The At My Best profile – a real game-changer

During my training to be a MindSonar Professional. I did an “At My Best” profile. In this exercise, I completed a MindSonar profile after focussing on a context in which I was feeling motivated, inspired and able to develop and take forward ideas and solutions which enabled me to succeed in what it was that I wanted to achieve. That is, I profiled the thinking patterns, Graves Drives and criteria that I employ when I’m working at my best.

I found it a really enlightening and useful exercise, as it enabled me to identify the metaprograms which were key to taking forward projects that I had put on the back burner for a while.

Some of the shifts I needed to make to move into my At My Best profile from my stuck position were ones I was aware of – such as moving into a more Proactive thinking pattern, rather than a Reactive one. Others had been less noticeable to me. For example, when working at my best I employ a stronger Internal Locus of Control than I did with respect to those projects which were on the back burner. This surprised me as I usually have a strong Internal Locus of Control overall and hadn’t realised how much some projects were being held back because of a concern about what others might think.

At my best I was also much more focused on Towards motivation than Away From, and this shift could also help me identify my desired outcomes and what I really wanted to achieve.

The insights from the exercise went beyond simply identifying the shifts in meta programmes which would help me increase the amount of time I spent in my At My Best profile. Looking at the Graves drives and Criteria also helped me to realise that some of my stalled projects didn’t really meet my needs in terms of my values and priorities. This was a particularly enlightening section of the Mindsonar profile for me. Once I saw that some of my projects were just not aligned to what was really important to me, it was easier to either modify them and even to let some go.

Since doing the At My Best profile, I’ve made some real shifts in what I’m aiming for, and some real changes in the way I identify and approach my plans for the future.

When working with clients who feel stuck or stalled in some way (which is pretty much all of them), I think it’s really useful get the client to do a At My Best profile. The changes it can bring to how they experience working on their plans and dreams can be game-changing.

Have you done an At My Best profile yet? If you have, then please share your experiences and insights from it below. If you haven’t and would like to, then contact your nearest Mindsonar Professional to arrange one – it could make all the difference to your success!

How do Criteria, Values, Meta Programs and Graves Drives Fit together?

Let’s start with criterion. This is actually the broadest concept of the four.  Criteria are standards by which we evaluate things. When you meet someone new, you may be using ‘happy’ as a criterion for evaluating the other person. Do they look happy? Great! Do they look unhappy? Not so good.

are criteria too, but they are very important criteria. ‘Honesty’ might be a value when you meet someone new. Sometimes these very important criteria are called ‘core values‘. If someone you meet doesn’t seem very happy, you may find that not so good, but even though happy is a criterion for you, you might not worry about it too much. But if they strike you as dishonest, you might think twice about meeting them again. There is a sliding scale between ‘Criterion’ on the one end and ‘Value’ on the other end. As a criterion becomes more and more important, at some point we call it a value. So when we ask ‘What do you find most important in this situation?’ we are asking you to give a value.

Meta Programs
Meta Programs are ways in which you handle your values. For instance: are you presupposing people will be honest (meta program: matching) or are you presupposing they will be dishonest (meta program: mismatching)?

Graves Drives
Graves Drives are a typology of criteria. In MindSonar we ask you to indicate, for each of your criteria, which Graves drives they are related to most. For example: is honesty about power for you (red drive)? Or is it about community (green drive)? If somebody else had ‘Openness’ as a value, would that be similar to honesty or not? We can’t know  from looking at the words ‘honesty’ and ‘openness’. But if we know that two people both categorise their (differently labeled) values in the same Graves Drive, we know that their values are similar.

Categorizing Criteria
The American psychologist Clare W. Graves theorized that there are eight value systems, which evolved over the course of human history. He assumed that each value system flows from the previous one as a response to:
a. Ever more complex life circumstances
b. Problems with the previous set of values.

MindSonar measures the extent to which your criteria are associated with seven of the eight Graves Drives. We call this ‘Graves categorisation’: putting your criteria (which you already described) into one or more Graves categories. This makes it possible to compare criteria between you and other people or between yourself in different situations.

Clare W. Graves was a professor of Psychology in the sixties and seventies of the 20th century at Union College in New York, the same university where Abraham Maslow taught at the time.

Maslow was developing his motivation theory (Maslow’s pyramid of needs), which shows the development of individual needs. The highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy, ‘self-actualization’, fit right in with the prevailing views of the seventies.

Graves thought this model did not offer a broad enough base for understanding man as a bio-psycho-social-cultural being. He assumed that human behaviour was not determined by individual needs alone, but by a combination of social, biological and psychological factors. Graves theorized that there are eight value systems which evolved over the course of the past 100,000 years of human history. Graves called these value systems ‘Levels of existence’.

Types of Inner Conflict – How to Identify them in a MindSonar Profile

Pavlov: Experimental Neurosis

In MindSonar we work with the distinction ‘towards’ versus ‘away from’ thinking. This distinction has a long history, be it under a different name. In the beginning of the 20th century, experimental psychology already used this distinction when they were researching what they called ‘experimental neurosis’. The famous I.P. Pavlov was one of the scientists involved in this research.

Pavlov created ‘approach/avoidance conflicts’ in dogs. In terms of meta programs we would say: Pavlov trained his dogs to want to go towards and go away from at the same time. First, he conditioned them with one stimulus (for example a bell) to go towards a food bowl where they were rewarded with food. Next, he conditioned them with another stimulus (for example a horn) to move away from the food bowl because if they stayed there they were given an electric shock. Then, both stimuli (sounds) where presented at the same time: the dog was put in an approach/avoidance conflict. He wanted to go towards the food bowl to get the food and at the same time he wanted to move away from it to avoid the shock. When subjected to this conditioning, the dogs started to show strange behaviors; they stayed completely still or they started doing illogical things like running in circles.

This is what was called ‘experimental neurosis’. Human beings sometimes find themselves in quite similar situations. We call them dilemma’s: on one hand I want to give my boss a piece of my mind (towards, approach), on the other hand I don’t want to get fired (away from, avoidance).

Types of conflict

Psychology makes a distinction between three types of conflict:

Approach/approach conflicts (I want two things, but I can’t have them both). We would say: towards/towards conflicts. When we look at the emotions that thinking ‘towards’ and ‘away from’ are associated with, we expect that this kind of conflict will evoke mostly sadness and anger.

Avoidance/avoidance conflicts (I don’t want either one of two things, but I can’t avoid both of them). We expect that this kind of conflict will evoke mostly fear and anxiety.

Approach/avoidance conflicts (I want one thing and I want to avoid something else, but I can’t have the one thing and avoid the other). In this situation we expect a mix of the above-mentioned emotions.

Conflicts in MindSonar work

In MindSonar we are gathering information on someone’s criteria and their counterparts. These are towards- or approach-issues and away from-  or avoidance-issues. The positive criteria the respondent gives us are things they want to move towards. The counterparts are the things they want to move away from. Similar to when Pavlov’s dogs wanted to move toward foor and away from electric shock. If Pavlovs dogs had filled out MindSonar for the context of ‘Being in Pavlov’s experiments’  they could have filled out ‘Tasty food’  as one criterion and ‘Being safe from electric shock’ as another criterion. With a counterparts: ‘Being hungry’  and ‘Getting shocked’.

Here are some things you could do, as a MindSonar Professional, with the criteria-information in terms of these three types of conflict.

  • First have look at the ‘towards’ and ‘away from’ scores.
  • If the ‘towards’ score is high (say 8+), then look for approach/approach conflicts. Have a look at their hierarchy of criteria and discuss with the respondent if they can achieve all of those criteria simultaneously. Are some of them exclusive, meaning they cannot both be achieved at the same time?  Then there is a potential approach/approach conflict. You may find emotions of anger and sadness. Unless the hierarchy of criteria is very clear. In that case (clear hierarchy) it may not be a problem. Sure, they cannot fulfil both criteria at the same time, but is doesn’t bother them, because criterion 1 is clearly more important than criterion 2. So they are happy achieving a lot of criterion 1, even if that means they won’t achieve much criterion 2.
  • If the ‘away from’ score is high (say 8+), then look for avoidance/avoidance conflicts. Have a look at the counterparts in their hierarchy of criteria. Discuss with the respondent if they can avoid all of those counterparts simultaneously. If not, there may be an avoidance/avoidance conflict. You may find emotions of fear and anxiety. Here also, the problem may be ameliorated or prevented by a clear hierarchy of criteria.
  • If the ‘towards’ and ‘away from’ scores are balanced, look for approach/avoidance conflicts along the same lines as the other conflicts.

And what could be a solution?

And if you find any of these conflicts, what’s next? In terms of coaching, helping the client clarify their hierarchy of criteria might be helpful. Or – as a next step – you might help them negotiate between parts, if you know how to do that. How can the two parts of the person, one of which wants to achieve A and the other wanting to achieve a mutually exclusive B, cooperate, in order to achieve new goals that are satisfactory to both of them?

Bertrand Russell on Criteria

“All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths”.

Bertrand Russell accepting his Nobel prize in 1950