Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

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!

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.

Fooling Permits

November 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Deception, whether you apply it to yourself or you adopt it in your behaviour towards others, washes through and throughout daily life.  It is such a common occurrence that ‘tis nobler wonders whether the deception process requires regulation, perhaps through the issuing of fooling permits.  With such a permit, fooling yourself or others would be permitted under certain conditions.  Would you queue for a licence to fool?

Of course you wouldn’t – it’s a foolish idea.  But there are serious issues involved if you view ‘permits’ in the tile of this post as a verb and not a noun.

What does fooling permit?  The short answer is that fooling permits foolishness.  A display of ‘fooling’ produces (negative) consequences beyond the display itself – a ‘fooling’ incident’ can degenerate into a foolish game:

Let’s use the evidence from a recent study to illustrate how ‘fooling’ can lead to foolishness.  For once, ‘tis nobler doesn’t need to go beyond the report’s heading to make the point (emphasis added):

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors

People who took what they thought were dietary supplements expressed an intention to do less exercise, a greater intention to pursue pleasurable activities and made poorer food choices than control subjects.  The explanatory mechanism was the perceived (but illusory) invulnerability bestowed by the supplements.

Relative to the benefits of a balanced diet, there is always the chance of some ‘fooling’ to support supplements.  But the most worrying aspect of this study is that this ‘fooling’ behaviour promoted foolish behaviour; it’s as though supplements can be seen as validating an unbalanced diet and an unbalanced lifestyle.

Within the borders of the ‘fooling’, (self-) deception can be unhelpful through to upsetting and destructive.  However, ‘fooling’ need not stay within its borders and this is how the original (self-) deception creates more problems.

The question remains – who are you fooling?  Following on from this question, ‘tis nobler can now add – are you being foolish?  ‘Fooling’ does not always produce ‘foolish’ but it may be that ‘foolish’ is always preceded by fooling.  It would be foolish to ignore the effects of ‘fooling’ and it would be foolish to ignore that ‘fooling’ is a cause of foolishness.

Do foolish games come from ‘fooling’ games?

Beneath And Beyond Feeling

November 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting.  More accurately, ‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting of a painting.  To be fully truthful, it’s a painting of a painting of a painting.  No, that’s not quite right; it’s a painting of a painting of a painting of a painting.  Still not there, but it’s time to change direction otherwise we’d continue to follow the paintings of paintings deeper and deeper.

And, as you explore ever deeper, you realise that this is just like experiential learning and behavioural change; whatever way you look at it, you should always try to look beneath and beyond the immediate.  The ‘painting’ may be nice but what can be found beneath and beyond the immediate ‘painting’ represents true value and perhaps your true values.

Beneath and beyond don’t just shape what you do, they can also shape how you feel about it.  According to some recent research, beneath and beyond feelings can reach the surface without you being aware of what lies beneath and beyond.  When ‘tis nobler stresses the core principle:

What you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are,

it is important to remember that there are situations beneath and beyond the immediate situation being observed.  Why are you doing that?  Why are you feeling like that?  Answers to these questions may be partly anchored in the immediate but they are also always likely to reflect goals, attitudes and values beneath and beyond the immediate.

Beneath and beyond are measures of depth and distance that indicate where valid and enduring answers may be found.  Where will you find your whys?  Will you always find it in the obvious and immediate or will you explore beneath and beyond?

Forward Is Not Straightforward

October 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

We realise from the last post that around is not forward.  Around is around, and around is anything but forward.  Around can be a backward step in many ways, and not one of those ways is forward.

Trying to unpack ‘forward is not straightforward’ can also lead us in many directions.  One of the main reasons why forward is not straightforward is that going around is comfortable and non-threatening.  How do you break away from going around (in circles) in order to move forward?

It’s interesting that the last thing to do is often the first thing done – reduce the challenge and complexity involved in breaking away to simple catchcries and empty slogans.  If ‘just do it’ enabled people to ‘just do it’, then ‘it’ would always get done.  It’s just not that easy.  There is some general guidance from research studies that might make moving forward more straightforward (and remember, be positive, think comparative).

To move forward rather than around, realise firstly that everything is more important than it may appear, for the opportunity to move forward is ever present.  This does not mean that everything is crucial or critical; neither does it mean that you must never miss an opportunity for you will miss many, many opportunities.  But if you move forward more often because you understand that things are more important than they seem, it’s a step in the right direction!  And these steps form a pattern, and we all know how important patterns are to learning and behavioural change.

At the tipping point for moving forward, implement rather than create.  Thinking ‘on your feet’ might be all you need to decide that it’s safer to go around rather than forward.  Make symbolic changes as a means to an end; many think that symbolic change is an end in its own right for it is, after all, a change.  Real change, demonstrated by moving forward, can be made more likely by making small changes that symbolise a commitment to change.

Don’t focus on the process and ignore the occasional stumble; remember and reinforce the reason for moving forward.  You can avoid the process and the stumbles by going around but you also avoid the reason for breaking away from just going around at the same time.  Regardless of how you do it, the principle underpinning all of these strategies is a simple one:

Don’t hold back, just push things forward!

Forward does not necessarily mean straight so only you can decide whether ‘crooked’ is forward or around.  Straight or ‘crooked’, though, forward is never straightforward.  Can you get your head around that?

One Or More Changes

October 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘One or more’ changes many things.  Or one or more changes change many things.

When things change from one to more than one, things can get messy.  Then again, when things change from one to more than one, things can get highly focused, more efficient and very effective.  Was it the opening line to that less-known novel, The Tale of Two Entities’, that stated ‘’twas the best of outcomes, ‘twas the worst of outcomes’?

When you strive for the greatest good – Summum Bonum – ‘one or more’ changes many things, not least of which is perspective.  What do you do differently if you are learning or changing by yourself compared to doing the same things with others?  Is your answer ‘many things’?

Game theory demonstrates that individuals need to shift their focus away personal gain if their outcomes move from independent of others to interdependent.  They need to shift their focus from competition to cooperation for, if everyone tries to win, ultimately everyone loses.  Cooperation makes even more sense when you take into account how much worse people perceive losses relative to gains.

If you are not ‘flying solo’, you optimise your returns when you cooperate for win/win outcomes become possible.  Compete with yourself and cooperate with others.  ‘Flying solo’ allows you to be selfish – just concerned with yourself – while ‘flying in formation’ requires you to become less selfish.

Some recent research has suggested that this shift can go even further in certain conditions.  Rather than just being less selfish, individuals can behave selflessly to ensure group aims are achieved.  They sacrifice more of their personal entitlement when their group is competing with others – a classic example of putting the team before themselves – and trying to achieve the very best results.  With all (competing) groups trying to achieve the very best result possible, everybody wins and wins more than they otherwise would!

Within your groups, it can be a case of ‘war’ or it can be a case of ‘no more trouble’:

How you do decide between selfish, less selfish and selfless?  Depending on the circumstances, each of these can produce positive returns.  Applied inappropriately, however, everybody might lose.

You cannot win all the time.  You shouldn’t try to win all the time.  And sometimes you shouldn’t try to win at all.  Being your best is always available (and need not involve ‘winning’) while, for most of us, trying to be the best is the best way to fail.

Appearing Frozen

October 17th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Learning and change can be great fun, producing memorable experiences that just seem to flow.  But these don’t last forever.

Learning and change can be real ordeals, producing difficult periods that you just can’t seem to shake.  But these don’t last forever.

Between the fun times and the ordeals, learning and change can just be!  They remain a part of your day to day life, even though they may be swamped by apparently more pressing matters.

How should you treat the highs?  How should you cope with the lows?  And how should you persevere when you are in the much, much larger ‘space’ between them?  There is much guidance on overcoming procrastination and much assistance on perseverance – much of which you can find by browsing these archives or exploring elsewhere.  None of this information has real meaning unless you derive it personally.  Without this investment of effort, just empty words remain.

Learning isn’t consistent, progress isn’t linear, change isn’t guaranteed and perseverance isn’t unchanging.  While there will be times when you feel like you’re making great progress, it’s probably more likely that you’ll be feeling as though there’s nothing left to learn (which is wrong because you’ll continue to improve for many years).  It’s a rollercoaster ride – sometimes you roll along, sometimes you coast and sometimes you struggle to cope because it’s a rollercoaster.  All the time, however, you are riding.

Even when you don’t think you are in ‘the game’, you ARE in ‘the game’.

Still, there will be many times when you’re going to feel as though you are frozen, something which (you and) others may not understand.  But, when you unfreeze, just look at the response!

At different times, actions, learning, motivation and progress can appear frozen.  Learning and change should not be icy.  Instead, learning and change should always aim to be ‘I See’. Think of effort as the great defroster! Think of what will get you moving again!

Zero Addition

October 14th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

That’s right – zero addition.  If ‘tis nobler stopped writing right now, what would your reaction be?  If there’s nothing to add, that might be a minor concern.  What if ‘tis nobler put things in reverse – add to nothing instead of nothing to add?

‘Add to nothing’ can have much more serious implications for learning and change.  For when things add to nothing, it’s a zero-sum game.

A zero-sum game is one in which the gains and losses cancel each other out – for you to win a little bit, somebody else has to lose a little bit (check out the Prisoner’s Dilemma).  When everything is added up, they sum to nothing, a sum that is something even though it is nothing.  By definition, these are conflict games.

In your experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, it might be helpful to think of yourself as being in a competition and not a contest.  You are a competitor and not a contestant who, by definition, contests things.  If this distinction is too fine, it becomes clearer when you recognise that you are only competing with yourself.  There is no competition with others.

What does competing with yourself, rather than contesting issues with others, mean?  You might conclude that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it …… and that’s a great example:

Compete with yourself, co-operate with others.  The advantages are clear, so clear in fact that reaching this conclusion is a ‘no contest’.  Be positive, operate beyond zero.

“Operate beyond zero’ has been a theme of this week; “operate beyond zero” is never a theme of the weak!

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.

I Believe I Know

September 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeply, Durably, Highly

September 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think deeply, commit durably, aspire highly!


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?

Affecting History

August 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

They say history is written by the winners, which makes some sense.  Those who attain (or regain) power are in a position to define, or perhaps rewrite, past events to suit their current needs.  They have the capacity to say ‘This is what really happened’, even if it didn’t.  Of course, it’s an ongoing and dynamic process. In ‘The Changing Of The Reasons’, ‘tis nobler referred to evidence that indicated that our reasoning in support of our actions is unstable over time; yesterday’s reason might not apply today and today’s reason might be changed tomorrow.  Combined with the hindsight bias – past uncertainty is dismissed for the result was ‘never in doubt’ -, history is affected by the winners in many ways.

Of course, winning allows the winners to hide their mistakes, sanitising the past so that they appear in the strongest possible light.  Errors of omission (things they should have done but didn’t) and errors of commission (things they did that they should not have) are removed, leaving an impressive but misleading track record.

They say winners are grinners, which also makes some sense.  Personal achievement warrants celebration although the exaggerated triumphalism that accompanies relatively modest results can be annoying.  Still, success produces smiles!

What does it mean if you try to combine the rewriting and the grinning?  Is there a relationship between changing the past and enjoying the present?  What is the relationship between predictions of the future and affect?  For emotional measures, recent evidence suggests the relationship takes this form:

We are inaccurate in predicting how we will feel after an action or event takes place.

We are revisionary in that we alter our past predictions to accord with our current emotional state.

There can be an emotional dimension to many of the decisions we make – doing this will make me feel good or better.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether these findings encourage you to either place more emphasis on other decision making factors or downplay the role of your anticipated feelings as a reason for acting.  Welcome (yet again) to the labyrinth.

If you knew how you were going to feel, would you be happier?

This is yet another example of how our current version of the past is modified by current experience.  Time can be both a coin and a sword – it can have two sides or be double-edged.  Think about this when you use the way you think you’re going to feel in the future, once you have done what you have decided to do.  Your predictions are most likely wrong and you’ll rewrite the past to cover this up.

The anticipation of affect affects what you do but this does seem unreliable.  How else would you act if using (future) affect as a criterion was history?  That’s something to think about right now, for past, present and future feelings are linked in ways that you may not expect.

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!

No Mountain High Enough, Except ……

July 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Nothing will stop me from getting there!  You know there ain’t no mountain high enough:

There ain’t no valley low enough.  There ain’t no river wide enough.  To keep me from getting to you …..

So, why is ‘except’ in the title of this post?  Won’t determination and application prevail over the highest of mountains, the lowest of valleys and the widest of rivers?  Nothing is going to stop you from achieving your goals.  Nothing, absolutely nothing at all.

Except, perhaps,  if someone else gets there first.  Most people might consider the achievements of others to represent an incentive for them to continue their pursuit of the same goal – if they can do it, so can I.  It reinforces the reality of achievement for it’s no longer an abstract possibility.  ‘Can anyone do this?’ is no longer a question for you have direct evidence that ‘they’ can do it.  And, if they can do it, surely it makes you more motivated to reach the goal they have already attained.

This sounds reasonable, it makes sense – except for the evidence that being a witness to the achievements of others can be deflating rather than uplifting.  Instead of ‘if they can do it then so can I’, research has shown the consequence to be more like ‘they have done it so I can stop trying now’.

Sharing the limelight that shines on others as a result of their efforts is not just pointless, it can be counterproductive.  Their achievements are not yours, their ‘limelight’ doesn’t shine on you and their efforts do not mean that your efforts can cease.

What does achievement mean to you?


July 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In many children’s pantomimes, there is often a part where the leading character is being stalked by a ‘baddie’.  At these times, it is mandatory for the audience to shout “He’s behind you” as loud as they can, and then the merriment ensues.  But what happens when you’re behind?  What happens when you’re losing?

Research guidance on this question revolves around momentum, force, motivation and self-belief.  Let’s first think about the concept of momentum, which is the product of a body’s mass and rate of movement.  The bigger ‘you’ are and/or the faster ‘you’ are moving, the more momentum ‘you’ have.  The law of conservation of linear momentum says that momentum doesn’t change unless acted on by outside forces.  Sometimes, momentum appears unstoppable but only because the force needed to change or stop it is not available.

Now think of motivation as a force, something that can be applied to alter momentum.  In this sense, motivation is not an absolute force – applied at the same level regardless of circumstances.  Think of this motivation in relative terms, for it does relate to both ‘distance’ and self-belief.  The smaller the gap and/or the stronger the self-belief, the more likely you are to be successful in altering momentum to your advantage.  Losing by a small margin yet believing that you are capable of overcoming the deficit produces a higher than expected rate of ultimate success.

The Aimee Mann song ‘Momentum’ captures this well when she sings:

But I can’t confront the doubts I have

I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad

And so, for the sake of momentum

I’m condemning the future to death

So it can match the past.

Events and outcomes will match the past if you make little or no effort to change them.  And changing momentum requires the application of motivational force that, in turn, requires self-belief.  Self-belief can be sustained when hope remains intact; a small gap can fuel hope and nurture self-belief.

Momentum can always be shifted by the appropriate force.  The ongoing challenge is to keep the motivation to achieve this alive by ensuring the required force remains within manageable limits.  May the force to shift momentum be with you!

Constant Mess

June 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Today’s post is more than a game of connecting the dots, it’s a search for understanding what these dots mean for your learning and change efforts.  There’s an initial hint – it’s more about the constant than it is about the mess.  Firstly, let’s hear from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Secondly, let’s hear from The Pet Shop Boys:

And then turn the title around – “What do I deserve for what I’ve done?”

Thirdly, think through the saying ‘Winning Isn’t Everything’, particularly as it relates to the way you ‘play the game’.  When you do, including all sorts of concepts such as self efficacy, motivation, engagement and success into your musings, it might be useful to know that the evidence for the relationship between ‘getting’ and ‘deserving’ supports many interpretations.  For example, self efficacy has been shown to be an important predictor of enjoyment; at the same time, enjoyment has been shown to be an important predictor of self efficacy.  Engagement can be both a cause and an effect.  You will sometimes be motivated by reasoned action and you will sometimes act on the basis of motivated reasoning.  It’s getting very messy.

Perhaps this is a Gordian Knot problem, requiring a ‘Great’ solution.  Rather than trying to disentangle the messiness, it might be better to realise that explaining this messiness, like so many other aspects of experiential learning, is subordinate to the one constant that always applies and that is your effort.

Unfortunately, effort itself can get messy and highly variable, but only if you allow it to become so.  Effort can be independent of time, place and situation.  Effort can determine if you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get.

It’s not a constant mess, for systematic effort will refine your operating systems.  Without the constant, though, things will remain a mess.  And it’s a constant struggle to overcome the mess for ‘Everyone wants better.  No one wants change’.

Where’s The Zone?

June 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is wondering whether you’ve ever experienced being ‘in the zone’.  If you have, directions would be appreciated.  Where exactly is this ‘zone’ that people keep talking about?  It appears to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time for you can be in it and then out of it in the blink of an eye.  It’s one of those strange places that you are unaware of entering, aware of while you hang around and always sorry when you apparently depart.

It must be a special place, an exclusive place, a highly sought after location.  You have to be invited but you have no idea what form this invitation takes.  Still, you are always excited to be there, for you can do no wrong while there.  Things just ‘click’ – being in this zone is error-free and empowering.  You never want to leave but you always have to go.

This ‘zone’ is a very special place indeed.  Everybody knows it, everybody aspires to it and everybody hopes that at this time, during this game or in this performance, they’ll enter the zone.  The zone is a special place.

But it doesn’t exist.

To be clear, there’s no supporting (empirical) evidence from a number of well-designed studies, although many will still attest to the zone’s existence.

If you flip a (fair) coin four times and it comes down ‘Heads’ on each occasion, is this ‘being in the zone’?  Are you an expert coin flipper or just an average coin tosser who’s on a ‘streak’?  The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no (although there is some evidence that it seems possible to ‘game’ coin tossing through extensive practice) for what is observed is improbable (relative to other outcomes) but not unknown.  It’s not a ‘streak’; rather it’s just one short-term version of a larger, 50/50 pattern.

Being ‘in the zone’ is the opposite of the gambler’s fallacy, in which a perceived dependence is established between independent events.  Rather than relying on non-existent dependencies between events, this video emphasises the value of effort to improve each event – if you watch to the end, you’ll realise that Sherwin Williams is not the name of the boxer 🙂

One way to avoid becoming unstoppable is to hope for the appearance of dependencies, for they will convince you that you can enter ‘the zone’ rather than invest and sustain the required effort. If you establish dependencies between independent events and then use them as an explanation for your performance, you might also be delegating responsibility for your performance to these dependencies, to being in the ‘zone’.  Are you using dependencies as both invalid explanations and poor excuses in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts?

How Slippery?

June 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Split Enz sang that they had ‘just spent six months in a leaky boat, looking just to keep afloat’.  Many people spend a lot of time pursuing goals; this pursuit also ‘leaks’ and you have to keep looking (at what you’re doing) to stay on track.

Deviations from the pursuit may last seconds, minutes, days or forever.  You may get back on track very quickly, you might have to work your way back after a significant departure or you might elect to follow another path (something which can be healthy and positive.  It may be that you spend little time on track during the pursuit for you slither and slide from one side to the other in an erratic fashion – too far off to one side, overshoot the track when trying to get back and go off to the other side and so this cycle continues.  If you are trying to control your behaviour through ‘mind control’ alone, things will probably only get worse!

It is reasonable to expect that minor or transient behavioural deviations will occur as nobody is perfect.  The worrying aspect of these little ‘blips’ is that they can turn into bigger ‘BLIPS’, aggravating further, larger deviations rather than initiating a ‘return to normal’.  As April Lavigne sings, “All my life I’ve been good, but now I’m thinking – What the hell”.  If you substitute ‘diet’, ‘exercise’, ‘practice’ or ‘study’ for ‘life’,  you can find yourself confronting the ‘what the hell’ effect:

However, it is equally possible for these little ‘blips’ to trigger compensatory behaviour and a renewed focus on goal attainment.  The evidence for ‘little blip’ effects is contradictory, with empirical support available for both (diametrically opposed) outcomes.  This is understandable when you consider the range of situations, activities, motives and personalities that interact to produce either outcome at different times.

Sometimes, it really is ‘What the hell, why not?’; at other times, it can be ‘What the hell am I doing?’  It is essential to remember that reliable does not mean robotic.  There will be diversions and deviations along the way, for no journey is entirely smooth and straight but this never means that the journey has come to an end.  Self management involves enjoying the highs and coping with the hiccups in order to continue the journey in the right direction.

Experiential learning and behavioural change can be a slippery slope at times; sliding back seems easier than holding your ground.  It’s your journey – you set the direction, you define the next destination and, at all times, you determine how slippery the slope actually is.

Distance Between Strategy, Motivation And Excuse

May 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A constant theme in ‘tis nobler posts is that of the learning journey, a journey that, for it to be effective, efficient and durable, demands that you must find your own way. Not surprisingly, then, ‘distance’ has featured prominently. It was used as a metaphor for progress and as an important self control strategy (here and here).

The use of ‘distance’ is a way to gain insights into your own behaviour and the ‘distance’ that still lies ahead improves goal adherence. It has also been used to dismiss decision making styles as a helpful framework.

‘tis nobler has covered quite a, um, distance in exploring the concept of ‘distance’, which is central to construal level theory. But that’s another story, a story for, shall we say, further down the track.

There is some recent evidence that ‘social distancing’ – the interpersonal rather than the intrapersonal ‘distance’ or greater interpersonal ‘distances’ (between strangers and friends) – can also assist problem solving and creativity. Add these to the list of ‘distance’ beneficiaries listed above and dealing with the ‘concrete’ – the directly and immediately personal – seems to be on shaky ground. Abstraction can assist, if only because it removes a number of personal distractions that would otherwise apply.  In this song by Brandon Heath, he sings:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the once forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

It doesn’t really matter whether it is ‘Your’ (as intended) or ‘your’ in this chorus, the principle remains. Using ‘distance’ can help in many ways, ways that lead to breakthroughs, solutions and actions.

‘tis nobler wonders whether a ‘distance’ strategy (using the abstract to solve the concrete) gradually evolves into a ‘distance’ motivation (motivated more by the abstract than the concrete) and eventually into a ‘distance’ excuse of only being interested in the abstract. Finding ways to understand the personally concrete is fantastic, using one of these ways as an excuse for avoiding the concrete much, much less so.

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?