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March 01, 2005

Entering a Task

This week's session focused on what makes us do a task well - whether it is teaching, learning or solving a problem.

... I attended the traffic school today for eight hours. In the very beginning, the instructor said, �I know what all of you are thinking. You are thinking that you will just sit here throughout the lecture for eight hours, get over with it, get the certificate and walk out.� So instead of lecturing us, he went around the class asking each person to tell his or her name, occupation and describe the violation they did that brought them to the traffic school. As each person spoke he asked everyone else to comment on it or ask questions. Whatever he had to teach, he taught us using our own stories, words, concerns, anger, humor.

He rarely referred to the traffic codebook except to make jokes of its incomprehensible language. I realized that the most important thing he had done was he had created an environment were it was ok to admit ones faults, where people got an opportunity to talk about their side of a violation however far fetched it was. In a way, he had made each one of us a mirror for another person. And he trusted that we would make the connections and see the truth and learn the lessons. So he only had to slip in time to time to direct our focus on something or give us some information that helped make a connection etc.

Besides learning quite a bit about safe driving, I also learnt that if we create the right kind of environment for a task (physical and mental), then the probability of success increases dramatically.

... Perhaps the right mental state for safe driving is to have a little bit of fear throughout the time we drive. It will stop us becoming mechanical and becoming unaware of possible dangers.

... I had an interesting experience just before I went to India last time. I packed my bags and was ready to leave at 3pm that day. I went to office and was handed a really tough problem that had just come up. My manager checked on me every ten minutes. The pressure was building up. At about 11am, when by manager called again, I told him that regardless of whether I solve it or not, I am leaving to the airport on schedule. After that I was totally relaxed. I went into the problem and solved it peacefully well before time. Without intending, I had created the right mindset I had to have to solve that problem. When I was no longer attached to the result and yet worked sincerely, I got the result.

How can we identify how to enter a task? Perhaps there is one primary mental state that is most suitable for each task, which would then make the overall mental state suitable to do that task well. Some tasks need more alertness than others, some need total relaxation, some need excitemen... May be we should look into the most important aspect of the task to inform us.

For example, in driving, more than getting anywhere, safety is the most important aspect. So a sense of protection or as someone said earlier, a little bit of fear might be the right mental state to adopt before entering the task.

Playing with children require some excitement, surgery requires total relaxation...

Think of a task that you usually do not do well. Ask yourself what is the most important aspect of that task and identify a mental state that would greatly help that aspect of that task. Share you experience by posting your comments here!

Posted by pkaipa at March 1, 2005 08:26 PM

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