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Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

My intent for this discussion is to build on an article I published called How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind. The focus here will be on self-awareness, critical thinking and a new idea I am developing called “Swarming the Brain”.

I will use methods and frameworks from Systems Thinking V2.0, the Red Team Handbook from the Center for Applied Creative and Critical Thinking, and Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop. I will then demonstrate tools and techniques from these frameworks to show how you can improve your critical thinking abilities, as well as self-awareness.

4 Simple rules for self-awareness

Similar to how I introduced How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind, here I will introduce another version of it leading to greater self-awareness. In this version, there are four simple rules for self-awareness. These simple rules will move us from information to understanding.

Simple rules moving us from information to understanding:

  1. Observe. Sense information (think of nodes within a network).
  2. Orient. This is the process of making sense of the information (think of the process of connecting nodes within a network).
  3. Decide. Thinking is introduced to connect the nodes (the connection of nodes within a network is the creation of knowledge).
  4. Act. When we connect knowledge we attain understanding or wisdom (think of the emergence of a network or the edges of a network).

    For each simple rule, I will provide both a question and a set of tools or frameworks to use.

    The question should trigger the rule, where the tool or framework will lead to an emerging network. I use simple questions with simple rules because there is power in simple.

    Sometimes the best way to get at the heart of the matter (especially in a complex world) is to ask a simple question:

    Rule #1 — Observe: The Unexamined Life

    Observe (Awareness or Awakening)

    • Question: What lens do I see reality through?
    • Tool(s): Systems Thinking V2.0 (DSRP) and Who Am I?

    The process of improving self-awareness through introspection takes discipline to look inward to examine our own thoughts, feelings and motives.[1] Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection, as well as the ability to be more enabled as a critical thinker and more aware of your own biases. It is through this understanding of the individual that an expanded world view opens.

    By reflecting on our world view, we are essentially trying to understand our mental models. The Cabrera’s inform us,

    “Mental models shape our understanding of everything around us. The goal of systems thinking is the continuous improvement and refinement of our mental models such that they more closely reflect the real world. The closer the mental model to reality, the more useful it is to us.”

    The Cabrera’s discovered DSRP in order to interrogate our mental models. They remind us that our understanding of reality is just an approximation. Following the advice of the Cabrera’s, I used a combination of DSRP and a Red Team exercise to understand my own mental model.

    One of the first techniques we learn in Red Team training (instructed by the UFMCS Center for Applied Critical Thinking) is an exercise called Who Am I? This exercise requires reflection and introspection of your personal narratives and dynamics, culture, religion, education, and critical watershed moments that shape your worldview and values. Let’s briefly examine the method for this exercise.

    • Step 1. You must first recall seminal life changing events and moments that shape who you are. To do this you must conduct a disciplined self-reflection study of your life.
    • Step 2. Share your Who Am I? in a group setting or with another individual. The people or person listening should not speak or interrupt you in any way. So find someone who is good at active listening and explain to them specifically what you need prior to beginning the exercise.

    This is also a great team building exercise. You will find that you truly get to know each other on a deep level by simply conducting this exercise.

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    With that said, let’s a couple powerful tools offered by the Cabrera’s in Systems Thinking v2.0: Thinkquiry and Plectica.

    Thinkquiry

    Thinkquiry is the term the Cabrera’s use for thinking differently about how we ask questions from a systems thinking approach. What’s different about Thinkquiry is the underlying logic of DSRP which is multivalent. Traditional question logic is born of Socratic Logic (which is bivalent logic) and typically employs such rubrics as the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why).

    DSRP Logic expands on this bivalent Logic which means that these kinds of questions can still be asked, but we are encouraged to penetrate deeper into our topic and ask deeper questions. [2] The following illustrates some of these questions:

      Plectica

      It is a visual systems mapping software based on Systems Thinking v2.0. I personally use this free software daily to visualize, analyze and synthesize concepts to gain a greater understanding of ideas or concepts in their entirety. The image below represents the creativity this system offers us as I used it to create my swarming idea.

        I also recommend watching the following video for a deeper understanding of Systems Thinking V2.0 — DSRP:

        By thinking meta-cognitively (thinking about thinking) we are able reshape connections in our brain and reshape our mental models. You actually reshaped connections in your brain by simply watching the Systems Thinking v2.0 video.

        Rule #2 — Orient: Hang a question mark on things

        Rule #2: Orient

        • Question: What would have to exist for something to be true? Or why must something be true?
        • Tool(s): Simple Rules and the String of Pearls (Think IF-AND-THEN)

        In Flock Not Clock, the Cabrera’s provide an example of using simple rules leading to emergent behavior in an organization. This is a powerful technique and is the foundation for this entire article (as this article is essentially simple rule for an emergent behavior). Let’s see how this works.

        Step 1: Identify your future state

        Step 2: Identify simple rules

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        • Rule #1: Observe
        • Rule #2: Orient
        • Rule #3: Decide
        • Rule #4: Act

        Step 3: Emergent behavior (What can we actually see)

        We learn to observe the real world via a new mental model, orient to reality, make good decisions, and most importantly… to act (while receiving and reflecting on continuous feedback).

        The String of Pearls technique can be found in the Red Team Handbook. It is a way to ensure teams consider unintended consequences. It is a tool to help prevent “wishing” or “assuming away the problem” and to identify weaknesses in thinking or a plan.

        Moreover, similar to the domains within Bloom’s Taxonomy, this technique uses domains. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides three domains: cognitive domain (reflects knowledge); affective domain (reflects emotion); physical domain (reflects the body). Let’s further examine these three domains:

        • The Cognitive Domain: Reflects knowledge — the mind completes levels of understanding of a concept; building to the next higher level of understanding. To me, this is like visualizing the Rubik’s Cube as a brain.
          • The Affective Domain: Reflects emotion — our attitude and awareness. We feel levels of emotion about recognizing and synthesizing information.
          • The Physical Domain. Reflects the body — we connect mind (Cognitive Domain) to body events in a way that generates muscle memory for an action.

          Events (also known as actions) are called 1st order effects and occur in the Physical Domain. 2nd order effects represent how we feel about the event (Affective Domain). 3rd order effects represent thoughts about the event (Cognitive Domain).

          Furthermore, cascading effects follow a chain of actual causality (If-Then) as they occur in the Physical Domain — where one event precipitates the next. [3] Events subsequent to 2nd and 3rd order effects which precede them are unintended consequences of the first event. However, they are not caused by the original event. By identifying unintended consequences, we can minimize the likelihood of overlooking something.

          The following three questions are key to the String of Pearls technique:

          1. Will your plan or actions produce a cascade of other events? If so, what could they be?
          2. What message or information is being conveyed by the plan or action and to whom is it being conveyed?
          3. How will the message be interpreted by others?

          Rule #3 — Decide: Crisis hunters

          Rule #3: Decide

          • Question: Where are the pattern of bullet holes NOT located?
          • Tool(s): Scout Wheel

          Nassim Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness,

          “In the markets, there is a category of traders who have inverse rare events, for whom volatility is often a bearer of good news. These traders lose money frequently, but in small amounts, and make money rarely, but in large amounts. I call them crisis hunters. I am happy to be one of them.”

          Taleb goes on to inform us of an asymmetry in knowledge. In his discussion on why statisticians don’t detect rare events, he provides the following example,

          “Common statistical method is based on the steady augmentation of the confidence level, in nonlinear proportion to the number of observations. That is, for an n times increase in the sample size, we increase our knowledge by the square root of n. Suppose I am drawing from an urn containing red and black balls. My confidence level about the relative proportion of red and black balls, after 20 drawings is not twice the one I have after 10 drawings; it is merely multiplied by the square root of 2 (that is, 1.41).”

          Taleb continue with the following remarks,

          “Where statistics becomes complicated, and fails us, is when we have distributions that are not symmetric, like the urn above. If there is a very small probability of finding a red ball in an urn dominated by black ones, then our knowledge about the absence of red balls will increase very slowly — more slowly than at the expected square root of n rate.”

          Here is a key point in his discussion,

          “On the other hand our knowledge of the presence of red balls will dramatically improve once one of them is found. This asymmetry of knowledge is not trivial.”

          What does this mean?

          What if red balls were randomly distributed as well? As Taleb informs us that we can never get a true composition of the urn. He provides an example of an urn with a hollow bottom, and as you are sampling from it, a mischievous child (without you knowing about it) is adding balls of one color or another.

          Taleb remarks,

          “My inference thus becomes insignificant. I may infer that the red balls represent 50% of the urn while the mischievous child, hearing me, would swiftly replace all the red balls with black ones. This makes much of our knowledge derived through statistics quite shaky.”

          So, what’s the point?

          Taleb points out that we take past history as a single homogeneous sample believing we have significantly increased our knowledge of the future by observing the sample of the past.

          Taleb asks two questions at the end of his example:

          1. What if vicious children were changing the composition of the urn
          2. In other words, what if things have changed?

          The point of this discussion is that things do in fact change. As self-aware critical thinkers, we should not be worried about increasing our knowledge about the absence of red balls… we should seek to improve our knowledge of the presence of red balls. Thus, we should never forget that things will change.

          This brings me back to my earlier discussion on changing how we phrase a question. A simple change in how we phrase a question allows us to completely change our perspective and potentially bring about a paradigm shift. The change here is the following:

          Change “absence” of red balls to “presence” of red balls. Thus, you seek to become a crisis hunter — an asymmetry in knowledge.

          For those of you who are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and have read How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind, go back and read my section titled SDWFAP.

          • Scouting (S): Think like a Scout — the drive to see what’s really there.
          • Dog (D): Find the Dog who isn’t barking.
          • Was (W): What would have to exist for something to be true?
          • Frightened (F): What’s not right in Front of us?
          • At (A): Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for hypothesis to be true.
          • Patterns (P): Where are the Pattern (or location) of bullet holes NOT located?

          Moreover, we can visualize using SDWFAP to swarm our brain. Using simple rules similar to how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would using swarming tactics: Sense — Decide — Act. Let’s see how we could “Swarm the Self-Aware & Critical Thinking Brain”:

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            Rule #4 — Act: Success = Sensors + Feedback

            Rule #4: Act

            • Question: Where is the dog who isn’t barking?
            • Tool(s): Swarming the Brain Tactics

            If we change our behavior we change our brain. “Swarming the Brain” is priming the brain to learn and we can do this through the development of sensors (or triggers), exercise, nutrition, reading and learning, the development of a morning routine, and receiving (and reflecting on) continuous positive feedback. We must also identify key indicators of change. These allow us the ability to assess change and the ability to place key sensors in the form of Indicators (or Expected Change).

            Moreover, the first rule is the most crucial — Observe. Let’s examine this from a parent-child relationship. If the parent is not aware then the child will not be aware. This is why something must serve as the sensor or trigger to bring about awareness.

            This reminds me of how I use my favorite iOS application — WikiLinks Smart Wikipedia Reader. This app mimics the way I think as it maps and connects concepts and narratives.

            For example, if we are only aware of the term ADHD as a diagnosis of a Disorder, then we will not be aware of any additional knowledge. But if we are aware of additional knowledge, and aware to the fact that ADHD is not a Disorder, then we start to see more links, then more links, then a paradigm shift takes place.

            Here, a parent must first shift their perspective from,

            “If my child is diagnosed with ADHD — And it’s a Disorder — Then my child will receive Negative Feedback.” to “If my child is diagnosed with ADHD — And it’s a Superpower — Then my child will receive Positive Feedback.”

            Once the shift takes place, they should establish Indicators (Expected Change) and set the conditions so that the swarm can proceed.

            The following are what I call Swarming the Brain Tactics:

            • Exercise and Nutrition: Dr. John Ratey wrote about one of my favorite topics — Neurogenesis in one of my favorite books Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He found that, as we age, our brain is still forming new brain cells and can change its structure and function.
            • Reading and Learning: Through reading and learning, we can reshape our brain as it brings in new challenges and keeps the child cognitively active.
            • Morning Routine: Establishing a morning routine allows a child (and you!) the ability to wake up before anyone else, kick start your metabolism, and provides you time to read and exercise (I do them together by listening to audio-books).

            Finally, we all have the ability to improve our self-awareness. If we follow the simple rules outlined in this discussion, we have the chance to improve and become better (more self-aware) critical thinkers. Thus, we have a chance to bring about an intelligent emergent behavior.

            “People often do not realize that they have a chance, so they miss it.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

            To learn more about these methods/frameworks, I recommend you read the following:

            1. Swarming the Brain: The ADHD OODA Loop. I discuss this topic in greater detail.
            2. How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind. I discuss each framework in this article.
            3. Systems Thinking v2.0. Dr. Derek and Laura Cabrera discuss simple rules of systems thinking — Distinctions-Systems-Relationships-Perspectives (DSRP) in two books I highly recommend: Systems Thinking Made Simple and Flock Not Clock. I also recommend using Plectica — their free visual systems mapping software based on Systems Thinking V2.0. Nearly every image I use in this article was created using Plectica.
            4. The University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) Center for Applied Creative and Critical Thinking. I highly recommend reading the free Red Team Handbook published by the UFMCS.
            1. Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop. Frans P.B. Osinga provides the most in-depth description and understanding of the OODA Loop in Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. I also highly recommend reading The Tao of Boyd: How to Master the OODA Loop.

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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            Reference

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            Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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            Last Updated on August 7, 2020

            40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place

            40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place

            “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” — Jane Goodall

            So, you want to change the world? Who says you can’t?

            You’ve had the power this whole time. You just have to tap into it and embrace the ways you make changes.

            You can start small or go big. The important thing is that you try. Even in little ways, we can change the world. It’s up to you to show up and make that difference.

            Here are 40 acts of kindness to make the world a better place.

            1. Give a Compliment

            Tell someone that you care about them by complimenting them. It can be a big compliment or a small one. The point is that you share what good you see in them. That will help them develop confidence and a stronger sense of self.

            2. Volunteer

            There’re many reasons why doing voluntary work is good for you. Find a good cause you care about and give your time to it. Serve in some way. Volunteering transforms your hard work into other people’s happiness. This is one of the most common acts of kindness that you can do.

            3. Contribute to a Charity

            Similarly, charities also contribute to other people’s happiness even with minimal effort from you. If you can’t serve a charity or nonprofit, you can give financially or even raise money with a fundraiser. Volunteering and contributing to charity are acts of kindness that require sacrifice but are definitely worth it.

            4. Visit Someone

            People may know you care but are you present with them? It’s best to give your time to those you care about and show them that they matter to you. Go and visit them while you can. This simple act of kindness can go a long way.

            5. Listen

            When someone talks, are you really listening? A person will feel like you are listening if you actively respond and can repeat back what they’ve said, asking questions to further probe their problems. Regardless if you’re actively or passively listening, listening has positive effects on others, which is a step towards making the world a better place.

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            6. Show Empathy

            Show empathy – feel what someone else is feeling. Put yourself in their place. They may need that, and this shows that you understand what they are going through, which can help make them feel better. Showing empathy is one of the simplest yet best ways acts of kindness can manifest.

            7. Point out the Positive for Someone

            Not everyone can see the positive side of things, especially if they are going through very rough times. It may make their day though if you show it to them. Then, they can enjoy it, too.

            8. Help Someone With Something

            Do you have some skills to offer? Do you have the ability to help out? It doesn’t matter how you can help, just find some way to be of use to someone. You never know how doing so might find its way back to you. Ask how you may be of help, and it just might make someone’s day a lot better.

            9. Give Input or Advice

            Someone may benefit from what you know. You may have the experience that they don’t have. When you give input about something using your expertise (whether a little or a lot), you are more appreciated for doing so. Valid criticisms and feedback are always welcome, and they may even help others improve their situation.

            10. Lead Others

            You may now know it, but people may be looking to you as an example of what to do. You can lead them from point A to point B, maybe because you’ve gotten there yourself or because they trust you. Regardless, leading others is one of the best acts of kindness that you can do for others.

            11. Promote Someone

            Show off someone’s skills and their value. This will make them feel good enough as well as touched by this act of kindness. Promoting someone not only benefits them economically or financially, but it also helps them mentally and emotionally, knowing that you believe in them.

            12. Solve a Problem for Someone

            You don’t have to have all the answers. But if you have solved a problem for someone, they will look at you as if you do. That’s rewarding in and of itself.

            13. Tell Someone That They Matter

            People don’t always know their worth. Some people don’t recognize that they and what they do matter to others. If you tell them that they are worthwhile, they will feel better and be able to do better. They will look to you for strength at first, then to themselves.

            14. Teach Someone a New Skill

            You don’t have to be a teacher to share your knowledge. If you teach someone a new skill, they will spread the knowledge and your influence may extend to more people. This is a simple yet effective act of kindness that can help improve the world.

            15. Plant a Tree, Clean up Trash, Recycle, Get Educated

            Even in simple ways, taking care of the environment is important in making the world a better place. You must care about nature and its value. We are connected to nature, and nature is a big part of our world.

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            16. Start a New Initiative Toward Social Good

            You may not be the only one interested in an idea, but you may be the first to act on it. Lead others towards this initiative and see the goodness spread. Any initiative that benefits society will benefit the whole world.

            17. Analyze if Products Are Ethical

            In the current consumer culture, we often want instant gratification. But that’s not always safe or effective. We must look into the ethical practices behind the products we consume. Our consumption should be consistent with what we stand for, and we should spread the message to gain greater awareness of the right kind of products.

            18. Ask Questions

            This is called being considerate. When you ask someone a question, you are showing interest in and building their confidence to talk about themselves.

            19. Make a New Friend

            We can’t have a list of acts of kindness without including this one. Everyone needs friends. We must hold onto each other not hurt each other. Having friends means we’re no longer alone. You can share more and do more when you have a friend.

            20. Positive Reinforcement

            Rather than just criticizing someone for what they did wrong, praise and reward good behavior, too. This is especially useful when dealing with kids or in the workplace. Learn the benefits of positive reinforcement: Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

            21. Be Honest

            This may just be a simple act of kindness, but people will feel respected if you are honest with them. It may not solve everything, but it helps them know you are trustworthy and that you care about them.

            22. Give Your Time

            Giving your time to help others shows them that you will be there for them no matter what. Your time is the most valuable thing that you can give, and this can encourage them to give their time to others as well.

            23. Be Accountable

            If you make a mistake, that’s okay. No one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. But be accountable and try to make things better. This will let others know that they can rely on you.

            24. Learn

            Learn from someone. Listen to someone’s story, learn how someone does something, and be teachable. We can’t learn everything, so there will always be something new for us to learn.

            25. Love

            Love makes the world go round. Love is the ultimate manifestation of kindness. And when you love someone, let them know it. Let them feel that you are in their life for the right reasons and that you want to be there for them.

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            26. Stand for Something

            Society has many problems, and there are many causes to choose from. Find something you are passionate about such as a social justice issue, environment, animals, etc. The list goes on. What’s important is that you show conviction toward a good cause.

            27. Write a Note of Encouragement

            A nice note can turn someone’s day around. As long as what you wrote is from the heart, the recipient will feel that it is and will feel better than before.

            28. Say “Thank you”

            Saying “thank you” is often taken for granted. Such an act of kindness is often overlooked, but it’s still as important as before. Saying “thank you” is how you can make some feel appreciated and supported.

            Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

            29. Heal Someone

            If you can heal someone, you can make the world a better place. You can heal them emotionally, physically, or spiritually and if you heal them, they will never forget it. You will feel healed in your heart, too.

            30. Be an Advocate

            Stand up for someone or something. Sometimes, it’s not easy to do the right thing, but if you want to show that you care, you have to put a stop to any form of injustice. You may be the only one to take that stand. Know that it matters.

            31. Raise Someone

            Raising a human being is just one contribution that you can make in the world. This may be more complicated than the other acts of kindness, but it’s just as impactful. You can leave a legacy on the person who grows up under your care.

            32. Embrace Community

            “No man is an island.” It’s a common saying but it speaks the truth. We are meant to be social beings in need of each other. That is why we have communities. You can help a community flourish through what you bring to the table.

            33. Hold Space for Someone

            This means having no judgment. It is unconditional care and support without trying to solve someone else’s problems. It may be kinder than talking over them or taking over. Let them be, and let them know you’re there.

            34. Forgive

            Grudges hold us back. Second chances give us more life. It’s not just for them, it’s for us. When the situation is appropriate, be the bigger person and you will have a better life. Forgiveness may not come easy, but you’ll find that it transforms everything it touches.

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            Learn How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide).

            35. Give a Gift

            If you give a gift, someone will have something that makes them think of you. They also learn that they are deserving of kindness, and they may feel good about themselves.

            36. Keep Your Promises

            People look to you for consistency. They want to know that they can count on you. Show them they can by keeping your promises.

            37. Just Be Nice

            Other acts of kindness require more effort, but you can just be nice and this will contribute to having a better world. The important thing is to always be aware of your words and actions.

            38. Make Others a Priority

            When was the last time you checked in with someone else and their wellbeing? How high up the list do you put them? Make them a priority and show them that they are being heard.

            39. Meet Someone Where They’re at

            You may not understand someone’s point of view or see a lack of experience compared to your own. But you can still meet them where they are and how they are still important to you. Find ways to use this to teach them how to be better. Find grace, patience, and understanding.

            40. Save a Life

            If someone’s in need and you answer the call, that simple act can change everything. Sometimes, the little things we do can already save or change the lives of others. Make the world a better place by saving those within it. This is the greatest thing you can do with all your talents, money, and time.

            Final Thoughts

            Can you think of more ways to make the world a better place? Then do it. Invite others to do it with you, too. This will change the world, but it will also change you. You will become happier and healthier to have done so.

            Use this list anytime you need a good idea or a simple reminder of what you can do. No matter what you do, you are a hero. How you live is your legacy.

            Featured photo credit: Andrea Tummons via unsplash.com

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