Raised on cattle ranches in California and Arizona. he attended Princeton University, UC Berkeley and The Radix Institute.
Selby is an innovator in cognitive-shifting psychological techniques, having done mind-management research for NIH at the New Jersey Neuro-psychiatric Institute, working under Dr. Humphrey Osmond MD. He also pioneered the development of and has apparently coined the term Focus phrase for inducing particular cognitive changes.
His three corporate-training texts are: Executive Genius, Take Charge Of Your Mind, and Listening With Empathy .
Cognitive shifting is a method used in awareness management describing the mental process of re-directing one's focus of attention away from one fixation and toward a different focus of attention. This shifting process can be initiated either by habit and unconsciously, or as an act of conscious volition.
In the general framework of cognitive therapy and awareness management, cognitive shifting refers to the conscious choice to take charge of one's mental habits—and redirect one's focus of attention in helpful, more successful directions. In the term's specific usage in corporate awareness methodology, cognitive shifting is a performance-oriented technique for refocusing attention in more alert, innovative, charismatic and empathic directions.
In cognitive therapy, as developed by its founder Aaron T. Beck and others, a client is taught to shift his or her cognitive focus from one thought or mental fixation to a more positive, realistic focus—thus the descriptive origins of the term "cognitive shifting". In "third wave" ACT therapy cognitive shifting is employed not only to shift from negative to positive thoughts, but also to shift into a quiet state of mindfulness. Cognitive shifting is also employed quite dominantly in the meditative-health procedures of medical and stress-reduction research.
In therapy a client is taught first to identify and accept a negative thought or attitude, and then to allow the cognitive shifting process to re-direct attention away from the negative fixation, toward a chosen aim or goal that is more positive—thus the "accept and choose act" from whence comes the ACT therapy name.
Books such as The Way Of The Tiger, and The Creative Manager have shown how cognitive shifting principles apply to everyday life. Decades ago Rollo May taught the process of conscious choosing and cognitive shifting at Princeton in his psychology lectures.
Among the first references to the general mental process of focal shifting or cognitive shifting (the term cognitive is a relatively new term), the Hindu Upanishads are probably the first written documentation of the meditative process of redirecting one's focus of attention in particular disciplined directions. Cognitive shifting is the core process of all meditation, especially in Kundalini meditation but also in Zen meditation and even in Christian mysticism where the mind's attention is re-directed (or shifted) toward particular theologically-determined focal points.
The primary cognitive technology that is used for cognitive shifting is called "focus phrase" methodology. This term has emerged from the actual process in which cognitive shifting is encouraged or even provoked in a client or any other person. The person states clear intent through a specially-worded focus phrase—and then experiences the inner shift that the focus phrase elicits.
Another term sometimes used for focus phrases is "elicitor statements". In some methodologies focus phrases are said as a set of 4 to 7 statements, fairly quickly and to oneself. In other techniques a single focus phrase is held in the mind during a whole morning or day, and perhaps changed each new day during the week.
"Focus Phrase" is a term traditionally used in cognitive-therapy and awareness-management discussions, and now in more general use to describe elicitor statements that evoke a desired refocusing of attention. Psychologically related terms are elicitor phrase or statement of intent.
The psychological term "Focus Phrase" is now used by therapists and life coaches as a general term.
Based both on new research in cognitive science and on cognitive-shifting studies of ancient meditation techniques, focus phrases have been used as a meditative tool and therapy aid, and are being introduced as at-work attentive boosts. They are carefully designed by professionals to almost instantly redirect the mind's attention specifically toward worthwhile sensations, thoughts, images, and other mental experiences. Focus phrases are highly effective in evoking rapid shifts in mental content, quality of awareness, sensory perception, and general inner experience. Therefore they are considered of high value in meditative methods, and even in creativity-boost techniques.
As explained by the founder of cognitive therapy, Aaron Beck, our chronic thought flows (stream of consciousness) tend to dominate our inner experience and stimulate our behavior and emotions. If we want to change our inner experience (for instance from a negative mood to a more positive mood) we need to take charge of the thoughts we are holding in our minds, and state our intent to shift into a preferable mood or quality of consciousness.
In corporate awareness-training, focus phrases are used not to change the outer world, but to rapidly shift inner attention, and thus alter personal experience and behavior. For instance, in order to shift rapidly from being lost in thought to present-moment alertness, the following core focus phrase drawn both from perceptual psychology and ancient Yoga meditative tradition is used: "I feel the air flowing in and out of my nose." Immediately the words have the psychological power to turn your attention toward the actual breathing experience - which in turn awakens your awareness to sensory experience in the present moment.
Elicitor statements using this general 'focus phrase technology' for mental refocusing can be used to redirect attention
• toward a more positive mood ("I let go of my worries, and feel peaceful inside"),
• toward more creative states of mind ("I am open to receive insight into my dilemma"),
• toward interpersonal relating ("I accept this person just as they are"), or
• toward any other intent to improve one's experience and behavior.
John Selby attributes his initial introduction to the process of cognitive shifting to Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom he considers his early spiritual teacher, and also to his training with Rollo May at Princeton.
Notice the use of the phrase “I AM” in specially-worded focus phrases. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research.
 Humphry Fortescue Osmond (1917 - 2004) was a British psychiatrist known for inventing the word psychedelic and for using psychedelic drugs in medical research.