Understanding Three Levels of Reality to Become a Conscious Advisor

Gusto Editors

Do you want to know how to be a conscious advisor? Are you curious as to how intuitive feeling can help you innovate and advance your firm?

Gusto is committed to bringing you the most progressive ideas and tools around to support your business. So we’re thrilled to partner with CPA Academy to bring you an exciting presentation with two experts in organizational development.

Our webinar, “Practicing Consciousness in Accounting,” featured brilliant insights from Amber Setter and Neil Edwards. Amber helps individuals and groups cultivate consciousness that expands what is possible in their personal and professional lives. Neil is a coach, wellness advocate, and athlete specializing in helping people overcome limiting mindsets. The two coaching pros discussed the three levels of reality and how to create and sustain a culture of innovation. You can watch the full webinar here

Manifesting with the three levels of reality

According to Amber and Neil, all concrete, practical outcomes first arise through a set of three levels of reality. This lens applies to the way manifestation—the process of turning an idea into reality—naturally occurs. So while you may think you’re learning something new here, it’s actually a process you’ve been doing already. However, being conscious of it and harnessing this process intentionally can help propel you and your organization forward. Conscious leadership means conscious manifestation, which is a wonderful way to expand the possibilities of how you work, how your organization functions, and how you serve your clients.

“Everything we experience starts at the essence or quantum level, and then it moves into the dreaming level, and then it manifests into concrete reality or what we can see.”

– Amber Setter

Getting on board with Amber and Neil’s ideas means approaching things a little differently. As an accountant, you may be used to thinking with your head. Instead, you’ll want to try thinking with your heart. The levels of manifestation Amber and Neil describe need to be experienced first through feeling and emotions. These intuitive feelings drive advanced ideas, which grow from abstractions into realities.

To be a conscious advisor, you’ll want to use every tool that’s at your disposal. Whether you’re guiding your team through difficult economic times, adapting to changes in how you work, or advising clients, you’ll need a multi-faceted approach. Tuning into the three levels of reality will give you an edge.

Intuitive feeling and the essence level of reality

If you’re finding yourself wondering ‘What does essence mean?’ know that it’s not all that abstract. Have you ever experienced a gut feeling about something? Maybe you have a hunch that a client is about to back out, or that you’ve missed something significant in your auditing. What did you do about it? Maybe you took action such as reviewing your work for errors or making another type of offer to a client. As you can see, Amber and Neil’s philosophy is quite practical.

“Our essence level is our gut. It’s this intuitive insight that our rational mind might not understand. Then we’ll move to our heart, where our hopes, dreams, fears, and expectations begin to start shaping and influencing our outer world. And then, once something arises out of essence, and it’s shaped by our dreams, it becomes more concrete. It’s something that we can all see and agree on that it’s a reality.”

– Amber Setter

You’ll notice that the first level of reality—the essence level—is largely unconscious. It’s not a decision that you make. It’s an observation of something occurring within you. It’s also instinctual and arises before language or rational thought can intervene. Amber broke it down in practical terms.

“Imagine you’re hiring for a position. There you are, screening hundreds of resumes that come in. … And then you see one that stands out to you. You just get a hit, you get a feeling, and you think that there’s something about this or something that’s distinct that has this resume stand out from the others, right? Something catches you. Maybe you feel more alive. You move forward in your seat. You lean closer and look into the computer. And what you notice in that, if you stop and slow it down, you’re receiving a signal. That the signal is there’s something there and a reason for you to pay more attention to.”

– Amber Setter

Whether we know it or not, we all have gut feelings. Some people might pay attention to them more than others, but they do happen. According to Amber and Neil, we’re wired for it. It’s a human trait, and one that everyone can tap into. It’s important to note that this essence level exists before much logical thinking or even creative thinking comes in. 

“Once we begin to put words to things in the essence level, it begins to lose its essence. That’s why it lives at the gut level. So when you see that resume, there’s something that jumps out at you before you even begin to [use] words and make language out of it in your mind. It draws you in. And once you begin to create language, you’re beginning to move into and transition from essence into potential.”

– Neil Edwards

Circle back to a time when you had a gut feeling. Focus on the feeling. What was the sensation? Was it excitement and warmth? Where was it located in your body? Was it concern or apprehension? Maybe it came up in your chest as a sensation that something is not quite right. Because gut feelings aren’t based on language yet, they arise as sensations in the body. As you can see, tuning into these types of feelings and being aware of them can help you make better decisions at work and be a more conscious advisor.

How to innovate with the dreaming level of reality

Once the quantum or essence level has passed, your imagination gets to work. Language begins to form, and thoughts, conversations, ideas, and concepts begin to emerge. It’s an exciting time in which you might feel hopeful, peaceful, or any other number of emotions. At this stage, you may also begin to share your dream with others. It’s a time of possibility. Amber described how this looked in her example of a recruiter finding a candidate.

“And as you begin to … unpack the signal or cue, meaning begins to be revealed. Something begins to emerge. So imagine that in this scenario … you start to notice this as a possibility and [notice the] potential for a good fit in your organization. This takes you into the dreaming level.”

– Amber Setter

The dreaming level is a time in which language does form. You begin to assign meaning to things based on past experiences and future hopes. Since your brain begins to make connections, you might feel this as a buzz of internal activity. Again, we all do this already, even if we’re not conscious of it. 

“This level of reality is about the collaborative and interactive nature of our world. … Our world becomes shaped by our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our expectations and our projections. So when it comes to hiring that person whose resume stood out, we began to dream up all sorts of things. Maybe it sounds like this dialogue in your mind … ‘Oh, this person went to the same college as me. They must be really smart if they got in there.’ Or maybe … there’s words on the resume that signal to you [that] they have the background skills and expertise that you’re seeking, so you start to imagine or dream of them taking on responsibility in your organization.”

– Amber Setter

As your mind begins to make connections, you also might consider different scenarios. You might imagine (remember, it’s the dreaming level of reality) what it would be like if they worked for you. Based on the gut feeling or scenario, it could be negative or positive. So maybe you have a feeling that a client is going to back out. Then you start imagining it. You imagine losing their business. You can picture it, and you can feel it. On the other hand, you might feel excited and hopeful, as Amber demonstrated with her example of a hiring manager and candidate.

“Maybe you can see them taking it on, [and] you feel freed up because you’re like “Yes, I could delegate this stuff. They could do this. They could solve this problem for me.’ And you begin to hope and create your expectation, right? [You think,] ‘I can assign this task. It’s going to make my job and my life easier.’ Maybe you then go on to having a phone interview. And on this call, you’re dreaming more, you feel they could be a really good fit.”

– Amber Setter

Amber shared that at this level, it’s the emotional realm that is being activated. In her example, the recruiter feels hopeful that they’ve found the candidate who will make their life easier. Where have you experienced this? Amber also shared that this is when other people get involved.

“You might start by enrolling others in the dream. Maybe that candidate is dreaming and getting excited about working with you, or maybe they’re feeling the opposite like, ‘Oh … Nope. Not a good fit for me.’ … Maybe you speak with a colleague about your hopes and dreams for this candidate, and maybe your colleague has got the professional skeptic hat on and is not sure or has some fears that are concerned based on past candidates who didn’t work out.”

– Amber Setter

Since other people are involved, this is a very dynamic place. As Amber shared, it’s where emotions are activated. So one person might be feeling hopeful while another is not hopeful. On the other hand, if more than one person is hopeful and excited, there is that much more possibility.

“There’s a lot of power in it. There’s a lot of movement because it draws from that pool of essence. And it could be really exciting. …—This is the place of innovation. This is the place of insights. This is the place of … forward movement. … And in reality, all things that exist in the dream don’t necessarily come to life.”

– Neil Edwards

As Neil shared, this is not the place where everything becomes concrete. It’s a place of inspiration, flow, and creativity. As an accountant, you might be thinking that you’re not a creative person. But in reality, your mind is very creative and is dreaming up scenarios and possibilities in your daily life.

Concrete thinking at the third level of reality

Obviously, not everything you dream up will happen. But when it does, it has now entered the concrete level of reality. This is the level of the physical and material world. There is no debate as to whether it exists or not, and there is no taking into account preferences for its existence or nonexistence. It just is.

“It is concrete and consensual because we can all agree on it, right? We can all agree on this level because it’s solid, it’s practical. It has a measurable level of facts. We can all agree that a desk is a desk. We can all read an accounting pronouncement and agree on how we’re supposed to follow a particular transaction. We made an agreement that we’re going to hire this person into our organization. We choose a date on the calendar for which they’re going to come in.”

– Amber Setter

Every process that you go through at work, which is now concrete and undeniably real, once began as essence. Someone had a gut feeling, then an idea, and then after time and teamwork, it became a reality. Neil emphasized the fact that there are no opinions or ideas surrounding this level.

Team of people sitting around a table discussing the Reality to Become a Conscious Advisor

“I would highlight that it’s real and practical and measurable. … What we agree on is that these things exist. We’re not agreeing that this is what we’re going to actually do, so this isn’t the place of ‘agree and disagree.’ It is, ‘This is what is real. This is what is here. This is what is tangible.’ “

Neil Edwards

Many things that we take for granted and that no one questions did not exist before they were dreamed up. What do you, a conscious advisor, want to manifest? Is there a new process that might help your firm function more optimally? Is there a new way you’d like to serve clients? It’s a great thing to think about.

Preferences for different levels of reality

As you might guess, people tend to have an affinity for certain types of realities. You might consider that someone in the accounting profession might prefer concrete reality. On the other hand, someone in an artistic profession might enjoy dreaming of a reality. Amber discussed her own preference.

“I’m really comfortable at the essence level of reality. My intuition and gut guides me a lot. … I wish, at times, my brain was a little more anchored in concrete reality. It’s just not. And so what we want you to think about is: Some people are going to lean in some ways, and some are going to lean in other ways. And when … you’re thinking about how you lead your teams through change, [consider that if] everyone’s preference is to be in concrete reality, might you be missing something [from] the dreaming [level] that is blocking innovation from coming through?”

Amber Setter

Knowing your preferences will make you a better leader. It will also help you understand your colleagues and clients more clearly. When you realize everyone’s strengths and areas for improvement, you’ll have more insight into how you can best work with people. It’s a game-changer.

“To become … a more conscious advisor, you want to think—… what is your preference? If you chose one reality, where would that be? That’s an important thing for you to know. And then also think about other people on your team, or maybe your clients. Maybe your client has a very innovative product, an innovative thing that they’re doing, and you’re like, ‘I need the facts, the measures, the details,’ and [your experience is that] it’s like herding cats, … [but] they just might be living in a kind of different level of reality.”

Amber Setter

You likely already know that working with other people involves understanding their strengths and weaknesses. That’s the essence of teamwork. How could knowing which reality other people prefer make it easier to work with them? 

It’s also important to note that you can expand on your preferences. You can build your capacity to understand and engage with different levels of reality.

“Everybody has a preference. But what I would say is [that] everybody has the capacity to, and natural ability to, live through all of them. They are all important in relationships, and they’re all important to each of us as individuals. And so, if we have a person that has a preference for concrete reality, everyday practical things, and you’re in an interaction at work, or you’re working with teams, a great question to ask is, ‘What’s needed here?’ And if your typical response to that is from the level of reality that is your preference, you might ask the question, ‘What else is needed? What am I missing?’”

– Neil Edwards 

Learn more about becoming a conscious advisor

The creative process of manifestation is actually pretty simple. Whether you know it or not, you’ve been engaging with three levels of reality all along, according to our hosts. Your intuitive feelings and impressions constitute the first level of reality. This is experienced as sensations of excitement and relief on one hand or fear and concern on the other. This is also known as a ”gut feeling.”

You then bring your hopes, dreams, ideas, and fears to the equation. You might assign meaning to your feelings and engage in an internal dialogue or a dialogue with others. This is a dynamic place of innovation and possibility. You’re dreaming up ideas and imagining them happening. You then interface with other people’s emotional worlds.

After this stage, the idea turns into concrete form. This is a neutral place that exists and is accepted for what it is. Many of our current structures are in this form, yet they began as essence at one point. 

Everyone has a preference for one level of reality or another. Learning about yours and other people’s preferences can help make you a more effective leader. You can also increase your capacity to connect with all levels of reality.

Here at Gusto, we’re thrilled to help you learn new ways of doing business. Be sure to check out our previous post, “Practicing Consciousness in Accounting” if you haven’t already, and stay tuned for “Following Your Dreams to Advance Your Accounting Career.” Both articles are based on the same amazing webinar.

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Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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