Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

Will Concrete Make Us Happy?

December 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

It’s in the ocean, yeah!

Happiness is all around, happiness!

It’s in the sunlight, yeah!

Happiness is all around…  

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

Concrete is everywhere.

Happiness is all around.

Therefore, concrete IS happiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will This Make Me Happy?

December 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Naturally, ’tis nobler is flattered that you might interpret ‘this’ as this post.  But we need to think more generally.

Forecasting backwards is a contradiction in terms – how can you predict the past?  In terms of actions, the past is fixed; in terms of meaning, the past is much more flexible.  Even though you can’t change what happened, you can change its meaning – at the very least, the meaning it has for you – or you can forget that what happened did happen.  What does this have to do with happiness?

Happiness is an awkward, nebulous and (unfortunately) often ephemeral condition.  Predicting what will make us happy would be hard enough but it is made even harder because we mess up the prediction process.  And this means that it is very difficult to learn from past predictions and refine our pursuit of happiness through experiential learning.

How do you assess these lyrics in Kid Cudi’s “Happiness”?  He sings that he is:

“…on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold

I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good …..”

It’s true – the pursuit won’t be perfect and you will be fine when you get it.  But the imperfections in the pursuit will often work against you.  A series of studies indicated the nature of the prediction process and its inherent problems – ‘tis nobler will keep the details brief in order to keep you happy.  People are generally poor at predicting the happiness that will come from future events, people are poor at remembering their past predictions and people are poor at controlling the influence of how they feel during and after the event on their past predictions.

As a result, people don’t learn from the experience of past predictions and just accept that their current emotional state is what they were expecting.  In terms of predicting happiness, the present is not always a gift – you change the meaning of the past by sending the present meaning back in time.  You don’t learn anything for you think there is nothing to learn.

It’s hard to learn anything when you change the meaning of the past to conform to the present.  And you do need to learn what makes you happy.

‘tis nobler will conclude today’s post at this point.  Are you happy now?

Would I Lie To You?

November 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

Those seeking to deceive:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Damage Done

November 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a media inquiry in Australia at the moment.  Apparently, according to newspaper reports and the testimony of newspaper executives, this inquiry is completely unnecessary as Australian newspapers are perfect.  It is a vendetta orchestrated by non-newspaper people – at least that is how it is being reported in, um, some newspapers.

At the heart of this examination are balance, bias and behaviour, systemic issues that could intentionally or unintentionally present inaccurate information as news.  Still, some may think that inaccuracies – deliberate or otherwise – can be remedied with a retraction, clarification and/or apology.  Is it a case of no real damage done?

The evidence indicates that this apparently reasonable approach of retracting and correcting your mistakes is not the remedy many believe it to be.  Retractions and corrections are the equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted – they do not ‘place the horse back in the barn’, they just close the door on the original error.  When the damage is done, the damage (or parts thereof) remains ‘done’ despite efforts to undo it.

And the damage remains ‘done’ as it can resist multiple correction efforts, although stronger corrections are better but still not perfect – what is ‘done’ cannot be completely undone.   This remains the case even when corrective efforts are understood and accepted and the original error was relatively innocuous.  Complicating matters further and rendering corrective efforts even more impotent is being receptive to the original error through processes such as framing, priming or confirmation bias – if the error makes sense to you, you will resist attempts to overturn it.

Despite what Beyonce sings – I can have another you by tomorrow, so don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable – the damage done through misinformation errors is often irreplaceable:

How do you reconcile this resistance process – the continued influence effect of misinformation – with the effect that the retrieval of memories has on their content, which ‘tis nobler wrote about here?  The key message is set out below:

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

For ‘tis nobler, this underscores the importance of a systemic approach, the centrality of self management and the need to address the efficiency of interventions and not just their effectiveness.  It’s a continuing challenge to ‘connect the many dots’ on an ongoing basis in the most meaningful way you can; however, this is always better than placing your faith in fixed ‘solutions’.

How will you incorporate the message that the damage done cannot be fully undone into your learning and behavioural change efforts?  If redress is undressed for it fails to address the incorrect information expressed, what will you do to sort out the mess!

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?

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!

Faster Than You Know

September 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Trials

September 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

I lose my sense at the sight of you

The effortless way you take the worst news

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

Doesn’t have to be so hard

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

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

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

Before Connecting

August 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t You See – It’s Right

June 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Them Off

June 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Step Outside’, ‘tis nobler asked:

How do I gain insights into my own behaviour by gaining insights into the way you see me?

And then noted:

The short and incorrect answer is to put yourself in the other’s shoes.  The starting point for this leap into different footwear is the way you see yourself; you take your view of yourself and transplant it onto them.  This is where the inaccuracies emerge for research has shown that there is little or no association between my assessment of your view and your view itself.  I don’t fit into your shoes!

Don’t just put yourself in their shoes for this act simply changes your shoes.  Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

But, and it’s a very important ‘but’, this is much easier said than done for there is a lot of evidence that supports the view that we are generally inaccurate in our assessments of our own behaviour and that such assessments are positively skewed.  Wrong and too rosy is a difficult combination to overcome, in part because being accurate and honest can be confronting.

‘Know Thyself’ may be one of the more common philosophical principles and yet may be the one that is most difficult to achieve.  You might find it difficult to know others for what they do tells you more about the situation than it does about who they are.

And you will always find it difficult to know your own behaviour if you persist in wearing rose coloured glasses.  As Kelly Rowland sings:

Everything is beautiful when you’re looking through rose coloured glasses,

Everything seems amazing when you see the view through rose coloured glasses,

Take them off.

Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change.  The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed.  Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be?  Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.  If the lenses have a rosy tint, there’s just one thing you must do.

Take them off.

Self Serving Attribution

May 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Things didn’t go well for me.  It’s not me, though, it’s you.  And if it’s not you, then it must be them.  If it wasn’t for you, or possibly them – I’m still not sure about you -, things would have gone much, much better.  Why do you, or they, do this to me?  It is clearly someone’s fault, either yours or theirs.  Probably yours, unless it’s theirs, of course.  Come to think of it (in a biased way), they did this to me the last time things didn’t go well.  Now I see what’s going on, they’ve got it in for me.

Things did go well for me.  Well done me!  It was a creditable performance for which I deserve all the credit.  You didn’t lift a finger and they were totally irrelevant.  Thanks for nothing for that is exactly what you and they did.  Nothing!  It all came down to me and me alone, and I came through.  I deserve everything I get, for what I get is because of how well I did.  I have to accept full responsibility for this great result as I am fully responsible for it.

Taking responsibility for the good while ‘blaming’ others for the bad is another type of cognitive bias – the self serving bias.  Can you identify examples in your own learning journey?  But the bias doesn’t stop there because we can be biased in our application, turning things upside-down:

Things didn’t go well for you.  It’s you, not me or them.  It’s all down to you.

Things did go well for you.  It’s not you, it’s due to me, or them, or dumb luck, or just being in the right place at the right time.  It’s anything but you.

The other side of the self serving bias is the (fundamental) attribution bias; when it’s someone other than me, good outcomes are produced by external factors while poor outcomes are entirely their fault.  It’s not, however, an assessment process that should be determined by the outcome (as in these biases) but by the nature of the process.  Otherwise, you do unto others the opposite of what you do unto yourself.  And whatever you do may have little overlap with the available evidence.

Reflective thinking is a core strategy in monitoring, reviewing and directing your learning efforts and it may not be helpful to simply say that you must be honest with yourself; after all, honesty is such a lonely word:

Lonely or not, honesty can be a value-laden and ‘flexible’ concept.  Perhaps it’s better to think in terms of validity or congruence – how closely your assessments align with the objective evidence, starting with the things that are beyond dispute.  As always, it’s much easier to find excuses than it is to uncover reasons.  Self assessment is a difficult task, one which most do inconsistently, but it is necessary and important.  The default position might be that you can fool yourself, and diminish the efforts of others, all of the time, but you can progressively avoid this position through effort and evidence.

Able Yet Unable

May 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll leave myself standing strong on solid ground

To save myself from these, these shifting sands

To join the Earth right here where I stand”

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

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


How Close? How Far?

April 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you cannot be a passive consumer of experiences for your learning will be less effective and much less efficient.  While learning opportunities are a feature of the immediate world around you, they are incidental rather than ingrained.  You must actively pursue them rather than just wait for them to roll past.

But there are limits and so direct experience can and should be complemented by vicarious experiences.  Learn directly by doing and learn indirectly by engaging with the doing done by others for it will comprise both shared and independent experiences.  It’s good to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’:

But the answer to ‘when to learn vicariously’ is not whenever, for there is one application that appears to have costs greater than benefits.  Self-control seems to be hindered by ‘wearing other shoes’; in this circumstance, watching may be better than wearing!

In Other Shoes, ‘tis nobler stressed the value of distance to enhance self-control – Putting yourself in other shoes can help you succeed in your own.  Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey – but there is distance and then there is greater distance.  And greater distance seems better than distance in this instance – can you see now why wearing might be better than watching?

The vicarious experience of ‘wearing the shoes of another’ may provide useful insights into self-control but recent research indicates that this distancing may not be sufficient to overcome its costs.  Those that ‘wore the shoes of another exercising self-control’ were subsequently unable to match this level of vicarious self-control whereas those that ‘watched’ (actually read about someone practising self-control) demonstrated subsequently enhanced levels of self-control.  Insufficient distancing exacted a price.

Both direct and indirect experience can be valuable but this is not guaranteed.  In many ways, indirect may mean insufficient.  And insufficient is neither effective nor efficient.  Can you untangle proficient, sufficient and efficient in order to guide your learning journey?

Not A Bother But …

April 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Not a bother but will it help?

Finding your own way need not and should not be a solitary exercise.  The social side of experiential learning is very important in many ways; it only becomes a problem when you delegate responsibility for your own learning to others.  In fact, this is a problem for all forms of learning.  Being passive may be polite in some circumstances but it is to be avoided in all learning situations.

The distinction to keep in mind is that others can supply useful information but you must make your own sense from it.  If you don’t actively process it, don’t reflect on the outcomes of your analyses and don’t personalise it, then your learning becomes a pale facsimile of somebody else’s learning.  And, given that you (rightly) accept contributions from many others, you run the risk of becoming a mish-mash of others rather than an authentic (and only) version of yourself.

Asking for help, though, remains a challenge because, in part, this act is grounded in an acknowledgement of your own shortcomings.  There is evidence that people place more emphasis on the ‘inconvenience’ being imposed on others by your request.  There is also evidence that people underestimate the willingness of others to provide help.

But the biggest challenge of all is to overcome the gap in perspective between the person asking for help and the person being asked.  ‘tis nobler would ask you for help because ‘tis nobler believes you are in a position to provide it – you are more experienced and more capable.  However, you will provide help from this very position, and ‘tis nobler may be a long way away from it:

“I just don’t seem able to do this.  I’m sorry to bother you (inconvenience) but can you give me some help?”

“Sure (willingness)!  It’s easy (perspective gap – it is easy for you but not for me!), just concentrate (that’s easy for you to say but it makes no practical sense to me).

Inconvenience, willingness, perspective gap and irrelevance all wrapped up in one simple exchange.  A simple request for help, should you overcome your reluctance to make it at all, can vary greatly in helpfulness.  It is always easier and more productive if you ‘speak the same language’ for then help is invariably helpful:

It is difficult to remember what it was like as a learner, it is uncomfortable to put yourself in their (inexperienced) shoes.  Without these adjustments, though, you must always attempt to reverse engineer this help to make it suitable for your own situation.

And always remember to say ‘Thanks’.

Different Versus DIFFERENT

April 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In Flowing Slowly, ‘tis nobler wrote:

First, you need to achieve the flow.  From the flow comes the slow.  And when you’re flowing slowly, along comes the smile!

Unpacking these sentences reveals the links between the attainment of performance fluency, the effect of ‘being in the zone’ and the implications for happiness.

At the very heart of fluency – one of the true hallmarks of expertise – can be found an enduring commitment to effortful practice and reflective thinking.  Smooth never just happens, for smooth requires all the parts to blend seamlessly.  And this is a product of experience, not exhortation.

But you are also aware that quality of experience is also crucial as this introduces efficiency to further enhance effectiveness.  Quality can be an awkward dimension to maintain for we can all regress to the comfortable.  Being in the comfort zone is only a very small part of being ‘in the zone’.  Never think that these two zones are the same!

In fact, it might be better to think of these two zones as ‘enemies’ rather than ‘friends’.  In a study designed to isolate some characteristics associated with ‘being in the zone’, novelty seeking and persistence were identified as key factors.  But that’s not the main message of this post as it might be incorrect to think that all you have to do is be DIFFERENT.  Being and doing ‘different’ is very valuable although this is often interpreted as just occasionally being and doing ‘DIFFERENT’.

For learning to be sustainable, it must be sustained and being and doing ‘DIFFERENT’ is neither sustainable nor, in learning terms, sensible.

Being and doing ‘different’ can simply be your secret:

Being and doing different is a great way to leave your comfort zone and, eventually, be more often ‘in the zone’.  Seeking novel situations persistently increases your chances of arriving ‘in the zone’.  Being and doing ‘different’ is not about being outrageous, being flashy or being ostentatious; it is about all the little differences you are, do and make.

Don’t be or do DIFFERENT.  Do be or do different.  Can you see the difference?

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!

Compared To What?

March 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear Less

February 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Are you fearless or can you fear less?  It’s not ‘be’; rather it’s do.  Not be fearless but do fear less.  When many of our fears evaporate rather than eventuate, why is it so difficult to fear less?

For it is indeed difficult.  The glass half-empty has more influence than the glass half-full; as ‘tis nobler has already noted, people believe it is more important not to lose (regardless of the potential for a more attractive ‘win’).  And so the pattern emerges – don’t lose, play it safe, be scared, nothing works out, bad things happen.  The negative overpowers, the downside dominates:

“… it’s not my fault, it’s how I’m programmed to function, ……….

Cos I’m being taken over by the Fear…”:

Is this how you’re programmed to function?  That’s a very big question, trying to understand a cognitive bias towards the greater influence of the negative.  One partial explanation has been advanced on the basis of research studies that demonstrate negative issues are more likely to be perceived as true.

In last Friday’s post, ‘tis nobler asked what people were talking about when things were described as impossible, given that they weren’t actually impossible.  Now there’s another question for you to answer:

When you say “I’m never going to be able to do this”, do you believe this to be true?

For it isn’t true; you’re just reflecting (without reflecting) one aspect of the negativity bias.  And you can transcend this perception in the same way that you can overcome the limitations of inexperience.  It’s more than a catchcry – effort is essential.

And never forget that positive things can be true.  Take this post, for instance ………

If Only Or If, Then?

February 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments


If only this post was more entertaining, my life would be much better.  But it isn’t and it isn’t.

Sigh.  If only things were different, things would be better.  But they aren’t and they aren’t.

So we wait for all of our ‘if onlys’ to arrive and for things to then change.  But they don’t and they don’t.  And we pay the price, in many different ways, for this inaction.  And the price we pay pushes positive action further and further away.  For, when we get disheartened or annoyed, frustrated or irritated, the evidence indicates that we are more likely to be reckless.  In fact, there is evidence for associations between negative feelings and a range of negative behaviours.  If only I didn’t get so annoyed, I wouldn’t be so reckless.  But you do and so you are.  Annoyed and reckless.


What happens if you tolerate this?  The Manic Street Preachers sang about this at a societal level; if you tolerate an ‘if only’ perspective, what are the personal consequences?

One thing to consider is the potential value of ‘If – Then’ thinking, for which there is supporting evidence.  In contrast to the passive nature of ‘if only’ thinking, ‘If – Then’ can promote positive action by replacing usually forlorn hope with practical actions.

And it may be that the commitment to act that is implicit in ‘If – Then’ is more important than the specific type of action.  But that’s another story, another part of the journey.

If only we could replace ‘if only’ with ‘If – Then’, things would be different.  Sigh.

If we find ourselves bemoaning the lost opportunities reflected in ‘if only’, then we’ll replace ‘if only’ with ‘If – Then’.  And then we’ll act accordingly rather than just hope to act.

Only then will things change.