I’ve been working lately on how to make good habits stick, as a result of my musings from What Really Works? and I realized that habits weren’t only physical actions, like remembering to study every day, or take notes when you read.
There are also mental habits.
These are the actual cognitive tools and mental strategies you employ when considering any problem–how you look at it, what approaches you try, etc. Optimizing for a strong set of effective thought patterns seems just as, if not more, valuable than optimizing daily life actions.
Which brings me to today’s quick post about a handy mental tool that’s been at the back of my mind, but I haven’t really exercised all too much– having multiple mental “modes” to handle different problems.
There are instances where views I found central to my concept of “me” to be distracting when trying to get specific tasks done.
More generally, though, this is stemming from the observation that there is rarely a “Swiss-army default mindset” that manages to optimize for all encounters.
For example, the mindset of someone participating in a discussion and the discussion’s facilitator might be best served by running different “modes”, even if they are in the same talk.
Being an active participant might involve drawing upon past knowledge and making quick connections to what is being discussed. There is probably also some synthesis going on, as new ideas are generated. Overall, the person may be very directly mentally involved with the concepts being discussed.
Leading the discussion, however, requires the ability to follow the conversation, but also the flow of conversation–where the talk is headed to, on an abstract level, and direct the flow to cover the agenda/action items. The facilitator needs to be able to switch between an object-level and meta-level view, which may be best served by not being stuck too deeply in the conversation at hand.
So when approaching a task, it appears to be highly useful to ask yourself what sort of mindset would do well in the role you play in the task, and then adopting that mindset.