Go Meta or Go Home

George Silverman
4 min readMar 9, 2021

--

You are either on autopilot or flying the plane. In the passenger seat or the driver’s seat. Sometimes, you are consciously running your mental processes. But too often, your mental processes are running you. It is vital that you change this ratio.

These are issues of life-changing importance. Let me explain.

Take a little slice of a day:

  • I might find myself disagreeing with someone’s “stupid statement” on Twitter, instead of getting curious about what such an intelligent person could be saying that I might be missing.
  • An hour later, I might catch myself over-thinking a decision, instead of taking the next step. Or the reverse: Taking action instead of thinking first of a better way.
  • Then, wishing instead of planning.
  • Then, focusing on the present limits of a project instead of the possibilities.
  • I might catch myself drifting, daydreaming, or getting lost in the details. I might focus on the negative, or think of how much better I would do if I had more resources, better tools, less stress, more people. I start thinking of things I will do later today or tomorrow.

Then a miraculous thing happens: I realize I am on AUTOPILOT. That I’m IN the process, without being AWARE of the process I’m in. That the process is running me rather than me running the process.

I realize that I’m going through the motions, running a habit, repeating a pattern, staying in a rut, playing follow-the-leader, or automatically doing what I learned as a child. I am at the effect of, not at the cause of my process.

“Autopilot is OK for brushing your teeth, but not running your life,” I say.

CAN you become aware that you’re in the wrong process, and switch to a more productive one?

Of course, you can. All the time.

Psychologists have a fancy name for this: The Executive Functions:

A set of processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.

Here’s the Breakthrough Idea

The “getting on the wrong track,” or going on autopilot that I described above can be detected and switched into something more effective almost instantaneously, with a skill you already have but don’t use as often as you could. I call it “GOING META.”

You do Go Meta automatically when you ask The Two Magic Questions,

1. “What mode or overall process am I in?”

2. “What mode would be better to switch to?”

Your values and goals will instantly kick in and point you in the right direction to get what you want.

Here’s a example of how Going Meta works:

  • Let’s say you are asked for your opinion of something. You launch right into a detailed critique, naming all the things that are wrong with it. The other person feels attacked and defends himself.
  • Then you remember there’s a better way: You once read a MindSkills Tweet outlining a technique called Constructive Criticism. You pull up the MindSkills Template from the MindSkills Playbook. It says:
  • How to offer constructive criticism that’s supportive, not destructive. TEMPLATE
  • Step 1. Name 3 things that you genuinely LIKE. Be specific: • The size works because … • I think it would appeal to Xs because … • It’s quite novel. 👇
  • Step 2. Name 3 things you DISLIKE but in a very specific form: Always express dislikes in the form of “Wishes” or How-To’s” [for the rest of your life!] Examples: 👇
  • • I like the touch of green AND I wish there was a little more of it to bring out its fun side. Not: “It looks drab and boring.”
  • • I wish you could figure out how to … Not, “It stinks.” 👇
  • • How could we make this a little more … NOT, “It’s lacking …” • I’m feeling a need to … NOT, “It’s missing …” • Could you figure out a way to …
  • You have now switched your mode from attack mode (provoking defensive mode) into useful feedback and creative problem-solving.

You have consciously chosen a much more effective process instead of acting like a Middle Schooler, where you learned to automatically taunt and mock things you don’t like. Also, you now have an appreciative ally who you have helped make their product better, instead of someone who is angry at you for being so insensitive.

Congratulations. You’ve Gone Meta.

Now, you need to lock it in with practice so that you can watch yourself do it automatically.

You also need to learn how to use the MindSkills Templates to improve your mental processes.

More about these in the next article

Follow and comment. [This is my first Medium article. I’m eager to bring you more if you found this valuable.] Follow on Twitter: @GeorgeSilverman

H/t to the original Synectics Group, George Prince, William Gordon and to my good friend, the late Bill Cope for teaching me a similar technique back in the beginning of my career. It’s served me well.

--

--

George Silverman

Former Psychologist, Founded 2 companies, marketing consultant, author of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Inventor of the Telephone Focus group, MindSkills