What is Conscious Living?

Conscious living consists of a set of practices whereby you learn and grow to be a more aware, deliberate and skillful master of your life. The practices can be arranged from the macro to the micro:


Through greater awareness, a person can achieve for example —

  1. Better choices from improved self-knowledge and external sensing, e.g. crafting your Life Mission Statement;
  2. Better decisions from knowledge of broader range of choices;
  3. Faster learning by recognizing his assumptions that no longer work;
  4. Enhanced innovation by overcoming his own limiting mindsets.

Conscious Living and Double-Loop Learning

On Item 3, the additional skills required to move from single-loop learning to double-loop learning advocated by Harvard Professor Argyris are precisely skills of conscious living: the ability to recognize limiting habits, attitudes and assumptions. For more on double-loop learning, check Apin Talisayon's blog posts ("Single-loop learning versus double-loop learning", "Double-loop learning", "The reflective knowledge worker" and "Practice internal double-loop learning")

Conscious Living, Innovation and Team Learning

On Item 4, there are in fact direct connections between some skills and practices in conscious living on the part of top business executives and their capability to create business value through process or product innovation, and through innovation of business models (see figure below). When the 75 members of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business was asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop, their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness (see George, B. et al. "Discovering Your Authentic Leadership." Harvard Business Review, February 2007, pp. 129-138).

At the operational or shop-floor level, similar direct connections occur between skills in Team Learning and skills in conscious living.


CL and innovation


The following examples and vignettes illustrate some of the skills and practices (in blue boxes) in the figure above.

“I would have wanted to stay in my comfortable chair and continue to enjoy the fire tree in full bloom outside my office window. Another planning session was scheduled for this morning. As I walked to the conference room I said to myself, 'This meeting is going to be different. I will listen and focus on the little gems of wisdom in each suggestion made, especially from those whom I do not particularly like.' Halfway through the meeting, while adding my own to the general flow of ideas I realized I can enjoy working with this team after all. The meeting ended sooner than I expected. As I got up from my chair to return to my own desk and to the fire tree and the fluttering of the dark-orange petals in the wind I felt much happier.” (suspending judgment in order to truly listen)

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The ladder of inference is “what happens inside our heads between what we see and what we conclude” (from Senge). In normal daily life, the process happens quickly and unconsciously. We are normally unaware of the process and therefore unable to examine and evaluate each step.

A practice in team learning is making explicit every step in one’s ladder of inference, and to be open to comments, suggestions or corrections from the group. Peter Senge, the guru of Organizational Learning who popularized the term “ladder of inference” said, “If we cannot express our assumptions explicitly in ways that others can understand and build upon, there can be no larger process of testing those assumptions and building public knowledge.”

A ladder of inference can proceed as follows (with examples within parentheses):

  1. Observing (you arrived in your office for work in the morning and as you do, you notice things, people and what they are doing);
  2. Selecting data (you observed, “My boss passed by me without greeting me his usual ‘good morning.’”);
  3. Attaching meanings (you say to yourself, “He must be angry with me”);
  4. Making assumptions (the thought occurs to you, “His anger may be connected with the negative report that reached the General Manager the other day”);
  5. Drawing conclusions (nervously, you think, “He must suspect I have something to do with that report; he will surely take it out on me”);
  6. Adopt or reinforce a belief (You explain it to yourself, “My boss is known to be paranoid and at times vengeful”). Very often, beliefs influence how we select data and what meanings we attach to the data;
  7. Make a decision or take action (“I am going to resign from this hell-hole of an office before the year ends”).

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“We were arguing and fighting over a Center management issue. I noted our egos were starting to act up and from similar past experiences I knew it would end up like a ship caught in shoals and unable to move forward. We call such situations 'Spratleys.' Then with conscious effort we asked each other, 'where am I coming from in this issue?' or 'what is my motive in this issue?' when we saw that I was coming from pursuit of a long-term personal objective and she was coming from nurturing sustainable relationships in the Center, it became clearer to both of us why we took our respective positions. The mutual awareness of our assumptions and motives also enabled us to consciously select a third position that was satisfactory to both of us.” (awareness of assumptions and motives)

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Being aware of your internal blocks to full listening is another practice of conscious living.

While listening to someone or while someone is talking, do you:

  • Mentally prepare what you will say next while the other person is still talking?
  • Mentally comment or judge what a person is saying?
  • Recall past experiences, good or bad, about the person talking?
  • Automatically defend yourself when criticized instead of trying to better understand the reasons and background behind the criticism?
  • Retrieve your past emotions, good or bad, you had about the person talking now?
  • Fail to listen completely because of an expectation about what the speaker will say?
  • Notice or get irritated at the bad grammar, bad logic or bad attitude of the person talking?
  • Interrupt by saying something when the other person is not yet finished talking?
  • Start with the belief that there is little you can learn from the other person?
  • Think about something else related, or unrelated, to what the person is saying now?
  • Mentally dismiss whatever the person is saying because of your belief that the person talking has low credibility or trustworthiness?
  • Focus more on the emotion of the person talking than on what he is saying?
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

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“When I listed the success factors of the successful anti-poverty projects that Pia sent me, I saw very clearly: they were successful because they used well various forms of intangible assets the community owns or can access! I realized that if I had used a knowledge-sharing framework the most prevalent KM for development framework I would have missed it. But using an expanded intellectual capital framework, it was all very clear in front of my eyes.” (the wrong framework is like a blindfold; while the right framework enables you to see)

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Systems thinking includes the practice of multi-disciplinal or multi-sectoral external sensing combined with the practice of "connecting the dots”. Look at the following seemingly disparate facts and events:

  • Starting in the 1980’s book values of corporations around the world constitute an increasingly smaller percentage of market values.
  • Corporations which excel in managing their intellectual capital (MAKE winners) grow twice faster than Fortune 500 corporations (Teleos).
  • The world economy is now creating more wealth from services than from industry or agriculture; global service trade has been growing faster than global commodity trade.
  • Human capital of a knowledge worker is what generates his regular income.
  • Remittances from overseas workers now constitute more and more of wealth creation in many developing countries.
  • Most successful anti-poverty projects are those which leverage on existing intangible assets of communities (Knowledge for Poverty Alleviation model).
  • Fukuyama observed a pattern, namely, that high-income economies are often also high-social trust societies.
  • Sustainability of CBRM projects hinges on intangible factors: sense of ownership, transparent and accountable managers, cohesiveness of the community, self-confidence and hope.
  • High trust (Covey) and low/managed ego (Marcum and Smith) reduce business costs.
  • High social capital was found (U.K. Office for National Statistics) to be correlated with better health, improved longevity, better educational achievement, lower rates of child abuse and less corruption in government.

What do we see here?

It seems to be happening across many disciplines and sectors: intangible assets have become more essential in creating value!

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Quoique distinct de la maladie de Creutzfeldt-Jakob, le kuru est également une encéphalopathie spongiforme transmissible (EST). Son mode de transmission a pu être relié cialis generique cialis à un rite funéraire anthropophage. L'insomnie fatale familiale est également une EST. Les premières maladies à prion ont été expliquées par Stanley B.