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What amazing designs/ways of thinking do you use--to increase energy/reduce mental drain??  RSS feed

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Posts: 563
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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I keep thinking that there's an overlap between a thinking system I love (actually two different ones) one the one hand and "permaculture thinking" on the other.

I am not so well informed that I could tell you definitively what "permacultre thinking" is but I would describe what I think it is as "thinking outside the (unnecessary) box" and "can do/there's always a way" thinking.

Of the two other systems that have kept coming to mind I want to talk about Edward de Bono, MD.'s Six Thinking Hats, a way of deliberately structuring one's thinking vs. structuring it by default.

I'm going to kind of ramble here because it's not fuly formed in my head and maybe not give the best example of actaully doing the kind of thinking that de Bono suggets, but here goes:

The Six Thinking Hats are modeled on biological systems.

Permaculture is modeled on nature's design.

Six Thinking hats are as follows: red (feelings), white (facts), green (possibilities, alternatives, alternative explanations), blue (thinking about thinking), yellow (what's right about X), and black (what's wrong with X). You use the Blue hat to figure out which of the other hats is going to serve best next, or at least to make a bad decision that's better than no decision. You use each of the hats one at a time (most people jumble all the hats together and jump to conclusions taht a new idea they have won't work (black hat) before really looking at the facts (white hat) or the alternative approaches (green hat) or taking enough time to look at what's right about the idea (yellow hat). Or they're looking at only part of the facts (white hat) that show what's always been, and ignore that the past doesn't predetermine the future (see Hume, the Wright Brothers, any inventor who ever invented anything new). Rather than being knee-jerk-reflexive in your thinking, you can be deliberate, and reap more benefits.

Permaculture "hats" are similar: people care and fair share ethics are red hat-ish (feeling, you can't prove this is important logically but if we all are honest and not in a pissed off mood, we all can say we want this); white hat (we look at facts; permaculturists observe); green (alternatives--we try new things before assessing, we look outside the box a lot, we look for alternative ways of understanding a situation--eg not a slug problem but a lack-of-duck problem), yellow (we look at what's working, even if it's not perfect, we'll use petroleum-based technology to build a permament system that can then be sustained without petroleum), black (we welcome someone to poke holes in our design, or problems, whether from nature or other people, as fodder for new solutions), and blue...well, people are somewhat deliberate on this forum, I perceive, in deciding to keep thinking "there must be a way, let me dig a little further" rather than jumping to conclusions because something didn't work in the past. So they'll use the blue hat to pick green hat, or pick white hat, before jumping to conclusions.

Of course, you don't have to physically put on a colored hat to think a certain way; to a large extent the deliberateness in changing hats becomes a habit, seamlessly woven into our ways of responding to new happenings, and not just a gross tool we pick up in an obvious way.

The thing I'm really thinking could help us all here is to reflect a bit on how we are doing our thinking already--what is it about thinking like a permaculturist that makes it work? People who are successful are often not very aware of how they got that way, they assume everyone thinks the way they do, and don't realize there's something to explain and analyze about their thinking habits.



I guess the other thing I felt inspired to say is that De Bono says our thinking is our greatest resource--and permies are very conscious of identifying, valuing, and stewarding resources. We do more thinking in a day than any other activity we do, and it determines more of how our lives end up than any other factor, de Bono argues. This rings true to me.

So, how do you think? what are your ways of thinking that give you energy?

Oh, one other thing, in permaculture thinking I have often seen people say "I do it thsi way because I just hate doing ___, it's a bit more work but it's more fun," and I would call this using the Red hat in an appropriate way. The Red hat gives you a clue about where your energy is; if you don't do it in a fun way, you burn yourself out or drain your energy a bit, even if you're being more efficient.

OK, one more other thing--I've seen people argue that it's a downside of permaculture that people can learn a lot of useless information and not apply it. I think this is not true--it's great that people learn stuff they're enthusiastic about, great that the info sticks, great that 90% of it is somewhere wtihin the range of something applicable, and even if you don't use %80 of what yoyu know, the %10 can make a huge differene. Fighting against this enthusiasm for learning is not going to help anything. The famous case of the permaculture student who posted a picture of his thesis and said "can anyone tell me whcih are the weeds?" is not a reason to disparage permaculture--it's great that this student is making this observation _now_ rather than in mid-life after an unloved career in an office during which he influenced agricultural practices unconsciously through his purchasing choices, voting, interactions with people in his life, spraying crap on his lawn, etc. I'd much rather see a student actually doing something with the earth and learning from it, however embarrassing the lesson might look, than not trying that at all. Criticizing permaculture on the grounds that this student's project is a failure is an unhelpful application of Black hat thinking, whereas it's great that this student's imagination has been fired and he knows all kinds of things about growing things in various climates and has dreams to dream. And even his unconcretized dreams can be something he relates to others around the globe through, maybe via this forum even, and the enthusiasm can be the lift that helps one other person actualize their project. So I think this whole example points to the hidden cost of misapplication of Black Hat thinking and the value in spending some time in Yellow Hat (what's right) thinking before drawing a conclusion.

OK, really last thing--de Bono says having the hats helps people in discussing a new idea because it takes the ego out of it. It's not "I'm right--you're wrong", it's "let's pick up the black hat for a minute now" and "OK, now let's pick up the yellow hat or a minute" etc.

Thanks for reading!

 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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I'm going to leap in here, but I've a feeling I might regret it.

I'm fascinated by the way other people think - I can't imagine how people do it as it seems that most of them do so in a completely different way to me. I think very visually. I seem to feed all kinds of ideas into the huge morass of my mind and they bumble around pretty well subconsciously playing with each other and forming alliances and arguing with each other until such a time as they either create something new and come bouncing back up to consciousness to tell me what they've been up to, or I encounter a new idea that they like the sound of and they all come racing up from far corners of my brain to join in the fun. But you wanted to know about stuff that increased energy and reduced mental drain, and the way I think certainly doesn't do any of those things. It's a bit exhausting in fact...

I've never been one for thinking 'in the box'. In fact, I seem to be stuck firmly outside most boxes. I tried to explain the concept of thinking outside the box to my son and he seemed to be even further out of it and couldn't even understand the concept of 'the box'. The thing with the hats fascinates me though. I don't think I could ever be that methodical - my thoughts would run off with all those coloured hats and start throwing them around to see they fitted on and I'd never get them back again. One of the side effects of all this is that I occasionally come up with stuff that seems like it's a touch of genius, and then most of the time I'll sit around almost completely incapable of doing even pretty basic stuff as my mind just won't 'play' with it and switches off.

I do love ideas though, and think that most of them have a role to play, somewhere, if only they can eventually find the right friends to play with. That's one reason I love permies so much - it's such a mass of ideas just waiting to find their kindred spirits.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 563
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Thanks for posting, Burra! I think that's really neat how you think, and I think you probably use the hats somewhat deliberately. I think that everyone who comes on this forum does to some extent. I realized when I was out walking that people often practice "both-and" thinking (that phrasing's from Dr. Valerie Batts, you can google her). that's especially different from the usual societal way of thinking in the West, which has usually been "either-or" thinking. Either your with us or your against us. Either it's pleasurable or it's good for Nature. Either it's fun or it's productive. Either it's financially successful or it's ethical. So both-and thinking is pretty radically different. It gives you the idea "I'll plant birches for the deer to nibble on AND fruit trees for myself."

"The problem is the solution." Yellow hat, green hat.
"Each element serves multiple functions" green hat.
"Each function is served by multiple elements." green hat
capturing rainwater, dew, etc., instead of irrigating -- green hat, white hat (the fact is there IS water even in the desert)

But even just deciding to use the green hat or yellow hat instead of thinking the way everyone else is thinking is itself...a use of the blue hat!

Burra, I think you could do the hats even if you think you can't, it helps if you just get a timer and try for 1 " on the first hat, 1" on the second, like that...and if you actually get a colored paper to write on to help you remember you're only thinking on that hat that can help you focus. If you're willing to do an experiment I'd be curious what you find. Especially given what you say about your different habitual way of thinking.

 
Cindy Clark
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: "thinking outside the (unnecessary) box" and "can do/there's always a way" thinking.



I like that - it's really just a philosophical way of looking at life. Philosophy is incorrigible. It  has no respect for boundaries!  "No boundaries" - THAT'S my passion and what interests me regarding "permaculture". It has no regard for "experts", ROFL! But how else do things evolve? If not by transcending "expertise"?

Explore, discover and apply - see what happens.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Thanks to Cindy for replying to this old thread and both her and Burra's thoughts about different thinking styles.

The hats model is fascinating, and I think dissecting thinking into "elements," as it were, is a useful tool. (Elements or sectors are again a permaculture design thing.) I think I might pull out this tool when I feel especially stuck, overwhelmed, blocked or such. (Others call permaculture a toolbox or tool shed of design ideas, so that fits, too!) Thanks for sharing it Joshua!

To answer your question though, 

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
So, how do you think? what are your ways of thinking that give you energy?

I have a gazillion thoughts in reply.

Some are from hanging out with Paul, and some are from my own challenges with mental energy and focus. There are three main points I'd like to cover here - language, health, and collaboration.

language / communication
Paul uses engineer speak. The way he uses language is very specific. I have since learned that 80-95% of people are NOT specific with their language.

Most people (the 80-95% as I sometimes call them) use language that to an engineer, or a specific-language person, requires interpretation or a big load of inference to understand the meaning. It is such a "normal" way of communicating that most people don't even know it's happening, don't even notice it, and, I think, unfortunately, wouldn't be able to tell which thinking hat it came from.

Here are some examples:
"That happens ALL the time!" Logical fallacy there - in most cases, it does not happen ALL the time; it might happen MOST of the time. I think most people translate and get the inference that's it's MOST coupled with frustration.
"I'm going to (   do x )" - where the inference is that you should also (   do x ) or stop doing y so that I don't need to do x, or all other kinds of subtle, or not so subtle, messages instead of just saying 'please do not do y.'

There are more, of course, but I can't think of them right now. (Ha.)

When Paul, in particular, encounters a logical fallacy in a conversation, he can get stuck there, and needs to unravel it before the conversation can continue. Because building a conversation (or a thought experiment, troubleshooting, brainstorming, or innovative project steps) on a "red hat" or incorrect "white hat" statement, is a shaky foundation.

It can be SO draining to try to communicate with others who do not understand what their own statements mean in terms of literal word use, and often how they expect inferences to be understood. Combine this with interrupting, and that's when Paul can get over-the-top frustrated!

health / wellness
This is my bailiwick, and when you talk about increasing energy and reducing mental drain, I have a BIG list in this aspect. No matter what thought experiment, or thought process you'd like to use, if the brain cells can't fire correctly, it's no use. Kind of like trying to grow plants without anything for them to feed off of in the soil. I have struggled with many of these things and have learned how mushy my brain gets when my health isn't being supported.
  • sleep - good, adequate, deep sleep*
  • nutrition - especially brain addling are anemia, B12 deficiency, excess iron
  • health (no illness) - sinus infections have plagued me creating horrible mental fog, let alone how being in pain in general negatively affects short term memory, or other maladies
  • food/digestion issues - allergies, intolerances, biome imbalance, these issues again can either add to or reduces mental clarity
  • hormone balance - hormone disruptors are every where and thyroid issues are seemingly epidemic - brain fog from low thyroid is one of the worst things, in my experience
  • activity/exercise - so many benefits here that it doesn't need further explanation

  • *When I was younger, I used to rob my sleep, a LOT, to do everything I wanted to do. Including putting the kids to bed, then taking lights outside to garden with! I think continued sleep deprivation is part of what fried my thyroid. So a word to the young(er):  don't do what I did.

    community / collaboration / people
    As Joshua wrote about the "black hat" thinking as criticizing "useless" information in permaculture, I think the community, the support of other people is a critical component to thinking sustainability. It's like Paul's wheaton eco scale - everyone's on a different level or path, and it's better to recognize and encourage the good instead of shaking fingers at the bad.

    In this case, I think the people care, the community, the polyculture of thought, if you will, is HUGE.

    Having like-minded people, who may or may not be at a similar eco level, but are supportive, respectful and can communicate with a modicum of self-awareness about their language and thought processes, are the fertilizer to healthy thinking.

    Ever feel energized after visiting with someone like that? Ever feel drained after visiting or discussing something with someone who's not like that? There's the rub.

    Community is a huge part of what we're trying to build here at permies.com and wheaton labs, and Paul and I are constantly evaluating what works and doesn't work. Our mental capacities are crucial to keeping up the velocity of what we do, both Paul in his empire work and myself in my accounting work, let alone everything here at wheaton labs. We are keen on observation and accepting feedback. Avoiding mental drain is a constant battle, for both of us, and I think especially for me, so this definitely touched a nerve.

     
    Joshua Myrvaagnes
    pollinator
    Posts: 563
    Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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    Thanks Jocelyn!

    I think the other great resource for structuring thinking is Breaking the Rules by Kurt and Patricia Wright.  Five levels of questions asked by effortless high performers:
    1. What's working/what's right?
    2. What makes it right/what makes it work?  (most time should be spent on this question)
    3. What would be ideal?
    4. What is not yet ideal?
    5. What resources do I need to make it right/make it work?

    The other thing I just learned about from a tutoring student--TRIZ--a Russian way of inventing inventions that predates de Bono.  Was only brought to the outsie world after the end of the Cold War, so de Bono must not have known about Alshuler.  I'm going to have to do more research to learn how it works, but Alshuler studied over 100,000 patents to see which ones were truly innovative and how the inventor invented the new idea.  He found something like--and I may not be doing it justice--you're combining a known discovery from some other field with the one you are trying to solve a problem in. For example, microwaves were being used for communication, but then someone discovered they'd melted a candy bar in his pocket, and hence the "microwave oven" was invented. 

    Also there's stuff about the tradeoff you have between gaining one end and expending energy to do so--and the invention is something that resolves that dilemma.  Well, you want your stuff but you also want it to be sustainable, that's a great opportunity for the invention of something new, yes?  enter permaculture in all its forms.  If you can invent freely, really open your thinking to its best and most possibilty-inclusive, you can solve huge problems like this, I believe.

    Really using the Green Hat, and being really focused in not allowing any of the white hat to limit what is being set up by the provocations, produces some amazing results.

    Then there's been subsequent work building on TRIZ and de Bono, I believe, that says that a flaw in de Bono's system is that it creates a great quantity of ideas but not necessarily novel ones--and they've created a new system for creating the most novel ones.  I'm not sure I buy the claim, have to read up on it more.  But it's fascinating to learn about this.

    The thing that's important to me about de Bono is he makes this accessible to anyone, and Alshuler also did this, creating systems for kids.  And I love the idea that everyone should know how to invent, as well as how to cook, grow food, make art, etc.--how to invent, and then what to apply this power toward.  That it not be solely the purview of engineers but that the knowledge be available and known to  all people.

    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:Thanks to Cindy for replying to this old thread and both her and Burra's thoughts about different thinking styles.

    The hats model is fascinating, and I think dissecting thinking into "elements," as it were, is a useful tool. (Elements or sectors are again a permaculture design thing.) I think I might pull out this tool when I feel especially stuck, overwhelmed, blocked or such. (Others call permaculture a toolbox or tool shed of design ideas, so that fits, too!) Thanks for sharing it Joshua!

    To answer your question though, 

    Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
    So, how do you think? what are your ways of thinking that give you energy?

    I have a gazillion thoughts in reply.

    Some are from hanging out with Paul, and some are from my own challenges with mental energy and focus. There are three main points I'd like to cover here - language, health, and collaboration.

    language / communication
    Paul uses engineer speak. The way he uses language is very specific. I have since learned that 80-95% of people are NOT specific with their language.

    Most people (the 80-95% as I sometimes call them) use language that to an engineer, or a specific-language person, requires interpretation or a big load of inference to understand the meaning. It is such a "normal" way of communicating that most people don't even know it's happening, don't even notice it, and, I think, unfortunately, wouldn't be able to tell which thinking hat it came from.

    Here are some examples:
    "That happens ALL the time!" Logical fallacy there - in most cases, it does not happen ALL the time; it might happen MOST of the time. I think most people translate and get the inference that's it's MOST coupled with frustration.
    "I'm going to (   do x )" - where the inference is that you should also (   do x ) or stop doing y so that I don't need to do x, or all other kinds of subtle, or not so subtle, messages instead of just saying 'please do not do y.'

    There are more, of course, but I can't think of them right now. (Ha.)

    When Paul, in particular, encounters a logical fallacy in a conversation, he can get stuck there, and needs to unravel it before the conversation can continue. Because building a conversation (or a thought experiment, troubleshooting, brainstorming, or innovative project steps) on a "red hat" or incorrect "white hat" statement, is a shaky foundation.

    It can be SO draining to try to communicate with others who do not understand what their own statements mean in terms of literal word use, and often how they expect inferences to be understood. Combine this with interrupting, and that's when Paul can get over-the-top frustrated!

    health / wellness
    This is my bailiwick, and when you talk about increasing energy and reducing mental drain, I have a BIG list in this aspect. No matter what thought experiment, or thought process you'd like to use, if the brain cells can't fire correctly, it's no use. Kind of like trying to grow plants without anything for them to feed off of in the soil. I have struggled with many of these things and have learned how mushy my brain gets when my health isn't being supported.
  • sleep - good, adequate, deep sleep*
  • nutrition - especially brain addling are anemia, B12 deficiency, excess iron
  • health (no illness) - sinus infections have plagued me creating horrible mental fog, let alone how being in pain in general negatively affects short term memory, or other maladies
  • food/digestion issues - allergies, intolerances, biome imbalance, these issues again can either add to or reduces mental clarity
  • hormone balance - hormone disruptors are every where and thyroid issues are seemingly epidemic - brain fog from low thyroid is one of the worst things, in my experience
  • activity/exercise - so many benefits here that it doesn't need further explanation

  • *When I was younger, I used to rob my sleep, a LOT, to do everything I wanted to do. Including putting the kids to bed, then taking lights outside to garden with! I think continued sleep deprivation is part of what fried my thyroid. So a word to the young(er):  don't do what I did.

    community / collaboration / people
    As Joshua wrote about the "black hat" thinking as criticizing "useless" information in permaculture, I think the community, the support of other people is a critical component to thinking sustainability. It's like Paul's wheaton eco scale - everyone's on a different level or path, and it's better to recognize and encourage the good instead of shaking fingers at the bad.

    In this case, I think the people care, the community, the polyculture of thought, if you will, is HUGE.

    Having like-minded people, who may or may not be at a similar eco level, but are supportive, respectful and can communicate with a modicum of self-awareness about their language and thought processes, are the fertilizer to healthy thinking.

    Ever feel energized after visiting with someone like that? Ever feel drained after visiting or discussing something with someone who's not like that? There's the rub.

    Community is a huge part of what we're trying to build here at permies.com and wheaton labs, and Paul and I are constantly evaluating what works and doesn't work. Our mental capacities are crucial to keeping up the velocity of what we do, both Paul in his empire work and myself in my accounting work, let alone everything here at wheaton labs. We are keen on observation and accepting feedback. Avoiding mental drain is a constant battle, for both of us, and I think especially for me, so this definitely touched a nerve.

     
    Joshua Myrvaagnes
    pollinator
    Posts: 563
    Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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    PS if you ask Right Questions, according to the authors, you access the whole of your brain, including the intuitive brain, rather than asking the analytical brain (which, when wholly disconnected from the intuitive, can't tell fact from fiction) to answer questions.  Accessing the intuitive brain also builds emotional energy, whereas using the analytical primarily depletes emotional energy.  If you are asking "what's wrong?" you omit intuition and deplete emotional energy; most people are mostly depleted of emotional energy, they found, and only a small percentage of the population gains energy by thinking.
     
    Anne Miller
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    This a a great topic.  I agree that "Thinking" plays a big part of our lives, especially mine.  My two favorite books are "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill and "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale.  I like the quote "The problem is the solution"

    When you are tired you thinking is affected, when you are sick your thinking is affected and when you are emotionally upset your thinking is affected. An example is when you go to the grocery store hungry ... what usually happens?  You buy things that you did not plan to because you were not thinking.

    I agree with Jocelyn that health effects your thinking. Health is also a big concern of mine.  Over the years I have found that when I eat a low carb diet, I have more energy and do not crave foods. Everyone's body is different and what works for me may not work for you.

    I like learning new things and exercising my brain.  I think this is a way to keep your brain active and to increase your thinking abilities.
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