Posts Tagged ‘persistence’

Design Floors

January 18th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Look around you.  And then explore, analyse and establish.  Can you see the design floors?

A design floor is the ultimate and fundamental design flaw.  Individually, design flaws are often simple to identify and, with the right tools, rectify – at least in part.  Perfection is an asymptotic concept; striving for constant improvement will get you closer and closer without ever actually arriving.  Don’t be fooled though, design flaws can be persistent, ingrained and resistant to change.  Flawless is a nonsensical objective but ‘flaw less’ can be attained.

But the design floor might appear impossible to overcome, for it must be achieved through revolution rather than evolution.  Design floors can’t be tinkered with, they must be tossed out!  A design floor is the foundation on which a program, policy or pursuit is based, a foundation that allows certain things and constrains or eliminates other things.

Floors are low, not deep; when you think about it, floors can be viewed as a shield against the deep.  And low is close to the lowest common denominator, low is close to shallow and low is very close to face validity.  Low is about appearance rather than substance, low is about the bottom rather than the deep and the deep is the only way to get to the top.

Foundations can be strong but this needs effort, insight and persistence.  Foundations can be weak and this just requires disinterest and a willingness to tolerate the design floor; despite these weaknesses, things often keep rolling on:

It’s another fundamental choice in experiential learning and behavioural change.  Will you tolerate design floors and pretend that things are as good as they can be?  Or will you actively work to rectify design flaws and realise that things can be better than they are?

 

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.

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?

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!

Can’t Stop Now

September 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Let’s start the week with a riddle:

When does -10 equal +10?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inflammatory

September 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Trials

September 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

I lose my sense at the sight of you

The effortless way you take the worst news

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

Doesn’t have to be so hard

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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

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

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

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?

No Strings Attached

August 8th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Should I turn left or right?  Should I just keep going?  Does it make sense to backtrack for a while?  What does that mean anyway?  Where should I head next?  How do I know if I’m heading in the right direction?  Isn’t there a path I can follow?  Everything looks the same, nothing makes any sense, progress is very difficult to detect and I’m starting to wish I’d never set out.

Welcome to the labyrinthine world of experiential learning and behavioural change:

Despite many and ongoing attempts to present the learning and behavioural change ‘world’ as simple, straightforward and structured, the reality is that it’s messy.  But this doesn’t mean that it’s a mess for it is always possible to find your way and find it in a way that becomes increasingly effective and efficient.

Perhaps the most famous, yet mythical, labyrinth was that constructed by Daedalus – no bull!  Actually, there was a bull (well, that’s half right) but that’s another story.  You might like to ponder what implications Daedalus’ son’s behaviour also has for learning – his son was called Icarus – but that’s also another story.  The story to be told today concerns the way that Theseus found his way in the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur, the half man, half bull.  He used a simple ball of yarn; he overcame the labyrinth because of (his) strings attached.

Regardless of the complexity, the seeming impenetrability of Daedalus’ design, there was a simple solution.  And this is diametrically opposed to experiential learning and behavioural change, for there are no simple solutions.  ‘tis nobler suggests that acceptance of two guiding principles will ensure that you will always find your own way through each and every learning and change labyrinth:

There is no one right answer, but there can be many right answers.

Conversely, history tells us that there have been many wrong answers, but there is no reason why any particular answer should be wrong.

The only truly right answer is the one you provide to yourself through your effort and engagement; looking for others to supply it will ensure that you’ll remain lost in the labyrinth.  At any point in your journey, being ‘lost’ or confused is never an indication that you’re going the wrong way – change of direction is much, much less important than maintenance of momentum.

Just keep going and, while you never escape the learning labyrinth, many of the internal walls do disappear. Navigate the labyrinth your way, no strings attached.

 

Certainly Not Certain

July 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants you to think of someone who has acknowledged expertise. Don’t select an ‘expert’ for there are ‘experts’ everywhere; expertise is somewhat thinner on the ground. For every person with expertise, there are many others who profess to be experts. Expertise doesn’t involve doing the extraordinary – it’s about doing the ordinary competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently. Those with expertise, that is, those who have made a sustained learning effort, can recognise expertise in others for it presents as another recognisable pattern. You may not be able to explain the pattern adequately – they are just good at what they do – but you do know it when you see it.

‘Competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently’ leaves out the concept of certainty. Those with expertise must be certain in what they’re doing; after all, they have done it many times before. Surely, then, a ‘certain’ expert (c.f. an uncertain novice) would be more persuasive in communicating the ways to behave. They know because they do so well; they do so well because they know.

However, the relationship between expertise, certainty and persuasion seems more surprising. When those perceived as lacking expertise appear more certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Conversely, when those perceived as having expertise appear less certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Apparently, and sadly, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, speak with great conviction in order to persuade others; why do politicians spring to mind as an appropriate example? Alexander Pope suggested that ‘some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon’. An unshakeable belief in their own message can override the shaky foundation on which it is built.

The ‘uncertain expert’ received support from George Santayana who said that ‘the wisest mind has something yet to learn’. Can you imagine how these issues relate to your learning journey and its many features? Can you unravel and re-connect elements such as certainty, effort, (over)confidence, motivation, curiosity and perseverance?

Certainty should never be an outcome of experiential learning.  Certainty can never be a pre-condition for continued (lifelong) learning.  Nobody knows everything in a given area or specific skill, even though this is exactly what some may profess.  Everybody does know something of potential value to your own learning journey – keep your ears, eyes and minds open along the way.  Remember, however, others are describing what they do (or what they think they are doing) and description is not explanation.  Explanations are constructed from your own efforts yet, as a product of your cumulative experience, your own explanations often remain hidden from you (and are thus even further away from others).

As you know, though, there is an exception to every rule. To end this post, watch this short video; it encapsulates great expertise, total certainty and compelling persuasiveness:

Is this post persuasive? ‘tis nobler is certainly not certain – if it is, that must mean ‘tis nobler is an [complete this sentence using a noun that begins with the letter ‘E’]. 🙂

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?

Behind

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!

Simple Is Hardly Simple

June 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Mustique is a small island in the Grenadines island group, part of the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Mustique has nothing to do with this post, other than to introduce unnecessary complexity, something that skilled performers at any stage of their learning are wont to do.  Of course, something that is unnecessary for task performance may be highly desirable for the social ‘performance’ that accompanies the task – look at me, look at me!

This post is more about mystique than Mustique.  ‘tis nobler seems to recall that Mystique is the name of a perfume, which is yet again another layer of unnecessary complexity that is designed to throw you off the scent.  Mystique isn’t mystique and mystique isn’t Mystique.  Mystique both is and isn’t Mystique (it isn’t if you could begin a sentence without a capital letter).

This post is getting very complicated, a sure sign that ‘tis nobler must be clever, skilled and (possibly) very handsome in order to handle its demands.  It’s odd that, as you de-mystify performance for yourself through experiential learning, you often try to increase the mystique for others.  Is it because people favour being seen as ‘better’ rather than hard-working?  Is an explanation based on personal qualities preferable to one that proffers effort as the reason?

Continuing to complicate things as they in fact get simpler, whether through jargon, exaggerated effort (the tennis ‘grunt’ for example) or opinion, is creating a rod for your own back.  Think of your learning journey as a search for the simple.

There should be no doubt in our mind that the power of simple is significant and far-reaching.  Simple underpins efficiency and fluency in many aspects of behaviour and skilled performance – there is much evidence that ‘simple’ is seen as more intelligent, more attractive (in commercial and literary senses), more pleasurable, more effortless and less dangerous.  In many of these areas, ‘simple’ can be manufactured; in experiential learning, however, ‘simple’ must be earned.  In this early Katy Perry song, she sings:

…that it could be so simple, Life could be that simple, I wish it were just that simple

But wishing doesn’t get you to ‘simple’, effortful learning does.  And life is never that ‘simple’ but a sustained commitment to experiential learning can, and does, make it simpler.  Just remember what Einstein said:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

‘tis nobler thinks you know what is fundamentally required to make things as simple as possible.  The ongoing challenge is to avoid going straight to simplistic, a destination that is on the other side of ‘too simple’.

Aim to achieve the power of ‘simple’, recognising that getting (and staying) there is hardly simple!

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.

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 …..you 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!

A Patient Heart

March 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The very first line in the song ‘Patient Heart’  by Sean Flinn and the Royal We is:

The long road makes for a patient heart.

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And the implications of that line are the subject of this post.  What do you think it means?  These few simple words allow you to burrow down in several directions.

Regardless of other issues, the experiential learning or behavioural change road will always be long.  However, it may often be the case that the traveller on this road does not have a patient heart.  ’tis nobler suggests there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the road is not seen as long and therefore the traveller presumes that the journey will soon be over.  Why should you be patient until you arrive when you will arrive before you need to be patient?

Secondly, patience is seen as simply not required for it is presumed to be more important to travel with passion than it is to travel with patience.  But it is incorrect to assume that passion and patience are mutually exclusive; one must not preclude the other.

A recent study made the useful distinction between harmonious and obsessive passion.  The former led to a stronger focus on mastery goals, goals that are associated with deeper engagement and perseverance, and a greater commitment to deliberate practice.  When passion became obsessive, passion rather than practice became the end; avoiding failure overrode striving for mastery.  As a consequence, task performance suffered.

Excellence is never achieved through exhortation.

You may have noticed another line in ‘Patient Heart’:

You get far enough away, you’ll be back to the start.

This echoes the T S Eliot quote presented in the ‘About’ section.  Harmonious passion and patience are both required to ‘know something for the first time’.  Be passionate in the right way and be patient in many ways.  Be passionate about having a patient heart.

Day Tripper

March 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In their song ‘Day Tripper’, The Beatles sang – ‘Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out’:

You can be a day tripper in your learning and behavioural change.  You can have many good reasons, good in your eyes at least, for being a day tripper.  For many, finding the easy way out is the main purpose for looking in the first place.  If you can’t find an easy way out, what’s the point of looking?  It’s time to move on to another type of day trip, which is, in itself, the ultimate act of a day tripper.

If you can’t find an easy way out of one day trip, move on to another type of day trip that will, hopefully, have an easier way out.  After all, if you have to make an effort to find an easy way out, then it’s no longer easy.  Perhaps it’s better to withhold the effort and change the excursion.

But it’s never better and never will be.  It’s always worse.  There’s a lot of evidence that ‘day tripping’ is ineffective.  Not surprising, really, for it’s the difference between skating over the surface and diving down to explore what’s underneath.  There was a fascinating study on figure skaters several years ago.  With equivalent amounts of experience, the better skaters in the group spent almost 50% more time practising more difficult manoeuvres rather than just do the simpler things over and over again.  It all looked like practice, the quantity of experience was similar but there were significant differences in the quality of that experience.

If you are striving to succeed in anything, you must succeed in continuing to strive.

Being a day tripper may appear to have the hallmarks of a learning journey, and therein can be found the essential problem.  From the outside, others will see similarities between day trippers and explorers; others may fail to distinguish between day trippers and explorers for this distinction is not amenable to snap judgements.

It is possible to accumulate much experience (measured by time) while remaining inexperienced (measured by progress), something that ‘tis nobler will henceforth refer to as the ‘skating’ effect.

If you don’t push yourself forward, you’ll be pulled back by the comfortable inertia of your ‘yesterday’.  The contrasts are stark – shallow or deep, day tripper or explorer.  Find your own way.

Fingers Crossed

March 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Do you know what a furcula is?  It’s two specific things joined together that can be pulled apart, with the bigger piece believed to bestow good luck on the holder.  Furculas are better known as wishbones; who hasn’t set aside the wishbone from a roast chicken, let it dry out and then, with someone else, pulled it apart?  Obviously, you can only cross the fingers of the other hand in order to give an added advantage.  It would be overly theatrical to suggest that removing a drumstick is equivalent to ‘breaking a leg’ – a phrase that replaces ‘good luck’, the utterance of which is, perversely, unlucky – but you should always look for ways to pile good fortune upon luck on top of positive superstitions.  Or should you?

Even if the answer to this question is ‘Yes’, still remember that you must never, ever mention the Scottish Play

Does wearing the same underpants every time you play sport, always putting on your left shoe first, associating with chimney sweeps in England and Germany or simply wishing yourself ‘good luck’ conjure up the requested luck?  The answer is ‘No’.  Luck, or what appears to be luck, is defined as being beyond your control.

Does doing these very same things produce better performance?  The answer seems to be ‘Yes’, although perhaps the answer should be ‘Perhaps’.  Because there remains the chance that things happen through happenstance.  Still, if there is a benefit, fingers crossed that it’s real, where does it come from?

In a series of recent studies, the evidence indicated that performance benefits can be derived from ‘wishing yourself good luck’ and that these benefits are produced by enhanced perceptions of self-efficacy.  A final study demonstrated that this change in perceived efficacy is manifested in greater task persistence – you stick at it longer because you believe yourself capable of succeeding.  In a direct sense, luck has nothing to do with it.

As a result, there may be a role for superstitions in experiential learning but ONLY if you don’t subordinate your learning to luck and you don’t replace your effort with superstitions.  Superstitions can be a (modest) means to desired ends but they must never become ends in their own right:

Of course, superstitions are neither necessary nor sufficient for valid learning and better performance; there are more direct and powerful ways to enhance self-efficacy.

At least, I hope superstitions aren’t necessary.  Fingers crossed they’re not!

Milestones May Be Millstones

March 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Cotton Jones  sing these words:

C’mon baby let the river roll on.

And the title of the song is also particularly apt – ‘Somehow to keep it going’.

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In ‘Do Or Blue’, ‘tis nobler explored the evidence supporting the value of resisting idleness.

How do these statements tie together?  A common underlying theme is the value of continuing – rolling on, keeping it going, doing rather than idling.  Being engaged is better than being in neutral.

So what happens when you achieve a milestone in your learning journey?  It can and should be a time for reflection on the effort to this point and an acknowledgement of positive change, for you will have changed from something to something ‘better’.  But ‘better’ is always a relative term, so you had better continue rather than cease.

There is evidence that indicates that milestones can be millstones.  Celebrating a partial success may supplant continued learning, with the milestone becoming the end of the journey rather than just another indication of the ‘distance’ you have travelled.  A detail replaces the many details and the journey is derailed by being content to only look back.

Milestones are like doors.  You have to move in order to reach them but the purpose is never to reach them and then relax.  ‘tis nobler is sure you are aware of the real purpose of reaching the next door.

It’s to go through it, and then continue on.  If you stop at any door along the way, you’ll never know what’s on the other side.  You must always find a way to somehow keep it going!

To Do, Not To Do

February 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Aristotle said:

“What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”

Willpower and self control are recurring themes in experiential learning and behavioural change, vital building blocks in systemic performance.  But their portrayal in programs does leave a lot to be desired, often reducing to simple encouragement to ‘do better’ or ‘try harder’.  There is a great to-do about ‘to do’ and ‘not to do’.

In ‘Ends can end the means’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Learning can never be about dogmatic willpower, for what could be an exciting future will progressively narrow to a constantly receding pinpoint of light.   Don’t let your attachment to goals prevent you from reaching them!

Summary: willpower is never enough!

In ‘This too shall pass’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

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?

Summary:  limited willpower may just be in your head and it is possible for unlimited willpower to be there instead!

In ‘The manager manages the manager’ and ‘Don’t do that, d’oh’, the ineffectiveness of suppression, of thoughts and behaviour, was noted.  You always remember that which you are consciously trying to forget while just trying to stop doing something leads to you doing it more often.

Summary:  to suppress is to pretend you’re in control.

And we shouldn’t forget the issue of ‘baggage’, that there is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be.  It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here.

Luckily, we can rely on Aristotle to tie up some of the many loose ends; he said:

“For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.”

And the point of this post is that there is evidence to indicate that there is a practice effect for self-control.  Implementing self control behaviours, rather than just coping through willpower or suppressing the ‘objects of your desires’, does lead to more effective self control.

If you have to learn self control before you can control yourself, you learn self control by controlling yourself.  And if, through effortful practice, you equip yourself as well as you can, everything looks sharper, more colourful, crisper and more meaningful:

Think of self control as a skill that responds to practice rather than a practice that requires finite willpower or a strong personality.  It’s never beyond you for you just need to make the effort to learn.