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We are pleased to offer you a selection of articles and essays related to the applied work of visionCircles. If you'd like to contribute an article yourself then please contact editor J.J. McMahon HERE.


“We can put a man on the moon, but …” has been the opening line for a long list of complaints about human failures such as, eliminating hunger, poverty and war. The technological spin-offs from scientific research that we enjoy with hardly any scientific knowledge on our part have contributed abundantly to our physical well being. But, there are no technological spin-offs from the social sciences that we can use mindlessly to achieve love, justice, friendship, peace, and many more human ideals. Although the social sciences have swelled the reservoir of knowledge with insights and techniques regarding the dynamics of human development, nevertheless, to flourish personally requires personal reflection to fit this advanced knowledge to our unique lives.

Welcome to Vision Circles, a program that provides you with three broad thinking frameworks to facilitate: 1. reflective thinking to achieve self-understanding 2. practical thinking to realize your personal ideals and 3. an awareness of our tendencies.
The following three acronyms stand for the three frameworks: SPRITE, OSCAR, IRS.

Framework One: SPRITE

Four concentric circles represent the four elements in the process of realizing personal ideals.

VisionCircles diagramS - stands for the situation in Circle One that we are concerned about. In Circle One we are making statements to ourselves about ’what-is’.
PR - stands for the practical ways in Circle Two that we are either successfully or unsuccessfully handling the situation in Circle One.
I - stands for the ideals in Circle Three such as, love, loyalty, etc. related to the situation in Circle One. In Circle Three we are making statements to ourselves about ‘what-could-be’.
TE - stands for the tendencies in Circle Four that we are experiencing in the situation. We could respond irrationally, rationally and/or supra (more than) rationally to our concern in Circle One.


Framework Two: OSCAR

OSCAR stands for the steps in the process of monitoring our thinking to discover the best practical ways to realize our ideals.

O - Observe my thoughts, emotions and/or behaviors in each circle.
S - Sort out the negative from the positive ways of responding to my concern.
C - Connect the vision of my ideals to the best practical ways of realizing them in Circle One.
A - Act according to a personally designed plan.
R - Rate the results of the action and re-evaluate the plan if necessary.


Framework Three: IRS

Our dominant tendencies affect the way that we size up and attack problems.

I - stands for the irrational tendencies of confusion, dependence, rebellion and skepticism.
R - stands for the rational tendencies of order, control, system and certainty.
S - stands for the supra (more than) rational tendencies of vision, freedom, change and creativity.
Making our lives is an artistic process, but it is different from creating a work of art. The painter, the architect and the composer work with instruments and materials that are different from themselves. Their aim is to make something outside themselves that express their intuitions of beauty and truth. Artists can take a brake from their work. For example years can go by before some writers resume their projects. In contrast the creation of the self continues without interruption. In the project of making ourselves our minds and bodies are simultaneously the artists and the materials. If we mentally take a rest and walk away from our intuited ideals of love, justice, compassion, courage, and all their cousins, we can easily drift into the swamps of inhumanity. There is no gear in the human mechanism for park or neutral. We have tendencies that move us toward self-destruction, survival and creation.

The following is an abbreviated example of how to use the above mental frameworks to live in the creative zone. (For a complete demonstration on using these frameworks go to the homepage and under Exploring Vision Circles click on Example.)

The SPRITE framework

The four concentric circles represent the four basic elements in the process of creating ourselves. Circle One, the innermost circle, represents the self-talk about our concern. Circle II represents the productive and unproductive ways that we are using to respond to our concern. Circle III represents the ideals that we intuitively know are related to our concern. Circle IV, the outermost circle, represents the dominant tendencies that we are experiencing in relation to our concern.


(S) Circle I: What am I saying to myself?

I’m not getting along with my boss. We hardly communicate. I don’t know what it is, but the tension is building up. He needs my expertise … I don’t know …maybe I’m a threat to him.

(PR) Circle II: How am I practically responding to my concern in terms of my emotions, behaviors and thinking? I avoid him as much as possible. Sometimes I’m annoyed, Sometimes I’m angry. I expect him to behave more professionally.

(I) Circle III: What are the ideals that are important to me in this concern? The ideals of cooperation, mutual respect and communication are important to me at work.

(TE) Circle IV: What tendencies am I experiencing in this concern?















Confusion: I don’t know what to do to improve the situation.

Dependence: I’m depending on him to change.

Vision: I’m in touch with what is important to me, but there is a gap between what I value and what is happening.


The OSCAR framework

The OSCAR framework is a metacognitive activity, that is, an activity in which we think about our thinking to root our irrational thinking, negative emotions and unproductive behaviors. We want to get ourselves in a creative frame of mind to discover productive ways to realize our ideals.

O - Observe what is going on in each circle. Label the self-talk in Circle I. Label the emotions, behaviors, and thinking in Circle II. Label the ideals in Circle III. Label the tendencies in Circle IV.

S - Sort out the positive from the negative self-talk, behaviors, emotions, thinking, and tendencies in the respective circles. Identify the changes that need to be made in each circle. Eg. Change the negative behavior of avoiding to the positive behavior of engaging. Minimize tendencies of confusion and dependence and strengthen the tendencies of freedom and control.

C - Connect the ideals in Circle III to new practical ideas that will realize your ideals concretely in Circle II. In this exercise we will use creative thinking strategies such as, brain-storming, creative imagining, and analogical thinking. The aim is to strengthen our creative attitude.

A - Act by putting together a plan of action that will implement the new practical ideas.

R - Rehearse the plan and after its implementation re-evaluate the outcomes of the action.


The IRS Human Tendencies Framework

We have a tendency to think in an orderly way provided that we pay attention to the first principles of logical thinking that we know intuitively. We also have an intuitive sense of what is good in each human situation. We know that the ideals of cooperating with and respecting our colleagues are the good things to do. On the flip side of our rational and more-than-rational tendencies we also have tendencies that are irrational. When we choose not to be attentive to our best intuitions we start to develop self-defeating mental habits such as giving ourselves excuses to behave aggressively toward our colleagues. Our irrational tendencies of rebellion and skepticism, if left unchecked, shape a defensive attitude in us that begins to define us. Although we may be drifting down stream we can change course by paying attention to our rational tendencies of order and our supra-rational tendencies of vision and freedom. As the poet said, “I am the captain of my ship”. If I mentally fall asleep at the wheel, I run the risk of shipwreck.
For a description of our irrational, rational and supra-rational tendencies see pages 13 and following in the Workbook.