How can I use my Context?


In my last post ‘My Context uses me’, I had dwelled on how my Context, that omnipresent meaning making machine in all my situations, uses me. How my context wields the power to put me on rails and makes me react in predictable failing ways. I was left wondering whether I could do something about shifting away from such almost certain failures.

The “Being a Leader” course, attended by me recently, revealed a pathway.

As we saw in the last post, our context does function as a cognitive lens, a filter so to speak, through which we view the world, others and interestingly, even our own selves. As we look at a situation, our context highlights some aspects, dims a few and even blanks out yet other aspects. So what makes up our context? It’s our Worldview and frame of reference for the situation at hand. It is our beliefs, biases, prejudices and assumptions which play a part in the context’s meaning making and filtering process.


Now let’s consider what constitutes our beliefs, biases, prejudices and assumptions. In a nutshell, it is our past experiences. Our brains are adept at using this past to create a default context which comes automatically with the situation at hand. This default context, coloured as it is by our past concerns and fears, restricts us and our actions. As the context is decisive, one can see the wisdom of the old French proverb, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

The “Being a Leader” course went on to show that a critical part of our effectiveness in leadership and life arises from our ability to replace the default context by a created context for the same situation. This created context, unencumbered by anything from the past, allows us to see possibilities which were not being allowed so long by our past.

So how does the above work? To understand that let us revisit the situation which we had talked about in the earlier post, ‘My Context uses me’.

“Whenever I notice someone, be it a family member, relative, office colleague etc. not doing it ‘my way’ or voicing disagreement about my way or style of functioning, I feel that the person is actually trying to prove me wrong , undermine me, not giving me the respect which I deserve etc.”

.My default context was, ‘Disagreeing with me implies proving me wrong, undermining me, disrespecting me etc’. This context led to situations occurring for me negatively and made me react in negative, hurtful ways.

As I review the above situation, I realise that I do hold the power to create a new context for myself. A context which says, ‘Getting the job done is what counts and it really doesn’t matter if the way adopted by others is different to mine so long as the job is done’.

As I think of this created context, I can see that it allows me to hold the big picture of getting the job done and get people to align their focus and actions to that. I also begin to see that with this context, I am no longer getting undermined, proved wrong and getting disrespected.
I now see that I hold the power to use my context to my advantage.
On a lighter note, I append below an extract from the ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster, which highlights how one could mis-use the context to the other person’s disadvantage!

“I don’t think you understand,” said Milo timidly as the watchdog growled a warning. “We’re looking for a place to spend the night.”
“It’s not yours to spend,” the bird shrieked again, and followed it with the same horrible laugh.
“That doesn’t make any sense, you see—” he started to explain.
“Dollars or cents, it’s still not yours to spend,” the bird replied haughtily.
“But I didn’t mean—” insisted Milo.
“Of course you’re mean,” interrupted the bird, closing the eye that had been open and opening the one that had been closed. “Anyone who’d spend a night that doesn’t belong to him is very mean.”
“Well, I thought that by—” he tried again desperately.
“That’s a different story,” interjected the bird a bit more amiably. “If you want to buy, I’m sure I can arrange to sell, but with what you’re doing you’ll probably end up in a cell anyway.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” said Milo helplessly, for, with the bird taking everything the wrong way, he hardly knew what he was saying.
“Agreed,” said the bird, with a sharp click of his beak, “but neither is it left, although if I were you I would have left a long time ago.”

In learning…….. Shakti Ghosal

1) “Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership: An Ontological / Phenomenological Model” by Werner Erhard, Independent & Michael Jensen, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, Harvard Business School.

Author: Shakti Ghosal

* A PCC Credentialed Executive Coach mentor and trainer for leaders & performance. * A qualified engineer and a PGDM (Faculty Gold medalist) from IIM Bangalore. * Four decades of industry experience spanning Engineering, Maintenance, Projects, Consumer durables, Supply Chains, Aviation and Tourism. * Top level management positions to drive business development, strategy, alliances all around the globe. * A visiting faculty at the IIMs. *A passion to envision trends & disseminate Leadership incubation globally. , * . +91 - 9051787576

12 thoughts on “How can I use my Context?”

  1. I totally agree. Our past definitely defines how we view others and the world around us. Changing something that is inherently driven into us is not always easy, though if we can do it I also believe we’ll be better off in the long run. Good for you for shining a light on this important issue.


    1. Dear Sue,

      Yes, shifting ourselves into a more empowering context, conditioned as are to live into our past derived default future, does require effort and does go against “our grain”. But with practise, we can see the enormous benefits that can accrue from doing it.

      Thank you for your kind visit and comment.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. It seems as I read your follow up posting to Context is that you are grasping and implementing the changes you are now finding as you delve deeper into your own thinking and patterns of thinking Shakti..
    I smiled at the quote too from the The Phantom Tollbooth ..

    I trust as you explore this side of self, you are able to allow others now to do that which they deem to be their best way of getting the job done.. And accept that there can be many ways of getting the same results, but various methods of travel to get to the same destination 🙂

    Many thanks my friend for your own continued support and your every thoughtful responses to my posts which you visit. 🙂
    Blessings to you and Yours


    1. Dear Sue,

      You are right. I am currently practicing how I could shift out of dis-empowering and into empowering contexts. What is supporting me is the awareness that what I ‘see’ in a situation is merely how it occurs for me and folks who do not agree with me are really not confronting but merely have a different occurrence of the situation. I am delighted to note that this awareness in itself is leading to much better harmony in my relationships and effectiveness.

      However I also find that shifting contexts is ‘easier said than done’.I see myself hardwired to assume my occurring as the final reality of the situation. Time and again, I need to nudge myself to the fact that what I see and perceive is but a ‘Reality illusion’ for me. I suppose this is a journey which I need to continue on…..

      Dear Sue, thank you so much for your presence as always. I appreciate.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. It seems to me dear Shakti is that you are also ‘Shifting’ your awareness , As we do we all of us come face to face with things which bring us out of our comfort zones.. For you its tackling your need to be in control as you as you have admitted before in posts, like thinks ‘Just so’, and when they are not up to your own standards can be critical..
        The admission and your awareness of keeping ‘Nudging’ yourself to step back from YOU.. and see that reality is but an illusion of what we make it by our own perceptions and idealisms, Then this tells me you are making great strides forward in your journey of peeling back your pre-conditioning layers you have held yourself in.
        🙂 So well done you
        Blessings Sue

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Hariod,

    Thank you for your comment.. In the post, I did use an example of my own situation where I replaced my existing, default context with a new one. I have further written that by doing so, new possibilities of action showed up which had not existed before.

    I would however be delighted to engage with you and expand further in any area which may not be clear to you. Do let me know.

    Thanks again for your visit.



    1. Thank you Shakti, though if you’ve covered the bulk of the matter here then I am happy with that. I had wondered whether there was something more to this matter of a ‘created context’, beyond keeping one’s eyes on the primary objective, so to speak, and which itself seems more like a reversion to, or sustaining of, the initial context. With all best wishes, Hariod.


  4. “. . . replace the default context by a created context for the same situation. This created context, unencumbered by anything from the past, allows us to see possibilities which were not being allowed so long by our past.”

    It would be good to read you expanding further on that Shakti, and I wonder if you might have any plans to do so here?


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