Third Book In View

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Mark LundegrenAs September of 2022 begins, I am in the midst of final proofreading of my third book, and am on track for its publication in early 2023.

Regular followers of my updates will know that the project involves conversion of my HumanaNatura website and natural health programs into book form. Some of this material dates back to 2002 and all of it has undergone multiple iterations over the years. Notably, these changes now include fairly substantial new revisions and refinements to this material, as I have worked to create the book and finalize this extended project exploring modern personal health.

What may be less clear is that the new book also will complete a long-planned three-book series, and in particular will form the first of the three books in the series, even as it is the last of the works to be published as a book. This natural health trilogy of mine is a long-term effort I have been working on for several years, and successively explores nature and health at a personal, social, and philosophical level. The other two books in the series and progression are The Seven Keys of Natural Life and Nature’s One Commandment, each already published but likely to be modestly updated by me during 2023 and 2024.

HN Screenshot

If you are not familiar with the HumanaNatura website, and its health programs and supporting materials, the above graphic is a screenshot of its longstanding home page. For much of the past twenty years, the site has offered personal guidance and assessment tools for exploring and promoting naturally healthy modern eating, exercise, lifestyle, and community. Most of this material will live on in the new book, and the HumanaNatura website will be closed down with the book’s publication (the website’s companion blog will continue on, however). If you want to tour or download materials from the soon-to-be-retired website – – the next few weeks would be the time.

I will provide another update on the new book, notably including its title, when publication is imminent. In the meantime, expect to find me at work, finalizing this project and moving toward completion of my three-book series, throughout the fall of 2022 and into 2023.

Thank you for your new or ongoing interest in and support of my work.

Health & best wishes,


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The Animated Self

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Mark Lundegren

Big egos, small egos. Wild or unsettled personalities, calm and reflective ones. What do these terms mean or describe, in their essence?

I would encourage you to consider this important and ever-waiting question. In practice, the way we answer it can lead us to, or keep us from, constructively understanding, navigating, and in turn aiding the people, egos and personalities, and larger world around us. Similarly, our answer can promote or hinder mastery of our own inevitable ego and personality, and naturally animated self and life.

Given this topic’s broad significance or even decisiveness, and to help you reflect productively on the nature of human ego and personality, I would like to offer a two-part model of our natural ego, personality, and selfhood. After this, I will cap our discussion by providing a simple framework or tool, described in the graphic below, for progressively managing and perhaps assisting people, their natural egos, and their resulting personalities and behaviors – and once more, including our own.

Animated Self

The word ego has a number of uses or meanings, and here I want to use it in a particular, structural or building, and I hope at once instructive and immediately helpful way. For our discussion, with the word ego I mean to describe the propelling, motivating, driving, or animating side or dimensions of our human selves and nature. With this definition, I therefore intend to point to essential or healthy natural aspects of us all, and also ones that notably and demonstrably are seeking or seizing, commonly autonomic and reactive, largely present-minded or situated, and as such often relatively primitive, immoderate, or inconsiderate in their focus and effects.

This set of human and indeed animal qualities of course is in contrast, or is antithetically or structurally opposed, to the  reflective, deliberative, regulative, or executive side of us and our overall selves or full personalities, which is the second component of my two-part model of the natural self. As we can observe in our daily experience, this side of our human nature is well-understood, especially as it is cultivated or otherwise strong, as broadly moderating, inhibiting or delaying, harmonizing or coordinating, often future-minded or anticipating, and thus comparatively sophisticated and considerate overall.

If this decidedly unromantic characterization of our egos or animating faculties, as narrower and less sophisticated than our executive or regulating dimensions, seems questionable or uncertain, consider a person – or a species or entire world – predominantly led by each force or set of qualities, and their likely quite different general effects or trajectories. Indeed, the steady movement from rule by animation, ego, impulsivity, or individualism to that of increasing rule by regulation, extension, sociality, or environmentalism aptly describes our historical legacy, and thus usefully might locate or asses our human and natural condition at any point in time.

Given this, while ego or animation may be essential to organic life in all its forms, its natural counterpart of aiming, regulating, and broadly harmonizing or universalizing executive capability can be seen as equally vital to life, and also as increasingly or more widely so in life’s more advanced forms. In this way, we might take our natural regulating or executive qualities not only as succeeding or ensuing from animation or ego, but also as typically aiding, optimizing, improving, and therefore more sophisticated qualities overall. With these ideas in mind, we wisely or helpfully might understand that in all conditions of life, but especially and perhaps proportionately in complex and progressing life, the naturally animated self is of necessity a regulated self as well.

Within this two-part characterization or model of the human and indeed natural self, I would add that both our egoistic and executive sides or dimensions can be taken as at once naturally evolved or innate, and also as continually shaped or nurtured by experience (with evolution perhaps further, but still unusually, understood as an empirical or experiential and nurturing or cultivative force overall). These longer-term and more immediate shaping or developmental forces in turn can be seen as together forming the common, recurring, and indeed often archetypical expressions or reiterating variations in the egos, executives, and resulting total selves or personalities that we readily can observe across natural life and human society.

On this last and often overlooked point, my model or depiction of our human egoistic and executive faculties, working at once in opposition, in concert, and constructively, leads to the idea and observation that the human ego and executive, and resulting animated and regulated self or personality in total – as with the egos and selves of any sentient animal, or animated species – are far from arbitrary or indiscriminate constructs, again even with their natural variability or multiplicity of expression. This idea, in particular, explains why various models, summaries, or inventories of our animating drives or egoistic needs, regulatory capabilities or inclinations, and resulting selves or personalities are broadly coherent, insightful, predictive, and useful.

Across this now wide body of work exploring human motivation, personality, cognition, and behavior, we and our natural egos are expected or predicted to pursue, recurringly and even doggedly, our natural range of drives, demands, needs, interests, or programming, in all ranging from the essential to the ethereal. At the same time, this process commonly is described, and readily can be observed, as equally being pragmatic, selective, or again regulated – that is, unfolding or proceeding in ways that are responsive to our particular conditions or circumstances, our past experiences and current expectations, and our naturally varying proclivities and preferences.

Tellingly or instructively, if we overlook or miss these essential facts or dynamics of naturally animated human life, indeed of all animal or animated life, and even of all life to some degree, we often create for ourselves a world that is substantially confused, arbitrary, indecipherable, unprincipled, unpredictable, and thus marginalizing or estranging to us. By contrast, when we sense or embrace this general set of ideas, by any set of terms, this commonly and immediately leads us to a rich, ongoing or perennial, structured and roughly predictable, willful but responsive, in turn manageable and influenceable, and overall empowering or enabling order in the people and activities around us – and again in ourselves, and our own egoism and executivism, as well.

More cautiously, it is important to add that this natural order or regularity in naturally egoistic and executive life, or of the naturally animated and regulated self, also is plainly a complex, intersecting, convoluting, and also approximating state, and thus always and naturally a partly uncertain and unpredictable state too. Owing to this natural complexity, and quite crucially, we naturally must, and continually do, employ various aiding and simplifying models or cognitive frameworks to help us make sense of and navigate our orderly but also animated, complex, and varying human and natural condition, as I have done here.

Building on this foundational model or description of the human and natural self, and again as outlined in the graphic above, this discussion provides sufficient context to offer and help you begin to experiment with a simplifying, perhaps deciphering, and likely quite useful framework for thinking about, influencing, and in turn guiding or optimizing the natural egos, executives, and resulting selves or personalities around us – and once more including the particular ego, executive, and personality within, or rather substantially forming, us personally or individually.

As you can see in the graphic, this framework for mapping and then perhaps influencing or altering the egoistic or animated self – one that again plainly extends to non-human selves – builds on, distills, and applies the above discussion. In all, the framework has two crucial dimensions, attributes, or variables. First, and more simply, is our typical degree of animation or activation, meaning our average level of energeticness or engagement in life, and thus conversely often our typical level of regulation or circumspection. This state, or set of states, again is viewed as promoted by our egoistic dimensions and in turn regulated by our executive ones.  Importantly, our or any person’s degree of animation is well-understood as naturally and typically varying with circumstance, area or domain of activity, and other factors, but also naturally as having an average. In your immediate surroundings, you likely can identify various people who are aptly described as highly, moderately, or only modestly energetic, dynamic, or animated overall, but also again in ways that always are subject to degrees of consistency in this regard as well.

By contrast, and somewhat more subtly, the second dimension of the framework, is our breadth of animation, engagement, or occupation in life. This often richer and more nuanced ego, executive, and in turn personality attribute can be thought of as the number or span of areas where we or others typically are highly or recurringly activated, engaged, or animated – and thus perhaps, but only perhaps, highly or recurringly unregulated and less than circumspect. Here, we again might turn to one or more empirical inventories of our natural human drives, imperatives, or preoccupations, gauge our or another’s average activation or engagement in these areas, quickly and informally gain a sense of our or their overall breadth of activation or preoccupation, and with added care, even produce a rich psychographic of them or us. As before, you likely can identify many people you know who are well-described as widely, more selectively, or quite narrowly energized, engaged in life, or animated.

Since this two-part assessment process is fairly straightforward and intuitive, and as a result notably often can be completed quickly and usefully, if roughly, amid active or animated life and endeavor, I won’t spend more time on this topic. Instead, as highlighted in the italicized entries across the graphic, and in a theme that will be familiar to my regular readers, I instead would like to close our discussion by pointing out that positions near the middle of these two dimensions for mapping and understanding the animated self – or ones that are centered, moderated, or regulated between limiting extremes in each overarching personality or behavioral quality – may be more effective, useful, welcome, happy, and healthy over time. Importantly, here I would highlight that these five latter qualities of course are distinct from one another, only partly overlapping, and thus may occur at somewhat different points or areas on the framework’s graph or map of the animated self.

With this last proposal in mind, I would encourage you to begin to observe the many motivated or animated egos, regulated or moderated executives, resulting larger selves or personalities, and their often predictable behaviors around you, as they exist within you, and perhaps extending into the non-human organic world around us as well. In practice, you likely will find this framework of for understanding and ultimately guiding the naturally and variably animated self easy to use and apply, revealing and descriptive, and useful and predictive.

For a more advanced and in fact animated step, you then might consider and explore more optimal degrees of activation and breadth of occupation for yourself – states which again commonly may lie between extremes in activation and occupation – and perhaps eventually help others to understand and achieve new optimality in their natural or inevitable animation, and also regulation, amid modern life.

As always, I would welcome your thoughts and comments on this important, far-reaching, and I hope ultimately practicable set of ideas.

Health & best wishes,


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Nature’s One Commandment

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Mark LundegrenI am pleased to announce publication of my new book, Nature’s One Commandment.

More than three years in the making, Nature’s One Commandment is the philosophical companion to my earlier and more practically-minded book, The Seven Keys of Natural Life. This new book seeks to expand both popular and technical appreciation of the natural phenomenon of health, its central place in evolving life and systems, and its core attributes, demands, lessons, and opportunities.

Nature’s One Commandment begins with the ready observation that human experience is marked by recurring ideals, values, norms, or common aims – from happiness and justice to honesty and growth. These valuations may vary in strength and scope by person and culture, but overall prove persistent and indeed inextricable from our humanity and natural place in the world.

More importantly, the book then explores at length how and why one ideal naturally supersedes, underlies, permeates, and informs all other values and goals, human and beyond. This probing work of philosophy extends my earlier ideas to show that all ideals are naturally nested within and subordinate to life’s most essential challenge – the health or advancement of organisms in time.

In the book, I consider twenty-four perennial ideals, examining how each naturally arises and can aid life, but is not a complete end and even may limit health. Emerging across the chapters are several crucial themes: understanding and measuring health, changing natural value and values, the nature of individuality and sociality, and the natural interconnection and frequent synergy of all recurring ideals.

From beginning to end, Nature’s One Commandment explores how and why health is the most essential or ultimately selected natural quality or ideal, among all possible qualities and ideals, and the crucial implications this has for human life, priority, and action, today and always.

Across this broad exploration of modern and natural life, there are historical and scientific discussions of each ideal, offering the curious reader a rich compendium of insights regarding the ideals and aims that guide us all, each day and across our lives.

Whatever ideals, values, or goals principally drive or inspire you, I would encourage you to review Nature’s One Commandment, and consider its many lessons and central premise that health ultimately waits at the core of all we do.

Thank you for your new or ongoing interest in and support of my work.

Health & best wishes,


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The Three Rings

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Mark Lundegren

As I work to refine and finalize my new book, and so often to simplify and true what I had written previously, I would like to offer a simplifying, truing, and quite powerful tool for personal and group development. The tool is called The Three Rings.

If the name conjures thoughts of a circus or carnival, I would say the idea is not wholly misplaced, though in an ironic way and even one invoking pathos, as you will see.

Notably, the Three Rings tool has its roots not only in months of editing on my part, but also a number of years of minimalism, or what is sometimes called essentialism, and also health-centered life, or what I frequently describe as renaturalized modern living.

The Three Rings – Drives Focus On What Aids & Does Not Aid Us (Click to Enlarge)

The term minimalism of course is well-known today, though it is variably defined or interpreted. For some, it is a practice of consciously or astutely living with less, paring down to what is required for life, and often feeling freer and less stressed via reduced consumption and work demands.

As suggested, another, more probing, and often more propelling sense of minimalism is instead as essentialism, or the exploration of what we need most to be at our best, or to express our potential or essence. But even here, this often wider and more seeking sense of minimalism normally understands that things away from our core focus can be unhelpful and even inhibiting – obscuring or impeding our personal or collective potential and the pursuit of flourishing life. However, in either sense, the idea of minimalism is in contrast to more common modes of modern functioning, which are often decidedly maximalist and less than attentive.

By contrast, the idea and opportunity of health-centered life remains substantially overlooked and unexamined, in concept and practice, even as the words health and healthy are widely employed. As with so many concepts, even important ones, the idea of health has variable meanings and levels of depth. For some, and whether as respects people or groups, health is the capacity for longevity, enduring, or surviving, which is accurate to some extent or in basic terms. But the idea of health can have larger or richer meanings than this first sense. In these cases, our understanding of health is often more akin to the idea of thriving, vitality, robustness, or readiness – whether for natural change, challenge, novelty, or uncertainty.

In the first, more survivalist sense of health, the idea of healthy life involves a minimalism of sorts. Focus may be on avoiding risk and pairing down behavior, and perhaps reducing effort and expectation, all of which may be wise as a means to endure in time. But this basic view of health also frequently takes the world and its health demands and opportunities simplistically, as given, or as relatively fixed and predetermined. But a more thriving or robust sense of health, as with a more thriving and robust sense of minimalism, sees health-centered living as more than doing what is safe and required, more than a life of caution and self-defense. Instead, emphasis again is on vitality, the potential for change, curiosity, adaptiveness, and probing for new and superior modes of life and health – if always astutely or wisely.

My Three Rings tool uses these latter, richer senses of minimalism and healthy life, and seeks to make each clearer, more tangible, and more actionable in our lives and groups. Owing to its simplicity, and the natural power of both essentialist and health-seeking life, you likely can use the approach right away and beneficially.

As you can see in my graphic, The Three Rings tool is just that:

> The First Ring – things, including people and relationships, that aid us, our vitality, or healthy progressivity, if always at present and in our current understanding. You will note that I have intentionally drawn this ring quite small in size, suggesting it may contain comparatively few elements and thus benefit from a seeking and health-minded essentialism, especially amid maximalist and health-indifferent social norms.

> The Second Ring – things that have no effect on our health and vitality. Again, I have drawn this ring small in size, since most seemingly inconsequential things in our lives, or within our sphere of attention, use our resources, make demands on us, distract us, and thus occlude or inhibit our vitality to some extent. The effect of any one item may be trivial, but is additive. As such, we all risk significant reductions in our vitality, purpose, and focus by having too many peripheral things in our lives, or by thinking that they have no impact on or cost to us.

> The Third Ring – things that reduce our health and progress, whether we understand them as such or not. This ring is by far the largest of the three in my graphic, though its size relative to the other rings – in a world full of possibilities and distractions – still may be too small, especially when we first begin to live in more essentialist and health-seeking ways

As I said, you can begin to use this developmental tool immediately, and perhaps quite powerfully too. Simply start by making lists of items or uses of your time, in your life or group, that appear to fall plainly into each of the three rings. Likely, you quickly will assemble a basic list of items in each category, and then notice missed items over time. In all cases, you can and should add to and adjust your lists as needed. You also should expect your judgments of the health, vitality, or impact of items to change in time and with learning.

As your lists become richer and clearer, probe or test your thinking by discussing them with others, especially people whose judgments you value, or other group members when using the tool to assess group health. When your lists feel relatively complete, at least for the moment, next try removing or limiting one or more seemingly unaiding things from your life or group, while also perhaps redirecting your time and energies toward one or more items that seem aiding and vital. This change can be temporary or permanent, but will nearly always provide learning about your life or group. And with this learning, you will be ready to repeat this process, as often as you want, and perhaps more boldly, thrivingly, essentially, and healthfully each time.

Before concluding our discussion, let me add three perhaps helpful points. First, you will notice I included a horizontal time axis through the graphic. This is to emphasize that our objective health enablers or opportunities naturally occur and will change in time, owing both to change in the world and change in us and our groups.

Second, I have similarly included a vertical health axis. This is to remind that all health or vitality assessments, and all health aids or opportunities, inevitably occur amid a particular state or level of health, just as they do in a particular place and time. As our health changes, upwardly or downwardly, our objective health needs and potentials generally change as well. Third, and as touched on before, it is essential to keep in mind that all of our subjective health judgments are just that. They are naturally imperfect, less than complete, sometimes incorrect, and thus best approached with care and curiosity.

With these ideas in mind, I will end by again encouraging a repeating, probing, learning, engaged, energetic, and thus vital or progressive approach, when using the Three Rings tool and in your life and groups more generally.

Health & best wishes,


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Countering Natural Isolation

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Mark Lundegren

If you are following work on my second book, I have finished the editing phase and am taking a short break before beginning final proofreading and polishing. Drafting the book took 16 months and editing it about 8 months, so I am hoping this final phase will last about 4 months.

As touched on in a previous post, the new book is very much the philosophical companion to my first book, The Seven Keys of Natural Life. This earlier work introduced my natural or evolution-based philosophy, but overall is focused on the application of its core ideas, and primarily is a book of practice – one that began as a series of seven personal and group development workshops.

Even Surrounded By Wild Nature, We Can Have A Degree Of Natural Isolation

By contrast, the new book is almost entirely a work of philosophy, though I do include calls to action in the chapters, as is my frequent practice and general recommendation amid all new learning and understanding. In particular, the new work explores twenty-four human ideals or perennial attributes – from happiness and beauty to inspiration and growth – approaching each definitionally, historically, scientifically, and then essentially. Using this material, I show how these and indeed all other attributes or aims, except one, are inherently instrumental, subordinate, or aids to natural life – and as such, are not nature’s central, overarching, and controlling ideal or imperative. The book has been a journey of discovery and insight for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.

For today’s discussion, I want to begin by pointing out that the new book contains and expands upon two crucial themes from my Seven Keys. These are the modern opportunity of renaturalized life and the natural limits of knowing amid all life. I would like to briefly explore each of these ideas here, but indirectly and in keeping with my title, by taking up a third, intersecting, and perhaps more pressing or evocative topic, that of countering natural isolation.

The concept of natural isolation is of course familiar and recurring in modern life. But it is also an idea that is variably defined and interpreted, and thus perhaps superficially or narrowly so at times. For many, it seems plain that at least part of modern life, notably in its intensely consumerist or wealth-preoccupied forms, is now proceeding without significant regard for its longer impact on our species and the broader natural world around us. Owing to this, and particularly to the extent people are conscious of this fact, we might conclude that much of modern life is substantially denaturalized or unhealthy, and estranged or isolated from nature in important regards.

Expanding on this idea, I would add that perceptions of modern isolation or natural estrangement appear credible across multiple definitions of  what it means either to live naturally or be isolated from nature, suggesting that modern natural isolation may be pervasive and sweeping. Notably, these varying potential senses of naturalness or natural human life include: 1) regularly being present in or routinely interacting with wild nature, 2) appreciating and seeking lessons from living and non-living nature, 3) living in ways that seek to be sustainable, or unharmful to or in harmony with the earth’s natural ecosystems, 4) pursuing or possessing elevated natural health and vitality as people and groups, and 5) alignment with essential or recurring aspects of pre-industrial or pre-agricultural human life (whether conservatively and strictly or more progressively and synthetically).

I should point out that the term natural also can be taken to mean everything occurring in nature, which of course makes the idea of natural isolation less tenable. While this definition, interpretation, or framing of the idea of naturalness is doubtlessly valid or logically consistent, I would suggest this may be trivially so, and often have found it an unaiding sense of naturalness, natural life, and natural progress. In particular, this way of thinking may miss essential opportunities for learning and growth waiting in more active or keener senses of what it means to be natural, connected to nature, or optimally integrated with nature overall.

Building on these themes, let me add that just as the above senses or definitions of naturalness are fairly common – and suggestively, fairly intuitive as well – various prescriptions or remedies for shortfalls in essential naturalness are recurring and widespread today as well. For example, we might be encouraged to visit or recreate in wild nature, live in more natural settings, or move to more sustainable and thus arguably natural living patterns (see here and here). Alternatively, we may be advised to bring elements of wild or living nature into our urban surroundings. Somewhat less commonly, but perhaps more cleverly, and returning to the idea that nature is indeed everywhere, we might be counseled to find and better appreciate living nature at work in and around urban life – from the marvel of plants sprouting out of city cracks to other species living alongside us, and from the natural features of modern social groups to the workings of our psyches.

While these renaturalizing steps or formulations may be familiar – and thereby also perhaps naturally and ironically downplayed – it is essential and instructive to highlight that they often can be quite beneficial. Whether we review science summarized in the self-help press or examine the empirical study of nature connectedness and similar lines of investigation, we see strong indications of regular advantage from many of these measures. To begin a list, new time in or exposure to wild nature, increased appreciation of nature, or greater feelings of affiliation with nature are correlated with: 1) reduced stress, 2) positive emotional affect, 3) improved social harmony, 4) greater health-mindedness, 5) more sustainable living patterns, and 6) new perspective and learning (including the often especially advantageous perspective and learning that is metacognition or metalearning).

Notably, many of these effects, or at least associations, can occur amid novel experiences more generally and not only during naturalistic ones. But the last point above seems especially important to our discussion, and an opportunity to highlight that we, our groups, and indeed all of life naturally function or exist in three crucial ways. First is with the potential for new insight and action at each point in time, second as natural processes of insight and action at our core, and third as the ongoing products of insight and action – whether by us or others, and past or present. For me, these attributes are all fundamental aspects or properties of our human and larger natural condition. But they are also basic features of natural life that are often unfamiliar, unintuitive, and unexamined, and I would encourage you to consider these natural or inherent qualities of all life, especially if they strike you as novel or uncertain.

Together, this set of observations suggests at least two important things for a discussion of natural isolation. One is that we, and all of life, invariably are caught up in natural processes of action and learning, can be defined quite elementally as natural successions of action and learning, and therefore may be seen essentially as ongoing instances or cases of information processing. This is inevitably and inescapably true across living nature – to see that this is so, try to conceive of an instance of life, or perhaps even a case non-living nature, that does not involve some form of processing. Further, it is also clear that all evolved organisms are similarly and inescapably suspended, contained, immersed, or enmeshed in the biological and experiential programming that enables their natural information processing. Indeed, in our essence, we are our natural processing and programming, and are inseparable from and untenable apart from these natural dimensions of life.

Owing to this functional specialization and autonomy, another crucial point for the topic of natural isolation is that each of us, and every organism, are at once part of and yet apart from the rest of nature, or are subject to degrees of natural isolation or individuality. Though we all may be derived or evolved from the totality of nature and plainly are aspects or expressions of nature in a broad sense, we also are clearly individualized as organisms and groups, subjective and specific, functioning on our own unique terms or processes. In other words, we are not all things and everywhere, are always at least somewhat separate or differentiated and isolated or demarcated from other things, and of course we are never the collosal thing-in-itself that is nature in total.

This fact or degree of natural isolation or separation of all specific things is inevitable, unavoidable, and ongoing. Crucially, it is most complete or least trifling in the case of functioning organisms, subjective entities, or autonomous subjects, and amid the often intricate and highly idiosyncratic processes and programming we use for learning, insight, and action – properties that we perpetually rely on and again even are in our essence. And let me add that this is true regardless of how natural or isolated we may or may not feel, the skill or excellence with which we act and learn, and whether or not we directly and actively live in wild nature.

While all this is naturally and unavoidably the case, and perhaps uncomfortably or humblingly so, I want to end our discussion by pointing out that there is at least one essential aspect of our natural functioning that can be significantly freed of natural isolation or separation, individuality or errantness, and idiosyncrasy or particularity. Critically, though this is just one area, it also may involve the most fundamental dimension or quintessential quality of nature, and take us to the core or heart of all of natural functioning.

As you may know from my earlier writing, this core and arguably most crucial aspect of nature is the quality or process of adaptive learning and action, or the pursuit of surviving and then thriving life and existence. Looking across nature, and again in both its living and more elemental forms, we have good reason to believe first, that the quest or opportunity for adaptive health and progressive ascent is the central ordering principle and imperative of all of nature, and second, that this is necessarily so, since any other mode of functioning would be selected against or disfavored in the eternity of time and opportunity that is complex nature in its broadest terms.

Owing to this, we as living organisms are always and never naturally isolated. Though we are indeed inherently different from and less than the whole of nature, we also can live in harmony with this whole in its essence – via a natural life of continual striving, probing, learning, health-mindedness, endurance, and transcendence. In this way, and perhaps only in this way, we can become, reflect, and remain rich  expressions of all of evolving nature, unisolated from and integrated with it, and manifestations of all-pervading nature at its core.

I welcome your comments and questions on these far-reaching ideas, ones which find a prominent place in my new book.

Health & best wishes,


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Nature Is Nurture

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Mark Lundegren

As my title suggests, I am going to wade into the ceaseless nature versus nurture debate, but gently and only briefly.

Nevertheless, the point I want to make is important. It offers a new, more unified, and perhaps more helpful way to think about living nature overall, and the process of natural evolution or advancement in all its forms.

In a few words, and again in keeping with my title, the idea I want to introduce is this: nature, and living nature especially, is mostly nurture or cultivation. By this, I mean that little and perhaps nothing is fixed, given, or wrought whole or without iteration in this world. Instead, almost everything appears to be actively nurtured or propagated, by one method or another, up to and potentially including the universe as a whole.

Separating Nature From Nurture, We May Miss The Nurture Of Nature

To quickly understand this idea and some of its key implications, consider the following natural processes and essential aspects of evolving life: 1) star development and the formation of complex elements, 2) abiogenesis or the formation of pre-living organic molecules and aiding structures, 3) the favorable selection of basic attributes and then instructive genes in early living organisms, 4) the emergence of sexual and social life, and the cooperative or contributing relationships each naturally entails, and 5) human culturelearning, scholarship, and science.

As you may know already or sense immediately, these seemingly disparate processes share a number of common characteristics. First, all are natural processes, or ones that occur in nature and, in all but the last set, undirectedly. They also are all transformative processes, meaning ones acting on initial conditions and altering them in some way. Third, the various alterations of these processes are all subject to basic differences in persistence, durability, survivability, accuracy, or what I have described elsewhere as health. And owing simply to the operation of complex nature or natural complexity, in non-living and living conditions alike, all of these processes contain a natural preference or selection for alternatives that are stronger, more persistent, more resilient, or more predictive – that is, they all naturally cultivate and tend to promote the dominance of healthier alternatives when they can.

Thus, in an important sense and as I trust you can see, nurture is widespread and integral throughout and across nature, especially in its living or otherwise evolving domains. Nurture, or the discovery and increasing of favorable or healthy qualities, is how and (at least proximately) why our universe is ordered the way it is on cosmic terms. It is how life emerged and developed, even in its most seemingly brute and neglectful forms. It is, and far more clearly so, how advanced, sentient, and cooperative life evolved and developed in time. And nurture is undoubtedly an essential explanation of modern life, including the reasons why you can read these words and I can write them, and perhaps why we are doing so in both cases.

Overall, these ideas suggest that we live in a natural world rich in and even naturally dependent on nurture, even if this process is hard and demanding at times. But the ideas also suggest that, like evolving nature and life itself, nurture too can evolve, can become more express and expressly supportive, and can become more subtle, powerful, enduring, and resonant too – as it naturally and progressively ascends in richness and complexity with the evolution of life.

In the spirit of this proposal, I would encourage you to look for nurture in nature around you, and to consider the idea that nature is mostly or perhaps only nurture and becoming at an essential level. I would also enjoy hearing your comments about this idea overall, and how it might lead you to new approaches in the ways you live, work, engage with others, and understand the natural and social worlds in which we all enduringly and together live.

Health & best wishes,


Tell others about Mark and the transformative Natural Strategy method!

The Blindness In Clarity

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Mark Lundegren

I’m back at work, but editing mostly rather than writing. If you follow my posts, you may recall that I completed the draft of a new book, my second, in June. Since then, I have taken time off and worked on side projects – including a rewrite of the nutrition section of my HumanaNatura health program – clearing the way for several months of editing to prepare the new book for publishing.

For me, this second book was a more substantial journey than the first, and writing it has changed me, as a writer and person. In the book, I explore 24 human ideals, from happiness to growth, discuss a historical advocate of each ideal, and survey relevant science in each case. Some of the content I knew beforehand, but much was new, and the book involved a good deal of learning and insight for me, as I hope it will for you.

Lately, I notice clear differences in my approach to writing, and living. One is new desire for directness or economy in my work and life – to speak and explain more plainly, to write with fewer words, and to have more result with less action, or distraction, overall. Another change, related to the first, is that I more frequently question my actions, and those of others, notably asking, “Are you sure?” amid strong feelings or pronouncements. It is this change, which at once involves and exposes the natural limits of thinking, or a phenomenon I will call the blindness in clarity, that I want to explore with you today.


We Can See Only The Light, Or The Darkness It Naturally Exposes Too

In practice, about half the time I ask this question, the answer is a halting no or maybe, which was and remains a surprisingly high percentage for me. That said, I am not yet sure how often this pause in thought leads to new perspective, or to new and broader thinking. However, I have found similar results asking this question of groups – which shouldn’t be surprising, since they are comprised of people after all. However, I suspect that the added social and peer influences of defined collectives might dampen progressive change relative to individuals thinking on their own (see groupthink and its related topics). In any case, and as we will discuss, I would encourage you to question clarity or certainty – in yourself or others, and especially amid strident views or actions – to see what you will see.

Importantly, when I use the words clarity and blindness, I mean them in typical, plain, intuitive, and indeed likely clear ways. Clarity here is perspective and thinking that is organized, specific, definite, coherent, and thus relatively certain. As such, clarity also can be understood as subjective and a state of mind, and therefore, while real and tangible, also as naturally limited, representative, selective, and imperfect (as is this definition – to explore this overall idea, see mental modelinference, and satisficing). With the word blindness, I of course mean instances of being cognitively, conceptually, or informationally unaware or impaired, rather than visually so. But since all states of clarity or certainty are of their nature limited, selective, or imperfect, all must come with a certain amount of informational blindness or constraint too.

As you almost certainly (and likely innately) sense, some degrees and forms of clarity, and thus some degrees and forms of blindness, are both natural and quite helpful or adaptive in life. You also probably know that the topic of natural and optimal certainty is a vast area of modern science – spanning psychology, sociology, cognitive science, organizational behavior, political science, and information theory, to begin a list. I won’t attempt to summarize this large and growing body of work, but will use the specific example of religious or ideological conviction as a tangible, well-researched, helpful, and seemingly generalizable study of the natural benefits and limitations of clarity.

Without considering the content or merits of religious and other ideological outlooks – and whether any adaptive effects are direct (causal) or indirect (correlational) – considerable research suggests that moderate religious conviction, and therefore at least one common form of moderate clarity or certainty, is often significantly adaptive or healthy, and across a wide range of settings and outcomes (for an overview of this research area, see religion and health). By contrast, strong or fanatical religious views appear to be much less healthy, frequently leading to irrational, fatalistic, or self-defeating behaviors, and at both a personal and social level (see fanaticism and the page’s subordinate links).

For perspective, we might consider the history of nationhood, and the degree and forms of religiosity (or civic-mindedness, cultural allegiance, ideological certitude, conviction, or clarity) that were and are most associated with the formation and endurance of nations (to survey this interesting and insight-rich topic, see study of religion, history of religion, and theories of religion). Today, fanatic clarity or certitude seems not to be the norm in stable nations, or in stable lives within them, but is present to some degree and in identifiable forms.

To broaden our discussion, we might also probe the somewhat related place and role of art and philosophy in societies. Both generally begin from a relatively strong cultural sense or clarity about the world and our needed actions in it, and then often proceed to deliberately or unavoidably (owing to the natural limits of any view) undermine these views as they and their society evolve. In this movement, each may expose unjustifiable or lulling romanticism, reveal limiting prejudice, introduce new skepticism and rationality, and challenge various social and personal ideals and certainties. Once again, when measured, or fortuitous, this process may enable progressive self-awareness, clarity, learning, and adaptivity. Or it may miss this mark, potentially resulting in excessive and harmful self-consciousness, uncertainty, ambivalence, passivity, divisiveness, or other forms of maladaptation.

While interesting and thought-provoking, all of these ideas may be fairly obvious, intuitive, or again clear – especially in deliberative settings, upon reflection, and in the abstract. But of course life does not always have these qualities. When engaged in life and work, we may quickly and even chronically overlook the opportunity and benefits of measured or open-minded clarity, and instead lapse into clarity’s more strident, self-subsuming, mind-narrowing, occluding, and limiting forms.

To help you pursue optimal clarity in your life and work, here are three techniques you can explore and use right away (there are of course more, and I would welcome your ideas and suggestions in the comments section). As you will see, the ideas are arranged from ones that may be more appropriate in deliberative settings, or for exploring clarity generally, to ones likely to aid active, engaging, and pressing life, or for exploring improved clarity specifically.

> Explore areas of high clarity – perhaps initially as a learning or limbering exercise, pick three aspects of your life or work where you have high (but not trivial or tautological) certainty, and for each find three counterexamples, qualifications, or exceptions. Later, notably as a pausing aid to active life, you can then periodically or opportunistically identify specific episodes or examples of high certainty, and go through a similar process of probing, qualification, moderation, or broadening of the view.

> Leverage episodes of conflict – consider the various forms and instances of conflict in your life and work as opportunities for learning, and as potential signals of excessive or maladaptive clarity – or as cases of significant, unhelpful, and perhaps needless blindness. In these situations, work to understand the root causes of the conflict, the differing views of the adversaries involved, other potential views, and the lessons that all may hold for improved or more optimal clarity.

> Gently question strident certainty – as highlighted earlier in our discussion, whether in yourself or others, we again always can question our degree of sureness or certainty, especially when we are clearly strident or dogged in our views. For maximum effect, such questioning normally will be in a curious and seeking, rather than critical or aggressive, manner. It also should avoid proceeding to the point of debilitating self-consciousness, passivity, or animosity. And it will remember that instances of strident certainty can be highly adaptive and even may be optimal at times (as when saying no to drugs, criminality, or other reliable modes of health reduction).

With these and other steps, we can progressively cultivate more optimal or adaptive degrees and forms of natural clarity, certainty, and assertiveness in our lives and groups. Or conversely, we can steadily probe and navigate the natural blindness that comes with all life, all thought, all goals, and all actions.

In this way, we can increasingly live and work with both healthy confidence and healthy openness, or in a balance of activating and reflective qualities or ideals. By this, I mean knowing that we often naturally must be relatively clear and certain to be at our best in momentary life, but also remembering that we are at least partially blind and imperfect at all times too – and thus naturally ever on the threshold of new adaptive perspective, learning, and growth.

Health & best wishes,


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Multi-Dimensional Thinking

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Mark Lundegren

Today, and in a theme running across my work, I would like to explore a powerful topic and tool for modern life and endeavor, by examining the natural processes we use to plan for, organize, and pursue action in our lives each day. As my title highlights, the area I primarily want to consider is our natural capacity for and the intentional practice of multi-dimensional thinking – or the informing use of multiple variables, factors, or considerations when we think and act.

However, this subject involves and therefore encourages us initially to touch on the natural phenomena of cognition and metacognition, or the processes of thinking and thinking about thinking. I explore cognition and metacognition in my decidedly philosophical Nature’s One Commandment, the latter process notably as a tool for considering our dominant ideals, or ideas, and resulting modes of functioning. I also discuss cognition and metacognition, and the use of multi-dimensional thinking in modern life, at several points in my workshop-based and more practice-oriented Seven Keys of Natural Life.

Thinking Naturally Can Be Task-Focused Or Single-Loop, Or More Reflective

Here, I would like to distill both of these extended discussions into a few fairly simple but important ideas and techniques you can quickly use and leverage. The first of these is the idea that multi-dimensional thinking, and enabling metacognition, each are natural, in humans at least, and also potentially quite powerful. You can immediately understand this power by considering that the alternative is a predominance and indeed prison of single-dimensional, monolithic, or even monomaniacal thinking – and thus naturally simple, crude, or limited thinking – examples of which are unfortunately common in human life and history.

At the same time, the power of multi-dimensional thinking also can be understood by seeing it not only as more sophisticated, insight-affording, and thus naturally informing or truing, but as exponentially so, as I will explain. In principle and practice, multi-dimensional thinking can both dramatically increase our information in use, our cognitive richness, and our likelihood of adaptive cognition and metacognition. Crucially, it also can reduce risks of basic error waiting in all single-mindedness and fixed sets of information – risks that are again naturally diminished by expanded information, metacognition, or both working in concert.

As my graphical model above summarizes, and as we all can experience, when we think and act, we naturally can be fairly immersed in this process or we can be more circumspect. In the first case, our functioning can be understood as dominated by cognition or mental operations aimed primarily at coordinating our actions and fulfilling our immediate tasks, goals, imperatives, ideas, ideals, or psychological investments. In the second case, we can be understood as increasing our degree of metacognition, reflection, or thinking about our thinking – and potentially, increasing our thinking about the quality, efficiency, effectiveness, or adaptive potential of our thoughts and resulting actions.

In personal and organizational psychology, and as the preceding graphic indicates, the processes of cognition and metacognition are often described, modeled, or thought of (reductionistically but often helpfully) as single-loop and double-loop functioning or learning. Here, the concept of single-loop functioning summarizes the idea that in cognition or simple thinking , we are often significantly dedicated to matters at hand and thus less reflective or cognitively observant overall. By contrast, the idea of double-loop functioning highlights our cognitive capacity not only to assess our results and adjust our goal-directed thinking and actions, but also to engage in a second metacognitive or reflective loop of thought where we evaluate the assumptions, briefs, thought processes, or cause-and-effect theories underlying our goals or behavior as well, or instead (see Wikipedia Double-Loop Learning).

All or most of us of course naturally engage in both single-loop and double-loop thinking, or cognition and metacognition, as a regular and important part of our lives and endeavors. In practice, some amount of single-loop functioning may be essential to completing important tasks and navigating situational life generally, since excessive or protracted reflection or metacognition, and its tendency to engender high and action-inhibiting self-consciousness, can interrupt practical life and make us less focused, efficient, effective, or adaptive overall (see Wikipedia Self-Consciousness). At the same time, some amount, degree, or frequency of double-loop functioning or reflection is both natural and can be enormously valuable – notably, especially during both challenges and failures – by helping us to consider our cognitive framing and processing, our personal or group assumptions and motivations, and thereby our potential for more informed or considered and objectively superior situational perspectives, ideas, goals, framing assumptions, and plans (see Wikipedia Self-KnowledgeSelf-Awareness, Situational Awareness, Psychological Mindedness, and Mindfulness).

Before leaving this comparison of cognition and metacognition, and in case you were (metacognitively) wondering, the additional states of triple-loop thinking and still higher order levels of functioning are of course possible too – thinking or learning where we consider not only our cognition and behavior, but also the quality of our metacognition or reflective evaluations as well. Generally, this further elevated, but also more situationally abstracted or isolated functioning, will involve considering our or a group’s foundational ideas, assessment standards, ideals, principles in use, or processes for making evaluations. In practice, this mode of functioning will often take the form of deep why-testing or probing the reasons we are both functioning and evaluating our functioning as we are. As you may intuitively suspect, some amount of triple-loop thinking may be very valuable, but as with double-loop or simple reflective thinking, this looped or recursive functioning also naturally and perhaps increasingly risks pronounced, occluding, inhibiting, or regressing self-consciousness – and thus a halting, stilted, and less adaptive approach to life overall. By analogy, we can think of increasingly looped or reflective thinking as functioning in a growing hall of mirrors – offering interesting perspective but also making simple tasks more difficult and even vexing.

As its name indicates and as outlined before, multi-dimensional thinking is the natural, but also waiting intentional and metacognitively seeking, practice of using multiple or increasing variables, factors, or considerations in our personal or collective thinking and functioning. And as I suggested, in both forms it is a process or practice that can greatly improve the quality, effectiveness, or accuracy of our thinking, resulting actions, and subsequent evaluations. In keeping with my introductory comments, recurring theoretical and empirical analysis suggests that multi-dimensional thinking is not only natural, but a highly valuable and even essential practice in modern life and endeavor as well, and again notably whenever we face complex and uncertain conditions or challenges (for a survey of relevant theory and research, and perhaps thinking of each useful added dimension of thought as increasing our sample set, see Wikipedia CognitionUncertainty, Statistics, Type I & II Errors, Type III Error, Decision Theory, and Decision-Making).

Simple And Perhaps Familiar Example Of Multi-Dimensional Thinking

To bridge our overall discussion, let me point out that multi-dimensional thinking is related to metacognition in at least four ways. One is that metacognition is of course multi-dimensional in itself. Second is that the selection of multiple factors for a thought process, loop, or mental model, will generally require metacognition or significant reflection and analysis in itself. Third is that multi-dimensional thinking and models normally or naturally draw attention to themselves, and thus tend to invoke metacognition or considerations of the thought process or model’s components, assumptions, and effects. And fourth is that multi-dimensional thinking, importantly like metacognition in both its double-loop and higher order varieties – and really, all natural functioning – is similarly subject to natural inadequacy, error, and excess. While all three of these less desirable states are important, the last is perhaps most relevant for our discussion, and crucially can result in the familiar outcomes or phenomena of analysis paralysis, diminishing and then negative returns on intellectual or empirical investments, and inadequate natural satisficing (see Wikipedia Analysis Paralysis, Diminishing Returns, Negative Return, and Satisficing).

Overall, perhaps the most common and even most valuable form of multi-dimensional thinking in everyday life and effort involves what I will call data tables of varying degrees of formality, where at least two and perhaps many different factors, attributes, or dimensions are compared and considered against one another. A simple example of this tabular comparison or modeling of information is shown in the graphic above, which is visually two-dimensional – or has two framing or organizing dimensions – but substantively has more content or processing or content dimensions than this, and could have many more of course. Importantly, however, given this fairly formal example of a data table, it is crucial for me to underscore that such tables or tabular thinking can be entirely cognitive, mental, or implicit (as when we mentally compare potential choices or options against various criteria or considerations). Overall, data tables, the tabular or database organization of information, and similar tools or approaches to thought can be understood as multi-dimensional contrast models. And importantly, they can be either quantitative or qualitative in nature.

There are at least two immediate, important, useful, and similarly common variations or extensions of this basic tabular approach to or method of multi-dimensional thinking. One is the conversion or translation of data tables into useful graphical charts and plots, which notably for our discussion are also often along two dimensions visually, spatially, or organizationally, but may contain many more dimensions of information substantively. In any case, organizing graphical plots and charts, as the graphics we are using themselves highlight, can be enormously useful and help us to see essential relationships, and notably in structurally simple but nevertheless unintuitive or ambiguous sets or tables of data – or in situations or amid challenges with these information or cognitive qualities.

A second extension of data tables, also involving two-dimensional plots or organization of various information elements, are today’s ubiquitous use of 2×2 or four-quadrant matrix models by analysts of all kinds (a prototypical example of which is shown below). In practice, matrix models or charts, like two-dimensional organizing data tables and plots, are a simple, effective, and intuitive aid to multi-dimensional thinking. And like these other tools, and perhaps especially when focusing on essential qualitative differences, matrix models often can sometimes offer comparatively deep insights into fundamental patterns or relationships, whether in a particular data set or the data set that is the world broadly, and especially compared with unaided thinking. For example, consider a matrix plot of a large number of potential endeavors, or potential escapes from thinking life if you want, against the essential (and metacognitively surfaced) qualities of safe and valuable – as opposed to perhaps more intuitive, visceral, or monolithic considerations of exciting and easy – and you perhaps can see how such multi-dimensional graphical aids might help us and our groups better visualize options and in turn function in vastly superior ways – amid and throughout life, and thus compoundingly or increasingly so.

Two-Dimensional Tables and Plots Lead To Often Powerful Matrix Models

Together, information tables, data plots, and matrix models are often revealing, insightful, and powerful techniques to understand, promote, and aid simple multi-dimensional thinking. Quite often, they will be fairly intuitive and persuasive, and frequently will strike a good balance between expediency and complexity – between too few and too many variables or dimensions, too little and too much reflection or metacognition, and overly rapid and unduly protracted satisficing. But sometimes, these forms of or tools for multi-dimensional thinking can be too simple, crude, imprecise, and even wholly wrong or misguided – reflecting a phenomenon known in mathematics as omitted-variable bias (see Wikipedia Omitted-Variable Bias). In these cases, and with the aid of metacognition, either replacement of variables or added ones are essential to ensure that our thinking, cognition, processing, or modeling is adequately effective or adaptive – relative to our tasks or goals, the situations we face, or the natural opportunities before us, seen and unseen.

In these cases, and of these two options, exploring replacement variables within a  tabular or two-dimensional organizing framework, rather than adding model or organizational complexity, is often superior, especially initially. This is because more procedurally or spatially intricate mental or graphical models, and therefore more intricate information framing, can prove unwieldy, unintuitive, error-prone as a result, just as with excessively looped or convoluted thinking more fundamentally, and thereby either unhelpful or unpersuasive in practice. Overall, and in contrast to excessive simplicity or overly simple thinking, these outcomes again highlight the natural risks waiting in excessive complexity of thought. As an example of this, and for an immediate sense of the phenomenon of compounding or galloping metacognitive, organizational, or framing complexity,  examine the seemingly simple move from two to three visual, spatial, or organizing dimensions in this chart, and then consider the prospect of adding still more organizing or framing dimensions.

Importantly, when additional rather than replacement variables are needed or unavoidable, but before moving to more intricate model frames or formats, another and often superior consider a switch to alternative organizing models or framing, especially ones that are still relatively simple, intuitive, and communicative. In general, this step will involve (again metacognitively) reframing or rethinking the way we approach a question, challenge, or issue. One option in this approach, and a fairly recent innovation historically, is to move from tabular or contrast models or framing to system or process maps, models, or framing, which my very first graphic above is a simple example. In many cases, this lateral change to alternative low-complexity framing will be more useful, incisive, or insight-rich than a degree change that more simply, perhaps less reflectively, or mono-dimensionally increases a contrast or other existing model’s complexity.

Sometimes, however, rigorous multivariable or multi-dimensional analysis is either unavoidable or highly desirable to achieve adequate richness in the way we or our groups think and understand issues or information before us and world more broadly, here including ongoing moves to use or leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning (see Wikipedia Multivariate Statistics, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning).

Instructively, Complex Math Often Ends In Simple Organizing Tables Or Models

As you may know, multivariable analysis and machine learning involve a set of mathematical techniques that require training and care, but can provide essential and far-reaching insights that would not be available to us otherwise. And while the topic of multivariable mathematics and related data tools are beyond the scope of our current discussion, one central feature of this mathematics and its application is very much at the heart of it. This is the typical mathematical practice of summarizing or organizing complex results in a two-dimensional tabular format or frame, either as shown prototypically immediately above or in that of two-dimensional organizing equations (ones with length and depth, rather than length and height). Importantly, this common final step in multivariable or regression analysis offers basic insights into the workings and needs of our human minds. It is also a study in natural demands for simplicity or clarity and satisficing or expediency in human cognition, and likely in all cognition. And crucially, it suggests a means or alternative way to conduct complex multivariable analysis and manage multi-dimensional thinking within simple information models or framings, and perhaps with sufficient rigor and adequate results in a many cases.

Collapsing Variables Into ‘Meta-Variables’ Can Aid In Complex Analyses

This final technique of our discussion, summarized in the graphic above and again inspired by tabular and equational summation of multivariable mathematics, involves consciously or metacognitively collapsing, consolidating, or replacing multiple variables, factors, consideration, or lines of thinking with a single meta-variable, factor, or quality. As you likely can immediately sense, this will typically result in radical model simplification to a small number of variables, enable simple organization or framing of complex information, and potentially permit simple and intuitive, but still complex and probing, multidimensional thinking, understanding, and predictive analysis.

To give you an idea of how this process of variable or dimensional consolidation, or information organization or association, might be done successfully, consider these three examples, which are among many and perhaps endless possibilities to metacognitively consider and simply our thinking, theories, and functioning amid complex daily life and endeavor:

> Collapse various option qualities into an overall benefit variable

> Reduce all product features into a client perceived value variable

> Replace multiple measures of quality with a lifespan variable

This deliberate consolidation of variables of course contains the potential for oversimplification and substantial error or bias, but it nevertheless can be an enormously useful way to achieve relatively sophisticated multi-dimensional thinking, analysis, modeling, or information processing without complex, costly, unintuitive, and potentially error-prone information framing. Importantly, the approach also underscores two important and related features about all information and thought, cognition, and metacognition, ones with which I will end our discussion with – and encourage you to consider both these ideas in themselves and the insights into metacognition and multi-dimensional thinking they may inspire.

One information feature is that all or many of the proposals, factors, or ideas we may consider in life are normally part of one or more larger concepts, categories, or meta-qualities, and thus at times may be metacognitively and helpfully recast, re-framed, reorganized, or sublimated into these more categorical or sweeping terms (see Wikipedia Categorization). For example, and as with my three examples immediately above, our or a group’s concerns about a particular threat or opportunity may be reconceived as part, examples, or instances of larger concerns or thinking about security and growth, respectively.

The second feature is the reverse of this concept, or the idea that whatever information or thought we are considering, it almost inevitably contains sub-information, sub-factors, sub-ideas, or sub-qualities – ones that may be more or less helpful to our thinking and functioning at any point in time, and ones that, just as with identifying more categorical concepts, often can be accessed only with some amount of metacognition or reflection, and perhaps only with awareness of the potential and importance or multi-dimensional thinking. Together, and as suggested earlier in our discussion, these two feature of information suggest that optimizing all cognition, metacognition, framing, and functioning more generally involves finding degrees of information organization or specificity, as well as information connection or interrelationships, that are progressively useful, efficient, effective, or adaptive.

In this way, the (re-framing) movement from more generic or categorical to more specific or instantial factors, or the reverse, can be essential to multi-dimensional thinking and modeling in all its forms, and just as with seeing or probing more essential relationships between the factors we have at hand. In theory and practice, both steps can be crucial to high-quality or adaptive descriptions of and predictions about the world, whether in our lives and our groups. And each move circularly requires and encourages adaptive metacognition, a natural and advanced human trait I would encourage you and your groups to consider and employ, often and richly.

Health & best wishes,


Tell others about Mark and his transformative Natural Strategy method!

Our Point of Greatest Resistance

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Mark LundegrenI’m at the halfway point in drafting my new book, my second, and taking a break – to the extent that writing blog posts and attending to side projects is a break. In any case, they are easier than daily writing, and a welcome respite.

For this post, I want to offer a simple and quite flexible tool for diagnosing the general state of our efforts and pursuits, whether personal or organizational. Often, when we are immersed in work or other endeavors, we may not adequately see our essential context, or the main reason or reasons that things are as they are.

But this needn’t and generally shouldn’t be the case, since excessive immersion can greatly reduce our effectiveness, and because reframing or perspective-increasing tools are widely available and fairly easy to use. And I have found one tool in particular, probing for our point of greatest resistance or our main strategic bottleneck or barrier to success, to be especially powerful – helping us to quickly gauge our situation, and our potential opportunity to either redouble, adjust, or wholly change our efforts.

Simple Mapping Tool To Assess Personal & Organizational Barriers

There of course are many ways of assessing or diagnosing our efforts and increasing situational awareness, but focusing on resistance points or strategic weakness is often remarkably simple and intuitive, and frequently provides a higher initial result than other approaches. And to make the approach even easier, I would encourage you simply to consider or probe for resistance in just two areas, ones essential for success in any domain: 1) the state of production or your current supply potential, and 2) the state of consumption or your current demand conditions. In this approach, we look for basic barriers, or points of resistance, in both domains – and then seek to understand the reasons why.

In my experience, the approach is remarkably straightforward and reliably generates fresh insights – whether we use it in our lives or work, and alone or in groups. As a consulting strategist, it can help me to quickly understand the main barriers or issues an organization is facing, from startups to long-established enterprises. In your life and work, the technique of probing for resistance may help you to see various efforts in a new and often quite fundamental way, providing insights that you can consider, test, and then act on.

When using the approach, all personal and organizational efforts are understood as potentially subject to critical barriers or points of resistance in one or both of two areas:

> Production – the ability of a person or group to produce or create something of value – whether a raw material, product, service, experience, or change. In general, when the point of greatest resistance involves production, this points to immature, inadequate, inefficient, ineffective, or otherwise misdirected execution on an idea, value proposition, or mission.

> Consumption – the interest or willingness of people to buy or otherwise use a person’s or organization’s output. When the point of greatest resistance involves consumption, sometimes this is owing to lack of awareness or publicity, a state of affairs that is often easily or progressively overcome (if not, this suggests awareness is not the primary issue). But more generally, poor or weak consumption, demand, or uptake of an offering points to inadequate value in the offering – or the idea, proposition, or mission underlying the offering. Costs may be too high, benefits too low or too ambiguous, or both.

As my graphic above illustrates, the idea of potentially low or high states of both production and consumption also can be used to create a four-part model that describes productive efforts generally. Where there are no major points of resistance in production and consumption, this suggests thriving conditions for an effort. At the other extreme, significant resistance in both domains indicates an effort or enterprise is struggling and suggests a basic rethinking of actions, approach, and goals.

When a personal or organizational effort has high productive or supply capacity, but low or inadequate consumption or demand, this almost always suggests untapped, misallocated, or misdirected capacity – or a condition of less than fully successful striving – and therefore a need to examine and increase the value of the output (benefits minus costs). Importantly however, if such value-increasing changes are not obvious, then the condition instead indicates a need to revisit underlying assumptions and even the basic mission of the effort or endeavor.

On the other hand, where demand is high or increasing, but production capacity is the point of resistance, as is often the case in start-up and aspiring ventures, this suggests that an examination and rethinking of current production plans or operating models is in order. Often, this will involve new investments, new techniques, or new production partners.

I would encourage you to use this two-part approach for assessing resistance points, along with the above model of productive efforts, right away. This is both to deepen your understanding of the approach and because it can be so useful. As highlighted, you can apply the approach to current efforts in your life, to planned or nascent ones, to an organization you work for or are interested in, or to the efforts of people and groups around you.

As I often do, you are likely to find this simple approach or shorthand quite powerful and applicable in many settings. In practice, it can help us to understand and strategically reframe efforts in ways that are useful, immediately actionable, and enduring. And it frequently will provide fundamental insights into how endeavors of all types and sizes might be made more vibrant, growing, compelling, and valuable.

Health & best wishes,


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The World’s Healthiest Nation

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Mark LundegrenIn an earlier post, I posed the question, which is the world’s most advanced nation?

For that discussion, I considered several ways we might measure national advancement, and how each measure – or each alternative framing of the question – produced very different national rankings.

At the end of the discussion, and as I did in my first book The Seven Keys of Natural Life, I encouraged readers to consider a relatively new measure called the HPI, produced by the New Economics Foundation. In my reading, the HPI can serve as a rough or preliminary measure of national adaptivity, or adaptive health. HPI stands for Happy Planet Index, though for me it would be better named, and in any case thought of, as a Healthy People Index.

Importantly, however adaptive health is best measured, and thus predicted, for me adaptive health is the ultimate performance metric, whether for individuals, groups, species, or whole ecosystems. In nature, health – here defined as the ability to steadily survive over time and amid progressive challenges or uncertainty – is the final test of life, and therefore the ultimate measure of all measures.

Some Nations Are Wealthier or Happier, But Which Ones Are Healthier?

Since my earlier advocacy of the HPI, the metric has undergone an important and I believe positive change, increasing from three to four internal variables. In this post, I’d like to review the change, highlight why I believe the HPI is improved via the added variable, and explain reasons why the HPI remains an important preliminary or suggestive measure of what matters most at a national level today – adaptivity or each nation’s likely potential to survive, and therefore thrive, in time.

Continue reading “The World’s Healthiest Nation”