Observer Mode

Observer Power

Like cars in amusement parks, our direction is often determined through collisions.” -Yahia Lababidi, author


In my first blog, I wrote of my shift away from the assumption we all create our own realities. Sometimes it’s easy to see a correlation between intention and result; far more often the relationship seems strained or non-existent. The more I struggled with cause-and-effect at this level, the more I came to believe accidents do happen. However, while I see no evidence everyone creates their own realities in every situation, I still believe we can create the lives we want. I believe we do influence our results far more than we realize. I came to frame this as living on purpose or living by accident.


The more we choose to live on purpose, the more we avoid living by accident. Today, I’ll focus on becoming the Observer as a first step toward living more fully on purpose.

Living by accident seems to be the general result of operating from Interpreter Mode. Once you accept that emotions have power, you have to question the various ways the different emotions exert their power. Some emotions attract, some create, some reinforce, some block, some prohibit, and some contribute. The more we understand the power of emotions, the more power we have to wield it purposefully.


When we’re in Interpreter Mode, however, we tend to let our emotions take charge. We may defer to them, succumb to them, or let them rule us. If we try to fight our emotions, we wage war against ourselves. Whether we submit to them or defy them, they influence our lives and our choices.

During my training to become a coach, we were given the assignment to develop our own coaching model. I had been gestating my philosophy of cause-and-effect for many years, so I played around with ways to represent it visually, and I came up with an earlier version of the following diagram:



As I’ve used this model in my work with clients, sometimes the process is clear, straight-forward and effective: Choice = unification = miracle. In this model, the real work comes during the unifying process, when thoughts, actions and emotions are brought into alignment. Wherever the struggle arises, the presence of struggle indicates Interpreter Mode. So we work together to acknowledge the emotions generated by the struggle and then we probe for the judgment that triggers the emotion. Then we look to Observer Mode and find an emotion at from that level to release the judgment. As soon as someone moves from Interpreter to observer,the struggle evaporates.

The same process will work for you:

  1. Become mindful of the struggle.

  2. Acknowledge your emotions.

  3. Probe for the judgment embedded in what you feel.

  4. Use an emotion from observer Mode to release the judgment.


There is one small snag that can throw this process into chaos – beware the tendency to judge yourself for judging, especially be mindful of judging your own emotions. If you criticize something you feel, that emotion tends to go into hiding.

Unfortunately, self-judgment is almost inevitable. Parents, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others with influence – including both friends and enemies – join together in teaching us the difference between positive and negative emotions. Most of us equate positive with good and negative with bad. We don’t want to be bad, we don’t want other people to think we’re bad, so we try not to let bad emotions show.

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I know I shouldn’t feel that way.”? The fact is, we do feel that way. The emotions at Interpreter level are human nature. We’re human. Naturally we feel that way. We experience hunger, frustration, sorrow, bitterness, certainty, worry, exasperation, etc. etc. etc. And if we’re not willing to become mindful of those feelings, acknowledge them, and understand them, they become buried alive inside our hearts, our minds and our bodies. They exert their influence, silently but effectively affecting our health, our relationships, our productivity and our results. It’s not a matter of should or shouldn’t. It’s a matter of cause-and-effect.


Of course, you can choose something else anytime you want. That’s the power of choice. When you’re in the middle of a struggle, when you’re operating from Interpreter Mode, the easiest way to choose something else is to become neutral about what is.


Being able to observe what is and relax judgment creates the strongest foundation for any purposeful choice. (Not just your choice of emotions.) If you want more money, become neutral about your current income level. If you want better health, become neutral about your infirmities. If you want a relationship, become neutral about your loneliness.


Neutrality has power.

When I first started exploring the power of neutrality, I used the word acceptance. I would say, “Accept what is.” And almost always, I’d get an argument. Most people think to accept meant to accommodate, to acquiesce, to submit. It means resigning one’s self, giving in, perhaps giving up. Whatever is wrong becomes the enemy, and the way to deal with an enemy is to fight, rebel, battle against, dispute. No acceptance, no negotiation, no quarter. No one wants to be a quitter or a loser.

No, we want to conquer, overcome, win, succeed. Unfortunately, fighting perpetuates war. Rebellion incites the enemy. Disputation opens the way for more arguments. Resistance increases tension, and struggle increases agitation. I now see every conflicted situation as a great big mire of quicksand. Although I have never personally experienced quicksand, I know the folklore. The more you struggle, the more you sink; to get free, stop struggling and let your body float to the top. Once you’re floating on top, it takes very little effort to propel yourself to solid ground.


All emotions at the Interpreter level indicate a struggle against something, and the more you struggle, the more you resist what is, the more the quicksand pulls you in. To rise to the surface of the quicksand, stop struggling. Become the Observer. Let go of whatever you’re struggling with, and it will let go of you. When you find yourself on solid ground, it feels miraculous.


You can look around and see what’s possible. You have more time. You have more energy. You have access to more resources. You can recruit allies. You have options.


Perhaps, when you are struggling in quicksand, you can imagine something else, but the struggle monopolizes you. The struggle, far more than the situation, holds you captive. In observer Mode, you can see possibilities, opportunities, prospects, ways and means. You can take fresh stock of your resources. Gratitude becomes your mantle. Ease replaces effort.

Entering Observer Mode is like getting out of debt. No more hidden fees, no more monthly payments, no more collection notices. Every emotion in Interpreter Mode exacts a toll. Emotions in Observer cost nothing. More importantly, they bestow blessings.

One of the costs of Interpreter Mode is the interference these emotions interject into making a choice. Whenever you are mired in Interpreter Mode, your view of possibilities will be severely restricted. How can you see what’s possible when you’re so busy trying not to sink you can’t wipe the mud out of your eyes? When your view is thus obstructed, you cannot be true to yourself. Observer Mode is like washing the windows or taking off the blinders. Suddenly you can see more clearly and more truly. Observer Mode lets your heart speak clearly, lets your mind think clearly, and lets you direct your actions more surely.

One of the blessings of Observer Mode is the freedom from struggle. Find self-acceptance and you relax self-doubt. Find amusement and you will relax impatience. Relax dread and you will find excitement. Find tolerance and you will relax disappointment. Find hope and you will relax melancholy. Observer Mode blesses you with ease.

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