude the one who came in the legacy of hitler is alway power hungry while the one who came in the legacy of Gandhi is a non-violent. This never turns out to so, because, as per Hume, there is no certainty that the future shall resemble the past.
“The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms.”
Thus the scientific analysis plays an important role. The scientific analysis is not to produce certain conclusions, but to detect and correct the errors, thus lead us to truth.
When it is empirical, why suddenly we have some random thoughts? Why we are most of the times, not able to relate to any original occurrence? If so, how & If not, why.
“This note was by curiosity. Curiosity that led to progress to understand empirical thoughts. Empirical thoughts by its means doesn’t drive progress. “
The theory of constraints (TOC), as it’s known among the management teams. It was conceived as a philosophy of continuous improvement. It has evolved in the last 30+ years from the time Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt introduced the concept in his book “The Goal“. TOC tries to identify a constraint with in an organization production process. The assumption is there is always a constraint. Basically, TOC by Goldratt laid out a systematic approach to identify what was preventing a company from achieving its goal of making money for its owners. This blog is trying to use that approach, to help in one’s thinking or the focussing process.
Who is Dr Eliyahu Goldratt?
Eliyahu Moshe Goldratt was an Israeli business management guru. An author of several non-fiction and business novels on the application of theory of constraints. He introduced the optimized production technique, the famous TOC, the thinking process and other TOC derived tools.
“I smile and start to count on my fingers: One, people are good. Two, every conflict can be removed. Three, every situation, no matter how complex it initially looks, is exceedingly simple. Four, every situation can be substantially improved; even the sky is not the limit. Five, every person can reach a full life. Six, there is always a win-win solution. Shall I continue to count?”
Eliyahu M. Goldratt
How TOC got evolved?
TOC became famous through his book, The Goal. In his book, the protagonist is an operations manager. Goldratt uses TOC to device a plot. The plot revolve around identifying the current constraint, building upon the constraint to find out which would be the next limiting constraint. For example, in the production plant, the operations manager faces one particular constraint. The constraint is the inadequate machine tool capacity. Goldratt explains how this affects the production process, and when resolved what can be the other constraint that limits the system.
What are the key elements of TOC?
Goldratt followed five focusing steps in the process of on-going improvement in his TOC. Those steps are
Identify the constraint: Try and identify a constraint, that is limiting the output. This can be a production constraint or policy constraint.
Exploit the constraint: Achieve the best possible output, with the constraint in place. Goldratt visualized the production process as a flow process. In a flow process, try and remove the limitations that constrain the flow. Also reduce the time that is affected by the constraint and apply it for a most effective way possible.
Subordinate other activities to the constraint: Now, link the output of other operations to match the constraint. Thus this helps to smooth the workflow. Also clears any stagnation points that can happen due to the work in process inventory. Avoid making the constraint wait for work
Elevate the constraint: When the constraint is not resolved, assume the machine output cannot be increased, then increase the staff and the number of machines to reach the desired output.
If anything has changed, go back to step one: When the outcome is changed, go back to starting stage again. Assess to see if there is any other operation or policy that is becoming a system constraint. Follow the above steps again. This helps in consistent process of ongoing improvement.
How an Olympic swimmer used TOC principles?
TOC can be applied to Personal Excellence too. It’s not only for organizations but also for personal growth and victory. To cite an example from Theory of Constraint Institute, an Olympic hopeful failed twice. She failed to qualify for the swimming team. She took the TOC and proved in the she can win. This is upon correction of few short falls. Those were
Take time to stretch.
Remove fear and think positive.
Communication with coach to be better. Develop good communication.
Train when you are in strength. Don’t stretch when you are tired.
She upon applying the TOC principles, went to win gold medal and clock new world record. She turned out to be a motivational speaker in future and also returned to olympics triathlon after few years.
Considering 5 steps mentioned earlier, the basic questions that needs to be answered are
What to change.
What to change to.
How to cause the change
The above questions of the Thinking process, helps us to drill down into our visualizations. This helps to present the cause and effect relationships, which we observe in our day to day activities. It helps us to capture those to portray their relationships in a simple and straightforward manner. The Thinking process is an integral part of TOC.
TOC when applied properly, can have a real good impact psychologically. This is by systematically addressing the question. These are the questions one has intuitively, however TOC brings this out clearly. There is a process based on the psychology of change that acknowledges and systematically addresses the questions people intuitively ask when evaluating a change.
Am I addressing the problem?
Is the solution for the problem, a good one?
When the solution works towards resolving the problem, how does it benefit me?
What can go wrong with the problem and its solution?
How can this be implemented?
Am I geared up for this?
These questions are to be answered clearly and frankly.
How it can help for one’s thinking process?
Let’s try to see how this can be used in our regular thinking process. The simple approach to start with is, looking into the 3 questions. We can look into this thinking process aligned with an example.
What to change – One of the simplest thing might be to wake up early at 5.00am. The change that we are looking here is to waking up early. Instead of waking up at 7.00am, how can we wake up at 5.00am?. That’s the change.
2. What to change to – Here, the change is instead of 7.00am to 5.00am, what needs to be changed and what would be result. Basically, to arrive at a goal of what that 2 hrs difference is going to add by doing this change. The change of waking up early in the morning at 5.00am.
3. How to cause the change. – This involves what needs to be done, to make this change effective. The effectiveness of waking up everyday in the morning at 5.00am. Once, you have these three questions framed for your actionable goal, then you can apply the TOC constraint model to achieve it.
Taking the example of waking up early in the morning at 5.00am to be our end goal, let’s try and apply the TOC in principle to see, how we can achieve this goal.
Goal – Consistently waking up every day in the morning by 5.00am.
First step – Identify the constraint.
The general constraint for waking up early in the morning can be
Sleeping late night
Binge watching shows/movies
Not having a proper morning routine in place
Once we had identified the constraint we can plan the steps to avoid these constraints. According to TOC, the critical thing is identifying the constraints. The fact to arrive at any of the constraints, are generally intuitively known to oneself. However, to note down those and look into those as constraints is what we miss most of the times. Thus apply the TOC in the regular scenarios, be it your commute or ability to focus or the issue of distraction or planning on a goal to achieve. Start with the 3 questions, and then capture, the steps. Once you had captured, the first step, let’s move on to the 2nd step.
Exploit the constraint
Assuming, that we would still love to wake up early, having the constraint in place. This means, looking at the constraint as the possible scenario’s below
We cannot sleep early, due to work schedule. (repeatable work calls late into the evening/night) – Policy change.
Binge watching to Reading – Activity change.
Plan a morning routine – Planning.
Though, we cannot change our work schedule, probably we can look into the aspect of binge watching. Change of work schedule will be a policy change. A policy change can always have a profound impact when it is planned and executed properly. If the work schedule involves co.ordinating with various teams across the globe, for a review call; probably you can introduce a cyclical or rotational working schedule in place. This means, if this month you have to extend in to late night discussions, probably next month, it can be your peer.
“Every action that brings one closer to its goal is productive.”
As we instinctively know that binge watching drains us out, the best thing is how to switch to reading or writing. Though we plan as a massive change or complete shift from binge watching to reading might not happen at one go. The best, is to focus to reduce the time. Probably from 3 hrs of binge watching to 2hrs, and start reading before going to sleep. This can leave you fresh, rather than be drained into sleep.
The most important factor again is a policy change. This is planning a morning routine. Most of the times, we don’t have in place a morning routine. Thus the best is, to have a morning routine in place. As simple as waking up in the morning, doing 20 mins of yoga or meditation, 20 mins of exercise and conclude the last 20 mins with your coffee and news. Once we exploit the constraints, we get avenues to build around the constraints, if they are not easily changeable.
Subordinate other activities to the constraint
Link all the activities that can improve by removing these constraint. By waking up early, what are the relevant things that can go well. Some of the possible good outcomes can be
Reaching on time to office. Not to get struck in the regular traffic jams. A 15 mins early start to office can help us to ease away most of the regular peak time traffic.
A good healthy breakfast. The time in hand helps us to have a proper breakfast. Even the breakfast can be planned.
This also give us ample of time, to do proper morning exercise. It can be jogging or running or meditation etc.
Elevate the constraint
When the constraint cannot be resolved, how do we still achieve the goal of waking up at 5.00am. Elevate the constraint, is actually working out the near term and long term outcome. At the same time accepting the constraint cannot be changed in near future; so working out on all relatable mechanisms to resolve the same.
“Since the strength of the chain is determined by the weakest link, then the first step to improve an organization must be to identify the weakest link.”
Eliyahu M Goldratt
When the major constraint of work schedule or late night working cannot be reduced, then the next probable steps can be reducing the time for binge watching. Also, look into ways to optimize your morning routine with a clear focus. Thus you get additional time to sleep, by the reduced binge watching. Also, the morning routine can be optimized not to be a rigorous one. It can be a planned one. A simple one with jogging and good breakfast.
This way, in near time by elevating the constraint, one can execute the best possible outcomes. Once the constraint is removed, then one can perform to their planned vision.
If anything has changed go back to step one
When the constraint is removed and the vision is achieved, the goal does not stop there. According to TOC it is a continuous improvement cycle. The best way to do, is go back to the routine again. When waking up 5.00 am has become a regular affair, then to look into the aspects that can be agents of distraction. Some of the probable agents of distraction can be
The checking of social media or youtube before going to bed.
Late dinner in the night. Occasional drinks.
Mind wandering through various in coherent thoughts.
There can be multiple other things. But looking into these, and starting to remove one by one, shall make the way forward for excellence.
The TOC 5 steps when properly approached and implemented, helps an individual enormously. It helps one to achieve their goals with more clarity and augment their capability. This TOC Thinking Processes enables one to strategize properly to benefit them to a greater extent. TOC is based upon one’s imagination. The more you apply, the better you become. It is one of the best ammunition for Personal excellence.
The word “Butterfly effect” can resonate for some to the movie. For most, it might be a simple view of spill over effect. Actually, The Butterfly Effect is a concept invented by the American meteorologist Edward N. Lorenz (1917-2008). It is to highlight the possibility that small causes may have momentous effects. The closely relatable example that always comes to our mind is that, when a butterfly flaps its wings in brazil, it creates a tornado in Texas. Let’s understand how this example came in relevance. For which we need to go back Lorenz himself.
During early 1950’s at MIT, Lorenz was studying about long rang weather forecasting. As with any pattern recognition examples, the fellow research experts felt that, its easy to predict the weather. Their approach was that, when we have weeks or months of day, we should be able to arrive at a pattern. That pattern from the old weather data, can help to predict the future weather condition.
Lorenz on the other side didn’t believe in this idea. He was doubtful about the same. With the complexity of nature and the environment around, weather cannot repeat itself. Hence, it would be impossible to predict a day in the history, which is exact replica of the current situation. He argued that the atmosphere is so complex that it never repeats itself, so it would be impossible to find a day in history when conditions were precisely the same.
Butterfly Effect – How did the name came into existence?
In the due course, accidentally he discovered, the butterfly effect. According to him, even a small different in the initial state or condition, can lead to completely different outcomes. After running an experiment for the weather prediction, he thought of rerunning the same. In the model for weather predication experiment, he entered the value as 0.506 instead of 0.506127. When he returned after getting his cup of coffee, he was surprised to see that, the resulting prediction was completely different from the original output. With this he arrived that a small change in the initial conditions can have enormous long-term implications. That was his eurekha moment.
When Lorenz, failed to provide a title to present about his prediction as a talk for the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972, Philip Merrilees came with the title, Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? That’s how butterfly effect came into existence.
An idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. Though, the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a storm. However, small events can act as catalyst that influence certain course of events.
Examples from History for Butterfly effect
Having now understood, about Butterfly effect,
Let’s look into one of the easiest relatable incident from World War for the butterfly effect. World War I started all because of a very small incident in June 1914. A revolutionary name Gavrilo Princip along with his accomplice were planning an assassination attempt on crown prince of Hungary, Franz Ferdinand. Franz Ferdinand was on a motorcade towards the town hall. When assassination attempt was made, it was narrowly missed. However after his town hall speech, Franz Ferdinand wished to meet the victims of the assassination attempt on him. His driver was advised to take a specific route. However, the information was passed on lately and by the time, the driver realized he took a wrong route, he tried to reverse his vehicle. In that moment, crown prince car broke down. The revolutionary, who was going in that route saw an opportunity and instantly shot Ferdinand and his wife.
This led to World War I. Austria-Hungary went to war against Serbia and soon countries joined based upon their diplomatic treaties. This one incident led to a full scale war. The World War I.
Coincidence has nothing to do with faith or destiny , it’s just a miss matched eqation of timing and spacing … just like a butterfly effect
One other recent incident that can be explored here, is the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull. Eyjafjallajökull is one of Iceland’s smaller ice capped mountain. It’s located in the far south of the island. This has erupted relatively frequently since the ice age. The eruptions occurred in 920, 1612, and from 1821 to 1823. 20 March 2010, a small eruption began. On 14 April 2010, the eruption entered a second phase and created a cloud of ash that led to the closure of most of the European airspace from 15 until 20 April 2010. This led to the highest level of air travel disruption since the World War II.
A small disturbance in the complex mechanism of life on the Earth, the fact that an ash cloud from a minor volcanic eruption in Iceland brings to stand still the entire aerial traffic in the continent of Europe. This shows a small action somewhere has its power to transform nature.
Though there are multiple referenceable incidents, to butterfly effect let’s take this as our base assumption for today’s discussion on how our tiny thoughts have an impact on our actions? Why do, when we have a bad phone call with someone in the morning, we feel the day turns out to be bad? Or why on the same day, when we happened to bump into a good friend of ours and feel after the meeting, the day was good?
Are these actions any way inter-related? When the answer is yes, then let’s delve deeper into the next topic, how does a thought can leave such action in a future point in time. To better understand, let’s go back to our example stated earlier. When we have an unpleasant conversation, with someone, it leaves a kind of impact on us in terms of our thoughts. We suddenly feel unpleasant, dull and low on energy after the conversation. Our body takes those cues, and starts to slow us down in our actions. It reacts in a way of showing low interest or not much focus into our work.
Daoism on Butterfly effect
Metaphorically, Daoism anticipates something like the butterfly effect.
Way-making (dao) gives rise to continuity, Continuity gives rise to difference, Difference to plurality, And plurality gives rise to the manifold of everything that is happening (wanwu)
David Jones, The Fractal Self
According to Chinese philosophy, this transformation is called Dahua. A principle that seems to express glimpses of universal evolution. The great transformation.
Our thoughts are those butterflies
Can these be called as butterfly effect. Though not in specific, however these can be correlated as an inducing factor. Consider a scenario, where in you had a kind of anger on a simple mistake by your colleague. You gave a thought about it in your mind and then, left it duly considering why you need to show the anger. Day’s pass and again the repeated mistake happens. Probably, couple of times. On one fine day, when you were low on energy due to phone call (as mentioned above) that had happened, you outburst on your colleague for the simple mistake.
Now, the anger of your’s was it because of the phone call or was it due to the anger thought that happened few weeks back. Now relating this to butterfly effect, we can elucidate that small events that can act as catalyst to influence certain course of events.
Few of you would be able to relate, a split second decision of taking a left turn or an u turn on a drive to office, saved you from a heavy traffic or got you struck in traffic jam. How do we relate these course of events. Though, science cannot prove the time factor to roll back the actions, however it can prove to relate the course of events relating to split second decision. Sometimes, we call it as intuition. Though that’s a larger topic to divulge in future. The blink with which we took the decision, when related together can relate a connection to those actions.
A small shift in your thinking, the small changes in your energy can bring a massive impact on you. In your daily actions or the dreams you pursue. It’s the thought that counts. Once, you build on the thought, it’s a start. It awaits to actions to make it count. However, the thought had already, made an alteration in your activity for the day. A simple tweet reply, which you paused for a moment, had already raised a thought in the other end of the receiver awaiting for your reply.
Any small act of kindness or hatred creates reverberation. It spreads across time and distance. It affects the lives known as well as unknown. Everything relating back to the source of echo. Kindness when passed on, grows each time it’s passed. Till it becomes a selfless act of courage. The one who rushed to pull out a kid from falling into the canal, was once a kind kid who shared her cookie with her fellow kid.
Thus, the universe is one connected reverberating wave. A ripple somewhere can cause an impact in the other end. Though the existence of dreams and the parallel universe can be discussed in a different blog, the butterfly effect is proven and here to stay. In the word’s of Benjamin Franklin, let me leave you here to think.
For the want of a nail the shoe was lost, For the want of a shoe the horse was lost, For the want of a horse the rider was lost, For the want of a rider the battle was lost, For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost, And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail
We all are intelligent emotional beings. This makes us special, because we can adopt, learn, unlearn and evolve. It’s not we don’t face uncertainty in life. However, most of the uncertainties of life are overlooked. Let me give a simple example. The probability of a bicycle failure is far less compared to an aero plane. However, we fear the most when we ride a bicycle on highway, because of the uncertainty of situation with respect to other drivers like a car, truck or van etc.
So, we assume those with least importance. Hence, we evolved ourselves as masters of pattern. We were educated that everything is good as long as we follow a certain pattern. The pattern is by repetition. This is called as habit. For example, from brushing our teeth in the morning, till we go back to bed on a regular week, we follow various time stamps throughout the day.
What misses, in this pattern is excellence? Pattern helps to forecast one’s mode of action, which was so important during industrial revolution. As it was manufacturing driven, people were modelled to follow a pattern. But in a knowledge driven economy, though pattern helps you have a compliance with respect to your work, excellence play an important role. Excellence means those small improvements which you do regularly over a period of time. This elevates you with respect to your workmanship. Treat your work as delivering an art.
During our regular working environment, the standard office hours we try to excel in our work. Because there was a certainty towards our job, work environment even life for that matter. But how do we focus and excel during uncertainty. How do we achieve personal mastery during uncertainty? When we are drowned in uncertainty paradox.
To answer this, we need to delve deep into a relatable past history. The specialty of history is, it has all the reference points for us to check. The interpretation is up to us. Let’s look into the history of World War II.
During the time of World War II, there was complete uncertainty. Raising from the loss of control in World War I, Germany was forming its alliances as well as capturing territories. WWII can be a classic case of Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). The term VUCA was taken from the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus – to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations.
V = Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
U = Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
C = Complexity: the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organization.
A = Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.
(Reference from Wikipedia for VUCA)
In such a scenario, the question raises in one’s mind is how the leaders navigated during these times? What would have been the traits of those leaders? Are there any learnings, that we can be adopted in our uncertainty times? Well, there are plenty. From those, I chose to present the top ten. The top ten, which can be an evergreen trait for personal mastery. Be it in your personal life or professional life or public life, these ten principles can elevate your game.
The ten gems of Personal Mastery are
Always exhibit optimism.
Own your responsibility
Never give up
Serve not Survive
Think about Yourself
Learn how to learn
Art of Journaling
The Influence of Words
Always exhibit optimism
The best soldier the world has ever seen was General Marshall from Allied forces. According to him,
“When conditions are difficult, the command is depressed, and everyone seems critical and pessimistic, you must be especially cheerful and optimistic.”
Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive good things and good people will be drawn to you. Being optimistic is contagious in nature. Try being optimistic and see for yourself. You would be surprised to know, the kind of impact you leave on others, just being optimistic.
Fake it until you do it. When you feel your positivity is down or not naturally coming, pretend. Pretend as if its true. Acceptance of your own self is most important. Once you had acknowledged yourself, you would see, the optimism sprouts slowly as a shower. Use it to fight your mental stress or tiredness etc. Be positive. Be energetic. Show it in your voice. In your actions. You will soon realize the amount of impact it leaves on you and the people around you.
Own your responsibility
During the World War II, there was too much of chaos. The synergy wasn’t so strong and at the ground it was evident. But the success, was due to the ground forces. Though they were far from the strategy team. Their communication most of the times were hampered by the Axis forces. However, they had one common trait. They all owned their responsibility. Though there was uncertainty, ambiguity, they owned their responsibility. Every day, their only task was to inch closer to axis territory, with loyalty and humility.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
During the times of uncertainty, the best thing to do, let’s go behind our tasks. Knock the tasks one task at a time. This brings us focus and a sense of achievement. The more we own our responsibility; we gain traction and start to excel. Because, responsibility brings focus.
Never give up
Every day of WW II was like a perceived failure. The moment our perception looks in that direction, we feel to give up. General Marshall advices never give up. Never ever give up to the perception of failure. The persistence and quick adoption to every day scenario makes one successful.
Thus, built the attitude of never give up. There can be fatigue. There can loss of interest. There can be lethargy. In the times of volatility, let’s keep our focus to our task. Bring a routine. Make a plan and execute it. Repetition kills remiss. Start small. Regularly, let’s complete our task. Expand, explore and elevate.
Serve not Survive
One of the dilemma’s that gets into our mind during the tough times of complexity is how can I survive. The moment, we get into this thought, we lose our intent to empower ourselves. The foremost important things to do is to empower oneself. The way you can achieve this is by distracting our thoughts to our passion. Learn to serve our passion. Our interest. Our hobbies. Server yourself with empowerment. Not just to survive.
Your fear is 100% dependent on you for its survival
A small direction alignment, in the mind can change our course completely. We can feel we are uplifted. That energy shall be radiant enough, to spread to our near and dear ones. It’s that intent to distract oneself from the mode of survival to serve oneself. The moment we empower our self, we will start to empower others.
Think about Yourself
The most poignant thought is we never look into us. We always try to look into others. But it’s of utmost importance to look into ourselves. To be an observer. As an observer, of oneself, we can understand our traits and falls. Our strengths and weakness. The practice of looking at oneself, can be a way to groom oneself better.
The habits that we need to follow. The one’s we need to leave. When you don’t spend time with yourself, you are not going to know why you lack certain traits. Understanding about oneself, by themselves can be the greatest strength. That strength can build with your empathy for others.
Unless, we don’t do this, we will always be influenced by the situations and surroundings. We will never control ourselves to the repercussion of these events.
Learn how to learn
The greatest personalities who navigated through the tough times, were great readers. They learned the art of how to learn. This involves mainly to relearn and unlearn, whenever you wish to learn something new.
When we speak about WW II, we cannot forget Winston Churchill. Churchill was an average student during his school and college days. However, he developed his interest towards reading. Whenever Churchill got an opportunity to read, he sinks himself into large volumes. Starting with a 4000-page book of The Decline and the fall of Roman empire, during his free time, he started an ambitious journey. A journey where he covered the works of Adam Smith, Plato, Gibbon, Macaulay, Aristotle and many more. This helped him to shine bright than the brightest during his college as well as in his political career.
With the presence of internet, books are available everywhere. Let’s choose our interest towards the topics we like to read. Start reading 2 pages every day. Grow our interest. Buy the books and keep it next to us. Book mark those articles on our browser. Set an alarm for reading. Keep it as a reminder. When we read, we teach ourselves something that we presumed to know. When we read contrarian topics, we teach ourselves something that we assumed. Develop the art of learning.
Art of Journaling
The under rated work is art of journaling. Journaling need not be only about, our life’s events or capturing a day’s work. When we do journaling, we are actually reciting the course of our day. It gives a glimpse of how the events unfolded for us that day, can help us understand it better and share more insights.
When we are not interested to journal our daily day, we can simply capture our thoughts. Take simple notes. The quotes that we read from a book. The three good things of the day. I practice, the 3 good things of the day, because it helps me to appreciate the events and the things that I am blessed with. As I write down, it helps to share a positive vibe. However, be the day, those three good things, helps to cherish, value and be grateful.
Practice to write. Start every day. Capture the thoughts. The day’s events. Or the things we like that day. The things that affected us that day. Keep writing.
Influence by Words
We are conscious about the inner voice. A voice that’s monologue about our lives throughout the day. This inner voice, according to psychologists is proven as an effective way to build one’s confidence. The eminent leaders used these self-talks as a positive assurance to themselves. They practiced during their times of doubtfulness.
These self-talk with oneself can be supportive or positive and cheerful. It can be negative and self-defeating when we speak in a negative way. Assure our self, with positive words. Have our own recital poem or positive dialogue or slogan, which we can say to our self. This would be useful, as the words influence us to positivity, reducing our own fears and building the confidence.
Words are powerful. They have the immense force to create and build a moment to movement. Choose those wisely with in oneself.
A simple slogan be asI am positively strong
I am positively strong
I am courteous and noble
I am curious and humble
I will raise myself and deliver
We all are involved in a moral struggle. This shall ultimately define our life’s value. WW II questioned and raised concerns towards Moral clarity. There is no better reference than Winston Churchill.
To quote from him,
You must look very deep into the heart of man, and then you will not find the answer unless you look with the eye of the spirit. Then it is that you learn that human beings are not dominated by material things, but by the ideas for which they are willing to give their lives or their life’s work
Thus, look into us for the values that we stand for. Nurture those values. Keep them safe. We might never know, as to when they would be our guiding force. We can face trials and tribulations in our life. During those, times it’s the moral clarity that defines us.
In times of volatility, the important aspect of personal mastery to hold on to moral clarity is nothing but Personal Courage. The most important one of personal mastery. Let’s look into that strong and valuable final point.
Courage is resistance to Fear. Mastery of Fear, not absence of Fear.
Any eventualities lead to uncertainty. The vulnerability paves in fear. With fear, we lose the confidence. We lose focus. We start to deliberate the reason with in us, as to why we should not progress further. We hear the negative self-talks.
That’s the most important time, when we need to be courageous. Personal courage is contagious. When you are courageous, you send hope to the people around you. When you share hope, they start a belief. The belief that the things, shall turn around. That belief will push you and the one’s around you to start a journey. When the journey begins, the momentum starts. Thus, courage is a primary step. Keep the flame of courage always burning inside you.
Uncertainty Paradox – This word occurred as a spark. When the CoVID situation was spreading all over the world, for the first time, this word striked in me. There was curiosity to know, with in me, how did I land up with this word. I just saved this word. Left it over for more than 2 months. Whenever, I was in discussion with my clients, or read an article or with my colleagues, as they explain the situation, I happened to quote this, without much of deep knowledge on this. This led to research, as to What is Uncertainty paradox?
Uncertainty refers to the impossibility of exact predictions. This leads to a paradox. Uncertainty is always associated with two things. One is risks and the other, it’s based upon precautionary principles. Let’s first try to understand about risks. Risks actually are the calculable acts that can lead to a certain result in case of uncertainties. Risks analyzed from the point of the uncertainty generally has a controllable factor associated with it. That’s when you hear the word calculated risk. However, risk as a word evolved through history meaning danger.
Uncertainty generally refers to the inability or the impossibility to have proper predictions. Risks, rather than looking into the literal meaning of danger, in all practical scenarios is the possible negative consequences that can happen due to uncertainty. Now let’s relate this to an example. With CoVID situation, when the government announced lockdown, it immediately paved way to uncertainty. The reason being, we as humans are used to relate everything to time factor. When will the shop open? When will the school reopen? When will my education get over? When will be my final loan installment?
However, when we heard the news of government announcing the lockdown. We were worried immediately about the timeline. As not definitive timeline was announced. It gave way to uncertainty. There was no clarity as to when we will get back to work. Since, suddenly exposed to the fact of uncertainty, without a binding time factor, it led to a paradox. Each of us started to base our conclusion, upon our understanding of the uncertainty. For example, let relate to the news, that country X relaxed the lockdown after 2 months. After sever attack from the virus. Based upon this, we relate that our country has just started to test, probably we will have 3-4 months to reach such a volume. Hence, this is going to take much more time. Probably the lock down would be there for another 4-5 months. This is how uncertainty works towards a conclusion, in which none of the factors are certain. However, they seem to be so right, a kind of paradox. Hence, this raised the factor of risk.
With no clarity in place, when the lockdown was announced, we happened to see people filling their home with more than two months of supplies. Risk which needs to be analyzed as a factor of uncertainty suddenly transformed as a danger.
Businesses when they expand or change markets or launch a new category of products, they would always say calculated risk. They generally work on their business plan and probable revenue relating to expansion or new product launch or scenarios similar to this.. However, they will not be able to gauge the market, even though they do a sampling. The way market reacts after the product launch can be completely different. Hence, they say it’s a calculated risk. However, as risk in that scenario is already a calculated and controllable one. The reason is, the business entities would have planned it as a separate ship, at an arm distance from the mother ship. Incase if it sinks, they have taken all the precautionary measures. The precautionary measures that doesn’t bring down the mother ship. A risk due to the uncertainty.
I have a classic example to share. This relating to the case of Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Pepsi market share was raising. It was close to 30% in 1985. This growth led to threatening of the market leader Coca-Cola, that it might lose it’s leading position. In order to avoid losing the market share, Coca-Cola introduced something new called as New Coke. The New Coke was smoother, sweeter in taste than the regular coke.
Coca-Cola thought this shall help to control the slide in its market share. Though it was launched by sampling where during the sample test the results were good. However, upon launch, Coca-Cola realized that people didn’t like the new coke. Only 13% liked the new one. Coca-Cola fans became angry to such an extent they ran a campaign and pushed Coca-Cola to bring its old Coke. Indeed, within 77 days, Coca-Cola launched its original Coke under the name of Classic Coke.
Coca-Cola saw an uncertainty, when its market share was sliding. Hence, it took a risk the one as calculated and controllable. The calculated risk proved to be a bigger failure and it was able to control it by bringing the Classic Coke.
Though the business community calls these as precautionary measures, I feel this would have evolved from the second factor related to uncertainty, the precautionary principles. The precautionary principle pertains to uncertain risks. These risks are not, or at least not fully, calculable and controllable. The reason being he probability of occurrence or the effect in terms of damage cannot be estimated. In this kind of situation, even the potential danger and the resulting causalities may not be established. Though there are suspicions of danger. I can see, that you are visualizing the current CoViD situation and this thought seems to fit so well.
When faced with an uncertainty paradox, how can we navigate through it. For this, we need to go and understand how policies are framed. That shall give us the guidance, the tools to navigate uncertainty. For policies to be rolled out, they generally look at evidence. A policy to be framed, initially is run as a programme or scheme. Based upon the development of the programme and its impact a policy is formed. The policy considers the amounts of information and knowledge that happened during the programme development stage. Thus, evidence-based policies depend on two main factors of information – A solid evidence (information) and which is appropriate. As the policy is rolled out based upon evidence, they also at least plan to have strong administration, assessment and dissemination of policy. But in reality, very few cases succeed to this level.
Thus, an approach suggested by Anouk S. Rigterink and Mareike Schomerus, referred as authors henceforth, in their evidence-based policies is 4P’s – Proof, Plausibility, Principle and Possibility. Now let’s see, how this can help oneself in addressing the uncertainty paradox.
Proof – According to the authors, to have a fool proof knowledge one has to establish a clear distinction between something that is right and wrong. This makes a plan in reference to a time, to be right. This approach they name it as to evidence proof. Now, let’s relate this thought to uncertainty. When we face uncertainty, one of the things we can work upon is, instead of getting fearful, trying to identify evidence proof. That is the scenarios or incidents that have close relevance to the uncertainty that we currently face. History always repeats in a different form. The closer we are able to study and relate the past facts, from our own life to the historical facts, we can have a proof in hand. This helps us to build the logic of reasoning. The moment, we approach the same uncertainty with an evidence proof, relative to logic of reasoning, we can avoid the panic and fear.
Plausibility – Plausibility, as per the author’s description is not proof, but is broader than most current definitions of evidence. An argument that a policy can plausibly work may include retrospective proof from other contexts (proof that it was a right thing, done in a right way, at some other time and/or in some other place). But plausibility goes beyond this: it has to demonstrate that it is probable that the policy can work in another time and at another place.
An example can be, applying for a job interview. Let’s assume we are applying for a position for office assistant. We don’t have much experience regarding the same. One of the approach, we generally take is, discussion with friends or common connections who are working as an office assistant. We also, try to get the information through network, who might be the interviewer, what kind of questions generally they ask, etc. This clearly gives a view, that the evidence is not a direct link to us, it had happened in the past and we try to forecast the same for us. This helps us better to be prepared to face the situation.
Principle – Principles can be considered as the concepts of hope. They can be the quotes or proverbs or guidelines that we had heard multiple times. We grew with those as our light house guiding us during our tough times.
The authors covey that, the proof is useful to evaluate whether a past policy has obtained its goals. Plausibility details whether it is likely that a proposed policy will obtain its goals. However, neither tells us whether these goals were worthwhile in the first place, or how different goals should be prioritized.
A simple relevance to the principles can be seen in World War 2. When the coalition soldiers were badly hurt due to the war in the Nazi territories, most of citizens in those countries, supported the soldiers. Took care of them, medicated them and helped them to recover. This was because of underlying human emotion of empathy. A principle which had grown with us over the centuries. The same way, when we are in the mix of uncertainty, a strong statement which we say to ourselves is “This too shall pass”. A principle that had evolved over the centuries, that nothing stays forever.
Possibility – When we are in dark, surrounded with uncertainty, we have to think through options. They always say, the best options or solutions emerge in times of constraint. According to the authors, Principle might help us to have a more honest discussion of the goals. Proof and plausibility emphasize finding out what has worked somewhere, and what could plausibly work in the future.
However, principle, proof and plausibility can only show us what had worked before or what have been tried before.
Possibility, the forth option, can throw us a way to navigate. This might be all new, which was neither been adopted or an example that was not in place with anyone. As with everyone, one’s life is unique to themselves. Thus, you might find a way possible to navigate through the constraint.
An appropriate recent example is the one I would like to share here. When the CoVID lockdown was announced in India, there was a challenge within migration workers. India as you all aware, is a country of multiple states. People from one state travel to other state and work depending upon the nature of their skillset. In one case, a girl working as labor in a construction industry came under the same lockdown situation. Her mom was sick, and they couldn’t stay in the state where they were working. Because of lockdown, their existence and the fear pushed them to the brim of life.
When there was complete lockdown on travel and all necessities, she saw a possibility of going to her village. Her village is 1200km away. The possibility she saw was to ride a bicycle and reach the village along with her sick mom. Indeed, she reached cycling down 1200km. This shows her never give up attitude and at the same time, a possibility that I can reach my village by bicycle. When most of them didn’t think about the same.
Thus, during the times of uncertainty, lets us not be tied to fear. Let’s not get bowed down due to the pressure of unknown. We can choose from the above 4P’s – Proof, Plausibility, Principle and Possibility to navigate the situation. Though these are points which are used for framing policies, I believe one of the P’s or a combination of those can be that light house during the storm in the sea of life to reach our destination. A light of hope.
Probing for proof, plausibility, principle and possibility: a new approach to assessing evidence in a systematic evidence review – Development Policy Review 34 (1) – Journal articles or issues