Posts Tagged ‘intention’

Would I Lie To You?

November 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

One aim of experiential learning is to make sense of the world around you.  Armed with this understanding, you are better able to cope with the ‘usually usual’ and its variations.  Sense comprises a number of dimensions – good/bad, valid/invalid, possible/impossible, right/wrong, expected/unexpected and many more.

It is not application of these polar extremes within a given situation that enables you to manage effectively but your ability, developed through extensive experience, to discern and act on all of the subtleties that may appear between them.  Being able to appreciate the rich detail between these poles, the many shades of grey rather than just black and white, is an indicator of expertise.

Today’s post focuses on another dimension – true/untrue.  There is self deception, something that ‘tis nobler has written about here and here; let’s look at social deception in this post.  There are various guides to language, both verbal and body, that present indicators of deception.  These indicators are similar to the ‘poles’ of sense, perhaps helpful at a general level but rarely relevant at the specific level.  Deception interacts with intention to make the implausible plausible and the unreasonable reasonable.  This is absolutely true – if you don’t believe ‘tis nobler, believe The Eurythmics:

Do people lie to you?  Of course they do, for communication is not restricted to a neutral process of information transmission.  There are no ‘one size fits all situations’ recipes – life is not that neat and predictable.  There is, however, some evidence-based guidance that is summarised below; be warned, some of this guidance is drawn from the literature and some of it is concocted.  How and why will you establish the difference for therein lies the real value in this message?

Those seeking to deceive:

Say as little as possible to avoid tripping up.  Or do they hide their deception by speaking a lot?

Justify what they are saying while saying it.  Or do they fail to provide a justification?

Pay close attention to your reactions as they speak.  Or do they pay little attention to the reception of their story?

Will speak faster as the story unfolds. Or do they speak slower to make sure they remain consistent?

The statements are correct.  Or are the questions correct?  Perhaps some statements and some questions are true.  Confronting the need to discern truth from untruth is an ongoing challenge as part of your mission to make sense of the world.  It is unlikely you will encounter the logical absurdity of the Liar’s Paradox; it is much more likely that you will need to resolve issues on a relative basis.

And in a relative, probabilistic and imperfect world, the one thing you can always apply to this task is effort.  Would ‘tis nobler lie to you?

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.

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.

Break Up Or Down

August 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Goals are funny things if you stop to think about them, not that many people do.  Goals are usually and blindly accepted as good things:

People often assume that having goals is a good thing, and it is.  People often assume that these goals are a source of motivation, and they might be.  People often assume that a fixed attachment to their goals is both required and desirable and they are wrong.  Goals are an end, but they can also end the means, yet another behavioural paradox!

Goals aren’t neutral, defining an end and then waiting passively on the sidelines for you to act accordingly in order to arrive.  For as long as they exist, they will have an influence and you must decide, actively and continually, whether this influence is positive or negative at any point.  In the post linked above, tis nobler stated:

If you see your future as fixed, you are less likely to arrive there.

And if you imagine that this future is positive, you are also less likely to arrive there – you should expect the positive and imagine the negative!  Reasonable (in size and probability) expectations of success can direct your efforts towards goal achievement; in contrast, low expectations of success can see you heading somewhere else (which is not necessarily a bad thing if you think it through. It’s healthy to think of ‘failure’ as delayed success).

Now, here’s another finding to throw into the decision making mix – there are benefits in breaking goals down and breaking goals up.  The direction doesn’t matter as either direction can keep you heading in the right direction.  Reframing goals into more easily digested, bite-sized pieces is the key. ‘tis nobler isn’t talking about global goals that can be fixed, fuzzy and forever out of reach; ‘tis nobler is talking about concrete, shorter term goals that affect the next few months or a year or so.  These goals – think of weight loss as the example – require regular effort.

Framing a commitment as ‘3 hours per week’ seems less likely to be sustained than its reframed version of ‘less than half an hour a day’.  It just appears easier and effort is maintained when things are a little easier:

Making things seem a little easier is not the same as making things easier.  Perception is the issue, not effort.  Making things seem a little easier is NOT avoiding the harder stuff; it’s a way of making the harder stuff more likely to occur.  You can construct a better future by deconstructing your goals, and you can do this without altering them. How easy is that?

Wearing You Down Weakly

August 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

From previous ‘tis nobler posts, you are aware that self control – an important component of self management – can be affected by a range of factors.  If you browse the archives, you’ll find posts on the self control benefits of psychological distance (the greater the ‘distance’, the better the self control), the self control trap that is the restraint bias (you’re not as ‘strong’ as you think you are so don’t challenge your self control by seeking temptations), the connection between self control and procrastination (more self control = less procrastination) and the benefits of exaggerating the threat that temptations pose (called counteractive construal):

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?

And this last issue – exaggerating the threat of temptations – introduces the additional concept of strength.  Given all of the interacting elements, how does the strength of a temptation – weak or strong – affect your ability to maintain self control?

By definition, you would expect strong temptations to pose a greater challenge to self control; after all, one of the ways to interpret strong temptations is that they are much harder to resist.  Almost irresistible must mean frequent loss of control – how can you resist when the temptation is almost overpowering?  On the other hand, weak temptations should be more like water off a duck’s back.

However, the evidence reverses these expectations, with a series of studies indicating that weak temptations represent a greater threat to self control.  The explanation is that, effectively, insidious beats irresistible in the self control challenge.  It is true that ‘every little bit hurts’ but because there are so many more ‘little bits’ or weak temptations, their individual and aggregate effect is to undermine self control much more than the infrequent but much stronger temptations:

The message is that you are more likely to be worn down weakly, for weak temptations (and your relative weakness for them) occur daily.  Can you see how this position is consistent with the value of ‘distance’, the operation of restraint bias and immunity through threat exaggeration?

In experiential learning and behavioural change, there are no single answers and no watertight guarantees.  For self control to be sustained, active management of complexity rather than blind faith in a simple recipe is required.

Our Problem

August 17th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler set out this morning to write a post about some new evidence on the value of self-affirmation.  As the thoughts started to coalesce, the post changed into this:

Compile a list like this in your own head: rioting, looting, assault, alienation, exclusion, hopelessness, contempt, criminality.

Compile another list in your head, this time like this: hope, inclusion, effort, respect, morality, achievement, compassion, community.

Compile a list of the (post hoc) contributions of commentators, journalists, academics and politicians, competing to have their own voice heard, as they present their assertions, opinions or dogma in the guise of explanation of recent events.  You can’t measure the gap between the rhetoric and the reality for it is incalculable.  It is an odd fact of modern life that the race to the bottom is won by those who are the shallowest.

Imagine the ways in which you can bring the first two lists closer together, eventually reducing the appearance of the first so much that it all but disappears.  The ‘talking heads’ focus on legal sanctions or constraints on technologies such as social media; a focus on (re-)affirmation of normative behaviours seems to have been barely mentioned and yet this could provide the most constructive, most durable ‘solution’.

But normative behaviours, shared values and re-affirmation are neither simple nor straightforward. In ‘That’s Wrong, I Believe’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

When there is evidence that a belief you hold is incorrect, you generally do not modify the belief; rather, you set out to protect your belief.  You will look for mistakes in the evidence, try to get other information that supports your position, attack the messenger, ignore the evidence or simply and more strongly re-affirm your belief, often with the support of those who share your view.  While there are a number of factors that will mediate your response, the principle of belief protection in the face of correct and contrary evidence is a clear and common practice.  Things may not be as different as chalk and cheese if, for whatever reason, you ‘believe’ that chalk is cheese.  It is difficult to convince you otherwise.

In ‘Able, Yet Unable’, ‘tis nobler noted:

There is evidence that the value of your learning can be sustained by your values or, to be precise, affirmation of your values.  Essentially, if people reinforce the fundamental things that are important to them, this effort can act to strengthen ‘the able’ and push ‘the unable’ away………The important thing to note is that this affirmation must be relevant at a personal level.  There is little point in saying ‘learning is important’, ‘people should have more tolerance’, ‘money is not the only motivation’ or ‘tomorrow will be better than today’.  Such sentiments often last no longer than their utterance and are almost entirely disconnected from the learning and change challenges that you are confronting.

While enormously challenging, strengthening normative behaviours is preferable to the coercive compliance model that underpins most social policies.  ‘Talking heads’ generate a clamour of contentions that may be motivated by a demand for personal attention.  And this focus on the discrete individual downplays the role of the things we have (or should have) in common, the shared norms and values that define our community by transcending the narrow legal and political frameworks.  Individual freedoms flourish within shared responsibilities, enabling you to strive to ‘win every day’:

It might be considered trite to suggest that every day is yours to win.  But we are measured as a community by the extent to which your life is yours to win.

If your life isn’t yours to win, it’s not just your problem. It’s our problem, for we are all diminished if any are left behind.

Spent Without Expending

July 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Expect And Dream’, ‘tis nobler reached this conclusion:

Expect the positive and imagine the negative!

This simple statement carries much weight for experiential learners and those pursuing behavioural change.  Unsurprisingly, the evidence indicates that positive expectations are more predictive of success than negative expectations – it’s very difficult to succeed when you have little expectation of success.  In contrast, negative imaginings of the future are more likely to lead to success than when these ‘dreams’ are positive.  Positive expectations and negative dreams push you towards success; however, positive dreams can be counterproductive, making little or no contribution to success. ‘tis nobler explained this surprising finding in this way:

It is possible for positive dreams to become an end in their own right rather than a (motivating) means to the desired end; if the positive dream is enjoyed now, it is less likely to produce goal achievement in the future.  The dream is enjoyed even though it never leads anywhere…….. Having positive expectations, supported by evidence (of effort, insight, progress, feedback etc), leads to success.  Having negative ‘dreams’, the images that the learning process will be demanding, time-consuming and extensive can also contribute to success, for they are directly connected with the evidence on which expectations are based.  Positive ‘dreams’ are unconnected with anything except your dreaming.

Now, recent research has provided an explanation for the failure of positive dreams – they sap your energy!  Dreaming of the finish line in whatever form it takes resembles having finished, with the feeling of completion accompanied by feeling physically and mentally flat.  It’s like running and finishing the race before the starter’s pistol fires – you get the exhaustion and exhilaration without the exercise.  You are spent without expending any effort.

On this basis, it’s reasonable to conclude that these guys have the most positive dreams of all:

Expect the positive and imagine the negative, for these approaches fuel enthusiasm and effort.  Just imagining the positive ensures that the positive remains in your imagination.  Imagine that, for that is a negative!


July 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The heading for Monday’s post was ‘Behind’; you might be wondering how ‘Before’ can come after ‘Behind’. Before ‘tis nobler answers this question, which would put us behind schedule, let’s explore the value of ‘before’. For ‘before’ is capable of putting you ‘ahead’, ‘before’ can stop you getting further ‘behind’. Even though ‘before’ is before ‘now’, ‘before’ can help you control ‘now’, especially if you use ‘before’ more often than every ‘now and then’.

Now then, if we want to understand ‘before’, we must realise that it’s important to not just stand there. Of course, there are many ways we could just ‘stand there’ – we could stand around, we could stand still, we could stand for it or we could stand our ground:

These lyrics from this song were very pertinent – It’s all around, Getting stronger, coming closer, Into my world, I can feel that it’s time for me to face it, Can I take it? Many think that the essence of self control is to ‘stand your ground’ and attempt to take whatever is thrown at you; while ‘tis nobler has explored the value and shortcomings of willpower previously ( see a summary here), standing your ground should never be the only way you exercise self control.

And this is where ‘before’ comes in. Rather than just standing your ground, prepare the ground in advance so that standing it is either unnecessary or easier. There is substantial evidence to support the notion of pre-commitment – taking actions beforehand that reduce the need to subsequently control other actions. Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote that experiential learning and behavioural are ever tempting:

Limiting exposure to known temptations is particularly important as people tend to overestimate the strength of their self-control, another one of those pesky cognitive biases. This overestimation is exacerbated by the fact that it is used as the basis for greater exposure to temptation. Can you guess what happens?

Decide and act on how you want to cope with temptations before they appear. Never just rely on your (weaker than you believe) ability to stand your ground. A commitment to pre-commitment will help you cope with the ‘now’ because of what you have done ‘before’. Think of this as anticipatory self control.

To assist your self control, the ‘now’ you want can be achieved by organising the ‘now’ you will confront ‘before’ it happens. Standing your ground can sometimes work but you must realise that this ground can be shaky. What can you do beforehand to make it firmer?

How Should You See The Future?

June 17th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is sure you’ve heard things like this before:

“Can you picture yourself receiving the medal?  Can you imagine the teacher giving you an A for this test?  Can you see how your life will change when you succeed?”

It’s become very popular to imagine (visualise) a desired future as a way of motivating you to achieve it.  Will the dreamers inherit their future?

Back here, ‘tis nobler explored the potential benefits of positive expectations and negative dreams as well as the potential disadvantages of positive dreams.  That post concluded with these words:

Having positive expectations, supported by evidence (of effort, insight, progress, feedback etc), leads to success.  Having negative ‘dreams’, the images that the learning process will be demanding, time-consuming and extensive can also contribute to success, for they are directly connected with the evidence on which expectations are based.  Positive ‘dreams’ are unconnected with anything except your dreaming.

Expect the positive and imagine the negative!

Let’s expand this issue a bit by adding that the means are more important than the end for expectations, visualisations and dreams – anything that conjures up images of the future.  If you focus on the end result, you focus on the destination with little regard for the journey.  With scant attention paid to how you’re going to get there, the chances are increased that you’ll fail to arrive.  You may fail to even set off, for this type of visualisation is not benignly ineffective – it can actually make matters worse.  As The Cranberries sing, you are ‘living not for the reality, it was just my imagination’:

What do you imagine happens when it’s just your imagination? As you fail to make progress, there can also be an emotional cost when your effort, plans and journey are subordinated or swamped by a dreamy pre-occupation with the outcome.  It can make you anxious when you realise that the destination doesn’t appear to be getting any closer despite your fixations on it.  You might end up wanting it more and more as time passes but more than hope is required.  As the nursery rhyme states, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Dream the process, don’t just process the dream.  Live the dream, don’t just dream the life.  Use your imagination to reinforce rather than remove the required effort.  You can’t arrive without leaving and you won’t leave if you just imagine that you’ve already arrived.

Right Or Wrong?

June 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last week was simple and easy; actually, it was about simple (that’s hardly simple) and easy (when it becomes harder).  This week is about right or wrong.

There is a moral dimension to many of the decisions you make during experiential learning and behavioural change.  Decisions are made on the basis that they are good rather than bad, right rather than wrong, appropriate rather than inappropriate or fair rather than unfair.  However, it is never as clear-cut as these dichotomies suggest for most of these decisions occupy the grey, fuzzy space between these poles (and, to mangle a metaphor, this is fitting for they are often taken in the heat of the moment).  Moral is more tropical than polar!  ‘tis nobler could also suggest that this can also make them unbearable but that would be a step too far.

The traditional view is that we follow a systematic, methodical process in making these decisions, weighing the costs and benefits and identifying the best thing to do.  There is a range of judgments and decisions in the short film ‘Insomnio’ and it gives you the impression these are (silently) assessed over a period of time until a final decision is made:

But it’s generally not a systematic process.  The evidence indicates that the process we use to reach a ‘moral’ decision is as messy and ill-defined as the content of the question over which we are musing.  ‘How am I doing it?’ is just as difficult to answer as ‘What should I be doing?’  It’s fast rather than measured and it’s frugal rather than rich in its use of available information.

And, as you would expect, the process is not immune from external influences.  A dirtier, immediate environment can see you making ‘dirtier’ decisions while cleaner surroundings can see you making ‘cleaner’ decisions.  The process can be affected by mood and situations – holding a cup of coffee in your hands can see you making ‘warmer’ judgments of others – and there is also a ‘ripple’ effect in which a motivating experience leads to ‘better’ behaviour in the short term.  You have been ‘primed’ to act more morally.

When you consider this ‘moral decision maelstrom’, you appreciate how challenging it is to be consistent in the frequent decisions that you must make within your own ‘world’.  We rarely, and fortunately, need to confront big decisions; rather, it is the endless, little decisions that can chip away at our commitment and erode our self-management.

And this is further complicated by our lack of self awareness, of the things going on in our own head.  ‘Should I have a third chocolate biscuit?’  ‘Would it be OK for me to miss a practice session today?’  These are small questions in isolation – perhaps a messy, inconsistent approach to resolving them doesn’t matter.  But you don’t live your life as a series of discrete and independent events – your life is an aggregation of these events.

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer to any specific decision you must make but there is a better or worse pattern that emerges from the sequence of decisions you make.  This is the essence of robust and resilient self-management, indulging in occasional, minor lapses as the exceptions that prove the rule of a more positive and sustainable behavioural pattern.

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.

Intentional Protection

May 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can you remember when ‘tis nobler used lines and spaces to compare and contrast habits and skills:

Think of habits as lines and skills as spaces; habits are specific, skills are general.  Habits are towns, skills are continents …….. Lines can exist in space but there is no space in a line.  You can only move along a line; in a space, you can move in any direction you choose.  A specific situation triggers the habit whereas skills operate across situations.  Lines are static, spaces can be dynamic.  The link between situation and habit is explicit and known to the learner; skill learning is implicit in the situation, with the learner often being unaware of what is actually being learnt.

Habits can be notoriously difficult to change as habitual behaviour can be as unthinking as skilled behaviour is automatic.  It’s a deliberately ambiguous question, then: Can you intentionally protect yourself against your habits?

Intentions can influence behaviour.  Given their closer proximity to behaviour, intentions are a more reliable predictor of behaviour than attitudes or (more distant) values and achieve this by closing off (inhibiting) alternatives.  But it’s hard to rely on your good intentions ‘when your head is full of things you can’t mention ….. and you miss so much that requires attention ”:

If the connection between intentions and behaviour is imperfect, can intentions overcome the more ingrained habitual behaviours?  And the answer is ‘Yes’, for there is recent evidence that implementing intentions that are not concordant with habits can reduce the incidence of habitual behaviours (and that this is also achieved through an inhibitory mechanism).  As you should expect, the connection is again imperfect, suggesting that the road away from habits may be paved with good intentions but you might still end up heading towards them!

Even though you intend to move away from your (bad) habits, you might still act habitually because inhibition takes effort – it’s not easy being ‘single-minded’ -and this effort might not be sufficient or might be directed elsewhere.  The intention might only address one element of the habitual behaviour and is swamped by the other elements, it might be rendered impotent by your (negative) emotional state or it might sometimes just not be strong enough.  Intention is important but there are many reasons why it might not be enough.  Still, a positive intention is always a good start.

Intention is not a cure for bad habits – even when you’re attending to what you’re intending – but it is a useful tool in your self-management toolkit.  But a robust toolkit needs more than an intentions implement – how do you intend strengthening your intentions?

Too Busy?

May 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has too many things on the go.  ‘tis nobler will try to get around to it but ‘tis nobler can’t give any promises.  There aren’t enough hours in the day.   Busy, busy, busy.  Sorry, ‘tis nobler hasn’t started on that either yet.  ‘tis nobler has been meaning to do that for a while but, well, you know how things are.

Things are busy.  And things don’t get done, which is understandable given how busy things are.  Has ‘tis nobler mentioned how busy things are?  Yes?  ‘tis nobler must have been too busy to notice mentioning how busy things are.

Is there a better excuse for not doing things than ‘being busy’?  Everybody understands it, everybody experiences it, everybody usually accepts it.  Not doing things because you are too busy seems reasonable, except that the evidence suggests that you should be unable to use ‘being busy’ as a reason.  And thus it reduces to just another excuse, one of many avoidance strategies.

While the evidence comes from school settings, it indicated that those who started assignments earlier performed better than those who delayed.  More interestingly, it suggested that those who were busier started earlier.  Perhaps, most of the time, ‘too busy’ is a convenient misrepresentation.  In ‘Many the miles’, Sara Bareilles sings that there are ‘too many things I haven’t done yet … can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down ….”:

Excuses can’t be abolished, only minimised; forgiving and moving on is much better than festering and staying stuck.  In ‘Forgiving’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Putting a missed opportunity behind you by forgiving yourself for missing it and focussing fully on acting on the next opportunity is a way to both overcome procrastination and improve subsequent performance through better preparation.  Alexander Pope wrote:

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Respectfully, ‘tis nobler writes:

To err while learning is human and to procrastinate is commonplace, to practise and to forgive yourself for not practising reduces both error and procrastination and that’s divine.

Regardless of what you do, you’ll have your reasons, even if these reasons are nothing more than excuses.  Except for the times when you really are too busy, you are never too busy.  Can you recognise the difference between too busy and ‘too busy’, between reasons and excuses?  You’re not too busy to start thinking this through right now!

Able Yet Unable

May 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s too narrow to think that experiential learning is about the development of ability.  For many life skills, those learned and refined through experience, ability is often much less important than other factors that affect your specific performance and your general behaviour.

Many are ‘able yet unable’ – they have the ability to do something and yet they are actually unable to do it consistently.  Sometimes ‘ the unable’ is produced by doubts, sometimes it’s produced by decisions and at other times it’s produced by distractions.  What else is capable of producing ‘the unable’ in your performance?

And so a way (of many possible ways) must be found to reproduce the value of your learning and keep ‘the unable’ at bay.  There is evidence that the value of your learning can be sustained by your values or, to be precise, affirmation of your values.  Essentially, if people reinforce the fundamental things that are important to them, this effort can act to strengthen ‘the able’ and push ‘the unable’ away.

The important thing to note is that this affirmation must be relevant at a personal level.  There is little point in saying ‘learning is important’, ‘people should have more tolerance’, ‘money is not the only motivation’ or ‘tomorrow will be better than today’.  Such sentiments often last no longer than their utterance and are almost entirely disconnected from the learning and change challenges that you are confronting.  This is why, when you want to stand strong, ‘tis nobler has changed the lyrics in this Wendy Matthews song:

“I’ll pick myself up, and turn myself ‘round

I’ll leave myself standing strong on solid ground

To save myself from these, these shifting sands

To join the Earth right here where I stand”

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It might seem strange to say but ‘able’ is not always necessary to be ‘able’, and the clue that ’tis nobler will provide is that the explanation can be found in self-management practices.  Whether it is or isn’t necessary, ‘able’ is never sufficient; the social proof for this is found in the many examples of ‘able yet unable’ that you encounter on a daily basis.

Whenever ‘the unable’ looms into view, remind yourself that value can be protected by values.  Stand strong and find your own way.



March 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What?  What’s Oobleck?

Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid.

What?  What’s a new non-tonian thingy?

Oobleck is a mixture of cornflour and water, a mixture that is both a liquid and a solid at the same time.  While other materials are either one or the other, depending on temperature and pressure, oobleck can be both at the same time, depending on force.  This video probably explains it better:

Many things can appear to be fixed and unchanging, including the limits we place on ourselves or, for that matter, the limits that are imposed on us by others.  And these limits are reinforced through framing, feedback or (initial) failure.  Whatever ‘it’ is, you may soon decide that ‘it’ is not meant to be, that you are unable to do ‘it’ or that ‘it’ is only for those who are smarter, quicker or better than you.

When things are fixed, we say that they are written in stone.  But, in experiential learning and behavioural change, it might be more appropriate to think that everything is written in oobleck.  To change oobleck from the liquid it appears to be takes one thing and one thing alone – effort.  Stop and you sink; try and you can change things.  Success, however defined, depends on you moving forward rather than standing still.

There is evidence that demonstrates the positive effects that flow from believing that limits are variable rather than fixed.  You will never move forward if you think that you have gone as far as you are able.  Self-fulfilling prophesies stem from a belief that subjective limits are objective realities.

There are limits but they are always beyond the limits you might accept.  Put your learning on a firmer footing – change your own ooblecks through your own efforts.

While Or Instead?

March 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Happy’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Can you be effective when affective?  Obviously, it is a matter of degree (in a similar way to arousal) – too much or too little and performance suffers.  But being happy could be viewed as a desirable precondition for learning.  Experiential learning can have a social dimension – learning with others – and research has shown that learners who are happy extract more value from their situation than those who are annoyed or frustrated.  Interestingly, being on the ‘same affective page’ – either all happy or all annoyed – can enhance the learning experience (defined as information transfer).  Still, as a general rule, it is better to be content than congruent!

So, as a general rule, whistle while you work:

But be careful that you don’t whistle instead of work.  It is important to view happiness as an end – after all, everyone aspires and deserves to be happy – but it must also, and simultaneously, be viewed as a means.  In a large study investigating the relationship between positive affect and college success, the inferred difference between while and instead appears stark:

Instead is positively associated with self-reported measures of success – feeling good just by itself creates higher self-assessments of success, but:

Instead is negatively associated with objective measures of success – feeling good just by itself produces lower levels of performance.

You will feel better if you whistle instead of work, and you’ll believe that you are doing better as well.  The first may be usually true but the second rarely is.  The challenge is to multi-task by replacing instead with while.  Whistling and working is more effective than whistling rather than working!

Whistle while you work.  If you feel you can do both, It may be the best way to both feel and do better.

Compared To What?

March 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A glorious future awaits – a future where we are happier, more fulfilled, better paid, healthier and more successful.  We just have to work out how to get there.  Once we arrive, it’s going to be great.  Tomorrow never comes fast enough, in part because the tomorrow we really want constantly recedes.  Unless we act.

If you are trying to realise a goal – trying to make it real – what should you do?  Dee Dee Bridgewater drops a hint in this song:

The hint is the use of comparisons.  But, as you may have come to expect as you explore the various elements of experiential learning and behavioural change, the comparisons are not necessarily simple and neither are they ever simple comparisons, for there is a difference.

If you just focus on the goal-achieved future, you may never get there.  Then again, if you just focus on your current situation, you may never leave.  There is evidence that a key to commitment and achievement of goals is in the active contrast of today and tomorrow – where you are and where you want to be.  If you’re trying to make it real, this answers the ‘Compared to what’ question.  Compare and contrast the now with the soon to be, the present with the future.

But wait, there’s more, otherwise this could just be another exercise in despair as the contrast is too stark, the gap too wide.  The contrast process is a two-way street controlled by the ‘success expectations’ police who direct traffic one way or the other.

They’ll direct it towards the goal if, and only if, the contrast process is fuelled by reasonable expectations of success.  In these circumstances, the contrast strengthens commitment and initiates the effort.  You can see where you are, you know where you want to be and you believe you can get there.  And so off you go.

They’ll direct it away from the goal if expectations of success are low or lacking.  This contrast procedure need not be negative for it can direct you towards other goals rather than just leave you in a vacuum.  And so off you go, heading to elsewhere.

Both directions have a desirable destination that is defined by you.  All that the contrast process does is assist you in determining your direction of travel.  Without contrast, you may never arrive or you may never leave.

Hoping, It’s Never Enough

January 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It was a Pope who said that hope springs eternal, the same Pope who was quoted in the ‘tis nobler post ‘Forgiving’. 

This Pope may have been clement, but he wasn’t Clement.  This Pope may have been innocent, but he wasn’t Innocent.  This Pope may have been urbane or pious, but he had too many letters to have been Urban or Pius.  And this is strange, for he was a man of letters.  This Pope was Alexander, and he was a Pope by name, not by office.

Hope springs eternal, and that is a good thing.  But the fact that hope springs eternal can also have a downside.  And this downside is when action is confined to hoping rather than being transferred to the doing.  You can hope for all eternity, yet your life can be eternally unchanging.  Hope is a starting point, not a destination.  Hope is a means, not an end.

Of course, this doesn’t stop us from committing to hopes as though this is the same as committing to action.  The best example of this may be resolutions, particularly around the New Year.  We resolve to change many aspects of our lives but our resolution to accomplish our resolutions is often less than resolute.  And, naturally, nothing is resolved for this is another of the (countless) examples of False Hope Syndrome.

Listen to the lyrics of ‘Hope’ by R.E.M. –

“You want to climb the ladder,

You want to see forever …


And you’re looking for salvation,

And you’re looking for deliverance ….


You want to go forever …”

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You will never climb the ladder just by hoping to climb it.  You might want, really want, to go forever but unless you get going, you will never leave.

And you’re looking for deliverance, but deliverance is never delivered.  You have to do more than hope.

If you are hoping to learn experientially, you must first learn that hoping to learn may be necessary but it is always insufficient.  Effort is essential.

Even Though You Know

November 10th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It works, you know.  Even though you know, it still works.  It works despite what you might think.  Even though I know that you know, I still do it.  Why would I continue to do it, even though I know that you know?

Because, even though you know, it works!  You, dear reader, are so clever and charming that you probably already know what ‘it’ is.  Do you know?  Wow, you are truly awesome!

It is, of course, flattery.  Even when the flattery is delivered by a stranger as part of a commercial transaction, it can still apparently have an effect:

Why isn’t this stuff dismissed out of hand?  While our initial and immediate reaction might be positive (after all, who doesn’t like being described as a discerning buyer, a person with impeccable taste, a talented musician or an expert driver?), it doesn’t take long for us to place these comments in perspective.  We recognise that these comments are strategic, that they are designed for purposes of persuasion, that they are designed to achieve a particular goal (which might be for us to purchase something, agree to something or to do something that we might not otherwise do).

While perspective is introduced, flattery is never dismissed; it is simply discounted.  Discounting may be marginal or significant but part of our positive reaction always remains.  You won’t believe everything you’re being told; neither will you believe nothing of what you’re being told.  And, because it has an effect, this is why you will be flattered by others.  Even though you know it is purposeful flattery, it will still affect you.  It’s the tension between the implicit (perhaps I am like you‘re saying) and the explicit (I’m not sure I can trust a word you say).

Of course, flattery can be well-intentioned and designed to motivate – that was a great session, you are doing really well, I’ve never had anybody make as much progress as you have.  How do you distinguish between insincere flattery and constructive feedback?

The answer to this question is that, along with everything else, you must work it out yourself.  It’s your journey and this is yet another type of decision you must make along the way.

This Too Shall Pass

November 5th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Let’s start with a great music video from the always inventive, always entertaining OK Go (’tis nobler used a different video of this song in the Do Or Blue post):

As a sentiment, ‘This Too Shall Pass’ is an important thing to remember, for there are pitfalls, obstacles and flat periods in any learning journey.  When immersed in them, when it seems impossible to free yourself from their quicksand, you just have to remind yourself that ‘this too shall pass’.

One of the difficulties in maintaining this perspective is that it requires willpower.  Persisting is not necessarily a persistent trait.  And everybody feels as though circumstances will eventually wear them down, that continued struggle is pointless.  “It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I just can’t get it” is a common catchcry amongst experiential learners.  “I feel like giving up for I’m just wasting my time” is another.  “I should have known that I’m not good enough to do this” is yet another, and perhaps the most distressing.

All of this is based on the traditional view that willpower is a finite resource that eventually runs out.  The only way to get it back is to take a break and return refreshed.  Just as there is a limit to the number of push-ups you can do at any one time, there is a limit to the amount of willpower you can apply.  But some recent research suggests that this may not be the case and that, perhaps, the limits to willpower are believed (or learned) rather than actual.  What changes if you realise that limited willpower is a self-fulfilling prophesy rather than a fact?  Are you able to turn this around by learning that your willpower is not limited, that it is possible to keep going and going?

Willpower might be a victim of context, willpower might be a slave to your experience and losing willpower might be a product of prior learning.  And while this prior learning is ‘muddied’ by all sorts of other factors, it is easier to conclude that willpower runs out rather than accept alternative explanations.

It is one thing to have the willpower, it is another to know or believe that you have it.  Which ‘will’ will you have – the sort that apparently runs out or the sort that you know allows to persist?

This too shall pass, except when ‘this’ is willpower!