Here is a video that relates to your journey, whether it’s a journey of learning or behavioural change. It embodies concepts covered in previous posts in an entertaining way. But it is up to you to extract their value to you; you could dismiss the video as a bit of pop psychology or philosophy or you could burrow down below the surface of the video and explore some of the most important issues confronting you. It’s your choice:
I think you should be happier when you’re learning.
I think you need to concentrate on what is happening around you when you’re learning.
I feel that you don’t pay enough attention to the task.
I feel that you should be happier when you’re learning.
Two of these sentences are aligned, two not so. Alignment assists with their persuasive impact. Which two sentences would you select as being aligned? If they were to be aligned on the basis of ‘target’, perhaps the two happiness sentences go together. There is a strong similarity between the remaining two – concentration and attention. Does this classification make sense to you?
However, ‘target’ is not necessarily a determinant of persuasive impact. As a process, persuasion is enhanced by alignment between cognitive appeals or emotional appeals and is degraded when the two types of appeal are combined. Look again at the four sentences. Can you see another pattern now?
The evidence indicates that the persuasive power of a cognitive target (concentration, attention etc) is enhanced by framing the appeal in terms of ‘thinking’. Similarly, the power of an emotional appeal is enhanced by framing it in terms of ‘feeling’. In the song “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”, Mayer Hawthorne sings lines like these:
I know you think we can make it all work out ……… I don’t want to see your tears ……….. I know you’ll understand my ways one day …….. you just don’t understand ………. I know you were hearing wedding bells ……….
Given the alignment principle, how persuasive were these statements? The reality of every experiential learning journey is that it does involve much negotiation, persuasion and compromise. It’s essential that you understand how best to do these things, balancing reasonableness with the needs of your journey.
‘tis nobler thinks you can develop these skills if you persevere. ‘tis nobler feels you’ll be happier as an experiential learner when you make things work out. ‘tis nobler doesn’t set out to persuade you of anything – that’s left up to you.
Is there any difference between these two approaches to doing something? If you had to choose, as you do every day, would you choose to:
Do it the same as everybody else just for the sake of being the same, or;
Do it differently to everybody else just for the sake of being different.
Or would you choose to do it another way – do it differently in order to do it better, to do it in a way that suits you? Would you choose to behave in accordance with your own experiences, try to reflect who you are in what you do? This choice is always available to you and is one way of demonstrating your connection with the task.
Here’s the original version of Teenage Dream by Katy Perry:
‘tis nobler reckons the cover version is sensational for it places an authentic personal stamp on the original material. Whether it’s better or worse is a subjective judgment; regardless of what you think about in relative terms, it has been personalised and that is the most important point. Mimicry often delivers a pale imitation of the original. Deliberate departure often delivers a pale imitation of what you would have done if you weren’t so intent on just being different. You can follow, you can depart or you can personalise.
It’s easy to follow, perhaps just as easy to depart. But it takes real and sustained effort to personalise your performance. It’s not called ‘find your own way’ for nothing.
‘tis nobler wonders how many people think that ‘Roget’ of Roget’s Thesaurus fame was French; actually Peter Mark Roget was British, but his nationality is not the issue. Let’s use his thesaurus as a starting point.
Inside Roget’s thesaurus, you won’t be able to find ‘avoidance’ as a synonym for ‘solution’. You can substitute a number of words for ‘solution’ while retaining meaning; unfortunately, for this remains a common tactic for solving problems, avoidance is not listed. Undeniably, avoidance is not a solution. You can’t solve or resolve by avoiding; you can evade (for a time) or pretend (for a time). However, eventually and despite your best avoidance efforts, you won’t be able to ignore the parade behind you:
And you will have noticed that the parade got bigger and bigger. Failing to deal with any one issue doesn’t mean that it goes away. Instead, it gets joined by another issue, and then another and another. Overwhelmed by the issues you have tried to avoid, you can start feeling trapped and powerless; what happens to your self-control, your coping skills and your self esteem in these circumstances?
It is not possible to learn by avoiding learning. It is not possible to practise by avoiding practice. It is not possible to change your behaviour by avoiding change.
It is not possible to solve problems by pretending they do not exist or that they will eventually disappear. Perhaps the only legitimate thing to avoid is avoidance!
Last Thursday, in Backwards And Forwards Without Moving, ‘tis nobler talked about shared understanding as the only way to resolve conflict sustainably. And then ‘tis nobler came across this recent video:
Now for today’s post – countering some (tempting) encounters. A recurring theme at ‘tis nobler is the challenge of staying the (learning) course when there are so many distractions and temptations – see, most recently, Vigilant Removal. One tactic that has been shown to be effective is to imagine that the costs of giving in to temptations are much higher than they actually are – it’s called counteractive construal. Will just one piece of chocolate see your weight balloon out of control or wreck your commitment to weight loss? Objectively, the answer is ‘no’ and hence the temptation lingers and you may succumb. Once is OK, every now and again is OK but the danger is that this becomes a frequent occurrence, with relapse after relapse. How do things change if you see this one piece of chocolate containing many more calories than it actually does?
Will missing just one practice session dramatically affect your experiential learning progress? Probably not but, again, if the subjective costs are seen as much higher than they actually are, the likelihood of session participation is also increased. There are some clear benefits of ‘looking on the bright side’, but not where temptation is concerned:
It’s generally good to be optimistic, although optimism bias can have negative consequences. Perhaps this evidence indicates that it can also be good to go the other way, exaggerating the cost of temptations in order to maintain self control and (longer term) goal adherence. Be neither a saint nor a sinner for you won’t be perfectly good or perfectly bad. You’ll just be – doing your best more often than not, dealing with the obstacles and temptations as best you can at the time and making forward progress despite the occasional steps back.
If you exaggerate the costs of losing your way whenever temptations appear, it may enable you to continue finding your own way. How do you construe this message?
Advertising is a huge, huge industry, with most corporations investing millions and millions of dollars to get their message out to consumers. If you buy our product, your teeth will be whiter, your clothes will be cleaner, your popularity will increase and the entire family can spend countless hours of fun playing the very latest, the very best electronic game. It’s guaranteed; just spend your money on our product and life will just get better!
And yet most of us think that advertising – in fact, any form of persuasion – only influences other people. I am immune but all of you are affected. I make up my own mind whereas everybody else does what they are told, buys what they are encouraged to buy. Persuasion is not for me, it is for them. It’s always for them.
Yet again, there is a swirl of cognitive biases at play – we believe we are better than others on specific activities, we believe everybody is similar on broader issues and now we think that others are more influenced by persuasive messages than we ourselves are. It’s a funny mix of miscalibration, conformity (and possibly pluralistic ignorance when we misperceive norms) and perceived immunity or strength.
Many forms of persuasion are persuasive but persuasion itself is pervasive. While it may sometimes represent a frontal assault, it is often in the background chipping away. And it is difficult to be, in the words of Fireflight - unbreakable:
“Now I am unbreakable, it’s unmistakable
No-one can touch me, nothing can stop me ….”
A learner’s aim is not necessarily to withstand or reject persuasive messages; the ongoing challenge is to be discriminating. How will you discriminate between the positive and the (potentially) negative attempts at persuasion? You are neither unbreakable (in every sense) nor are these messages only for ‘them’. It would be nice if there was a simple recipe to follow but life is not like that. You have to find your own way, using real-time self-management. ’tis nobler wonders whether you find this message persuasive.
Today, let’s have words. ‘tis nobler doesn’t want to have words like centrifugal, celebratory or chromatography, interesting as these words are. No, today, ‘tis nobler WANTS TO HAVE WORDS. Of course, having words is another way of saying having a forceful discussion, which itself is another way of saying heated argument. AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR NOW!
And all of these ways usually reduce to some simple statements or questions: I AM RIGHT. YOU ARE WRONG. HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID? WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?
These interactions can be frequent, explosive or smouldering and they usually come free of charge. Sometimes, though, there is a fee involved:
At the personal and interpersonal levels, conflict usually involves going backwards and forwards, without actually moving, without making any progress. ‘Winning’ is often seen as more important than settling; there may be precious little resolution for seeking a resolution. Neither is appeasement a sensible strategy for the underlying issue remains and it will re-surface in an hour, a day or maybe a week.
Perhaps it is better to move towards the conflict than retreat, either to an entrenched position or the apparent safety of greater distance. This is the idea underpinning the concept and practice of Restorative Circles (read about it in this report). Moving closer together is the only place where shared understanding can be found.
In experiential learning and behavioural change, conflicts will arise. The aim is not to prevail but to resolve constructively. The aim is not to waste time going backwards and forwards but to make progress. The aim is not to allow conflict to supplant learning or change but to learn and grow.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Sincerely, thank you.
The start of this post was both an expression of gratitude and a fiendishly clever psychological tactic. If you are still reading this, thank you once again. Did I mention ‘fiendish’? Of course, there’s nothing actually fiendish about it as you’ll see because doing the right thing is never fiendish!
Saying ‘thanks’ is not just a common courtesy (that may not be all that common these days) but is also a way to generate subsequent support from the person being thanked. There is evidence that thanking someone for helping you makes it more likely that they will help again if you ask them to. And it is not a marginal effect; in fact, they are twice as likely to help (compared to the rate of helping when thanking is withheld). It seems that the act of thanking makes people feel both appreciated and useful – there are many reasons for withholding assistance and being thanked seems to make these less relevant. After all, why not continue to help when you know that you are actually helping?
Further, one instance of gratitude seems to encourage people to help in independent circumstances; if I thanked you and then someone else subsequently asked you for similar help, the evidence indicates you are more likely to help out this ‘stranger’ (i.e. someone who hasn’t yet thanked you). Validation of your helping behaviour helps you to keep helping.
Experiential learning can be a social, yet ‘anonymous’, activity – you may not know the other learners or participants. While learning is your responsibility, there will be many small examples of help along the way. If you want more help, show you appreciate what you’ve been given. Regardless, showing appreciation requires nothing but the willingness to show it. It’s neither a duty nor a chore; it’s simply a decent, positive thing to do.
‘tis nobler will now let Sinead O’Connor close this post. Thank you, see you tomorrow.
It is unclear whether anybody actually said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance – there have been a number of variations on this theme. Andrew Jackson did say:
“ ….eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.”
Whatever the object, the price can be vigilance. Does this apply when the object is avoidance of bad habits? In Lines and Spaces, ‘tis nobler had written:
Having commenced as goal-driven activities, both habits and skills become ends in themselves. Both are therefore (and unsurprisingly) difficult to control or vary by altering goals – there is little point, given the learning, reinforcement and repetition of apparently successful behaviours, in trying to extinguish habits or modify skills by announcing that your goal has changed.
Habits are more effectively controlled by inhibiting habitual behaviours once they have been activated or reducing exposure to trigger situations. There is evidence that effortful self-control can override or replace habits. The challenges of change and self-management are much greater for skills. Skills are so much more than the structured execution of habits.
Effortful self-control requires vigilant monitoring as, otherwise, before you know it, you’ll find yourself doing the very thing you are meant to be controlling. As bad habits can apply across aspects of your life, it can be difficult to reduce exposure to trigger situations, reinforcing the need for vigilant self-control.
Temptations are a bit different to bad habits – they are more localised (e.g. the kitchen or hotel), they are more specific (chocolate cake or jug of beer) and they are more difficult to control (the more you tell yourself not to think about chocolate cake, the more likely you are to think about it and then act on those thoughts). Here, vigilant monitoring can actually be counterproductive, something ‘tis nobler discussed in The Manager Manages The Manager and Don’t Do That, D’oh.
It is better to control temptations by reducing or eliminating triggers (not going to the hotel is preferable to going to the hotel and then trying to control the temptation of alcohol). Of course, a single temptation can go hand in hand with one or more other temptations; sometimes, what you end up with is a Temptations Mix:
While temptations can be found in groups, bad habits are often not far away either. Naturally, bad habits and temptations can be closely intertwined so effective self-management is a delicate balancing act.
Now, who said “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing?” Find your own way to balance bad habits and temptations, using both vigilance and removal.
Take the wool. Pull it over their eyes. Tell them how good you are, despite having little experience. You can fool some of the people some of the time. It is easily done but it will eventually bring you undone.
Take the wool. Pull it over your eyes. Tell yourself how good you are, despite having little experience. Can you ever really fool yourself?
It’s your experiential learning journey, not theirs. Fundamentally, you are accountable to yourself, not them.
One way, perhaps the best way, of generating valid self-assessments is to be held accountable for them. Who is the best person to hold you to account for your self-assessments? As Jose Delhart sings in a song titled ‘Accountability’:
“And I won’t be ashamed of what I’ve done for my freedom …”
Don’t be ashamed of what you’ve done as you learn. Don’t be ashamed of what you cannot yet do, as there will always be more to learn. Don’t think that impressing others is more important than being honest with yourself.
It could be a trite comment, one that is frequently directed at learners. Then again, it could be one of the most fundamental truths. What is this statement and what do you think makes the difference between trite and fundamental?
The answer to the first part of the question is straightforward:
Believe in yourself.
The answer to the second part of the question is more complicated. Perhaps, to answer it, you first have to do something:
Believe in yourself.
And then you’ll know what makes the difference. There is ample evidence across various areas on the benefits to be derived from sincere and reasonable self belief. If it’s not real or broadly realistic (which doesn’t mean it is constrained to your current circumstances), then it won’t be reasonable. There is mounting evidence on the potential value of the placebo effect. Why, even Big Bird is convinced of the value of self belief:
How will you ever find your own way if you don’t believe in yourself? And finding your own way is at the very heart of experiential learning. Believe that.
At various times during your learning journey, you will reflect on recent events and ask yourself the age-old question:
“Why did I do that?”
As part of regular, reflective and constructive reviews, this is a good thing, a healthy thing. Why did I do that? What could I have done differently? What will I do the next time I’m in a similar situation?. But it is also possible that these reviews lead to regret rather than reaffirmation. And regret can elicit punishment rather than progress.
Why did I do that? You can get trapped in a cycle of regret, retreating to yet another re-hash of past events, unable to move beyond them. This downward spiral can seal your learning fate; to avoid this, you might consider sealing your regrets!
A series of experiments demonstrated the value of physical closure as a technique for gaining psychological closure. Firstly, after writing down a regretful incident, those that sealed their report in an envelope felt less negative about the incident than peers who didn’t seal their report. Further, the material being sealed must have an emotional impact; simply sealing ‘benign’ material doesn’t generate benefits. Doing something else to the report, for example binding them with a paperclip, doesn’t produce the benefits of sealing.
Reflecting rather than regretting is sometimes easier said than done and the act of physical closure. It is advisable to seal up recollections that lead to regrets. It is inadvisable, however unintentionally, to seal up your actions as a way to learn from them:
Don’t re-live the past, over and over, through regret. Learn what you can from it, close it off and move on. Parts of your past can find their way into an envelope and then you can find your own way beyond it.
The past satisfies the present but it does not necessarily inspire the future. In fact, the past can be a reason, make that excuse, for stopping instead of continuing. It depends on how you measure progress and the perceived length of your learning journey? How do you measure these things?
One way, perhaps the most common way, is to recognise how far you’ve travelled since you began. If you contrast your first tentative steps as an experiential learner with your current, apparent, capabilities, the difference will be stark. When you examine the stages, even just the duration, of your learning to date, there is (some) good reason for satisfaction.
And therein lurks the danger of the past/present comparison.
Concentrating on what you have already completed – the road you have travelled – encourages you to stop travelling. After a while, your efforts do seem to be producing diminishing returns. While progress does become much less obvious, it is not diminishing; rather, continued effort will refine, reinforce and deepen your learning.
Research has shown that continued effort flows from a focus on the future – the learning ‘road’ yet to be travelled rather than the distance already covered. You can be motivated to continue by the challenges and excitement of what lies ahead or you can be satisfied, perhaps smug, with what you’ve done. Thus:Owls sing about future challenges in their song, “Climbing the fjelds of Norway”:
“…. and climbed the fjelds of Norway
I could never reach the peak of the mountain
There was always another one behind ….”
There is always another one. It’s a journey, not a day trip. Regardless of your experiential learning status, look ahead and continue. Don’t look back and stop. The journey does not end simply because you stop travelling for there are always more, varied and deeper experiences ahead. You don’t reach the future, you just keep travelling towards it.
As an experiential learner, you interact with the world around you. Despite its seemingly benign and consistent appearance, there can be gradual or abrupt changes. Being aware of the situation is usually and unsurprisingly called situation awareness. Hey, I wonder how good her situation awareness is?
Did she know? Did you know?
How would she know? How could you know? Perhaps she heard something. Did you hear anything? Was there anything to hear? I heard there wasn’t.
Even if she knew, well, what’s a girl to do?
There will be times when you aren’t aware of what’s behind you.
There will be times when you aren’t aware of what’s to your left.
There will be times when you aren’t aware of what’s to your right.
There will even be times when you aren’t aware of what’s in front of you.
Sometimes you’ll fail to look. Sometimes you’ll look but fail to see. Other times, you’ll under-estimate, misinterpret or misjudge what you do see.
What’s a girl to do? What’s a guy to do? What are you going to do?
When everything is on the line, the situation is often described as ‘make or break’. Others may say they are either going to crash or crash through. These sorts of statements could be considered examples of hyperbole – obvious exaggerations. I’ve been waiting an eternity for a better definition of hyperbole!
People often make resolutions at New Year – this year, I’m going to lose weight, get fit, run a marathon, stop smoking, travel overseas. Unfortunately, sometimes the only thing that is actually achieved is the breaking of this resolution. The pizza right now is much more attractive than three pizzas in six months, even though you’ll have lost 10 kilos by then and can enjoy them as a special treat (hopefully not all at once!). This sort of discounting, when the value of a future something is much less than it should be, is hyperbolic. Are patience and discipline rare commodities these days? Is it unusual to hear somebody say they’ve been waiting (for you) such a long time?
There is evidence that indicates that high discount rates – the ‘now, now, now’ phenomenon – are associated with reduced self control. Immediate gratification is seen as much more valuable than something more valuable for which you must wait. Commitments can also be ‘make or break’ undertakings. Are there ways in which a commitment – for example, to commit to regular, effortful practice – can be kept rather than discounted for other, more immediate rewards?
For a start, you can shift your attention away from the immediate temptation or you can remove yourself from its presence – a visible, tangible temptation is more difficult to resist. You can strengthen your connection to the task rather than the temptation in various ways.
And you can also put your ‘money’ where your mouth is. It’s called strategic precommitment and it involves an investment in commitment, a reward for delayed gratification. Give a friend $200 and tell them that if you don’t lose 10 kilos in the next 6 months, they can keep the money themselves or donate it to charity. It’s as simple as that, although you might lose the 10 kilos and the friend when they fail to return the money! Organise it as thoroughly as you do every other aspect of your learning or change journey.
Doing should be done but, sometimes, delaying is also doing. Find your own way.
If you’re going on an extended trip, you don’t set off without luggage. If you’re about to commence an experiential learning journey, it’s near impossible to set off without baggage. Luggage is invariably helpful whereas baggage can be either a help or a hindrance.
Baggage can be a help because it can contain previous, probably vicarious, experiences of the skills you want to acquire. You don’t see a car or traffic for the first time when you set out to learn how to drive; you don’t see a game of football for the first time when you front up to try out for the team. You’ll have some knowledge of what lawyers, salespeople, real estate agents or police do. These experiences can shape prepotent behaviours and, if these are generally in the ‘right’ direction, some of the necessary foundation can be built ahead of time. It is always possible to start learning before you think learning starts!
Baggage can also be a hindrance as these prepotent behaviours are not derived from your direct experience and are more likely to introduce bias – things look different if you are a spectator. One way to offset this is through the use of self control, which allows you to engage in learning rather than implement behaviours that reflect expectation rather than experience. It can be tempting to assume, on the basis of observation and peripheral involvement, that you can already do what you’ve seen others doing. It can be tempting to mimic the things you’ve seen others doing. But these temptations are not learning; they are a house of cards that will collapse under the slightest pressure.
The use of self control has an added benefit. There is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be. It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here.
We tend to think of our baggage only when looking backwards, particularly in the last three minutes:
But this need not be the case. Although grounded in the past, baggage can be used prospectively and positively. Experiential learning and behavioural change should not involve being controlled by others. It does, however, require self control. Find your own way and control your own journey.