Category Archives: Mental Optimization

Mind Discipline

Created March 1, 2024
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Intellectual knowing is not the same as embodying
that knowledge in one’s actions.

Today there is fortunately an outpouring of articles and books on the subjects which a half century ago were rarely discussed outside of the kinds of books which were carried only by so-called metaphysical bookstores back then.

People with vast curiosity tend to study a wide spectrum of subjects. That describes me starting around age 4 when I fell in love with reading and writing. That also describes many people I know who have read many of the same esoteric books that I have, and some who have learned many things from the same writers. And many people whose reading has been far more inclusive than mine.

In conversations, I have noted that some of my great friends can quote wisdom but often are unaware that their actions do not conform to the bits of wisdom which they quote.

In some cases, this can be analyzed as intellectual versus emotional learning. The rational mind can be aware of important principles of how to live the good life, and yet on an emotional level, they are leaning away from those principles even as they espouse them.

Take a simple example: “There is no use crying over spilt milk.” Like all aphorisms, we tend to underestimate the amount of wisdom this aphorism contains. This is because familiarity breeds contempt. I know at least one person who can teach this to others but always lets disappointing news disturb her.

I know a man who has studied vast amounts of wisdom literature and understands all of it fully, yet his attitudes override the levels of tolerance which all wisdom literature teaches.

I know another man who is a walking encyclopedia of the history of applied psychology who does not pick up on his audience’s reactions.

Clearly there is a gap in the mind between knowing something and believing it to be true and valuable, yet not being able to “carry it off” in reality.

This gap is where discipline needs to be applied.

The reason that self-discipline is needed is that our day-to-day, moment-to-moment life is practiced with a mix of automatic and “manually overridden” (conscious, on-purpose, granularly formed) responses to external events.

Because we are used to that mix and never think much about it, we tend to overlook automatic responses which slip through despite the fact that they disagree with principles we espouse. Besides, “who has the time?” The Acceleritis culture is driving us all at top speed by giving us too many stimuli at practically all times. In moments when all media are turned off, we are not really escaping because that’s when the backed-up cognitive load dumps into our consciousness with unanswered questions and unassimilated half-learning, stuff we noticed but didn’t have time to think about why we noticed it, what it was saying to us that stuck so much in our minds.

My old friend Daniel Goleman has written many books about emotional intelligence, a phrase he coined long ago to describe the quality of a consciousness to integrate intellectual learning with emotional signals from inside and outside, and to perfect one’s actions taken, illuminated by this higher order of inner integrity.

Today I wish to emphasize another aspect of gaining emotional intelligence: self-discipline. Mental and emotional, intuitive and perceptual self-discipline.

The logical way to approach this topic is to start with the desired end state. First one ought to discern the ultimate goal of one’s own life, what you are here to do. The way the game is set up—this is not easy—and many people give up and let their game piece be pushed around by external forces. This is the first important place to apply mental and emotional, intuitive and perceptual self-discipline. You have to make the time to select the dream vision you wish to make come true over the course of your life. What your gift to the world shall be, your body of work you will leave behind to benefit posterity.

A guess is better than not having a targeted end state.

Discipline then has to be applied that respects yourself, you have set a goal, now you have to make it come true, you have to believe in it, you can’t be wishy-washy about it, that is a denial of self-respect.

You can’t allow yourself to waste time. To waste time is to waste your life. Time is a precious limited quantity. You must make best use of each second. Otherwise, you are admitting to yourself that you are not really laser-focused on your mission, you are programming yourself for failure to achieve your mission, you obviously do not take yourself seriously.

That’s why you can’t allow yourself to cry over split milk. Because not only is it a waste of time, it negatively programs you and the others around you. You are causing negative effects, and harming yourself and your mission, by giving in to the automatic reaction of the amygdala. This takes enormous self-discipline which can be gained by practice, and by never taking your eye off your mission.

At the same time, you can’t rush past noticing the cascade effects inside yourself, you must pay the time and attention to see your own automatic reactions that slipped through and screwed something up, so you can figure out what clues to look for next time, so you stop that particular automatic reaction from slipping through again.

One exercise is clearing the mind of all emotions. Any psychologist will tell you that emotions are the physical body manifestations that are connected with the inner feelings you have – so as you discipline away all the emotional clutter you have just been experiencing, it will happen in your body as well as in your mind – it will change your breathing, your heart rate, skin moisture, pupil aperture, and many other things. But you start with an inner act of will to cancel all inner events and return to a state of complete neutrality and emptiness. Starting over. Rebooting. I find that for me this is most effective when I walk into our meditation room, get down on the floor, breathe deeply, empty whatever is in me, and start my life over with a blank slate.

I hope you will refocus on your own mission and try this rebooting exercise whenever needed, and let me know how it goes.

Love to all,
Bill

Respect Everything

Created February 23, 2024

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Open-mindedness is one of the most important principles of metacognition (continuously studying one’s own mind as if from the point of view of an outsider) according to Dr. Gerald Zaltman, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard, and metacognition at Harvard Business School. Without open-mindedness one tends to be locked into positions one has taken in the past, even though there might be new relevant evidence that could be considered.

If one is truly open-minded, then that person can also see the possible truth in positions 180 degrees away from their own. An atheist can see that it is possible that an intelligence created the universe. A progressive can see that there might be useful truth in some things that a conservative says.

How little we know, as Hoagy Carmichael’s and Johnny Mercer’s song tells us (from the 1944 Hemingway-based movie To Have and Have Not). Arthur C. Clarke put it another way, he said that of all the things that we can someday know, what we know now is an infinitesimally small percentage.

We have changed our scientific perspectives many times along the way, and we continue to change them. The wisest among us have this perspective and their epistemology naturally embraces open-mindedness. Although in most of his work a physicalist, the great Stephen Hawking in his final book quoted John Wheeler’s Participatory Principle which states that our consciousness helps create reality. This opens the door to overthrowing physicalism and establishing consciousness as the principal underlying reality.

These are great thoughts from great people. Open-minded to the very end, despite their decades of study and theorizing.

Compare that to the average person. The average person takes very strong stands based on, really, very little. They fall into a very deep rut as to what they believe and the beliefs they hate. Most of their assumptions are not something they themselves learned from their own life experiences, but heard about from others influential in their lives. This reflects an unconscious epistemology of Authority rather than Empiricism. The very selfsame unconscious epistemology that leads to Authoritarianism. Blind followership, in other words.

Without open-mindedness, a person drifts as if by animal instinct to be attracted to types of people, e.g. tough guys, or pretenders of that ilk. This is a survival instinct in many species (e.g. pecking order) and when human beings behave animalistically they are not rising to the occasion of having exclusive cognitive capabilities proprietary to our species.

The lack of open-mindedness impels us to be negatively motivated. We know what we are fighting against. We are less sure of what we are fighting for. This is most apparent in the current political climate. It would be most noble and most fun for governments to spend 100% of their time focusing on creative solutions. Instead, they appear to spend most of their time knocking down the ideas of others. Yet we must respect all of them if we are to be open-minded. Respect does not imply agreement or support. It simply reflects the recognition that we all deserve respect. Even those who do not respect us. Noblesse oblige.

Open-mindedness and respect go together. If one is open-minded, one tends to listen respectfully to the thoughts and feelings of others. If one is respectful, one tends to listen to others with an open mind, and to use metacognitive strength to hold at bay the screaming voices in one’s own mind reflexively denouncing what the other person is saying.

If all of reality is a single consciousness, the larger parent of that part of the consciousness we take to be our own, then respecting everything makes complete sense. We have been conditioned by centuries of majorities of thinkers we respected who could not see how ancient conceptions of God could be squared with the findings of science.

What came out of nowhere in the last half Century were new conceptions of God that fit neatly in with quantum physics and relativity. Just replace the word “God” with “the original consciousness field” and everything makes sense, the Participatory Principle, relativity, quantum entanglement, the Heisenberg effect, Bits Before Its, the jigsaw puzzle falls into place.

What Wheeler called the quantum foam could simply be the original consciousness field. The way Wheeler described the quantum foam, which pre-existed The Big Bang in his theory, was that virtual particles spontaneously arose from it and fell back into it. Sounds a lot like consciousness, with ideas and feelings arising from it and often disappearing back into it before we could grasp them.

Since we cannot prove that point right now, it comes down to being open-minded about it. For some of us who have noticed that our hunches, at least the dispassionate ones, often have great validity, we can decide to run our lives betting on cosmopsychism, as scientists are now calling it. When that struck me as more of a revelation than a hunch circa 1969 I called it The Theory of the Conscious Universe. I had a feeling that everything was conscious, it was an experience, more like a perception than an idea. I also dimly recalled that I had always had that perception as a child but it went away a long time before, slipping away quietly.

If we retain the realization that the world might be a very different sort of place than it appears, and take that possibility seriously, we naturally become more open-minded and respectful toward others, who may actually be ourselves at a different place in the game.

Whatever the truth might be, we can perhaps know it with certainty the next time we die.

In the meantime, if we can all agree that the world needs a bit of a makeover right now, which I think is a pretty pervasive take on things, we can exercise our will to take a stronger hand in the game by rising to a state of open-mindedness and respect for all things, as all things may be a part of our One Self.

This includes respect for our own current self. The popular term “self-esteem” is not quite as healthy as self-respect, because “esteem” implies a vain ego, and “respect” does not.

If we respect others, we shall find that it has increased our level of self-respect. It is a magnanimous position to take. We have taken unconditional responsibility to behave properly.

If we can apply respect in our daily lives, it will automatically tune down the hate. We have not found any other way to effectively turn off the hate so why not try respect?

Love to all,
Bill

Don’t Overthink Stuff, Nor Act on Every Impulse

Created April 21, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Flow state is what the human race needs more of. It is super competency, the opposite of what we witness all around us every second nowadays.

Flow state is that condition in which an individual is doing everything perfectly. Which is why I referred to it as super competency.

Some of the other characteristics of Flow state are:

  • The individual has the sense that things are doing themselves
  • It feels like play
  • There is no fear of failure

The public is only vaguely aware of Flow state. Even those who know the state exists do not realize its significance in the context of the current collapse of civilizational institutions. Very few people recognize that widespread Flow state can be achieved and that this can restore robust forward progress toward a cooperative peaceful world.

If this were part of the public narrative, given that almost everyone now agrees that the human race is not in a good place, a lot more action would be taken quickly, like at the speed with which the Covid vaccines were developed.

But can we really get masses of people to change dramatically in time? Yes. 

It’s not as daunting as it seems. Individuals can learn simple principles of action and apply those principles to filter their own impulses before action – and to accurately sense when to not filter them at all.

The existence of this higher state of consciousness is scientifically well established. Neuroscientists have been studying its brain signature for decades. There are many studies with some degree of agreement and the work is progressing.

But we don’t need to wait until science knows Flow state inside and out. That is beside the point. The point is we know how to train people to increase time spent in Flow state and the world needs us all to receive that training right now. Much of the needed training is contained in my book Mind Magic.  I wrote it in hopes of training everyone to get into it more often (maintaining it continuously is very rare). I’ll share a few key takeaways here today.

Flow state happens with authentic non-edited natural response. However, if one takes a black and white oversimplistic approach to getting into the Flow state by going with their every natural inclination, what will happen is generally not Flow state but rapid alternation between egotistical behavior and flashes of Flow state, in which more moments go to ego.

What rule of action can we follow that will allow us to release into Flow, yet prevent us from wishful thinking that we are in Flow when we are not?

You get into Flow state when you are adept at the mechanical behaviors involved and are faced with a challenge situation that is matched closely with your skills but allows for no letting down of your guard.

In a conversation where you are not threatened or nervous you are likely to get into Flow state if you are discussing something you have studied deeply or you are trying to help another person with no thought of personal gain.

The simplest rule for managing your own behavior second to second is to be authentic without thinking about making yourself look good or achieving business aims or any goal other than giving the best of yourself at every moment regardless of the outcomes.

Before you can release yourself to just be you, you must feel unattached to outcomes. Then you get let go and be your self and you will feel the Flow gear engage. It will feel wonderful and you will be doing good in the world. You will be making a positive difference not just in your own interest but in everyone’s. You will be building trust that will develop strong relationships and enable you to do more good each day.

When you are not in Flow you do need to edit your impulses. They often come from ego and will not have long term success. They will not be inspired and will not inspire others. As a general rule you should assume the need to edit your own impulses except at times when you feel positive and letting yourself Flow with your natural impulses is the right thing to do. 

However, we can instantly fall out of Flow because we become overconfident and ego quickly slips back in. Knowing this you can monitor impulses even during Flow to prevent yourself from falling out by simply not acting on certain impulses of which you are uncertain. That slight uncertainty is enough of a clue in Flow to keep your mouth shut and your mind open.

Love to all,

Bill

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Choose Resilience Over Resentment

Created February 11, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey blog.

One reader of last week’s post thanked me and made a special request: write something about resentment and how to deal with it in oneself.

Last week’s post was about the things we do automatically all the time that do us absolutely no good. Things like hating. Resentment is another one of those things that we do that doesn’t help us and in fact hurts us.

The dictionary definition of resentment that I like the most is “Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”. Such as having been passed over for promotion, not having been appropriately recognized for one’s accomplishments, standing by red-faced while a sibling receives inordinate parental praise which would have been more applicable to oneself.

Some philosophers of psychology have asserted that resentment is a type. People who fall into this type tend to start early, and become wounded by their perception that they are not getting the love they deserve from one or both parents. Because this came about by a comparison between the ideal conditions and actual ones, the resentful type tends to become idealistic and perfectionistic, as if subconsciously assuming that this will “right the wrong”.

The actual effect of having an invisible script that we carry with us in life, without even realizing that we have such a script, is that it will tend to cause us to experience the negative outcomes which we expect. If we expect to be treated unfairly, we will tend to bring about that undesired outcome. This happens through micro-momentary unconscious signaling.

In other words, by giving in to the automatic ego-emotional reaction of showing resentment, and/or anticipatory resentment, which is automatic, one does not lead to being treated more fairly.

Which is more important – getting treated more fairly more often – or blowing off steam by expressing resentment – or causing oneself psychological harm by repressing resentment so that it operates under the radar. It would seem far better to repair real world situations. This is why we urge people to not operate on autopilot, but to exert conscious observation of what we are doing to ourselves, automatic or otherwise, and take control of our behaviors, moving the matter out of the subconscious and into the conscious. This involves metacognition and self-metaprogramming.

Here are some actions recommended when one senses resentment within oneself.

First, don’t let others see that you feel resentful. Subconsciously we all tend to see resentment as a characteristic of weakness, someone who is “a loser” at least in the situation. Far better to show confidence, awareness of one’s own value, no concern as to what others think of you – whether you are really that strong today or not. By acting like the you that you are aiming at being, you build that muscle until it becomes fully authentic.

Take care to continue to treat kindly the person who marginalized you, even if you have evidence that they are out to get you. That demonstrates your invulnerability, and you actually can cause behavior changes in others by this turning of the other cheek.

Second, take some time to contemplate how you might have set yourself up for being underestimated. Were there any signals you sent, overt or subtle, that could have contributed to becoming under-appreciated?

These strategies are aimed at shifting the basis for your inner life experience away from automatic defensive reactions, to enlightened self-management. This shift is a profound one which very few people ever even attempt. It is a shift very conducive to greater effectiveness and happiness, which is resilient to offending experiences, and leads to creativity and Flow state.

The neurological structures and functions within a human being are pro-survival and are there as default systems when we are not in a state of enlightened self-interest performing rationally and empirically. Unfortunately, during the information acceleration pandemic which has been going on throughout recorded history, we settle into living our entire lives in these robotical fight-flight states. Only a relative handful of us conquer our own autonomic ego reaction instincts. Those that do stand out for their accomplishments and their sagacity.

We can all be that way. There is a simple method to it. It is to stop assuming anything, reset to scratch, and observe carefully everything that goes on in and around you, suspending judgment. Use my book Mind Magic as it makes it even easier. But all you really need is you, observing everything without judging it, and ignoring your own kneejerk reactions. With practice, you will find that you don’t feel the sting as much as you used to when someone intentionally or unintentionally does something that you resent. It becomes irrelevant. So long as you can keep doing your work, achieving your goals, maintaining the desired lifestyle, you can let such events roll off your confident back.

Until you really feel that confidence, by all means project it externally, but most importantly, figure out why you have that lack of confidence in yourself. Have you been Peter-Principled into a job that is not your expertise? Do you want to learn how to do that role with greater confidence? There will be ways you can get the learning you need. Or would you rather be doing some other kind of work?

It’s possible that someone is gunning for you, actively wanting to get you to leave. It comes down to how much you love everything else about the job, and what you really want.

If the moment comes when you are formally invited to leave, focus on what you want to do next, the departure although involuntary might be a really good thing for you in the long run.

Always remember the good things you have done in that job, and keep doing things you’re proud of. Whether or not they are proud of you, you can still be proud of yourself. They are not the measure of you. You yourself are the most qualified to know how good or imperfect you are. Don’t be thrown off by people who are working off of guesswork.

Best to all,

Bill