The D-Pad of Awareness

Two Spectrums

Mindfulness, Perspective, Discipline, Flow

These might seem like four random words, but you could see them as two sets of opposites.

  • Awareness (here and now) < > Perspective (big picture)
  • Flow (in the moment creation) <> Discipline (structure)

Any one of these concepts can be valuable in its own, but if your way of being is centered around one, there will be holes. It's tempting to say: "I'm going to prioritize flow, there's no need to optimize every facet of my life. I don't need a calendar!" There's a <true, but> here. True, optimizing every facet of your life is a huge waste of time, stemming from insecurity and a need for control, but, having zero routine (repeated structures) creates its own kinds of challenges: so many things will slip through the cracks.



The Jedi, Luke, The Tao, The Force, The Buddhist

Hyper-aware of the present moment


Yoda, The Wise Old Man, The Grandparent, God

Conscious of the full spectrum of time and place


Bobo, The Pranksters, The Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac

An unbroken stream of concentrated creation


The Christian Monk, The Wise Manager

Ability to impose routine without destroying balance of the other archetypes

Tuning Your Guitar

It could be useful to understand the value from each archetype. A hybrid model lets you know which situations and facets of life call for which attitudes. Maybe the "self" is the being at the center of these four poles, and over time, it can develop the intuitive capacity to switch between modes based on context.

I have a closed-eye visualization where I picture these four extremes as points in a diamond. I think there's an art around balancing the four throughout your day. When I say balance, I don't necessarily mean sitting right in the middle of the diamond (moderation). It's more like a rapid fluctuation between them. Some moments call for rigid control, and some for looseness.

A practice worth trying is meditating every hour, but only for a minute. You visualize the four poles, and map your current state of mind onto it. It's kind of like the act of tuning a guitar. Where am I, and where should I be for the hour ahead?


Mindfulness (top)

Noticing the subtleties of the present moment

  • Observing the details of your surroundings
  • Not thinking about work, responsibilities, or obligations
  • Not day-dreaming, but memsmerized by some mundane detail

Perspective (bottom)

Thought experiments that can quickly shift your mood

  • Imagine how hard my life would be if I was born 100 years ago
  • Our whole generation is going to die, and will be forgotten with enough time
  • Remember back when I was in 5th grade and really obsessed with writing?

Flow (left)

Spontaneous, free from calendar time

  • The freedom to know you don't need to check your calendar, just read a book
  • Completely losing track of time as you're writing a song
  • Following your curiosity down internet rabbit holes

Discipline (right)

Things that are worth having consistency over

  • Every morning, I'm going to write and publish an essay
  • Every night, I'm going to clean, close out of tabs, and set a plan for tomorrow
  • Every Sunday, I'm going to reflect on the week and send out a newsletter

Spatial Arrangement

Funny to think that I'm using the D-Pad from a Super Nintendo controller to spatially arrange four different mindsets. I've basically memorized this shape, so even just by closing my eyes for a minute, I can cycle through these four states, figure out where I need to be in the next hour, and tune.


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