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May 23, 2019

Eliminate Judgment? It's a Losing Battle.

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Often when we convene a group of leaders for a workshop or Forum one of the requests that people make is to be in a group that is free from judgments. Once you understand what the mind is up to you realize this is an impossible request. Minds judge (label, categorize, compare). It’s what they do. So to ask for relationships that are free from judgments is like asking for fish that don’t swim.

Let’s break it down…

We all have a mind and our minds are active (almost) all the time. But what is the mind actually doing? The obvious answer is thinking (planning, remembering, imagining, perseverating, figuring things out, etc.). But if we dig a little deeper, maybe a lot deeper, we discover that the mind is always up to something much more profound and foundational:

The mind is trying to guarantee the survival of the being. (Pause and take that in).

The mind is a survival mechanism. I first heard that the job of the mind is to guarantee the survival of the being from Brad Blanton in Practicing Radical Honesty. Instinctually, the mind believes the best thing it can do for us is help us survive. Simple.

But not so simple. The mind believes its job is to guarantee the survival of the being or whatever the mind BELIEVES the being is.

Here’s the rub. Our minds are confused about our being, about who we really are. Our minds think our being is our identity, our ego, our image, our roles, our reputations, and our bodies. Conscious leaders know that they are more than all of that. They know they have an ego and an identity, a biography, a reputation and a body. Everyone does. But they, and we, are more than that.

The mind, mine and yours, is confused. It is trying to keep you alive, but not the deepest part of who you are. The deepest, truest part of who we are doesn’t need the mind’s help in staying alive.

One of the many ways the mind tries to keep the ego/identity alive is through comparison. My mind looks out at the world and sees that there are others, and it sees me as separate from the others. Being separate is a threat to survival, so the mind starts doing its job of trying to keep me safe. It believes if it can accurately compare me to the other it will reduce my risk of being hurt or destroyed. So it starts comparing. Either subtly or grossly, unconsciously or consciously, it will perceive that I am “better than” or “less than.” One up or one down.


How the mind mitigates threat and maximize the chances of survival:


  1. Labels everything (door, tree, cup, Bill, woman).

  2. Categorizes what has been labeled (appliance, family, food, enemy, friend). This way the mind knows how to react, e.g. eat it, care for it, procreate with it, run toward it, run away from it. We’re talking basic instinctual survival responses here.

  3. Compares (better than/less than, smarter/dumber, uglier/prettier, more conscious/less conscious, richer/poorer). Again, the mind does this so that it can know how to react in order to survive. Minds have been doing this for a very long time. They are brilliant at this.

A key to conscious leadership and relationships is to accept the reality that our minds are comparing judgment machines. The difference between conscious relationships and unconscious relationships isn’t whether I have judgments or not, but whether I believe the mind’s judgments or not. The more unconscious I am, and the more drama filled the relationship is, the more I am believing my mind’s judgments, and the more attached my mind is to being right about its judgments. In fact, judgmentalism, which is different than having judgments, is the righteous attachment to the comparisons of the mind.

Once a leader gets this they can actually enjoy the activity of the mind. It’s like watching an entertaining movie. Once teams and partners get this they can choose to reveal the activity of the mind to one another so that they can know each others’ minds. What they don’t do is take the mind very seriously, even though the mind is desperate to be taken seriously because it believes your survival is dependent on it.

So, if you’re discovering that you compare and engage in some version of better than/less than, you’re waking up to a primal, instinctual, evolutionary function of the mind (both YOUR mind and THE mind). We all do this.

Now that you’ve noticed it, here’s how to shift your experience:


  1. Welcome it. “Ahhh, there you are mind doing your thing to try to help me survive: labeling, categorizing, comparing. I welcome you. Thank you for doing your job.”

  2. See that, though well intentioned, the mind is confused about who you really are. It thinks you are your ego, identity, job, status, role, etc.

  3. Don’t trust the mind as your primary source of information, especially in matters of consciousness.  It will often take you further away from the truth of who you are and from what it is that you most deeply want.

  4. Question the mind. Is that true? Is that really true?

  5. Reveal your thoughts and beliefs to trusted others. “Here is what my mind is making up about you and about me. It’s trying to help me survive by labeling, categorizing, and comparing. I want its activity to be transparent, not hidden."

  6. Use the mind for what it’s good for. The mind is not that useful for helping you experience consciousness, or the truth of who you are, or taking you to ultimate freedom, liberation or peace. It is good for doing sudokus, coding, writing poetry, creating a balance sheet, shopping for groceries, and a million other similar tasks.

Knowing what you can shift—and what you can’t—is a distinguishing characteristic of conscious leaders. If mental freedom is what you’re after, stop expecting judgments to come to a screeching halt, and instead focus on how much you’re buying into your judgments.

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