Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Chaotic Mind - Building Harmonies from Cacophony

drawing by Hiking Artist
My experiences today helped lay bare for me the challenges I face wrestling with my own mind.  As I have spent the last two years curating my interests, my brain has lit up in ever more powerful and chaotic ways.  I find it time to face this multitude of thoughts and interests, and to lay out for myself tools I can use to harmonize my mind.

I liken this experience of a child who first discovers each of the multitudes of instruments in an orchestra.  I find myself enamored with what each instrument can do individually, still in that early stage of loudly banging, plucking, and blowing in order to see of what these new tools are capable.  The more I crash around the stage of my mind, the more interesting things I learn.  As of yet, however, I have not built up the skill, precision, or discipline to have all of the instruments play together in harmony.

The challenge on which I embark now is to find the tools, and build the rigor which will allow me to align the electrified instruments of my passions, and have them play in harmony, each one building and compounding on the other.

Strategies for Building an Orchestra

Map What I Know

Any given day I learn SO much.  Each thing I learn sparks connections to dozens of ideas I have learned previously.  Getting an accurate inventory of this vast array of interconnected thoughts is paramount to building my effective mental orchestra.  Modern software technologies are enabling Mind Mapping which mirrors the multidimensional and non-hierarchical patterns of our thoughts. By off loading the metal work of remembering all of my thought connections, I can focus more of my time of making new connections.

Reflect What I Hear

During any given interaction, be it with part of myself, or another valued person, I find my mind formulating multitudes of responses and questions to what I am hearing while the speaker is still trying to convey their thought.  In this way only a very small percentage of my brain is left to actually stay in the moment, listening and absorbing the fine points of the message being offered.  Reflection is a skill which cuts through this chaos.

In reflected communication, every thought assumed to have value is absorbed and reflected back to the speaker to ensure the thought was properly received.  This method of empathetic communication has many benefits.
  1. The listener is more engaged to provide accurate reflection.
  2. The speaker is more precise since any loose language will be reflected back and laid bare.
  3. The listener is induced to have more empathy for the speaker since in reflecting the message they necessarily take on the role of the speaker.
  4. The speaker receives explicit empathy inducing feelings of respect and self worth as their message is being treated as valuable.
  5. The listener's later response will be much more valuable being based on an empathetic comprehensive and well thought out processing of the original message.
  6. The speaker in hearing their message reflected is given time to ponder the wider connections and ramifications of their own statement allowing for modification or clarification as they absorb a wider context for their statement.
Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

Offload My Thoughts and Evaluations

Attempting to play an entire orchestra of instruments by yourself induces stress, frustration, embarrassment, and burn out.  Conversely, playing in harmony with trusted partners each contributing to a whole induces joy, fulfillment, pride, and electric motivation.

In my mental life, the more processing I can off load to trusted partners, the more I am freed up to specialize my mental efforts to really work magic.  Off loading only is feasible if I surround myself with passionate, honest, and dedicated individuals on whom I can rely.  I rely on them to stand up to their ideals, and to take the courageous actions which will keep me feeling protected, supported, and loved.

These respected partners will take on the load of some of my decision making and in turn I will take on theirs.  We together will trust each other's decisions all the while providing peer review to the processes with which we each make our decisions.  Critical in this process is error correction.

When an inevitable poor decision emerges, we will not focus on that end product, but instead will track back into our decision processes to identify where our shared methodology lead us off track.

The free book Real Time Relationships focuses on building trust.

Share My Thoughts

Above all else, I have found it most helpful to share my complex thoughts with others.  In order to effectively share my thoughts, I am driven to bring order and methodology to their presentation.  In mapping out my thoughts for sharing, I invariably become better acquainted with them which has a settling effect on my mind.

When the sharing occurs, the reactions, questions, emotions, and feedback I receive reveal new directions from which to approach the topic which in turn sheds light on previously unseen details and implications.  In turn, by sharing my complex thoughts with anther, I show them my how much I value their time, intelligence, listening ability, and insights.

The Road Ahead

Plotting, reflecting, offloading, and sharing.  These are the basic tool sets I have so far.  I have found that each one offers exponential benefits towards calming my mind, and sharpening my insights.  Many of these tools even build trust, respect, and value in my relationships as well.  While in most ways I am still messing around with my mental instruments, I am optimistic that with these and other tools, I will be able to build the most beautiful mental orchestra the world has ever seen.

Let me know if you have similar challenges with your thoughts, and what types of strategies you have cooking to address your mental cacophony.

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