My hobby is carpentry. I grew up with people in the building trades. I live in an old house largely for the opportunity to keep it from falling down.
Right now I’m building a front porch.
There are three cognitive positions in play whenever we make a decision.
The first cognitive position as I approach this project is anticipation. I anticipate the pleasure of solving the engineering and aesthetic problems involved in integrating an addition onto an old house. At the same time, I anticipate the pleasure of opening the front door on the structure, sitting out on it, putting some planters of flowers on it in summertime.
The second cognitive position is the experience of the actual work: the measuring, cutting, fastening. The actual experience includes splinters, bruised thumbs, and worries about whether the support beams will shift from winter frost action. The experience also includes the warm buzz of the drill, the firm fit of board on board, the visual experience of the puzzle pieces coming together, the encouragement of my neighbors.
I have yet to experience the final cognitive experience, my memory of the experience of the actual work. Will I feel the warm glow of success which will melt the memory of hammer against finger? Or will the porch be too shaky, will it look awkward on the house, which will melt my memory of fitting boards together in the warm sun and bring forward the indecision and anxiety?
For any of us to move forward with an action, we confront these states.
Here's how it works
I have an in-person meeting with a business associate this weekend. It involves a roughly three-hour drive and an overnight. I've already reserved a car for the trip. I imagine being at my destination. What am I going to wear? Immediately, I realize I should check the weather report for my destination - possible rain; late fall New England chill. For two three-hour drives, I'll want car-compatible chargers in my day pack and I'm adding a windshield ice scraper to my travel checklist along with a raincoat. Imagining now being with my colleague, I'll be visiting his home. I want a simple gift. I have a go-bag always prepared for overnight trips with travel necessities. I'm imagining the circumstances of this overnight. No special challenges or opportunities present themselves.
The goal is to imagine myself already at my destination. What do I experience as I walk myself through the two days? As noted above, relationships showed up. I'm doing this enough in advance so that those realizations show up enough in advance so I can identify gaps in my preparation, and activate to close them.
Have you had the experience of setting out on a trip and suddenly thinking: Shimatta!!! I wish I had thought of . . . or I wish I'd remembered.
A rich and systematic anticipation grants those wishes. Anticipation is the optimum time to think of and remember.
In a couple of days, I expect to make my trip, have my meetings, and return. This will be the activation. The only certain thing right now is that I have no idea what will happen. Circumstances will appear and new ideas will emerge. Often what we imagine is close to what we anticipated, but the dynamic present always has some surprises: 2020 anyone?
We think we know what's going on right now, but we forget most of it. There may be someone I'm yet to meet, who reads a book from first word to second word, third word, to the last word, who can close the book and then recite it word for word to the ending. As we are reading, we are doing what Pierre Bayard calls, unreading, which is to say, forgetting. As we go through our lives, we experience and forget.
The purpose of activation is to capture what is changing and what, if anything, is staying the same, in comparison to our anticipation. And not just in the external circumstances, but also what am I learning along the way? What insights, learnings, regrets are showing up. What do I want to track and remember for the next time. Definitely the otherwise unprepossessing motel with a 25-yard indoor pool.
Look at the anticipation in comparison with what happened. What was different? Could I have anticipated this? How did I respond to the unexpected? Could I do better the next time?
So often when something doesn't happen as planned, we count that as failure. However, what showed up in the moment, and that we engaged in the moment, was often the optimum thing at that time. What we feel as failure is the lost opportunity of the planned engagement that didn't happen. The reflection is an opportunity to weigh the seized opportunity against the missed opportunity.
If reflections reveal we keep choosing lower value opportunities over higher value ones, we need to bring that to consciousness during activation periods. And if the things we keep planning to do are consistently of lower value than what shows up in the moment, why do we think we should be doing those things? Yes, they have value, maybe lots of value., but are you leaving your gold mine vacant in order to mine silver?
Next Monday, I have to take a hard look at the two days of meetings and travel. It will have cost significant portions of my time, attention, and energy. Could I have done a better job with that time, attention, and energy? Can I be better next time? And, yes, it will most likely produce value, and nonetheless, should I have done something else altogether?
This is the work of Kairos Cognition. The purpose of our Kairos calendars, notebooks, and coaching isn't to make you more productive. It's to make you more conscious. It's to help you anticipate the future with optimism and purpose, to activate in the moment with ease and grace, and to reflect on your past for insight and guidance.
It's not to get you to work harder, smarter, or more productively. It's to get you to a life most meaningful to you.
Easy? Not at all. Rich and meaningful? Yeah.