A great life begins here! Are you aware?
State Awareness is a core life skill that will transform a person’s life. In order to perform better in any activity be that learning, sports, dealing with relationships or emergencies one needs to be in the correct state. I cannot overemphasise the importance of state awareness! In this video I explain how to apply state awareness with the use of a traffic light metaphor in the context of study. Tap/click (touchscreen computers tap screen) the picture below to watch the video or read the transcript at the bottom of the page.
What is State Awareness?
State Awareness is a consciously chosen activity of evaluating one’s mental, emotional and body status. Once one’s current state is determined one can then decide if it is optimal for the current situation. If the current state is considered sub-optimal then it can be changed. Few people have the habit of evaluating their state, so what tends to happen is people (regardless of age) operate in sub-optimal states all the time.
A prime directive of the unconscious mind is to be lazy, the path of least resistance. Under-performance will be the default behaviour until the optimal performance state is seen as a priority habit and made easy through practice.
The trick is one has to remember to check ‘is my state optimal for this situation?’ Forming this habit of state awareness is a core aspect of the tutoring process.
For learning, study, working on assignments and exam performance the optimal state is the learning state. In fact the learning state is optimal for many situations as that is when the neurology, mind, emotions and body are in top performance. In order to enter the learning state one needs to first evaluate one’s current state.
In the animal videos I often point out the traffic light status of myself and the birds or animals. The animals teach us that state shifting can be instant. With practice it becomes fast and eventually when mastered it is lightning fast. At this level, where the habit is deeply embedded, the state awareness and entry into the learning state merge into a spontaneous switch. It is as fast as a light turning on. ‘Am I’ – dink – the light is on. It happened before the words can be spoken inside the mind. At this point of mastery the default setting is the optimal state. Then the durability of the learning state gets stronger.
As the tutor for this service I, Jason, live in the Learning State by default. The optimal state is now my ‘lazy setting’ because my neurology has designed its network to flow this way. To be sub-optimal feels horrible and effort laden. Thus my unconscious wants to revert back to my lazy state of optimal where it is at peace. I am an expert in my field by living this.
State Awareness as Traffic Light indicators
The easiest way to understand state awareness is to use the universally understood traffic light metaphor. To make it obvious I have added in the smiley faces. Your state is the most important thing you have. It impacts everything in your life. For learning reasons it is critical, as the state of your neurology determines how well you mind operates. It impacts how strong the neural connections are and how the information integrates with all your other stored memories and knowledge.
Outside of the context of learning your state is how you feel in all your life. Feeling less than good isn’t nice is it? Your state impacts the people around you because it effects how you relate to them and how they will respond back.
Therefore to have the skills to evaluate your state and change it is an amazing tool to learn and master. Every aspect of your life can then be taken to a better place, IF you use these core life skills. They do take practice to become automatic and with tutoring we tune this ability.
Defining the traffic lights:
Green is for Go. Generally this is when you are resourceful, focused, conscious of your actions and thought processes. In addition for this website the green state is when you are in the learning state. Technically in neuroscience terms it is characterised by more Alpha and Theta brain wave patterns (defined more in the Learning State page). Many people confuse feeling good with the learning state (or any other label that means full neurology activation). The learning state is characterised by the whole brain and body being activated for learning and study / work activities. Typically the body will be relaxed and stress is minimised.
Specific actions have to be performed to activate the brain, mind and body. The neurology can be activated in a number of ways. This can be done with awareness to turn the neurology on like I describe in the videos by being aware of the body and feeling what is happening. Physical exercises can also be done like relaxing your eyes to go into peripheral vision or body activations such as brain-gym (educational kinesiology) exercises. Other tools can be used such as the right types of music to activate the whole brain. Taking quick breaks at the appropriate times also helps peak learning, concentration and performance. These aspects are covered in the core study skills modules.
Typically one will feel relaxed and focused when in the learning state. Just because you feel good or relaxed does not mean it’s the learning state. Hence we use the state awareness process to check in and evaluate. The learning state as it is taught here also includes the nerve tissue in the body, not just the brain. With practice this whole brain and full body state can be activated at any time in any state of activity. This will enhance your performance both mentally and physically. Often this high performance state is referred to as the flow state, and when these core life skills are applied the flow can be activated by choice. Usually people only experience flow at fleeting times otherwise.
Red is for STOP. When in the red state only limited resources are available for thinking, performing and being emotionally responsive. The extreme red state happens when people are asleep, knocked unconscious, drunk (etc), being sick or injured. Most people also go into the red traffic light awareness state when feeling a strong emotion. Typically in red a person will under function, act out bad behaviours, and be unable to listen, can’t think clearly or remember easily (etc).
Hence when you can choose your state and transition out of red and into at least yellow better outcomes happen because the ability to respond is higher. This is because more resources are available to the unconscious to perform its tasks. When practiced at state changing one can then hopefully enter green in tough situations. This is how emotions are mastered, resulting in a much higher level of emotional intelligence.
In regards to learning the red traffic light is defined as the brain and neurology functioning at less than 70%. Unless the green learning state is activated by whole brain learning techniques typically only half the brain (50%), the left logical side, is activated for academic learning. Right brain subjects will activate more of the brain. For example music and art is different as they activate the right hemisphere of the neocortex.
Standard learning, study and educational practices cause the student to typically operate with less than 50% of their neurology operational. Just adding state awareness and the learning state we can boost that to over 90% easily. Adding in mini breaks and other brain friendly techniques we can keep the neurology operating at over 90% for long periods. Eventually this becomes normal and being at your best becomes the standard state. Humans are creatures of habit, we can train ourselves to be optimal as a default.
The quantity of neurons accessed and fired when in the red state is significantly lower. This reduces learning, ability to process answers and recall memory. Focus and motivation is also reduced. Getting out of the red traffic light state as fast as possible is desirable. Some learning, attention and environmental conditions leave a person in red permanently.
Yellow is for caution! Change my state quickly! Living in the green, and preferably the learning state, is the best place to live from. However the yellow traffic light state is the most critical to notice. When we notice the yellow state it can usually be changed into green quite easily. Once in yellow, the semi resourceful state, it is easy to slip into red. Getting out of red is much harder than yellow.
The simple state awareness exercise in the above video can often be enough to return to green. Our conscious choice to choose a better operational state or behaviour can make all the difference. The body awareness steps I often explain in many videos (especially the animal videos) will be sufficient to take you back into green. The learning state requires a few more steps, to fully activate the correct brain activation.
The trick is to remember ‘what is my state’. This remembering can be improved by forming the habit of checking-in. This does take effort and determined practice. Phone or device reminders can also be very useful to prompt. It would be amazing if teachers learned to do this to help the students stay resourceful (Teacher training / coaching is coming soon).
This process can also be applied to the family setting. Family check-ins will be discussed with parents, especially those that do the parent / family coaching package of this service. The household can grow together. To embed this process is easier when people around you are also going through this new habit formation.
Painful demonstration of the State Awareness Traffic Lights
This video demonstrates beautifully the importance of state awareness and how I flick from the red traffic light when I am having my ear bitten, into amber (yellow) and back into green to give a coherent video. Pinch the top part of your ear and notice how it’s quite painful with little effort, that was where I was being bitten. My state shifting is almost instantaneous from Red to orange and back to green. Because I go back into the learning state so quickly I am able to continue the complex task of making a video with wild animals. As they say in the film industry recording with babies and animals are the most challenging, wild animals are even harder to do!
You can see me monitoring the state of the wild King Parrots. The birds react instinctively to my movements, cars and people nearby. You will see me freeze at one point where I really focus on my Learning State as I can see the remaining parrot is unsettled by movement nearby. This is to help the bird settle back into its own green traffic light so it does not fly away. Tap/click the picture to watch.
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State Awareness calibration and habit formation
As one practices any task one learns and defines the nuances of the activity. For example, Roger Federer has very defined sense of how to serve in a tennis match. His state awareness skills are extremely advanced to perform at a world class level. He is aware of his mind’s activity, body operation and many factors in the external environment such as his opponent’s abilities. When he is ready and his state is optimal he serves to his opponent.
You will observe he performs a mini ritual in the lead up to the serve. This is his way of running through all the important aspects to be in the optimal performance state. Many top sports people have these state awareness focus rituals be that golf, cricket, 100 meter sprints or Olympic diving (etc).
The ritual or routine then becomes a habit, and further improvements can be added. Forming habits is a key part of Student Success Tutoring. The habits create success in whatever skill and ‘performance states’ they are applied to. Hence I separate out these core life skills from the specific study skills.
These core life skills are the basis of human operation. That is why I discuss the importance of state awareness and the learning state when in an emergency situation. When I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle in May 2018 my mastery of state awareness and the learning state meant I was able to be fully resourceful in an emergency. I was able to put myself into a high performance state after being hit by a car. I could have been severely harmed or killed, and even though injured I functioned optimally and calmly.
As part of the tutoring process I work to help the student, parent or teachers to calibrate their state so they can optimise themselves for different situations. This is why I advocate the success journal, and that all study or learning is structured around state awareness and the learning state. This maximises time usage, increases focus and quality learning.
Whole brain learning techniques can then be added to further assist with maximising the learning state and neural connections.
State Awareness video transcript
Note: transcript is not word for word.
Let’s talk about one of the most important life skills you can ever learn. It has a massive impact on your learning, happiness and how good your life is. It also impacts how well you get along with everyone in your life. What is it? It’s called State Awareness.
State Awareness is remarkably simple. I’ll explain it by using the traffic light metaphor. What is state awareness? It is where you are consciously choosing to notice what is going on in your mind, body and emotions.
So do that now as you read this: Feel your hands your feet and tummy. If you are aware of your feet and tummy at the same time you cannot be stuck in your head and the train track of some obsessive thinking process. Just notice if there are any tensions, pains or things going on in your body. No need to change any of it (that is step two). Notice how you are feeling. It does not matter if it is good or bad. This is called being aware of your state. Now that you are aware of it we can change it.
Sate Awareness is remarkably important when it comes to learning, studying, being motivated and performing in an educational setting. It also applies in all life situations not just study. It’s also useful when in a job, fishing or driving. State is very important when driving or biking because you have to keep yourself and everybody else safe.
What is the best state to be in regards learning and life? The other core skill I teach here in this website is the learning state and this is what we are aiming for. The learning state is primary for study, then everything else. The learning state is where your whole brain is turned on. Your neurology is turned on and you are aware of what is going on inside your body. This then gives you the capacity to focus to do your study, job or the task at hand. When you are in that place of being focused, relaxed and easeful you are probably in the learning state (if you check your neurology for activation, as I teach it).
With the traffic light metaphor this is called the green traffic light. Green for go. The key with state awareness is to remember to check. To check just ask “how am I feeling”? Am I Green? Green is good to go therefore this is the one we are aiming for.
We will do the learning state separately but state awareness is where you notice if you are green or not. When you learn the indicators of the learning state you can tell if you are green or not. You will be able to tell if all of your brain is turned on and that you are functional. When you are green you have better access to all of your resources, abilities and memory. All these things are accessed unconsciously for you to use consciously. Hence we want to be in the green which is the learning state. This gives you access to your unconscious resources such as memory and skill use.
Then when you’ve done some study for a period of time you need to check “how am I feeling”? What is my state? So as you read this be aware of your hands, calf muscles (lower legs) and your tummy. Ask yourself the question “how am I feeling does my brain feel full”? If so it’s time for a break. This is how it all works, I teach you this in the tutoring. This is the science of how to keep your brain working. Your brain does need recharging. It needs brakes, content reviews (for filing and ensuring long term memory). In tutoring we build that into your learning and study routine.
So green for go, right? “How am I feeling? Am I good, am I relaxed and am I in the learning state”? That is the green traffic light.
(In the video I change my suit tie from green to red)
The opposite to the green traffic light is of course red. Stop! This is where you are dysfunctional, stressed, angry or any of the mild or strong emotions. So as you read this stop feel your calf muscles (lower legs), notice your tummy. If you are not relaxed not at peace, then you are stressed. If that is going on for you right now, just notice feel your tummy. Notice it is rising and falling and feel where the stresses are in your body. This means you need to get out of this red state quickly.
When you are in the red traffic light state you do not have access to all of your resources. You are literally in the brain wave pattern that is predominantly known as Beta brain wave pattern. That is half brained! It is the left hemisphere of the neocortex only. This is the logical side of the brain. It is the tunnel vision side (focused vision where you don’t see anything peripheral).
When you are in the red state your capacity for learning is severely reduced. Unfortunately most educational systems and how we are taught to learn is predominantly left brain only activities. Therefore even standard learning is red! This is why we use whole brain learning techniques. The learning state is the most profound whole brain method because it’s naturally hard-wired into our neurology, DNA and survival instinct.
So what do you do to use this? Ask “how am I feeling” before you study and when you enter your class. Check-in, check your state and then do something about it. It’s so important. With habit it becomes extremely easy and fast. It becomes natural, because it is natural [hence why I do videos with wild animals as they don’t have bad habits like humans do]. The more you do this in your life the more it becomes a very deep habit. It means you grow into that place of being optimal all the time.
Some people stay in the red traffic light state all the time. They are stress-heads, they are always worried, panicked, permanently depressed or forever procastinating. The red state is not a good place to live. It’s not good for your body. You will notice those people catch more colds and have more health issues. Red is not a good place to be, and we can numb out and not even notice it. Red is the stop. Noticing red is good, it means it’s time to change your state. It’s time change to the green state which is the learning state.
There are a number of ways we can do that. This is what we will be covering in tutoring. Some aspects of that are covered here in the website and the YouTube channel.
So let’s get out of the red and talk about the next traffic light.
(In the video I am holding up the red tie and then the picture changes to me holding a yellow and orange tie)
The middle traffic light is the yellow or amber. And for some reason I often call it orange out of habit in the videos, so orange is the yellow – the middle traffic light. What does yellow mean as a traffic light? It means caution! As you drive, bike or walk up to an intersection, if it’s yellow (amber) you stop safely if you can. If you’re going too fast then you go through the intersection safely. With learning and if you want to have a good life it’s always good to notice if you are in the yellow / amber light.
Yellow is the most critical place to notice your cognitive state. Preferably we want to be in green but you need to notice when you are going into yellow. The yellow traffic light is the transition point between green for go and red for stop.
Red is where you blurt out your bad habits without control. Red is where you are dysfunctional and can’t think. Hence the yellow is the most important place to remember “what is my state”? If you can catch yourself in the yellow, the middle point, it’s easier to get back to the green.
Again, “what is my state”? As you read this again just be aware of your calf muscles, tummy and hands. Feel. It’s very easy to do. Just asked “how am I feeling” and notice what’s going on inside your body?
Notice it, do it as you read this page. Is there tension, stress, pain or happiness going on inside your body right now? What’s your head talking about (your mind dialogue). If your internal mind dialogue is really loud, feel your tummy and hands more. If you feel those different areas concurrently, really feel them, it’s then impossible to be lost in a fixed train of thought. This is how you relieve yourself of thinking that is not positive. When you are not lost in a train of thought then you don’t get stuck in emotions that are associated with it. This is one of the keys to state changing.
Let’s pretend you are a little bit in-between green and yellow. You have remembered ‘ah, how am I feeling? What is my state right now?’ This means you are slipping out of the green. This the place we want to change it as fast as possible.
If you have been studying really well for a while it is still important to check back on ‘how am I feeling’? If the answer is ‘not optimal’ then it’s time for a quick break, learning state entry exercise or a subject review.
We cover all this in the core modules. This is so you structure study time to maximise your brain and your effectiveness. Studying non-stop, even if you feel good is not necessarily productive. Breaks are certainly required to optimise performance and memory.
Being aware of the yellow / amber light is very critical. The quicker you can become aware that you have left the learning state that I’m going into yellow the quickie can get back to Green. If you stay in yellow / amber too long you may slip into red and that’s not useful. If you are in the red zone do you even remember to check in? Usually people do not. You have to train yourself to remember. Thus it’s a habit you learn. Pain or discomfort is always a good way to trigger remembering.
This is why I keep emphasising this in tutoring, the videos and this website so it forms a habit. This is why I advocate the other life skill like the success journal. This is to help people focus, develop and refine these habits that are incredibly powerful to improve your studies and your life.
In summary the traffic lights help you to be aware of your state. Then you have the capacity to change it. Because what you will notice is those people who don’t check-in and are aware of their state tend to be run by their bad habits. They are the people that get stuck in stress, anger, sadness and depression.
How am I feeling, what is my state? Critical critical critical. This is built-in to the tutoring process to help embed the habit. This is why I separated out state awareness and the learning state into the core life skill set. Being aware of your state means you can switch it to something that is better for you and everyone around you. The learning state will help you learn, remember and give great answers and assessments.
Using this means you can switch how you feel to the learning state. It means you can get yourself in the right frame of mind. You can then wipe out your anxieties and stress. You can get clear on what’s required for your study or current situation.
You can then focus correctly. Green is for focused, red is you cannot focus. Noticing the yellow / amber means it’s time to change state back to green. Green for go.
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