Posts Tagged ‘fyow’

Adding Up

January 16th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

The last ‘Slow Down Sunday’ post had a strong numerical theme; ‘tis nobler thought numbers could feature in this post to explore some fundamental themes in experiential learning and behavioural change.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.

That’s arithmetic – in experiential learning and behavioural change, you’ll use much more sophisticated mathematics without really being aware of it.  And you’ll do this even if you think you’re no good at maths.  In the artificial world of the classroom, you might struggle with maths but, in the real world of learning and changing, you’re a maths wizard!

10 > 1 +2 +3 +4.

That’s synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Life and learning are not additive pursuits.  When you devote effort to the 1s, 2s 3s and 4s (etc), this experience produces something that is greater, more elegant, more effective and more efficient.  Mindlessly following a recipe is a recipe for ‘disaster’.  Transcend the mechanical.

2 + 2 = 4, NOT 5, 6, 3.5 or any other number suggested by someone else to satisfy specific circumstances.

That’s a reflection of values.  While mathematics is the one absolute and universal discipline, undisciplined or expedient behaviour can be applied to mathematics and, more broadly, the scientific method, to distort the truth.  Thinking, saying or doing ‘calculations’ in which 2 + 2 = 5 is the slipperiest of all slippery slopes.  Stay true and stay truthful, for numbers don’t lie:

Finally, remember that any number (and the distance between any two numbers) equals infinity.  Apparently straightforward tasks possess depth and complex tasks have great depth.  It just doesn’t make sense to think that you can skate over the surface and cope with all the challenges.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  But there are infinite ways to get to 10. 

The best way is your way. Find it

 

 

Now Or Never?

December 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This week has seen ‘tis nobler explore the concept of happiness.  Apart from the ‘slow down’ post on Christmas Day, this is the last post of 2011.  ‘tis nobler can see a personal link between those two statements but would be disappointed if readers made the same connection.

To finish off for the time being, it’s now or never, and variations thereof.  ‘Now or never’ is often said with a motivational purpose, so what is the connection with happiness?  There is a connection; in fact there are many connections, which is why you must always find your own way.  There is no other way to navigate experiential learning and behavioural change; anybody who tells you different is selling you short or sending you off (your) course.

This connection is as much about principle as it is about evidence, it is as much about emotion as it is about reason and it is only about you, no-one else.  It is about trying to learn from the past rather than alter its meaning (see Monday’s post) and it is about trying to change the attractively abstract into the contentedly concrete (see Wednesday’s post).  And, perhaps most of all, it is about now and it is not now, or perhaps ever, about ‘about’.  Or is it, for these choices are yours alone?

There is evidence that ‘small and often’ is more potent that ‘large and occasional’ in producing happiness.  ‘Small’ can be a very discriminating predictor – a momentary delay during a pleasant experience can produce higher ratings of happiness as it creates the perception of two pleasant experiences.  And two is better than one.  Similarly, there are many studies investigating the relationship between money and happiness; in summary, it seems some helps but more doesn’t help more.

It is just as dubious to conclude that money or small pleasures cause happiness as it is conclude that money or small pleasures will cause you to be happy.  Understanding the former can be assisted by this insightful and accessible article  while understanding the latter can be assisted by appreciating the deep and durable power of ‘Find Your Own Way’.

Being happy now – as they say, ‘IN’ your life – or pursuing happiness – as they say, being happy ‘ABOUT’ your life – are not mutually exclusive or perfectly and consistently relevant to you.  Not now does not mean never, just as now does not mean always!  You must make personal sense of all of this rather than expect the meaning derived by others to apply to you as well; you must create it yourself rather than receive it from others.  After all, effort is essential.  And that message is a good way to see out 2011.

Enjoy this music video;

See you in 2012!

Will Concrete Make Us Happy?

December 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Yes, and there’s an irrefutable reason for this outcome.

According to Wikipedia, concrete is the most common man-made material.  Concrete is everywhere.  Now, where can we find happiness?  Rather than consult Wikipedia again, ‘tis nobler consulted other experts, for DJ Andi and Stella know the answer to this question:

It’s in the ocean, yeah!

Happiness is all around, happiness!

It’s in the sunlight, yeah!

Happiness is all around…  

Are you following ‘tis nobler’s line of reasoning?  The syllogism goes like this:

Concrete is everywhere.

Happiness is all around.

Therefore, concrete IS happiness.

In the movies, it is never true when people say “There’s just one problem”, and it’s not true here either.  The first and most fundamental problem is that the use of ‘concrete’ in this post’s title referred to the adjective and not the noun.

Both the past and the future are obstacles to overcome in the pursuit of happiness.  On Monday, ‘tis nobler noted that we change the meaning of the past to conform to the present, something that prevents us from learning from our errors in predicting what will make us happy.

And this failing is compounded by the temptation to view the future in abstract ways.  In theory, something will make us happy; in practice, however, happiness may prove elusive because it is pushed aside by reality.  It’s like the Tomorrowland that never arrives, in which all these magical tools are promised but fail to materialise; it’s summed up in the name of the Scottish Indie music group “We Were Promised Jetpacks”.

Flights of fancy can play useful roles in problems solving and creativity but the link to happiness may be more fanciful.  The gap between the concrete and the abstract can be huge and assessments of future happiness based on ‘the promise of jetpacks’ will only ever be a letdown.  Dreams must be realised, hopes must be achieved and happiness must be pursued – will anything of consequence happen if dreams, hopes and happiness remain abstract, poorly defined and a long way away?

Concrete is a great way to cement your emotional state in happiness.  As always, though, balance is required.  Too abstract can just be a mess but too concrete can weigh you down and prevent you from making progress.

Finding ways to transform the abstract into the concrete, the hoped-for into the happening, is a great start for the pursuit of happiness.

Juggling Doubts

December 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not that there are doubts about your ability to juggle, although these doubts could very well be justified.

Nor is it that juggling doubts is a method for resolving them.  Doubtless, you will recall that ‘tis nobler has already suggested that ‘double doubting’ is a more potent technique for reducing doubts than juggling could ever be:

Research has suggested that it’s better to question your doubts – be doubtful about them – and, through this internal interrogation, turn the certainty that you cannot into a possibility that you can. Think of this as untying the ‘not’ and discarding it…..Rather than learning in the shadows of self-doubt, realise that these doubts do not reflect certainties but simply possibilities that can be managed and reduced, if not eliminated. Fail to doubt your doubts and they may become self-fulfilling prophecies; doubt your doubts and become self-fulfilling.

You might also recall that ‘tis nobler noted that ‘shouting’ was useless in coping with doubts, as useless as juggling:

Strenuous advocacy can be a reflection of personal uncertainty.  In these circumstances, such ‘shouting’ is designed to reduce doubts – a sort of “I must be right because I am stressing my ‘rightness’ so forcefully.”  Trying to reduce your doubts by committing more strongly to that which you doubt has an even stronger influence on those topics/skills/behaviours that you deem more important.  If it’s more important to you, you’ll ‘shout’ more often and more loudly.

The theme of this post is the doubts that arise from figuratively ‘juggling’ – trying to keep as many things going as possible and being pulled from one to the next in a never-ending struggle that aims to balance competing priorities, problems or personalities.  Of course, actual juggling is itself a skill and, within reason, it is possible to keep the balls in the air:

But most of us struggle with ‘juggling’ for task-related and/or social demands can exceed our capacity and/or capability at times.  It is reasonable to think that, in these ambiguously trying circumstances, the things that we hold most dear or identify with the most become even more important to us.  However, some recent research has produced evidence that such circumstances can make us doubt our ‘mission’ rather than strengthen it.

It’s interesting to wonder whether these ‘juggling’ doubts can themselves be a coping mechanism, a way to refresh and reinvigorate rather than raise the white flag.  ‘tis nobler has written about the relationship between the type of task and the effect of doubt:

Introducing doubts can benefit performance on simple tasks or more complex tasks that have become automated through substantial practice.  There is no clear explanation for this, although motivation plays a central role.  The arrival of doubt could prevent complacency, increase task focus or reduce the likelihood of distractions.  If tasks are not simple or automated, doubt could increase conscious/intentional effort and this type of manual control is resource-intensive;  performance is not enhanced as all effort is directed at just maintaining performance.

Juggling is an everyday feature of life, whether you are juggling tasks, demands, workload, decisions, responsibilities or people.  With balance tantalisingly out of reach, the effort to achieve balance continues on and on.  This can be wearing as this constant struggle can encourage doubts to enter.  Doubtful juggling and juggling doubts combine to drag you down.

Juggle because you can’t avoid it.  Doubt because you can’t avoid it.  Find your own solution because you must.

Tweaking The Talk

December 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s a well-known distinction between those that do and those that talk about doing – walking the walk compared to just talking the talk.

You don’t often hear about tweaking the talk.  But tweaking the talk – modifying the content of your talking over time – is a very common feature of our interaction with others.  ‘Talking the talk’ is tweaked all the time such that your talking becomes more impressive and more remote from any and all instances of actually ‘walking the walk’.  It is likely that when you talk the (particular) talk today, it will deviate substantially from the first time you talked that particular talk.  Embellishment is an inextricable component of expression.

We often create false memories 

Thinking we know, often without either knowing or thinking, can create all sorts of problems.  One example is in the false memories we have of our performance and behaviour.  To fill in the short-term gaps, we ‘remember’ things that never happened, we assume or infer rather than recall.  How often have you heard people explain their mistakes by saying “I thought that ….” when this thinking is at odds with the situation?

And our recollection of past events is not a process of neutral recall:

Using past experiences as building blocks for present performance is not necessarily a neutral process. Injecting the past into the present can and does assist in meeting current task demands but this can and does change your memories of the past. You effect their retrieval and they are affected by this retrieval. The past is fenced off in time but the fence is not impervious to the present. Over time, facts can soften, fiction can harden and the lines between them can become less visible.

Some recent evidence emphasises the social nature of this embellishment process.  We embellish for others and because of others, not just by and for ourselves.   Conformity is a frequent characteristic of group performance – don’t stand up, don’t stand out, just stand in line as that makes it easiest to toe that line.  These studies demonstrated that conformity can affect memories in an enduring way.   Socially-imposed illusion, even ones that are known to be wrong by individuals, can supplant individual memories; these will often remain in place even when the original illusion is shown to be false.  It’s seems true that two (or more) wrongs can make an individual’s right (memory) turn into the same wrong.

Do you often talk to be typical, of your friends, of your generation, of your experiences?  Conversation is often typified by a desire to conform rather than communicate.  Conversation is often the outcome of memory and emotion.  Conversation is not just about facts and passive discourse; it can also be about fictions and ‘theatre’:

Fact may be stranger than fiction but fiction is more frequent than fact.  How do you find your own way through this quagmire?  Do you do it by tweaking your talk?

A Balancing Act

November 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  It’s not valid.   It’s definitely not balanced and, while it is not an act, it influences many of our actions.  Whichever way you look at it, where ‘it’ is the ways you think about yourself and others, the way of looking at it is unequal.  Where does this fundamental problem come from?  Who could be responsible for this inequality? As ‘tis nobler asks these questions, the answer is clear – ‘tis nobler.

Of course, if you are asking the very same questions, the answer is equally clear – you.  Along with wide shut (see previous post), everyone is also unbalanced:

I know myself better than you know yourself.

I know you better than you know me.

My ‘group’ knows your ‘group’ better than your ‘group’ knows my ‘group’.

Your actions ‘speak louder’ (say more about you) than my actions (say about me).

My thoughts ‘speak louder’ (are more consistent with who I am) than your (less consistent) thoughts.

And yet this lack of balance is generally ignored.  Indeed, the suggestion that ‘you know me better than I know myself’ is be a popular theme in literature and music:

But this contention is not supported by the evidence.  The origins of ‘Know Thyself’ are somewhat murky and the application of this saying to daily life is equally problematic.  We think others know us as an open book but our senses and thinking can be ‘wide shut’ and we think we know others much more than they know us because we lack balance.  How can we know ourselves when our perspective is so unbalanced?

Insight can be a marvellous quality but it (and other forms of thinking) can be distorted in many ways.  When you use insight, what is literally and figuratively in sight?  Can you think through these issues in a balanced way?

Find your own way through and around these distortions – it’s a balancing act!

Bobbing Cork, Sailing Craft

November 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If ‘tis nobler said that this post was ‘hicoec’, would you realise that it is about choice (or, less cryptically, choice about)?  Perhaps this unusual opening indicates that the spelling of choice is adaptive – that is, it can be changed to adapt to a different situation.  And in this case, the different situation involved a need to be cryptic.

Exercising choice is inherently adaptive in a way that is much deeper and much more important than you might realise.  If you stay on the surface, it is easy to be dismissive of your role in making choices, something which happens many times every day.  After all, many of these choices are straightforward, many of them don’t need a second thought (in fact, many of them don’t even need a (conscious) first thought).  These choices are made to preserve patterns that provide the foundation for skilled performance (and patterns can be known as mental models, schema, mental representations etc).

The methods we use to make our choices are subject to many distortions and biases and yet we strive to avoid losses while trying to gain some benefits.  Most of the time, we’re OK at this (with OK being some distance from ‘good’); some of the time, though, we’re absolutely hopeless.  Again, if you stay on the surface, you can just look at the rewards within a given choice and then bounce from choice to choice.  This sort of behaviour could be considered specifically adaptive and generally positive (adaptive behaviour is designed to make things better).

But choices provide the opportunity to go deeper than this, should we so choose!  It is possible to transcend the rewards within our choices and reap the rewards that exist beyond specific choices, rewards that are found in the act rather than the outcome of choosing.  A bird in the hand might be worth two in the bush but a bird in the hand will always be worth less than the three birds you can obtain by making the effort.

Each choice gives you the opportunity to put your personal stamp on things, to make real that which is important to you.  Choice is about choosing – the surface view – and choice is about control – the deeper view.  Choice as control goes to the heart of self management and is fundamentally adaptive.  The previous post ended with these words:

You have the power to choose to stop. You have the power to choose to change.

And now you should realise that you also have the power to control through choosing.  What you actually do is up to you, for you are free to decide:

A bobbing cork at the mercy of the waves and the wind or a sailing craft pursuing the course established by you as captain – you do have the choice.  Find your own way to choose and control.

Appearing Random

October 19th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This is the fifth (of six) ‘strategic’ post in a row, which hardly seems random (for the sole reason that it isn’t).  Yet the appearance of randomness influences learning and behavioural change in a host of ways.  Let’s start with a few questions.

Would your friends describe you as fantastic or bombastic?  Would your friends describe you as gymnastic or inelastic?  Would your friends describe you as enthusiastic or plastic?  Would your friends describe you as ecclesiastic or scholastic?

Would your friends think these rating are drastic or exaggerated?  Exaggerated?  EXAGGERATED??  That doesn’t fit the pattern!

The use of ‘exaggerated’ isn’t sarcastic – it’s stochastic.  Actually, it’s not stochastic, but ‘tis nobler is trying to make a point.  And the point has to do with how you go about explaining things, for your explanations can affect everything you do.

Stochastic means random, a messy word that might be best defined as unpredictable, although this might just mean things are happening according to a pattern of which we are unaware.  Just because things look random doesn’t mean that they are – even many sets of ‘random’ numbers are, in technical terms, pseudo-random rather than truly random.

The difference between things appearing mostly random or mostly predictable is you!

Everybody knows the saying, ‘S#@t happens’.  Is this just ‘bad luck’?  Was it unavoidable?  Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Was there anything you could have done differently?  In order, ‘tis nobler suggests that the answers to these questions are improbable, probably not, possibly and absolutely.

How would you answer these same questions?

Stochastic systems aren’t entirely chaotic; they have both predictable and unpredictable elements – just knowing how they start out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll know how they finish (if it did, the system would be deterministic, not stochastic).  Traffic is stochastic – you can predict reliably, but not perfectly, what most other drivers will do because most behave in accordance with rules and social norms most of the time.  You can predict that almost every driver will stay on their side of the road almost all of the time but you can’t be completely sure that, as you round the next corner, you won’t be faced with another car coming straight towards you on your side of the road.  Welcome to the stochastic world!

Unpredictability is always from a particular viewpoint – an event may appear unpredictable to you but not to others.  An event may appear unpredictable to you simply because you didn’t notice the things that led up to it.  It may have been surprising (to you) but it wasn’t unpredictable.  If you don’t see something, does this make it inherently unpredictable?

Being ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t mean being unavoidable; the key dimension is time.  You can ‘predict’ something just as it is about to happen but that’s not much of a prediction.  The challenge is to operate ahead of time, to anticipate so that you have the time to work out what to do and then do it.  Anticipation is a hallmark of experience.

Until now, we’ve talked about stochastic things as things you have to anticipate, avoid or cope with.  But there’s another side that is exciting:

“What’s the point of living it without a tiny little bit of ….” 

Don’t be determined by others or by events that you think are beyond your control.  Be determined to find your own way, even when the process appears stochastic. Appearing random can be transformed into being in control through that essential element – effort.

It will remain a partially stochastic behavioural world.  Stochasticity is part of the challenge but it’s also part of the fun.

 

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.

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.

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.

Generally Correct?

August 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Just recently, we went sailing on the Specific Ocean: on this journey, ‘tis nobler noted:

Sailing the specific ocean can be disastrous.  If something or someone dominates your reasoning by being ‘spectacularly available’, there is every chance that dominance will create distortions…….More spectacular does mean more available and more available pervades and distorts your thinking in many ways. This is one explanation for the ways in which important public debates can be hijacked by ‘spectacular’ irrelevancies…….It’s little wonder, then, that the only valid way to navigate this messy ‘world’ is to find your own way. Finding your own way is not spectacular but it is always available to you.

You might think it’s best to get as far away from the Specific Ocean but trekking what ‘tis nobler calls the Plains of Vague also has many pitfalls.  These pitfalls can be summarised as follows:

Appealingly vague statements aren’t vaguely appealing – they are very appealing!

And this particularly applies when the statements are about you; welcome to the world of subjective validation in which positive and general are perceived as specifically personal and generally correct.  Unlike the Specific Ocean, where you can’t seem to avoid the most available, single ‘reef’ on which to founder, the Plains of Vague envelop you in a blanket of generalities from which there is no escape – not that you ever try to escape -, just the security and warmth of identification.  This blanket is so comforting, so reassuring and so, so true!

The Plains of Vague convince you for its general features can be massaged into any shape that fits you.  Ultimately, though, generalities convey little information for they rely more on affect than effect for their power – of course, that’s me to a T, all the good things that you’re saying about me really ring true.  But information is defined as that which reduces uncertainty and generalities can’t reduce uncertainty; they’re like saying “Thank you for everything, thank you for nothing” in the same sentence, sweeping statements that sweep away little if any uncertainty:

Most of the time, you wander around in the vast region between the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague, trying to understand the more than specific and less than general information that confronts you.

Availability of specific information is no guarantee of accuracy or utility.  The accuracy and utility of general information, information in which everyone can find a ‘home’ if they go looking, is equally suspect.  How much of your experiential learning and behavioural change journey is spent at the ‘Poles’ – the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague?

As you must find your own way, you are the only valid subject of your learning journey.  Don’t waste your time by subjectively validating the vague!  This is NOT generally correct.

Before Connecting

August 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, connections are crucial.  It is important to recognise that connection is not the same as co-incidence; it is even less similar to coincidence.  Being contiguous and contemporaneous is neither necessary nor sufficient for connecting.  The ‘appearance’ of connection does not indicate that connections have actually appeared.

Being in the same place at the same time does not mean that a connection is made.  Doing the same things that you’ve done successfully before does not mean that a connection has been established.  Connection has to occur in your head before it can emerge and influence your activity.

Connection can occur during activity – let’s call this engagement.

Connection can occur after activity – let’s call this reflection.

And connection can occur before activity – let’s call this anticipation.  Anticipation is not doing things before connecting; rather think of it as one form of connecting.  It’s ‘before’ connecting in the same way that you have ‘during’ connecting and ‘after’ connecting.

Some recent research has indicated the value of ‘before’ connecting as a technique for reducing (test-taking) anxiety.  ‘Before’ connecting took the form of writing down anxieties just before the examination commenced; those that did so outperformed their equally anxious peers who didn’t participate in the ‘before’ connecting exercise.  It is important to note that ‘before’ connecting is the important message, realised through the act of writing, rather than the act of writing itself.  If just writing something down was the solution, Eccles wouldn’t find himself in such a pickle:

Appearances can be deceiving; connection can appear to be present without putting in an appearance.  As experience is gained, ‘during’ connection becomes more and more automated but you must actively pursue ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections.  Active ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections work together to make ‘during’ connections more enduring, more effective and highly efficient.

There shoudn’t be anything before connecting, there is just ‘before’ connecting!  And ‘before’ connecting comes before ‘during’ and ‘after’ connections.  Connect in every way in order to find your own way.

Sailing The Specific Ocean

August 10th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Sailing can be spectacular but, when you are sailing the specific ocean, spectacular is only the start.  The full equation for this type of ‘sailing’ is:

Spectacular  =  Available  =  Dominant  =  Distorted

Just because something is more available to you in thought, knowledge or memory – which is itself often a function of how spectacular the subject matter appears – does not mean that it is more important, more likely or more true.  The association of these qualities – importance, likelihood or truth – with availability (known as the availability heuristic) can produce biased reasoning.  Think of it as a type of error in inductive reasoning, the mistakes you make when going from the specific to the general.

Sailing the specific ocean can be disastrous.  If something or someone dominates your reasoning by being ‘spectacularly available’, there is every chance that dominance will create distortions.  Imagine that you’ve been told, again and again, that Kramer dominates the dojo.  You’ve had this dominance described in great detail – how he throws his opponents around, how he wins every bout and how nobody else can lay a finger on him.  These vivid descriptions, spectacular and thus readily available to you, lead you to conclude that Kramer has all the makings of a great martial artist.

But spectacular and available need not mean accurate:

More spectacular does mean more available and more available pervades and distorts your thinking in many ways.  This is one explanation for the ways in which important public debates can be hijacked by ‘spectacular’ irrelevancies.

The potential distorting effects of the spectacularly available can also be used as a demonstration of the labyrinthine ‘world’  of experiential learning and behavioural change.  Can you imagine the interactions between these spectacularly available distortions and the creation of false memories through the influence of present actions on (manipulated) memories of past actions?  And these are just two issues in a universe of competing, compounding and conflicting issues.

It’s little wonder, then, that the only valid way to navigate this messy ‘world’ is to find your own way.  Finding your own way is not spectacular but it is always available to you.

Experience, A Placebo?

August 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It seems that medicine need not be medicinal for benefits to accrue – welcome to the placebo effect.  Placebos are traditionally denoted as inert substances that have the appearance but not the mechanism for a therapeutic role.  Give one group a white pill containing an active agent and a second group apparently the same white pill without the active agent; it could just be a sugar pill.  It stands to reason that the difference between the groups will be due to the active agent.  It’s reasonable but often incorrect.

The more we investigate the role of placebos, the more interesting their role seems to become.  There is evidence that placebos are becoming more effective and, more recently, some initial evidence that positive effects are produced even when people know they are receiving a placebo (usually, deception has been thought of as a pre-condition for the placebo effect).

In psychology, the Hawthorne Effect (and a range of other ‘effects) could represent types of placebo effects whereby the process of being studied is an active agent in its own right.  Sometimes, perhaps all the time, just being there (or even being nearby) can effect change.  In experiential learning, can experience itself operate sometimes as a placebo?

‘tis nobler suggests that the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.  Fundamentally, the issue is not whether experience offers learning value, for it always does; the issue concerns the efficiency with which this learning value is extracted from the experience.  Participating in any experience, directly, indirectly or vicariously, offers learning opportunities even when you think these experiences are nothing more than ‘sugar pills’.  Despite just going through the motions, learning is still taking place, albeit more slowly, more half-heartedly and much more inefficiently:

‘tis nobler was reminded of ‘experience as placebo’ when reading about some recent happiness research.  The conclusion was very telling – ‘We conclude that happiness interventions are more than just placebos, but that they are most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention’ (emphasis added).

Experience can be a placebo but it can and should be more than just a placebo.  If you know about, endorse and commit to experiential learning, learning outcomes will be more effective and much more efficient.  ‘Spectators’ learn but participants learn more quickly and more deeply.

Going through the motions is a form of self-deception. How do you deceive yourself when exposed to each and every experience that adds learning value?  Find your own way to enable your experiences to be more than placebos.

For Novelty

July 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has previously written a post that had the title ‘For Others’ .  In that post, ‘tis nobler noted:

Familiarity breeds contempt, a shorthand way of describing the expertise bias.  When I am able to do something, I find it difficult to understand why you can’t do it.  I compare your ‘now performance’ with the ‘now me’ rather than compare it to the ‘beginner me’.  I can’t imagine how your ‘beginner you’ can be so hopeless.  After all, I have done this many, many times and it is so easy to do.  What is wrong with you?

Familiarity can breed contempt for others.  Familiarity can also breed contempt for novelty for recent research has shown that people prefer a familiar option (to a less familiar option), even when they know that it is a worse option in the circumstances.

How can you ever truly find your own way when the way you ‘find’ is the familiar one that you’ve travelled many times before?

When you commence your experiential learning journey, everything may be unfamiliar.  Gradually yet progressively, (some) things do become more familiar, a sign of the progress you’ve made and an indication of the ever-present challenge to continue transforming the unfamiliar into the familiar.  At any point, in both psychological and educational terms, there is a temptation to stay within the familiarity you have accrued rather than continue to expand experiences and develop expertise.

Some stop at the earliest possible time, an unfortunate combination of overconfidence and ‘under-ability’.  Others stop further on – but not much further – without realising that the learning path(s) keep going and going.  If you keep to the one familiar path, your learning will be less effective and more inefficient.  Don’t  do the same, limited and familiar steps; actively and effortfully make your learning journey one of many different steps:

Familiarity can breed contempt for novelty.  Transcend the familiar and just be ‘for novelty’!

Waiting For, God, Oh, Like Forever

June 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How often, if at all, do you resemble Vladimir or Estragon?  These two men are the central characters in the renowned, absurdist Beckett play, ‘Waiting For Godot’.  There have been as many interpretations of this play as there have been productions – you can read into it, and take out if it, what you will for it supports a variety of presumed meanings.  However, ‘waiting’ is a central and enduring theme as Godot never arrives.

There’s no need to do anything for better times are coming.  If we are waiting for Godot, all we have to do is wait, and wait we shall.  The wait can become a weight, a weight that prevents you doing anything other than waiting.  Things will change any time now and there is no need to do anything except wait for the expected change.

Waiting for something equates to doing nothing with nothing to do but wait.  And so everything reduces to nothing.  It’s a show about nothing:

It becomes a show about nothing with nothing happening except waiting.  But just waiting for something is really nothing.  Should you wait for learning in the same way that Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot, pretending that doing nothing is actually doing something?

We may constantly acknowledge and affirm the challenges in experiential learning and behavioural change but this affirmation may not transcend the words for we are always looking for easier ways, ways that avoid rather than resolve the challenges.  We wait and hope for ‘a pill’ to cure our ills rather than prevent or better manage them through sensible lifestyle choices.  One study demonstrated that people reduced their likely levels of exercise upon becoming aware of new drug treatments for chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity and hypertension.  Do you think that waiting for something that will enable you to avoid the effort is worthwhile?  How long are you prepared to wait for something that may not arrive?

Waiting for Godot is absurd and therein can be found its real strength.  Waiting for, god, oh, like forever is also absurd and therein can be found the greatest danger to your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts.

Neither life nor learning are waiting games.  How will you ever find your own way if you just wait for others to show you the(ir) way?

Can’t You See – It’s Right

June 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can’t you see it’s for the best?  How hard is it to see that it’s for the best?  Perhaps the best way to see that it’s for the best, that it’s the right thing to do in the circumstances, is not to see it at all.  Could it be that the evidence indicates that there is a case for the (temporarily) blind finding the right way (as opposed to the blind leading the blind the wrong way)?

When you look, you can be bombarded with the noise and clutter of life, every part of which is clamouring for your attention.  Some parts will receive it without really deserving it while you’ll overlook some important parts because you are looking over there.  One of the many benefits of sustained experiential learning is the increasingly refined process of sorting the important from the irrelevant and this advantage, while never perfect, can really help decision making.

Still, moral decisions can be more nebulous than performance decisions – compare the differences between ‘Should I say that ball was just over the baseline?’ with ‘Should I hit down the line or hit cross court?’  For a start, the former requires conscious deliberation while the latter is (after some experience) done without  conscious thought.  But there are many other differences and doing the right thing is, rightly or wrongly, often a relative and relatively difficult judgment.

Sometimes, despite the (occasionally gratuitous) advice from others, the right thing to do is not staring right at you.  It has to be disentangled from the clutter somehow and you will gradually learn how to do this in principle and through practice (but it remains something that is ‘fine’ in principle but much more awkward in practice!).

Could it be that the evidence indicates that there is a case for the (temporarily) blind finding the right way (as opposed to the blind leading the blind the wrong way)? The answer to this question can now be revealed, and the answer is ‘Yes’.  Research has shown that the simple act of closing your eyes can assist with moral decision making – ‘so close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it’s all right’:

It’s reasonable to think that this might be another reflection of the value of distance (as these excerpts from previous posts show):

Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey.

Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

You can set your own ‘distances’ between strategies, motivations and excuses.  How will you find your own way, how far will you travel and how involved in your journey will you be?

It’s worth a try – closing your eyes – when you’re tussling with a ‘Should I’ question.  Create some distance, retreat momentarily inside your head and away from the clamour by closing your eyes.  You don’t always need to look when finding your own way.

For Better Or For Worse?

June 10th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you somehow combine the two previous posts, you end up with a post that’s about simple choices.  This is that post, except I might delay writing it for a while.  I should write it now to conform to the posting schedule but I might choose to do something else.  Should I delay implementing my default (scheduled) option?

What is the relationship between simple choices and procrastination?  The relationship is summarised in the title of this post – for better or worse.

And it all depends on the nature of the default option when confronting a choice.

Simple choices often have a standard, popular, normative or default option, for it is the obvious that makes the choice simple.  If the default dominates, choosing is not complicated for the choice, in a sense, has already been made.  This is usually helpful for life is too short to be spent mulling over simple, perhaps irrelevant (to your life) choices.  Of course, the default may not always be the best option (for you or others) – can you imagine the inertia this introduces into attempts at behavioural change?

When choices are delayed, the evidence indicates that people shift from the default and so the effect of procrastination reflects the quality of the default.  If the default option is objectively better, the eventual choice will be worse; conversely, the eventual choice will be better when the default is objectively worse.

And so everything depends on your assessment and/or acceptance of the default.  Serendipitously, the name of this band is ‘Default’ but it’s the title of the song that is the point:

Are you wasting your time when you delay a choice?  Only you can answer that and your answer should reflect much more than your subjective view of your default options.  There are times when simple choices are hardly simple and there are times when easy choices should be made much harder.  Naturally, there are also times when simple choices are simple, easy and correct; at these times, delay can have a real opportunity cost.

When should you choose default and when should you choose delay?  Perhaps the rule of thumb for defaults and delays is ‘for better or for worse’!  And ‘for better or for worse’ is not really a choice, it is more likely to be a decision.  Decide to find your own way – for better.