Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

Not Just The Splash

December 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

When discussing the concept of risk in the last post, ‘tis nobler pointed out that the common view of risk and risk taking behaviour was invariably negative.  The ‘other side of the risk coin’ sees it as positive, effective and adaptive.  Finding your own way both through and away from risk involves both balance and self-management.

You can’t take a unilateral approach to risk as risk is not unilateral.  In the same way, consequences aren’t unilateral either.  We tend to think of consequences as significant events – the big splash – and ignore the continuing ripples.  It’s not just the splash that creates problems; you also have to cope with the ripples.  In an aggregate sense, constant ripples may pose much greater problems than the occasional splash.  And while ripples always follow a (risk-related) splash, ripples can flow from any disturbance.  You can’t have a splash without ripples but you can have ripples without a splash!

Consequences are to risk as ripples are to life; the ordinary poses many more challenges for us than the extraordinary.  The latest evidence suggests that ‘ripples’ follow cycles – we are more able to cope with ripples at certain times, times that coincide with the higher points of our daily or weekly life pattern.  We don’t call Wednesday ‘hump day’ just because it falls in the middle of the working week; Wednesday tends to be associated with higher levels of negative emotions.  In terms of peaks and troughs, Wednesday is a trough.

Compounding these broader cycles is the more volatile ‘ups and downs’ within them.  And the more you are (or allow yourself to be) buffeted by this shorter term volatility, the more likely it is that ripples will continue well beyond the point where others have moved on.  If you have an experience that you can’t forget, you’ll be affected by the hangover of ripples for some time:

It’s not just avoidance of the splash, or minimising its harm should it occur, that represents the self-management challenge.  The pattern of ripples, the volatility of ripples within that pattern and the flow-on effects of past ripples all combine to produce greater challenges than the occasional splash.

In experiential learning and behavioural change, you will make a much bigger splash by effectively and efficiently managing the many smaller ripples.

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.


September 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

No, ‘tis nobler is not using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being marooned or left behind.  As you realise, things aren’t always as they seem – you can trust your eyes but not your brain, your memories are revised rather than just retrieved and your beliefs can overpower your knowledge (and new information is often powerless to overcome this).  Things seem to be different; things are different from what they seem.

‘tis nobler is using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being composed of strands – threads that are woven to form something bigger and stronger.  In the context of experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, the relevance is apparent.  Stranded – things are as they are.

In recent posts, ‘tis nobler has unpacked (slightly) the concept of resilience, revealing that there is more to it than people might imagine from simply tossing the word around.  And not all of the resilience ‘below the surface’ is necessarily valuable or desirable.  What seems to be a single strand is itself composed of smaller strands.  How do you make sense of anything if you remain oblivious to the elements that make it what it is?

What might seem to be trite slogans are progressively revealed as fundamental principles.  ‘Effort is essential’ was revealed as much more than a catchcry when you burrow down beneath the semantic surface:

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

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

As you browse the archives, the depth and the detail will coalesce into shapes that suit you (for you know that it is inappropriate and ineffective for any shape to be imposed, however well-intentioned that imposition may be).  These guiding shapes and patterns are produced by your effort:

As your journey unfolds, you will learn that you are stranded but you are never stranded.  Appreciating the distinction and acting on its implications is a sure sign of progress.



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.

Really Or Real?

September 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a Japanese proverb that states:

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Albert Camus wrote:

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

And this from Helen Keller:

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

Nobody can argue against the value of resilience.  Each learning journey has its challenges; every day can have its pitfalls as well as its pleasures.  In experiential learning, error, setbacks and failure are common companions and it is crucial that you persist.

Being really resilient is vital, for it can rebuild your heart after it has been bashed to bits – all the shattered pieces snap back together:

But being real and resilient is equally vital.  There is much to admire in dogged determination but there must be limits to deploying resilience.  One of the factors associated with resilience is (cognitive) flexibility, and flexibility can sometimes mean changing direction rather than maintaining resilience.  Without flexibility, some individuals apply the same recipes (that got them into ‘trouble’ in the first place) continually and across different situations.  Regardless of the detail, they tend to trot out the same old story, lose control of their journey (again) and rely on their resilience to keep going.  Opportunities to repeat that come from resilience are not necessarily opportunities for learning, progress or satisfaction.

As a result, resilience becomes an end in itself rather than a means to a desired end.  And that’s not the point or value of resilience.  Only you can chart your course between being really resilient and being real and resilient.  Change is not failure – failing to change may well be.

Where resilience is concerned, will you be really or real, or both?


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!

Right Or Wrong?

June 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

How Green?

April 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is not really a fact but, through extensive use, has become folklore.  And folklore can morph into apparent fact when it remains unquestioned:

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

But aren’t proverbs like this built on a foundation of fact?  Doesn’t our everyday experience of our own lives reinforce the view that others, whether friends or strangers, are having – must be having – easier, more fulfilling, happier lives?  Wouldn’t we be like them if we could only get to the other side, the side that they are on?  Isn’t it always greener on the other side?

Research findings paint a different picture.  We have a tendency to underestimate the ‘problems’ on the other side; we estimate that those on the other side have many less negative experiences and emotions and slightly more positive experiences and emotions than ourselves.  It might be expected that we’d be more accurate when friends rather than peers are the subjects of our scrutiny but closeness doesn’t seem to exert much influence on our accuracy.  Others, all others, face fewer problems and have better lives because they live ‘where the grass is greener’.

In addition to the ‘greener’ effect, our estimation issues also reflect the ability of others to hide their ‘less green’ experiences and emotions.  Even though this is what we ourselves do, we appear unable to recognise when others erect similar shields.  And so we persist in believing that we struggle relative to others.  We answer ‘OK’ when asked how things are, even though things might be (much) less than OK, yet we accept ‘OK’ from others as an accurate summary of their situation.

There is a range of ways in which the ‘greener’ fallacy affects our learning journey and our efforts at behavioural change.  Think through what these might be.

Experiential learning has a substantial solo component and yet you are never alone, your experiences are rarely unique and your difficulties are seldom unshared.  Believing that things are ‘less green’ for you than they are for others is untrue.

It’s always as green on the other side!

Doubtless Doubt Some

March 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Double Doubt’ , ‘tis nobler wrote:

Wherever there’s a way to learn, there’s a will to doubt.  Be in no doubt that doubt has a large opportunity cost, particularly from the things that doubt prevents you from doing.  It’s not possible to simply dismiss your doubts; however, doubling up on your doubts could be a solution.  If you have doubts about your learning and/or abilities, then why not doubt your doubts?

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.

Doubtless, doubting less by doubting your doubts is important.  It remains a question of balance – being doubt-full may be just as worrisome as being doubt-free, for doubt can also have a positive effect on performance.  But, as with all aspects of the learning and change landscape, it’s not a straightforward and simple relationship.  Beyond any shadow of a doubt, you’ll have to find your own way.

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.

If doubt strangles your effort or enjoyment, it can be the bane of your life.  However, some doubt, doubts that you can either doubt or manage, might be a blessing.  And, when faced with bane or blessing, you should follow Tanya Davis’s  advice – ‘Please Bless’:

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Doubt less in order to do, then doubt some in order to do well.  Doubt your doubts but never doubt your capacity to use your remaining doubts to do better.  Are you in any doubt?

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.

Say, Do, Be

December 8th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Saying is usually easy.  “I’m sorry.”  “I didn’t mean it.”  “It won’t happen again.”  “You can trust me.”  “Just give me one more chance.”  “I’m going to be honest with you.”  Life is full of statements that are designed to achieve some short-term advantage, an advantage that is often not disclosed by what is said.  If things get a bit awkward after any of these things are said, you can always rely on this:

“I never said that.”

Saying is usually easy, doing is usually more demanding.  Doing can be a challenge, doing demands effort and effort is required to meet the demands.  After much doing, the being begins.  Doing develops, doing transforms and doing has the power to make you into something new.  Doing is the essence of experiential learning.

And being – new, better, more skilled, more resilient, more understanding – flows from the doing.

Let’s illuminate this say-do-be relationship with a concrete example – gratitude.  It’s easy to say thanks; it’s easy to say that you’re grateful.  How difficult or demanding is it to ‘do’ or ‘be’ grateful?  A very recent review of the scientific literature on gratitude concluded that truly ‘doing’ or ‘being’ grateful was a morally and intellectually demanding exercise.  Saying is easy; doing and being are much harder.  Doing and being require effortful engagement, regular reflection and sustained discipline.

And ‘tis nobler now hopes that the relevance of the daily practice of gratitude to experiential learning and behavioural change is apparent, both in process and content.  Listen to this Eric Clapton song – ‘You were there’ – and assess how far beyond the saying his gratitude goes and how deeply he feels it.

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The say-do-be relationship defines many aspects of experiential learning and you must find your own way, choosing between what’s easy and inconsequential or more challenging and worthwhile.  And don’t forget that repetition is vital for experiential learning – perhaps you need to say, do, be, do, be, do!  ’tis nobler is certain that you are grateful that you didn’t write the previous sentence!

This Too Shall Pass

November 5th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Countering Some Encounters

October 25th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last Thursday, in Backwards And Forwards Without Moving, ‘tis nobler talked about shared understanding as the only way to resolve conflict sustainably.  And then ‘tis nobler came across this recent video:

Now for today’s post – countering some (tempting) encounters. A recurring theme at ‘tis nobler is the challenge of staying the (learning) course when there are so many distractions and temptations – see, most recently, Vigilant Removal.  One tactic that has been shown to be effective is to imagine that the costs of giving in to temptations are much higher than they actually are – it’s called counteractive construal.  Will just one piece of chocolate see your weight balloon out of control or wreck your commitment to weight loss?  Objectively, the answer is ‘no’ and hence the temptation lingers and you may succumb.  Once is OK, every now and again is OK but the danger is that this becomes a frequent occurrence, with relapse after relapse.  How do things change if you see this one piece of chocolate containing many more calories than it actually does?

Will missing just one practice session dramatically affect your experiential learning progress?  Probably not but, again, if the subjective costs are seen as much higher than they actually are, the likelihood of session participation is also increased.  There are some clear benefits of ‘looking on the bright side’, but not where temptation is concerned:

It’s generally good to be optimistic, although optimism bias can have negative consequences.  Perhaps this evidence indicates that it can also be good to go the other way, exaggerating the cost of temptations in order to maintain self control and (longer term) goal adherence.  Be neither a saint nor a sinner for you won’t be perfectly good or perfectly bad.  You’ll just be – doing your best more often than not, dealing with the obstacles and temptations as best you can at the time and making forward progress despite the occasional steps back.

If you exaggerate the costs of losing your way whenever temptations appear, it may enable you to continue finding your own way.  How do you construe this message?


October 15th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It could be a trite comment, one that is frequently directed at learners.  Then again, it could be one of the most fundamental truths.  What is this statement and what do you think makes the difference between trite and fundamental?

The answer to the first part of the question is straightforward:

Believe in yourself.

The answer to the second part of the question is more complicated.  Perhaps, to answer it, you first have to do something:

Believe in yourself.

And then you’ll know what makes the difference.  There is ample evidence across various areas on the benefits to be derived from sincere and reasonable self belief.  If it’s not real or broadly realistic (which doesn’t mean it is constrained to your current circumstances), then it won’t be reasonable.  There is mounting evidence on the potential value of the placebo effect.  Why, even Big Bird is convinced of the value of self belief:

How will you ever find your own way if you don’t believe in yourself?  And finding your own way is at the very heart of experiential learning.  Believe that.

Make Or Break

October 11th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

When everything is on the line, the situation is often described as ‘make or break’.  Others may say they are either going to crash or crash through.  These sorts of statements could be considered examples of hyperbole – obvious exaggerations.  I’ve been waiting an eternity for a better definition of hyperbole!

People often make resolutions at New Year – this year, I’m going to lose weight, get fit, run a marathon, stop smoking, travel overseas.  Unfortunately, sometimes the only thing that is actually achieved is the breaking of this resolution.  The pizza right now is much more attractive than three pizzas in six months, even though you’ll have lost 10 kilos by then and can enjoy them as a special treat (hopefully not all at once!).  This sort of discounting, when the value of a future something is much less than it should be, is hyperbolic.  Are patience and discipline rare commodities these days?  Is it unusual to hear somebody say they’ve been waiting (for you) such a long time?

There is evidence that indicates that high discount rates – the ‘now, now, now’ phenomenon – are associated with reduced self control.  Immediate gratification is seen as much more valuable than something more valuable for which you must wait.  Commitments can also be ‘make or break’ undertakings.  Are there ways in which a commitment – for example, to commit to regular, effortful practice – can be kept rather than discounted for other, more immediate rewards?

For a start, you can shift your attention away from the immediate temptation or you can remove yourself from its presence – a visible, tangible temptation is more difficult to resist.  You can strengthen your connection to the task rather than the temptation in various ways.

And you can also put your ‘money’ where your mouth is. It’s called strategic precommitment and it involves an investment in commitment, a reward for delayed gratification.  Give a friend $200 and tell them that if you don’t lose 10 kilos in the next 6 months, they can keep the money themselves or donate it to charity.  It’s as simple as that, although you might lose the 10 kilos and the friend when they fail to return the money!  Organise it as thoroughly as you do every other aspect of your learning or change journey.

Doing should be done but, sometimes, delaying is also doing.  Find your own way.

Modes Of Travel

October 4th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you get to where you’re going?  Do you know where you are heading?  Is there such a thing as a final learning destination?  Is arrival a stage or an ending?   Is it possible to complete your journey or does it simply continue in a different form?

You will arrive at many ‘stops’ along the way, sometimes for a breather and sometimes through achievement, but these milestones do not constitute a reason for stopping.  Milestones are not conclusions.

But, while there may not be a conclusion, there are many conclusions you will need to reach.  Otherwise, how would you ever make a decision?  Hence, the point of this post; in reaching conclusions, what is your mode of travel?

There are many correct answers to this question and you can establish each of these for yourself.  But there is one mode of travel that, to reach a conclusion, should not be considered.  This mode of travel is jumping:

Many things can combine to generate performance errors; there is a big difference between anticipating and getting ahead of yourself.  Cognitive biases, competing priorities, normative pressures, specific circumstances and perceived utility can all contribute to error.  This is why robustness and resilience, learning and overlearning, are necessary.  Any shortcut is a shortcoming.

Wingsuit or not, before you jump, plan, gather, analyse, decide, do and monitor.  And then keep doing it; while it becomes easier with experience, this remains indispensable.  It can be as much about self-management as it is about skill.

If you jump without doing these things, even if you’ve jumped many times before, you may jump to your own conclusion!

The Right Time

September 14th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

In their song, ‘The Right Time’, The Corrs sing:

Keep it going, let’s not lose it, feel the flow,

Oh, flying free in a fantasy, with you I’ll go,

This is the right time, once in a lifetime,

Now something has entered my mind, shattering all of my thoughts,

It’s no good, it’s just one big waste of my time,


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There are several learning concepts embedded in these lyrics – for example, persistence, self-regulation, fluency, and that’s just the first line from the excerpt.  There’s another issue, ‘shattering all of my thoughts ….’, one that’s not covered all that often, one that warrants some attention.  This issue is fragility, perhaps the opposite of resilience.

Effort must go into the experiential learning and change process for learning and change to occur.  At the same time, effort must be allocated to self management, behaviours that protect you from the pitfalls of inexperience.  Which do you think is of greater importance – learning or self management?  Perhaps importance is not the right criterion; it might be better to establish what the relationship is between them first.  What do you think the relationship is?

As experience is accrued, efficiency of performance ensues and more spare capacity becomes available.  However, you can never guarantee that sufficient capacity will always be available (or that you can deploy it effectively), reinforcing the need for proactive self management.  But self management also requires and consumes capacity and there will be times when, through either depletion or demand, self management will itself break down.  What do you think will be the consequences for task performance and behaviour?

Being cognitively or emotionally overloaded is just like being physically or mentally fatigued.  While these states are often linked to poorer task performance, it is important to realise that there is evidence to indicate that they can also negatively affect self management.  This may be shown by impulsive behaviours such as breakdowns (of management), breakouts (from management) and binges.  In short, you are more likely to engage in infrequent and atypical behaviour when self management is impaired.

It’s essential to manage your management as well as manage your learning for both will suffer when overloaded.  How will you strike the balance in order to maximise both at any point in time?  When you establish and sustain the balance that is best for you, you increase the chances that all times will be the right time.

Over And Then Back

September 6th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

The Ancient Romans knew them as diēs caniculārēs; today, we call them Dog Days.  The Dog Days comprise the hottest time of the year, when the temperatures are high and the enthusiasm is low.  It’s a time when you don’t feel like doing anything other than trying to stay cool.  You can’t be bothered getting out of your own way, let alone getting into learning.

It’s not that you take one step forward and then two steps back, it’s that you don’t take any steps at all.  After all, you’re not a machine, there are some days, Dog Days, when effort and engagement are as elusive as The Scarlet Pimpernel  – “We seek him here, we seek him there.  Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.  Is he in heaven?  Is he in Hell?  That demmed, elusive Pimpernel”.  Even if you can summon the energy to seek out effort and engagement, they probably won’t be found.  Even though it’s a Dog Day, you won’t get a sniff.

The good news is that, eventually, the Dog Days are over:

Yes, the Dog Days are over, only to return.  In experiential learning and behavioural change, the Dog Days aren’t confined to summer; they can occur at any time and last for different periods.  Learning and change aren’t regular, motivating, predictable or consistent activities in the short term for the truth is that some days are ‘Dog Days’, not because of temperature but because of torpor.  However, learning and change can be regular, motivating, predictable and consistent activities in the medium and longer terms.  You’ll cope with ‘Dog Days’ as just another challenge, sometimes by doing absolutely nothing at all.  Occasional torpor can be therapeutic!

Realise that the ‘Dog Days’ are never really over.  They are over and then back, over and then back.  What you do between the Dog Days is more important than what you during your Dog Days.  And what you do between them can also make their reappearance less frequent.  Be dogged, not dazed.

The Gaps

September 3rd, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

You say you will do it tomorrow.  Two days pass by.  Why didn’t you do it yesterday?  Oh, you are going to do it tomorrow.  Welcome to a gap, the gap between intention and behaviour.

This gap does not conform to the laws of physics.  It can be non-existent, and then appear instantaneously.  Its breadth may be measured in nanometres or light years.  It can be narrower than the eye of a needle or wider than the known Universe.  You might never find yourself in this gap, although this is most unlikely; you might be in it for seconds, hours, days or years.  This gap can be summoned by will and despatched by will.  The question is; what will you do about this gap?  Whether this gap prospers or withers will depend almost entirely on your will; will they flourish or fade away?

All the damn kids have something to say about this gap and I’m not being disparaging about youth.  All the Damn Kids  sing:

“…and it is hard work, its hard work

It’s tempting to give up

and this thing seems too much

but i know we’ll come top ….”

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The gap between intention and behaviour, between saying and doing, between just talking the talk and actually walking the walk, is just one of many gaps that plague learning and behavioural change.  Their combined effect is to keep things as they are; breaking free produces the effort to make things better.  These gaps thrive on inaction.

Behavioural intentions are considered to be most proximal to, and more predictive of, behaviour.  However, they are themselves influenced by other factors, which can dilute the impact of intentions and create a series of other gaps.  So, there are other gaps into which you may fall – I don’t need to do this, I am unable to do this, I don’t want to do this, I don’t think this will work, I think this is a silly thing to do.  Strip away the theories, labels and jargon and what you see is a large number of gaps, gaps between inaction and action.

It is possible to spend a large part of your learning journey wandering around in various gaps, jumping from one to the other as you strive to maintain the status quo and justify inaction.  If you so choose, avoiding effort can be effortless.

It is possible to exist in the gaps; it is equally possible to live outside them.  What will you do about the gaps?