The State Valley Problem

Imagine a ball stuck at the bottom of a valley. It has slopes on either side of it, and your job is to move the ball from one valley to another.

If you start to shove and move the ball up the valley side, it will ascend the slope. However, if you stop, the ball will roll back down and revert to its starting position. To get it to move to the next valley over, you will need to keep giving it lots of small shoves (smart, deliberate practice) or one very big one (trauma).

Change, improvement or a paradigm shift occurs when we manage to push the ball to the very tip of the valley side and allow it to fall into the brand-new valley.

This is how we work; Our habits, behaviours, learning, personal development, thinking styles and anything that can change comes down to these two approaches and how we decide to implement them. The steeper or higher the valley sides, the more small shoves you must give it, or the greater the large event must be to remove the ball completely and move it to the next valley.

We are often caught repeating the same behaviour over and over again because we haven’t gathered enough momentum to tip the ball into the next valley. We will revert to the same behaviours (like smoking, over-eating, negative self-talk etc.) because that’s where the ball began and that’s the valley we are used to.

This is also how an ecosystem works; there is a resistance to change and a default setting that, given the chance, we will settle on (homeostasis). This must be overcome if we are to achieve a state change that is long lasting. But there is more than just one way to move the ball.

The Mind-Body-Situation Relationship

The big idea embedded here is that all of our behaviours and thinking styles are a product of symbiosis, or complex interactions, between our Mind – Body – Situation.

This is best represented by three overlapping circles (see the full graphic below). By approaching different circumstances in this way, we can begin to see our lives through different perspectives.

There has been much debate about whether it is nature or nurture; ‘are we controlled by our environments?’ or ‘are we controlled by what we have inherited?’ There is also much discussion taking place around ‘Is it Mind, or Body, or is it Mind-Body?’

A variety of sources, i.e. the new sciences, neuroscience, science of microbiomes and complexity theory, current sociological and anthropological ideas, indicate that it is more accurate to refer us an ecosystem; each aspect of ourselves is interdependent and integrated with each and every other one. In truth, it’s neither nature or nature, Mind or Body, it’s both and much more.

We Are The Butterfly Effect

I’m sure you’ve heard of The Butterfly Effect, where a butterfly can flap its wings in China and, several weeks later, a tornado will make landfall in the Caribbean.

This strange, counter-intuitive and mostly illustrative metaphor is the exact way that the latest scientific research suggests we work. A small change in our diet, for example, or a cleaner desk, or a slightly earlier bedtime, can have huge effects on our productivity, well-being, mental health, energy levels and more. These small effects, added up over time, create huge changes. We are the butterfly effect, and it’s all down to Ecosystem-informed thinking.

Ecosystems are complex, varied, context-dependent, dynamic and ever-changing. On the one hand, this makes them difficult to categorise, but on the other, it allows us to identify and evaluate methods that live up to the rapid change of pace, uncertainty and ambiguity of the 21st century. Chaos theory (where the Butterfly Effect originates) and complexity theory help with the mathematical definitions and scientific theories but do not necessarily add to our common-sense approaches or how we can make use of this.

This leads us to the idea that our thinking and thinking styles require an update. To grasp the power of complexity and chaos theory, how ecosystems affect everything we do and the power of small shoves over time, we must look at how Symbiosis and Dysbiosis affect us.

Our thinking is a part of our overall system, including our body and our situation. What we experience is, therefore, the unfolding of our entire eco-system. In the centre of the Mind-Body-Situation model sits the purple zone; a highly volatile area susceptible to imbalances and influences.

Symbiosis vs Dysbiosis – The Central Debate?

We are at our most productive and healthiest when we have Symbiosis, i.e. when all aspects of our Mind-Body-Situation are in the most harmonious balance. However, to maintain this balance, there must be negotiation and change.

Our ecosystem is a dynamic setup that actually benefits from inherent tensions. The planet, as a whole, benefits from all those butterfly wing’s flapping. The constant push and pull of our thinking and decision-making processes create the motivation for us to keep learning, to keep growing and to keep pushing ourselves. Without this, we stagnate and wither. Symbiosis is a conflict that can never be fully resolved.

However, for many of us, we feel dissatisfied, dejected and ill at ease when faced with this challenge day-after-day and we see little or no results. Discord can dominate our thinking and lives in this is a state of Dysbiosis and we can fall into the same old habits, behaviours and routines. We have let the tensions get out of balance, and allowed negative, unproductive habits take control of our lives.

When we begin to fall out of balance between our minds, bodies and situations, we began to feel all the negative effects of anxiety, depression, dispossession, apathy, indifference and a lack of control, passion and excitement. Just as flapping wings can cause great winds of disruption, so too can small changes in our lives cause great feelings of despair.

In this way, well-being, productivity and motivation can be viewed as an individual ecological problem. In a state of dysbiosis, we are thrown into a world of messy and multifaceted interactions, where cause and effect are very difficult to disentangle.

This is the constant struggle we must face: between the tension that Symbiosis creates which stirs us to do great things and the tension that Dysbiosis creates which tells us we’re not good enough.

Our whole approach to personal development means that thinking well can begin to change how we view this tension. We can change our states, but feel stuck with our traits. If, however, we start to think about what states we find ourselves in, rather than thinking about the circumstances of our traits, we see that we can definitely change and make a lasting, positive result.

Whether we are in a state of symbiosis or dysbiosis is very difficult to define, but like a number of things, we know it when we see it.

Mutually Assured Success

An aspect of symbiosis and the thinking well approach is that even small ideas introduced into the ecosystem can make system-wide changes. Much like the butterfly flapping its wings, we can create incredibly positive effects with enough small movements over time. This is where some of our work comes in.

We call these small but system changing ideas TNT. These can be productive e.g. Tiny New Thoughts, or more destructive, e.g. Tiny Negative Thoughts. They may be small but can have explosive results.
We use Mentalism as a vehicle for introducing challenging ideas, changing perspectives and stimulating our imaginations. By its very nature, most people are not aware of the Mentalist’s Mindset and how to think like a magician, so this can be used as a huge source of positive TNT (Tiny New Thoughts).

Just like the explorers of yesteryear, on the great plains of the frontier, we can use TNT to demolish canyon walls and create whole new valleys to live in. In this way, we can implement small changes in our mind, which have long lasting effects on our body and situation.

Mentalism is an engine of novelty, and as such, can be used to introduce new ideas into your ecosystem. In this context, even if you do not wish to directly use the mentalism effects we teach you, they act as a catalyst to stimulate and provoke brand new ideas, possibilities and wonders.

To find out more, come and see us live in Birmingham and London or take a look at our Psychological Artistry digital kit:

Psychological Artistry Live! One-day workshop – Birmingham – 8thFebruary 2018 –

Psychological Artistry Live! One-day workshop  – London – 22ndFebruary 2018 –

Psychological Artistry Kit – Digital Download –

Thanks in advance!

P.S. “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” – Richard Bach

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Categories: Features

I’m a creative thinker, designer and web developer, experienced magician and actor, writer and stage director who uses elements from Psychological Artistry (a blend of psychology, behavioural insights and mentalism) to tell effective, engaging and empowering stories. I believe that storytelling is key to developing a better and more successful business community and society. My aims are to instil a feeling of wonder, awe, authenticity, autonomy and hope in the business owners I work with and their clients.

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