Archive for September, 2011

Positively Vague

September 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Vapid – offering no stimulation or challenge, insipid, flat, dull or tedious.

Vacuous – lacking in ideas or intelligence, mindless, stupid, inane or empty.

Vague – having uncertain, indefinite or unclear meaning, imprecise, inexact or unfocused.

Be Yourself – a catchcry of the self-help and life coaching industries.

Which ‘v’ word would you apply to the catchcry ‘Be Yourself’?  You might consider ‘Be Yourself’ in more directly positive terms – valid, valuable, venturesome or virtuous.  Actually, ‘tis nobler thinks one of the first three – vapid, vacuous and vague – is positive, fundamentally and inescapably positive.

And that word is vague.  Vague isn’t vaguely positive, it’s very positive.

It can be good sometimes to know exactly how you’re going – whether learning or changing – but do you really need to know exactly?  There is a body of evidence that indicates that precision of feedback can have negative consequences; knowing exactly leaves you little room to ‘be yourself’ as a learner or changer, leading to motivational and/or attitudinal problems.  It’s also another argument against ‘spoon-feeding’ for your (perhaps) messy contribution to your own learning is supplanted by a more defined yet less effective contribution from an outsider.  The traditional teaching and training model sees vagueness as an enemy, replacing it with concise definitions and clear prescriptions.  This model replaces your vagueness with its clarity to the detriment of your learning.

Can you see how vagueness relates to effort?  From the fuzzy logic of the real world, you create and validate patterns through your own efforts and these patterns guide your behaviour.  The fuzziness, though, is never eliminated.  This is where the real value of ‘being yourself’ can be demonstrated, just as Audioslave do in these lyrics;

And even when you’ve paid enough, been pulled apart or been held up, With every single memory of the good or bad faces of luck, Don’t lose any sleep tonight, I’m sure everything will end up alright, You may win or lose, But to be yourself is all that you can do ……

If you think it through, ‘be yourself’ is positively vague and therefore very positive.  If you don’t think it through, then ‘be yourself’ is vaguely positive and therefore very irrelevant (just like most other things are when you’re a passive recipient).

The only way to deal with vagueness is to find your own way, not once, twice or occasionally but each and every time.  There is nothing vague about that.

Faster Than You Know

September 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you start at the finish (see previous post), there is no real need to be fast.  You arrive before needing to leave – in fact, arrival at the finish can be almost instantaneous – and the only thing you have to do is construct a ‘credible’ basis for being where you end up.  Only you will know that you didn’t end up there, for ‘there’ is where you started.

But there are many occasions in which you don’t know where and what the finish line is; in these circumstances, relative speed plays an interesting role.  Are you faster at believing or knowing?  Further, when novel information is presented, do your beliefs create your knowledge or are your beliefs derived from your knowledge?

‘tis nobler suspects that most people would think that knowledge is faster than belief, for this is the only way in which belief can have a (partial) foundation.  It reflects, and then may transcend, what you know.  This approach would be defensible, logical and reasonable so you realise by now that it’s wrong.

Evidence indicates that we believe and ‘know’ simultaneously – that is, we believe everything – and knowing (as opposed to ‘knowing’) follows subsequently. ‘Subsequently’ might be measured in milliseconds, seconds or minutes; it is also possible for subsequently to never arrive, which means that the ‘knowing’ beliefs are never challenged and knowing is so far back in second place that it is effectively out of sight (and out of mind).

Think about this as you listen to Black Dub  sing ‘I believe in you’:

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In terms of relative speed, ‘I believe in you’ and, perhaps more importantly, ‘I believe you’ might go without saying – belief is the default position.  The quality of your experiential learning may be defined by how and how often you transcend this default position.

Is there a difference between starting at the finish and getting stuck at the start?  Neither option involves movement, just a steadfast desire to maintain the status quo.

It’s crucial that you remember and activate that which lies between the start and the finish.

And that is the learning journey.  Find your own way.

Starting At The Finish

September 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Where do you begin?

With an experiential learning and behavioural change focus, addressing this question philosophically or biologically doesn’t add much value; in fact, this enquiry has nothing to do with chronology.  It’s an enquiry related to decision making.

As a fundamental form of thinking, analogous reasoning suggests starting at the start, building up relationships and ending at the finish.  It’s one-way traffic, reasoning from start to finish. It’s reasonable to see your involvement as reason-able and reasoned.

But it need not, and often isn’t, this way – We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians; further, we should remember that ….. Life and learning are not exercises in arithmetic in which we operate as disinterested calculators, adding and subtracting neutrally to conclude the best course of action at any point in time.  Foibles, failings, priorities and preferences ensure that reasoning is a two-way street, one in which you can still find yourself going the ‘wrong’ way.

Without being unreason-able, for you are still reasoning, albeit in a motivated rather than objective manner, you can start at the finish and work your way around until you arrive – at the finish (which is where you started!).  After all, starting at the finish and then working backwards to reach the same finish line does ensure that you end up where you wanted to be.  When you start at the finish, it is virtually guaranteed that you finish where you started.

You can take reasoned, reason-able actions that derive the finish from these actions or you can take actions that ensure that you achieve what you wanted.  Think about it – affect aligns with one or more biases and affects thinking effects. In one sense, starting at the finish is like living life backwards:

Where do you begin? It’s a simple question that has dramatic ramifications for the quality and validity of your reasoning.  You can always think of ‘reasons’ to support starting at the finish but they tend to be rationalisations rather than rationales.  And these ‘reasons’ are difficult to detect for people are effective at masking the affective with the apparently objective.

Where do you begin? It’s a reasonable question – is your answer reasoned or known in advance (for you started at the finish)?

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

September 25th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy! 

Watch this and then this in fullscreen, HD and with the volume turned up!

Taking aim at free will.

Does our genome dawdle while our epigenome dashes?

What is a Continent?

An intriguing opening paragraph: Tak-Sing Wong from Harvard University has created a synthetic material so slippery that it makes a duck’s back look like a sponge. It is “omniphobic” – it repels everything. All manner of liquids, from water to blood to crude oil, roll straight off it. Ice cannot form on it. It even heals itself when damaged. It’s an extraordinary material and it was inspired by the lips of a flesh-eating plant.

Thanks and goodbye to REM – Until the day is done.

Of Madame CurieIt’s taken a century, but we can finally appreciate her as a multifaceted woman of uncommon intensity, intelligence and will—a woman of courage, conviction and yes, contradictions. After a century we see her not as a caricature, but as one of the 20th century’s most important scientists, who was, at the same time, unmistakably, reassuringly human.

 

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the meaning of life?  Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all.  ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning.  After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.

Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge?  Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!

First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning.  Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture.  These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance.  Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced.  Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow.  Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!

You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’.  As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:

Secondly, there is the issue of depth.  ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow.  Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion).  Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.

When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections.  It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding.  ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.

Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions.  Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?

May I Make A Suggestion?

September 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion?  In addition to the explicit request, this simple question could conceal a range of subtexts and pretexts – you need my help, you need my help because you’re not very good, you need my help as I am better than you or you need my help all the time.

But at least permission is sought and, if approved, a suggestion clearly follows.  To mangle some metaphors, as soon as you appear to be out of your depth, others can’t resist sticking their oar in.  Occasionally, a row develops.  Advice is always appealing to the giver and therefore freely given; it is less appealing to the receiver and, more importantly, ultimately more costly.  Advice can complement yet never replace finding your own way.

For every explicit request, though, there are many more instances in which suggestions are imposed on an unknowing receiver.  Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote about the ways in which we’ve been framed?  As a consequence of external framing strategies, sometimes provided by the very people we thought were giving objective advice, we become internally primed to see what we expect to see, we hear what we expect to hear and we can also taste what we expect to taste.  The power of suggestion is beautifully demonstrated in this video:

As an experiential learner or behavioural changer, you can be pushed and pulled in many directions.  Unlike that other road, the road to confusion is paved with the intentions of others and these intentions are not always in your best interests.  While there is serious and continuing debate on the validity of free will – the latest evidence suggests the brain forms intentions before we are consciously aware of them -, others will always try to determine large chunks of every learning journey.  It’s neat, tidy, and inherently, fundamentally ineffective.

If you receive what you expect to receive, what do you actually expect to receive?  As importantly, where do these expectations really come from?

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion? Find your own way.

Can’t Stop Now

September 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Let’s start the week with a riddle:

When does -10 equal +10?

And the answer is “Never, for -10 usually equals about +20.”  This isn’t a radical arithmetical revision, it’s basic psychology.  As we explore this issue, there are some below-the-surface connections with the (potential) downsides of persistence and resilience that have featured in recent posts.

Life and learning are not exercises in arithmetic in which we operate as disinterested calculators, adding and subtracting neutrally to conclude the best course of action at any point in time.  Arithmetic is objective, logical and predictable; as calculators, we should be able to change easily and rationally in accordance with circumstances.  New ‘numbers’ should produce different ‘answers’!  But they don’t, for the process is distorted in a range of ways.

Losses and gains don’t just differ by direction for they also differ in perceived magnitude.  We dislike losing much more than we like winning, usually the ratio is around 2:1 (does the -10, +20 relationship make some sense now?).  But this post is not about winning and losing, it is about their implications for learning and behavioural change.

The more you do something, the more likely you are to continue doing it simply because of the time and effort you have invested in it.  This emotional ‘demand’ to receive a dividend from this investment prolongs (unsuccessful) effort and prevents change.  When you’re on a good thing, you stick to it’; when you’re on a ‘bad’ thing, you also stick to it for you hate to lose.

It might help if you view both continuing and changing as ways to get a return on your invested effort – why is change (of direction) seen as a loss?  If you focus on sunk costs, you will continue to sink for flogging a dead horse does not bring it back to life.  As the song goes – ‘alright, already, the show goes on’ but it need not remain as the same show until you find the ‘show’ that is all right for you and you are ready for it:

How will you balance persistence, resilience and change of direction?  Does it help to think of effort as fixed and independent of direction, in which you always give it your best shot until you realise it is time to change rather than continue?  Does it help if you think of direction as flexible and continually created by you, for which the concept of ‘loss’ does not apply?

Many people say ‘can’t stop now’ as they believe continuing is more important than changing.  What is stopping them from saying ‘can’t continue now’?  If you lose the current direction, it’s not necessarily a loss.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

September 18th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

Photographs from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011 (click captions on for more information – ‘tis nobler likes the Fighting Dragons of Ara).

They appear to have tamed light.

If we only had wings …….

Watch this video, then watch the making of that video  – they will put a big smile on your face!

Our understanding of brain evolution continues to evolve.

Occasional snippets here and there over recent months may have eluded you so here is an overview of the mysterious paper sculptures in and around Edinburgh that support ‘libraries, books, words and ideas …’.

Brilliant talent + iconic location + great song = unforgettable experience!

Stranded

September 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

No, ‘tis nobler is not using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being marooned or left behind.  As you realise, things aren’t always as they seem – you can trust your eyes but not your brain, your memories are revised rather than just retrieved and your beliefs can overpower your knowledge (and new information is often powerless to overcome this).  Things seem to be different; things are different from what they seem.

‘tis nobler is using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being composed of strands – threads that are woven to form something bigger and stronger.  In the context of experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, the relevance is apparent.  Stranded – things are as they are.

In recent posts, ‘tis nobler has unpacked (slightly) the concept of resilience, revealing that there is more to it than people might imagine from simply tossing the word around.  And not all of the resilience ‘below the surface’ is necessarily valuable or desirable.  What seems to be a single strand is itself composed of smaller strands.  How do you make sense of anything if you remain oblivious to the elements that make it what it is?

What might seem to be trite slogans are progressively revealed as fundamental principles.  ‘Effort is essential’ was revealed as much more than a catchcry when you burrow down beneath the semantic surface:

This is another example of why effort is essential. Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief. The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward. Can you believe that?

As you browse the archives, the depth and the detail will coalesce into shapes that suit you (for you know that it is inappropriate and ineffective for any shape to be imposed, however well-intentioned that imposition may be).  These guiding shapes and patterns are produced by your effort:

As your journey unfolds, you will learn that you are stranded but you are never stranded.  Appreciating the distinction and acting on its implications is a sure sign of progress.

 

Inflammatory

September 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The previous post may have been considered quite inflammatory, given the enormous value placed on perseverance and resilience.  But, if being resilient becomes the main game rather than allowing you to remain in the (more important) game, resilience can become an obstacle and not a support.

Nothing in experiential learning and behavioural change comes free of charge and everything is, in a sense, finite.  There are benefits and costs, risks and rewards, failures and successes.  Optimal applies much more often than maximal.

Resilience has an absolute and significant value but it can also have relative and significant costs.  Now there’s evidence that remaining resilient in the face of unachievable goals has a price, with those unable to disengage from an unattainable goal showing poorer health status (associated with higher levels of inflammatory processes).  The price can be physical, it can be psychological and it can be emotional.  While finding your own way is crucial within a specific pursuit, finding your own way is also vital in leaving one specific pursuit and engaging with another.  If effort remains intact, this change is never about quitting!

There are many words that could be written to explore this particular issue; ‘tis nobler will avoid the temptation (please hold the applause) and encourage you to think through all of the concepts in these two videos:

You can pay the price for staying the course as a little boat or you can feel the wind in your hair and see the blue sky above if you change.  In specific circumstances, what is the best thing to do?  There is no real answer to this question – it would be nice if there was a recipe to follow but this stuff doesn’t work that way.

Perseverance and resilience can be both valuable and costly. Find your own way, sometimes in a little boat and sometimes in a car.

Really Or Real?

September 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a Japanese proverb that states:

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Albert Camus wrote:

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

And this from Helen Keller:

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

Nobody can argue against the value of resilience.  Each learning journey has its challenges; every day can have its pitfalls as well as its pleasures.  In experiential learning, error, setbacks and failure are common companions and it is crucial that you persist.

Being really resilient is vital, for it can rebuild your heart after it has been bashed to bits – all the shattered pieces snap back together:

But being real and resilient is equally vital.  There is much to admire in dogged determination but there must be limits to deploying resilience.  One of the factors associated with resilience is (cognitive) flexibility, and flexibility can sometimes mean changing direction rather than maintaining resilience.  Without flexibility, some individuals apply the same recipes (that got them into ‘trouble’ in the first place) continually and across different situations.  Regardless of the detail, they tend to trot out the same old story, lose control of their journey (again) and rely on their resilience to keep going.  Opportunities to repeat that come from resilience are not necessarily opportunities for learning, progress or satisfaction.

As a result, resilience becomes an end in itself rather than a means to a desired end.  And that’s not the point or value of resilience.  Only you can chart your course between being really resilient and being real and resilient.  Change is not failure – failing to change may well be.

Where resilience is concerned, will you be really or real, or both?

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

September 11th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

Of all the memories and tributes, this simple telling of the story of John and Joe is very moving.

The programming of cells – if these conditions are met, self-destruct!

How to pack a modern passport with an abundance of security features.

The Great Bank Robbery is not what you think – it’s much, much worse!

It may sound preposterous to imagine that the mathematics of quantum theory has something to say about the nature of human thinking.” Welcome to the concept of Quantum Interaction.

12 particles of matter, 4 forces of Nature – autotuning the Quantum World.

The UK’s top 10 navigable aqueducts is more interesting than you might expect!

I Believe I Know

September 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Believing you know something is different to knowing that you know.  Believing you know something is also different to knowing that you believe.  When knowledge and belief go head to head in a fight for supremacy, which one emerges victorious?  Do you know the winner is belief or do you believe the answer is knowledge? T hen again, you could believe the winner is belief or just know that knowledge prevails.

The winner is belief, which raises another important question.  Why does ‘tis nobler continually emphasise that effort is essential?

As learners or changers, our default position is paradoxically the status quo.  We often go through the motions for this ensures that there is no motion involved.  It’s comfortable enough right here; the best way to stay where we are is to go around in small circles, the appearance of effort sufficient to avoid the presence of progress.  We will go to great lengths to protect our beliefs and the best way to achieve this is to ‘stand still’.

We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians.  Most everything is at the mercy of subjectivity and we are naturally at the very heart of the ‘problem’ for we are our own and our only subject.  We go to great lengths to protect our beliefs; however, in the face of direct and contradictory evidence, surely it is reasonable to assume that we incorporate this information, revise and adapt.

But we don’t do this.  In fact, information ‘confrontation’ doesn’t just encourage us to protect our beliefs by refusing to move from where we are for it serves to strengthen our beliefs.  This can see us set off in a direction opposite to where we should be heading.  Information ‘confrontation’, which should be a source of learning and a motivation for change, can often be a hindrance to both.  Being exposed to information that should boost often backfires:

This is another example of why effort is essential.  Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief.  The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward.  Can you believe that?

Deeply, Durably, Highly

September 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s easy to have an opinion; from having an opinion, it’s a short and backward step to becoming opinionated.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to establish a position; do you understand the difference between opinions and positions?

It’s easy to hold an attitude; from holding an attitude, it’s a short and backward step to ‘having an attitude problem’.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to adhere to values, to be purpose full; do you understand the difference between attitudes and values?

It’s easy to nominate a goal; from nominating a goal, it’s a short and backward step to becoming fixated and inflexible.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to strive to achieve aspirations; do you understand the difference between goals and aspirations?

Opinions can be shallow.  Attitudes may be short-lived.  Goals may be simple.  When you think about opinions, attitudes and goals, there is nothing necessarily wrong with them but neither is there anything necessarily right with them.  Opinions, attitudes and goals need to have strong foundations, and the best foundations are comprised of positions, values and aspirations.  Without these foundations, it is all too easy to slip away unnoticed.  To avoid this, adopt a deep, durable and high approach.

‘tis nobler has emphasised the importance of ‘pattern development’ to make skilled performance more effective and much more efficient (most recently here), which raises the question – What are the ‘patterns’ underpinning your behaviour?

In addition to the (inescapable) opinions, attitudes and goals in your daily life, are there deeper and stronger patterns to your behaviour that enable you to go above and beyond?

Do you have positions or just opinions?  What are your values?  How will you achieve your aspirations?  These are big questions; the starting point for the last question might be to have aspirations (for research has shown a strong and positive link between aspirations and achievement).

Think deeply, commit durably, aspire highly!

 

What Does Pride Go Before?

September 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Psst, look over there.  Can you see something really tempting?  You know you shouldn’t give in to temptation but perhaps you will.  It’s only a couple of cream buns, or a dozen cans of beer, or an excuse to miss an exercise session.  What are you going to do?  How will your decision on whether to give in be affected by how you imagine you’ll feel afterwards?

Usually, it will go one of two ways.  Firstly, there’s thinking about the (future) shame or disgust of giving in:

That was absolutely hopeless!  I am ashamed of myself.  Why did I give in?  How pathetic am I?  And I know I shouldn’t do it.  Shame on me, shame!

Then there’s thinking about the (future) satisfaction or pride in not giving in:

Hey, I’m proud of myself for resisting.  I didn’t really need to eat/drink/sit around and I’m glad I didn’t just cave in.  I reckon I’m stronger than people give me credit for.  I didn’t give in to the temptation.  Well done, me!  I feel really good now.

What approach do you think is more effective for maintaining self control – imagining your future shame for giving in or imagining your future pride in having resisted?  The research evidence is in and ‘tis nobler will allow the finding to be announced by Elmo (and the Goo Goo Dolls):

Elmo reached the highest shelf …. and you feel that pride …’.  Dragging yourself down with the shame of poor self control is not the way to go; the pride in resistance outweighs the shame of succumbing as a way to sustain self control.  As a guiding principle, it’s always better to lean towards a positive approach than it is to manage your behaviour through fear or shame.

‘tis nobler wonders whether there is another control issue at work here that might help explain this finding.  How would you control the assessment process?  It might be easier to soften the impact of (future) shame than it would be to elevate the pride that results from resisting.  Even if you negated the effect of shame completely, pride remains effective relative to a neutral approach; it’s not just that pride is better than shame for pride is also better than passivity.

‘tis nobler needs to re-write a familiar saying: Pride goes before better self control (but gloating still goes before a fall).  Be proud of your continuing efforts by taking pride in what you are becoming.  To control yourself, will you drag yourself down or raise yourself up?  Be proud.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

September 4th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

Crumpled paper and the mathematical underpinnings of rigidity.

Compare this story on education with this one and then imagine the education system you’d create.

The complex dancing of simple pendulums.

A great video – 100 years of East London fashion.

Why the impossible happens more often.

It’s simple to describe but can we explain what time is?

Uncommon Ideals – poetry meets (cold water) surfing.

On Trials

September 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Things will always go wrong.  Error is a constant companion as you learn and try to change your behaviour.  There is no place for the apostrophe and the space (but there is always time for a rhyme):

I’m perfect never applies; imperfect is one of your defining qualities.

Trial and error learning is based on maximising the trials, learning from the errors and then minimising the mistakes.  However, learning from your errors is easier said than done.  Regardless of the ‘lessons’ contained within the experience that didn’t go to plan, you also have to learn how to cope with these experiences.  After all, getting things wrong can be dispiriting and distressing.  And remember, error is just one cause of negative experiences in your learning and behavioural change journey.  What should you do in order to cope when things do go awry?

Thankfully, research findings do present a view on this question and the answer is that it depends on your view of the situation and/or the situation that you are viewing, assuming these aren’t similar.  The Mynabirds must have been aware of this as their song ‘Ways of Looking’ has these lyrics:

I lose my sense at the sight of you

The effortless way you take the worst news

You said “You can move mountains with your point of view”

Doesn’t have to be so hard

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You may not be able to move mountains but your point of view can be a useful coping mechanism when negative experiences happen.  Coping strategies must change in relation to the perceived severity of the ‘problem’ that has occurred.  When severity is lower, you are encouraged to be more positive in your assessment – you cannot and should not take everything to heart.  Minor bumps in your journey may provide additional learning value but it might be best to move on quickly for getting stuck (or, even worse, going backwards or giving up) is a much worse outcome.  Don’t over-analyse these minor bumps; giving them more attention than they deserve can paralyse.  Be positive, see them in the right perspective, push them aside and keep going.

When severity is higher, however, being overly positive is negative.  In these situations, it is important to review the ‘problem’ as honestly as you can, while seeking feedback from others if this helps you.  The additional learning value in these situations is much greater – they represent the real ‘errors’ in trial and error learning – and dismissing them with a positive attitude is counterproductive.

You have to decide whether situations are bumps or BUMPS and whether, as a consequence, you should be overly positive or objectively analytical.  In trial and error learning, trials will always have errors but there is no reason why these errors need be a trial.