What is Framing?
Framing your life goals?
Framing is a critical activity for “Life Adventurers” seeking enjoyment and fulfillment. It represents the clear definition of our life goals. For example, we may aim to strengthen relationships within our family, learn a language, start our own business, write a novel, or learn to mountain climb.

Why is framing so important to Life Adventurers?

Most of us understand that without “framing” our futures, we are likely to drift aimlessly without goals in our lives. Fulfilment, growth, and meaning are unlikely to happen by chance rather than design. If we can’t dream and define our goals… then we are unlikely to find and successfully pursue them!
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What is Flow?
Optimal Flow for Personal Growth
The theory of flow was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Flow is the simultaneous state of concentration and enjoyment we enter when we ‘lose ourselves’ completely in an activity. Almost all of us experience this state at some time, some of us more than others. This could be a golfer fully concentrating on striking the ball, a carpenter making a violin, a musician lost in the music as he plays, a businessman closing a big deal, a diver exploring an underwater cave system for the first time, a writer wrapped up in the creative process to the exclusion of the outside world, or a couple of friends deep in conversation.

There is controversy and ongoing discussion about the exact physiological nature of flow, but for all of us as “Life Adventurers” looking to grow and change, the key point is that the phenomenon exists and that we can structure our lives to get more of the effect; in other words to find more enjoyment and fulfilment on purpose!
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who pulls your strings?

Everything under control?

Who controls you?
Who determines how you act and feel?
Who really pulls your strings?

Take the test below and find out… the results could make you see yourself and your behaviour in a new light.. and change your life for ever!

Review the ten statements below.
Give yourself a point for every thought or belief that roughly matches your own thinking. You may not be fully aware of your thinking, so use your intuition. Many of your thoughts and beliefs will have been developed when you were young – and will have become almost “automatic”.
Be honest with yourself to learn something useful.

1. “I’m often a victim of circumstances”.
2. “She made me so angry”.
3. “What happened in my past is the cause of my problems today”.
4. “He made me feel this small”.
5. “My genes and upbringing made me what I am – that’s me”.
6. “Terrible events in the world make me depressed”.
7. “I need someone stronger than myself to rely upon”.
8. “My problems are caused ‘out there’ by what happens to me”.
9. “I must be perfect”.
10. “My feelings are like a roller-coaster driven by events – I can’t help it when I get upset about things”.

Autonomy or dependence?

If you scored any points, then you should definitely consider investigating and changing your behavioural “map of the world” – the way in which you believe your feelings and behavior are determined. The more points you scored, the more likely you are to benefit from this investigatation! What do we mean by “map of the world”? What is wrong with the thinking in the statements above? Surely these are commonly held assumptions?
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metacognition quartet

Introducing Metacognition

If you think that your enjoyment and fulfilment in life is largely determined by what happens to you, then this series of four articles may be literally life-changing for you!

In this quartet of articles we will explain and illustrate how control of our thinking represents the foundation for personal growth, freedom, and effective life change. Commonly known as “thinking about our thinking”, metacognition gives us the power to change our feelings and behaviour – thereby enabling us to be more effective as life adventurers in reaching our goals.

An overview of the Metacognition Quartet

In the first article, we will look at the “gift” of our “big brains“. Our inordinate brain size in comparison to other creatures is generally assumed to have provided us with an evolutionary advantage – but is this really true?
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metacognition and change symbolized by head as tree

Part four of the Metacognition Quartet

In the previous article we looked at a more complete and sophisticated model of metacognition to show that the concept can help us with far more than the basic tasks of learning and comprehension. At a more fundamental level it can help us to reduce our emotional and behavioural blocks to effective movement towards our life goals.

In this fourth and final article we will clarify why metacognition really does hold the key to effective life change.

Keys to the Realm

The golden thread running through this quartet of articles has been the true gift of our “big brains” which is summed up in a quote by Viktor Frankl – writer, psychiatrist, founder of logotherapy, and survivor of Auswitsch.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and freedom”.

Metacognition provides us with the key to unlocking the power of this space between events and our reaction to them. Look at the picture below which helps to explain the growth and freedom to which Frankl refers to. Notice how our model of metacognition from the previous article has been merged with Frankl’s concepts and terminology.

space for freedom and power - Frankl
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metacognition symbolized by light bulb

Part three of the Metacognition quartet

In the last article entitled Metacognition-Lite, we looked at a simplified view of metacognition – a lite version to help us understand how it works coupled with some practical examples of how it can help us.

In this third article in the series, we will look at the complexities of metacognition in a more holistic way as a model to show how it can help us not only with the the basic tasks involved in comprehension and effective learning, but can also help us at a more fundamental level – to change our thinking to remove the emotional and behavioural blocks we manufacture that reduce our effectiveness in pursuing our goals. These blocks may include excessive dependence on the approval and love of others, execessive anger or self-pity, anxiety about change, feelings of low self-worth, and depression.

An holistic model of Metacognition

In the previous article on Metacognition-Lite, we saw that metacognition represents far more than just “thinking about our thinking”. Metacognition really represents an executive function for managing our thoughts as a “factory-line” production process – to produce effective and desired emotional and behavioural outcomes for ourselves.

Metacognitions are also thoughts just like any other – but with intent.
Metacognitions have an end in mind – they are directed towards a goal, and our thoughts, like foot soldiers, should follow orders in order to ensure that the goal is reached.

Now our challenge is to represent this complex concept in simplified model form – in a way that will help us understand and put metacognition into practice as Life Adventurers – to help us become more effective at reaching our goals.

Take a look at the model below.

metacognition model for effective life change
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cognition for life change

Part two of the Metacognition quartet

In the first article on “big brains” and effective life change, we reviewed the evolution of thinking, and considered the radical possibility that thinking may not have been such a great evolutionary advance after all.

In this second article, we will look at a simplified view of metacognition – a lite version to help us understand how it works coupled with some practical examples of how it can help us.

Managing the cognitive factory-line

Let us look more closely at the nature of metacognition in order to understand why it constitutes such a crucial key to our success as life adventurers.

Metacognition represents more than just “thinking about our thinking”.

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big brains and metacognition

Part one of the Metacognition quartet

Thinking is not the exclusive realm of homo-sapiens, but alone amongst life forms, we have evolved the extensive capacity for metacognition – also commonly known as “thinking about our thinking”.

In this series of four articles, we will look at the nature of metacognition in order to understand why it plays such an important part in enabling us to become more effective in achieving our goals as Life Adventurers.

In this first article, we will review the evolution of thinking, and consider the novel idea that the rapid development of our “big brains” may not have constituted such a beneficial evolutionary jump as we are often inclined to think.

The big sprint

How did we start to think – and finally evolve to the point where we  are capable of  “think about our thinking”?

We started out with a brainstem handling basic functions such as the homeostatic regulation of breathing, for example. At this point our brain was comparable in function to that of a reptile.

Later the limbic portion of the brain grew around the stem giving us basic emotions and critical cognitive faculties such as memory and the capacity to learn.

Then finally about 100 million years ago, we pulled away from the competition with an evolutionary sprint. A relatively massive new brain layer (the neo-cortex) evolved around our older brain areas. As a result of this “recent” growth, our brains are now about three times larger than our nearest relatives – the apes. It is the neo-cortex that has made us distinctly “human” – with our increased intellectual capacity, and our ability for introspection and self-awareness – as manifested in our capacity for metacognition.

We like to think of ourselves as highly evolved beings – but we still share 96% of our genetic material with apes and 85% with mice. We like to think of ourselves as civilized because we have the capacity to think – but thinking does not necessarily equate with civilization. A cursory glance at the excesses of human history is enough to convince anyone of that.

So how are we really doing on the evolutionary scale, and just how helpful is our capacity for thinking?
Firstly we will consider the pessimistic view, and then we will look at the grounds for optimism for ourselves as Life Adventurers – and indeed as a species.

“Big Brains” – The poisoned chalice?

The term “poisoned chalice” is applied to something which appears to be good when it is initially received, but eventually turns out to be either bad or a mistake.

Not everyone is enamoured and awe-struck by our great cognitive leap.
The author Kurt Vonnegut was in no doubt – we are on the down-escalator.

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