Simon Dehne reflects his thoughts about “Conscious Reflection” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
In the movie “Lucy’, the character is exposed to a new synthetic drug, that over the course of 24 hours allows her to access a 100% of her brain’s capacity (Wikipedia 2014). This intrigued me upon reflection because in some ways this was similar to a pathway that I had chosen after finishing the Swinburne Strategic Foresight program.
No, I don’t mean I have suddenly taken drugs. However, in another way the Strategic Foresight Course that I did at Swinburne University did have an impact that one might say had a powerful life-changing impact on how I interpreted reality.
In many of the units, we were required to write a reflective paper on something that we had an emotional reaction too. At the time I was clueless to the purpose and the changes it would have on me.
In a sense, I was being challenged to reflect on how I was making meaning about a situation or event. From another angle and in hindsight I was being asked to upgrade my awareness of my behavior and the world I lived in. An interesting concept, and the metaphor I now use when talking to people about this line of thinking is we, “upgrade our computer software on a regular basis to allow it to deal with more complex software that is occurring but we do not upgrade our minds”. The question I often get is, what do you mean? So what I mean is, our life conditions are becoming increasingly more complex but how we think and make sense of problems may not be sufficient to deal with this increasing complexity.
So the reflective paper was for me the beginnings of conscious reflection or turning off the autopilot. Like a child learning to walk, I started taking my first steps. So a key part of my learning to upgrade my thinking is nicely explained by Chuck Norris, in his book, “Getting Unstuck”. Chuck explains that, “we often think that the event determines how we feel, however, in reality, we frame how we think about the significance it holds for us. Feelings are not properties of situations. They are properties of how we interpret the situations”.
This passage gave me insight in a number of ways. First, a situation that I may be reacting to may not be the real cause of my emotions and behavior. It maybe how I am making meaning of this situation which maybe related to a deeper hidden cause that I hold true from my assumptions, beliefs, values or worldview.
The second point was the beginning of my understanding of whatever we believe could imprison us. The realisation of the importance of looking more deeply into how I was thinking, what was really my motivation and how were the life conditions that I grew up in (let’s call it culture), that was influencing how I thought and behaved, but not even conscious of.
This is what intrigued me. How could we influence the future by speaking about what is out there but ignore the importance of helping people understand it is also how we think. Jarratt & Mahaffie explain, “That we need to explore under the surface of events the many layers of deeper meaning, including our motivations, worldviews, metaphors and myths, which shape how people act and respond to change” (Jarratt 2009) .
So I call myself a Futurist and now I have the honuor of being a speaker to audiences who have the expectations that I will describe images of plausible futures based on emerging trends and patterns within the framework of the world, as we know it today, in order to identify the next opportunity or minimize any merging risks to their current business model or way of life.
But, I started this blog with arguably a provocative image of Lucy hinting it may be possible for us to enhance our intelligence. However, my real intent is to open up peoples thinking that it is possible for us to be able to expand how we think so that we may deal better with the increasing complexity of life by better understanding why we do things or why we may be feeling stuck by learning to consciously reflect and thus instead of becoming smarter possibly a little wiser.
In a practical way, Harvard professor Steven Pinker describes it like this: “If our first nature consists of the evolved motives that govern life in a state of nature, and our second nature consists of the ingrained habits of a civilized society, then our third nature consists of a conscious reflection on these habits, in which we evaluate which aspects of a culture’s norms are worth adhering to and which have outlived their usefulness” (DeBrito 2015).
But there lies the problem; as Chuck Jones explains, “Many of us are using patterns of processing information in our world that we don’t even know we are relying upon” (Norris 2015pp.x). Chuck refers to processing as various ways we generate meaning from experience.
So how can we challenge our norms both from a personal perspective and as a society if we are not even aware of what is really guiding us.
So over the coming blogs, I hope to share some of the tools that I have found useful as I present and run workshops in helping people learn to become more self-aware or wiser.
This in itself is a personal journey as the more I read, speak and practice this new found awareness, l hope to become a little wiser, and begin to learn how to re-frame the future by becoming unstuck from the narratives I have accepted unconsciously.
DeBrito, S 2015, ‘The Fall of Manners’, The Age,
Jarratt, JM, John B 2009, ‘Reframing the Future’, Journal of Futures Studies, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 5-12.
Norris, C 2015, Getting Unstuck, Outskirts Press, United States of America.
Wikipedia 2014, Lucy (2014 Film), viewed 1/7/2015, < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(2014_film)>.