Tag Archive | Lenses

On practicing Self-Awareness

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I practice Self-Awareness?”

“Take a moment to think of a color and look around you. Notice how all instances of the color start popping into view, many of which were invisible in plain sight a few moments ago. This is an instance of directing attention – a fundamental operation of the human mind. In this case, I intentionally used the color as an attention-directing tool. I call such perceptual tools, lenses [<link; short read].

In the same way, Self-Awareness requires directing attention to certain aspects of yourself. Part of the practice is gaining clarity on what the most important things to notice are.”

“What are the most important things to notice about yourself?”

“These are the most important lenses I’ve identified so far:

Lens of Expansiveness

When you’re focusing your attention on something and when lost in thought, your field of awareness collapses and you lose touch with your sensory awareness. 

Use the lens of expensiveness to do awareness checks throughout the day.

Question: Are you expanded or contracted?

Practice: Meta-Awareness, Expanding Awareness, Peripheral Vision

Lens of Posture

There’s an optimal position of the head on top of the spine – one of the core insights of the Alexander Technique. When you find this sweet spot, the result is lightness; it feels as if the head is floating over your shoulders. Some people describe this feeling as ‘antigravity’, or ‘freeing the neck’. This is the key to posture.

To discover the sweet spot, imagine a thread that runs from the top of your head all the way down through your spine, and gently pull the thread up. Relax your shoulders. Feel your spine lengthen. Chest up, chin down.

Use the lens of posture to do posture checks and free your neck throughout the day.

Question: How is your posture?

Practice: Alignment, Body Awareness

Lens of Breathing

Emotional states influence our natural breathing patterns. By changing your breathing pattern, you can change your state. Slowing down your breathing has a calming effect.

Use the lens of breathing to do a breath check every time something disturbs your inner balance.

Question: How is your breathing?

Practice: Breath Awareness, Conscious Breathing, Body Awareness

Lens of Feelings

Emotions are nothing more than physical sensations that have been named and have had a story woven around them. To deal with any unpleasant emotional sensation, always choose awareness over avoidance.

Another important physical sensation is muscular tension. Releasing muscular (and mental) tension helps you relax. Tension is often located in the shoulders, neck, and face.

Use the lens of feelings to fully experience your emotional sensations and to notice muscular tension.

Where are you feeling this emotional sensation in your body? What was the trigger?
Where are you holding tension?

Practice: Body Awareness, Body Scan, Non-Judgmental Awareness, Non-Doing [<link; medium read], Relaxation, Letting Go

Lens of Thoughts

Everything we experience is influenced by our thoughts. Our thoughts create our reality.

We view reality through a filter of meaning. Everything we experience is an interpretation. Change your interpretation of something, and your experience of it changes.

Use the lens of thoughts to notice your thought patterns. Notice judgment [<link; short read], assumptions, ruminations, desires and expectations.

Question: What kind of thought pattern is this? Is it resourceful or unresourceful?

Practice: Metacognition, Non-Judgment, Letting Go”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by judgment?”

“Judgment is a kind of evaluation.

Reality is neutral. We view reality through a filter of meaning. Whenever we evaluate something as positive or negative, we project meaning on it.

Evaluation is interpretation.

Viewed in pragmatic terms, some interpretations are empowering, others disempowering. I call disempowering interpretations, judgment.”

“What is non-judgment?”

“Non-judgment is a practice.

It’s a self-awareness practicenoticing when you judge yourself and others. I call the process of directing attention to notice judgment, the lens of judgment. For me, using this lens was a revelation. I hadn’t realized how often I did it.

It’s also a self-love practice – lovingly breaking the unresourceful thought pattern by gently letting it go.”

On Writing and Editing

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I recently started studying editing and proofreading. Currently, this is my main area of focus.”

“Besides writing you mean?”

“I got started with editing because I want to get into freelancing. But I discovered that writing and editing go beautifully together, they’re complementary skills.

Editing helps me become a better writer.


“Editing involves delving into the principles and mechanics of good writing. 

In acquiring the skill of editing, you’re developing what I call the editing eye. This is essentially pattern-recognition. You’re internalizing perceptual lenses [<link; short read] that allow you to see any piece of writing with new eyes.”

“Can you give an example?”

“One such lens is wordiness – using more words than necessary or unnecessarily complex or abstract words. 

Internalizing the lens means actually seeing the instances of wordiness in a text, in all its forms: 

Filler Words / Stretchers: Words that add quantity not quality.

William persuades by means of logic.
William persuades by logic.

Redundancies: Words that say the same thing more than once.

We share in common a love for reading.
We share a love for reading.

Phony Intensifiers: Words that attempt to exaggerate what you’re saying. Such words strain to appear confident but actually signal the opposite.

I am absolutely confident in my abilities.
I am confident in my abilities.

Thickeners: Words that few people use in everyday speech.

Sarah found the means whereby she could cheat on tomorrow’s test.
Sarah found a way to cheat on tomorrow’s test.


Lens of Thoughts

Watch every thought. Always ask, why am I having this thought? (Naval Ravikant)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I practice Awareness?”

The biggest obstacle to Awareness is your own thoughts.

To practice Awareness, direct attention to your thoughts.

Set the intention at the beginning of every practice. (Priming) I call this the Lens [<link; short read] of Thoughts, or thought-catching.

Whenever you notice a thought, say to yourself, ‘thought’, smile, and let it fly away.

This is the essence of the practice.

You can add nuance to the practice by noticing different types of thoughts

Instead of ‘thought’, you can say to yourself, ‘disempowering thought’, ‘ruminative thought’, ‘creative thought’, etc.

The ultimate goal is to internalize the Lens of Thoughts.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is lens-stacking?”

“We’ve talked a while ago about lenses [<link; medium read]. Perceptual-models that influence one’s perception of reality.”

Reality-Filters. I remember.”

“Lens-stacking is the process of combining lenses to amplify their effect.”

“Can you give an example?”

“Values can be lenses. I call this type of values instrumental values

My primary instrumental values are four:


Combined, they form a powerful lens-stack – a tetrad

In combining lenses, you’re creating structure. A tetrad can be arranged in various configurations.

Tetrad configurations

The ones I’m going for are the last two.

Representationally, the four values are perfectly interconnected – each of them is connected with all others –, and Love is central.

Functionally, the sequencing – the order in which you access them – matters because they subtly build upon one another.

My sequencing is LBGP:


On Daily Reflection and Templating

When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by. For why should I fear any consequence from my mistakes, when I’m able to say, ‘See that you don’t do it again, but now I forgive you.’ (Seneca)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I end every single day with a reflection on the day.”

“What’s your process?”

“My process has two stages: Reflection and Design.

What went well? (Celebration)
What needs work? (Understanding; Failure-Points; Decision-Points)

What can you optimize? (Optimization)
What will you do differently next time? (Implementation)

To make the process more efficient, I’ve created a daily-reflection template [<link; medium length]. 

My daily-reflection template

The template is an attention-directing tool. It directs my attention to specific points of interest. In my case, those points are:



Then I look at them through various lenses [<link; medium]. 

One lens is Brian Johnson’s wonderful Big Three framework:


Another lens is Balance. I check how balanced the Three were against one another, and the balance between Input and Output [<link; medium] (Input/Output Ratio).

Another lens is Quality. I’m interested not only in doing them, but in doing them well, and in constantly increasing Efficiency.”

The Game of Lenses

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’ve been playing with Brian Johnson’s Big Three lately:


“With mind-mapping, as you usually do?”

“Yes. But this time the focus was not on the Three, but on Lenses [<link; medium length].

What lenses can I view the Big Three through?

Different lenses can offer different insights, and exploring lenses is fun in itself.

I ended up exploring lenses like:

The Sacred

For instance, one application of the lens of Balance is evaluating the Three at the end of the day against one another. 

Did you give all Three equal attention?

This was a revelation to me, because I realized my triad was imbalanced, it was considerably skewed towards Work. The Big Three viewed through the lens of Balance has become part of my daily end-of-the-day reflection.

I also created the concept of meta-lenses, which are essentially lenses for discovering lenses.






The Practical

“What I like about the game is that you can play it with anything.”

“Precisely. Viewed as a template, the game can be summed up as:

What lenses can you view x through? 

And you don’t have to stop there. You can then start playing with ways of filtering them.

What are the most powerful lenses?
What are the most energizing lenses?
What lenses are most fun?

Not to mention that coming up with interesting ways of combining lenses is a game in itself.”

On Experience and Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are the boundaries of experience?”

“We can make a distinction between macro-experience and micro-experience.

An event, such as going to the cinema, is a macro-experience. The boundaries of the experience are the boundaries of the event.
Micro-experience is the moment-to-moment experience, whatever’s happening now

Any macro-experience is a string of micro-experiences.

When you say ‘experience’ I’m guessing you’re referring to micro-experience.”


“One boundary of experience is what we can perceive, using all our senses:


We might call this the perceptual-range.

Another boundary of experience is what we do perceive, what we’re actually aware of in any given moment. This is influenced by two things: attention and meaning.

We are aware of what we attend to.
We attend to what we consider meaningful.”

“How can I improve the quality of experience?”

“Slow down. You thus create space for savoring the experience.

Use all senses. The more you use, the richer the experience.

Improve the quality of your attention. By that I mean the capacity to maintain attention on one thing. This can be trained through meditation.

Intentionally look at life through a filter of meaning. The key here is intentionality. We do look at life through a filter of meaning by default. It’s important to take control of this process. One way to do this is by deliberately using linguistic lenses [<link; medium length] – or, as I like to call them, ‘reality-filters‘. By thinking of them, you prime yourself for their use.”

“I think it’s useful to distinguish between lenses and filters.

Filters are a subtractive process. A narrowing down of possibilities in the field of experience.
Lenses are an additive process. Like an overlay to the experience itself.”

“I like the distinction.”

“What is the most powerful lens you know?”

“The Lens of the Sacred.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’m currently reading a beautiful book about game design called The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses [<link] by Jesse Schell.”

“How come you’re reading about game design?”

I think of my life as a Game [<link; medium length]. I approach it from the perspective of both a Player and a Designer. I want to get better at both.

I love Jesse’s approach to game design. He has distilled the essence of the art to a number of principles (100+). He introduces them one by one, gradually painting a map that ties them all together by the end of the book.

He calls the principles lenses (which are essentially models). 
The lenses are tools. Once activated (which is essentially priming), they allow the designer to see the game with different eyes.

The lenses have a certain structure: the lens’s title, followed by a short description, followed by a number of questions. He has even created physical cards for each. They look like this:

I think this is brilliant. It inspired me to create something similar for my Beautiful Game.

I’ve also included lenses in the classification of models that I’m working on. Lenses are perceptual models, models that influence one’s perception of reality. I also like to call them reality filters.”

On Goals and Models

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“It’s important to set SMART goals.”

“Remind me what SMART stands for.”

“Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound.”

“We can nuance this discussion – and any discussion – by using mental models.

You can metaphorically think of them as lenses through which we examine the issue.

Several models are particularly useful in this endeavor: 
Levels of Magnification [<link; short read]

By using them, we get several more useful goals-related models.

Through the focus lens we get:
process goals – goals where you’re focused on the process (eg write for an hour)
outcome goals – goals where you’re focused on the outcome (eg write an article)

Through the length lens we get: 
– short-term goals
long-term goals
– lifelong goals

“What if I’m also interested in medium-term goals?”

“We can switch to a more granular lens:
– short/medium/long
– short/medium/long/very long

Through the size lens we get:
big goals
small goals

Through the level of magnification lens we get:
– macro goals
– micro goals

“Aren’t these last two a bit redundant?”

“Using different metaphoric models can open up radical new insights.

For instance big goals prompts the use of Big Thinking [<link; medium read], an extraordinarily powerful model.

Through the finitude lens we get:
– finite goals
– infinite goals

Through the meaning lens we get:
intrinsic goals – goals that are meaningful in themselves
extrinsic goals – goals that are instrumental to achieving other goals

The more lenses you use, the more nuanced the potential analysis.

SMART goals are outcome goals. Outcome goals are important, but only on the background of bigger goals.

You can metaphorically think of it as levels of magnification. As you keep zooming out, you see bigger and bigger goals.

The biggest most powerful goals are those you cannot reach.

“Like Mastery?”