Posts Tagged ‘rewards’

Now Or Never?

December 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This week has seen ‘tis nobler explore the concept of happiness.  Apart from the ‘slow down’ post on Christmas Day, this is the last post of 2011.  ‘tis nobler can see a personal link between those two statements but would be disappointed if readers made the same connection.

To finish off for the time being, it’s now or never, and variations thereof.  ‘Now or never’ is often said with a motivational purpose, so what is the connection with happiness?  There is a connection; in fact there are many connections, which is why you must always find your own way.  There is no other way to navigate experiential learning and behavioural change; anybody who tells you different is selling you short or sending you off (your) course.

This connection is as much about principle as it is about evidence, it is as much about emotion as it is about reason and it is only about you, no-one else.  It is about trying to learn from the past rather than alter its meaning (see Monday’s post) and it is about trying to change the attractively abstract into the contentedly concrete (see Wednesday’s post).  And, perhaps most of all, it is about now and it is not now, or perhaps ever, about ‘about’.  Or is it, for these choices are yours alone?

There is evidence that ‘small and often’ is more potent that ‘large and occasional’ in producing happiness.  ‘Small’ can be a very discriminating predictor – a momentary delay during a pleasant experience can produce higher ratings of happiness as it creates the perception of two pleasant experiences.  And two is better than one.  Similarly, there are many studies investigating the relationship between money and happiness; in summary, it seems some helps but more doesn’t help more.

It is just as dubious to conclude that money or small pleasures cause happiness as it is conclude that money or small pleasures will cause you to be happy.  Understanding the former can be assisted by this insightful and accessible article  while understanding the latter can be assisted by appreciating the deep and durable power of ‘Find Your Own Way’.

Being happy now – as they say, ‘IN’ your life – or pursuing happiness – as they say, being happy ‘ABOUT’ your life – are not mutually exclusive or perfectly and consistently relevant to you.  Not now does not mean never, just as now does not mean always!  You must make personal sense of all of this rather than expect the meaning derived by others to apply to you as well; you must create it yourself rather than receive it from others.  After all, effort is essential.  And that message is a good way to see out 2011.

Enjoy this music video;

See you in 2012!

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.

An Upside To Risk

December 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is ‘absolutely’ fabulous?  According to The Pet Shop Boys, it is:

There are many ways in which ‘absolute’ is anything but fabulous.  As a novice, you might have had absolute faith in absolute rules – this is what people are meant to do – and absolute confidence in your ability to follow those rules.  And then you realise that the real world is much messier; rules are replaced by skills and normative standards (the spirit) replace the ‘letter of the law’.  Absolute often becomes relative, with a ‘black and white’ view replaced by the colours of the rainbow.  Learning and changing becomes matters for continual and dynamic balancing, not adherence to blinkered absolutes.

Think of the words usually associated with risk taking or risk takers.  These words are probably, and overwhelmingly, negative – stupid, senseless, crazy, immature, thoughtless, idiotic or insane.  Risk takers are commonly seen as idiots.  Of course, there is an element of truth in these descriptions, particularly when risks are simply taken without being managed.  You could be excused for having an absolute position on risk taking in daily pursuits – it’s bad and always to be avoided.  Wouldn’t life be absolutely fabulous without risks and risk taking?

The answer is ‘No’, for you can’t adopt an absolute position on risk taking.  It can be relatively dangerous (with ‘danger’ being defined in many different ways) but rarely in day to day life is it absolutely wrong.  Think of the other side of the risk taking ‘coin’ – have you ever heard of risk taking being described as effective, positive or adaptive?  For managed risk taking can and should fit these alternative descriptions.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are traditionally viewed as methods to reduce or eliminate risks.  In contrast, ‘tis nobler conceives of experiential learning and behavioural change as methods to better enable self-management of risk, regardless of the type or level of risk.

Risk taking for the sake of taking risks is either unproductive or destructive.  Risk taking for the sake of learning and/or change can be managed.  It is essential to remember the big difference:

There is a big difference between the (self-) management of risk and risky behaviour.  Risky behaviour occurs when you pretend risk is absent, when you underestimate risk, when you are unaware of the consequences of risk, when you don’t reckon it is a problem for you.

Managing risk successfully can be exhilarating, can be fantastic, and can really make you come alive.  But you don’t manage risk just by saying that you’re going to be careful or you’re going to pay attention.  Successful management of risk involves effort; effortful practice, effortful preparation, effortful planning and real engagement, being ‘switched on’ rather than disconnected, being aware rather than oblivious.  Even so, managing risk isn’t perfect and there will be consequences. Serious consequences – but you strive actively to minimise the chances of coming unstuck.

Striking the right risk taking balance as your learning journey unfolds is crucial – too little is boring and too much is, well, you know what ‘too much’ is.  And ‘little and ‘too much’ are always relative terms, relative to you and the situation.

Managing risk by striking the right and relative balance can be absolutely fabulous!

Anonymously Aberrant

November 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The relationships between an individual and a group can be many and varied.  For a start, we all believe that individuals are ‘better’ than groups:

When I compare myself to a group, I always win.  When you compare yourself to a group, you win.  When each member of the group compares themselves to the rest, the individual usually comes out in front.  On average, we are all above-average.  However, it may be that this effect doesn’t reflect the bias of the rater; rather, it reflects a bias towards individuals at the expense of the group.  So, it’s not that I think I am better, it’s that I think groups are worse.

At the same time, perceived (not actual) group membership can exert a powerful influence on our behaviour, both positive or negative:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.

And yet we like to think that we retain our individuality within groups – we remain a face within a sea of faces rather than faceless and anonymous.  Does being ‘lost in a crowd’ sometimes equate to losing ourselves?  The evidence indicates the answer to this question is a clear ‘Yes’ for, as part of a group, our individual identities blur or vanish:

With the anonymity afforded to individuals by a group, they say and do things that are an aberration.  Conversely, behavioural control can often be imposed externally through invigilation – if we think or know we are both known and being watched, we behave differently and we behave better.  Of course, external control is neither sustainable nor desirable for the same sorts of reasons that external motivation also eventually falters.  By definition, the responsibility for self management cannot be delegated to outsiders.

In the largest of crowds, the darkest of nights and the most chaotic of situations, you are never completely anonymous.  There is always one person who knows exactly who you are with, where you are and what you are doing.  Do you know who this person is?

It is impossible for you to ‘lose yourself in the crowd’ for you are never faceless to yourself, just to others.  It is thus impossible to use ‘being lost in the crowd’ as an excuse for your behaviour.  Under supervision or beyond supervision are artificial distinctions in learning and behavioural change – should the presence or absence of supervision determine how you behave?

Be yourself when you are by yourself. Be yourself when you are with others.

One Or More Changes

October 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affecting History

August 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!

Never Natural

May 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Let’s start with a brief quote (you can read the full report here):

The commonly held but empirically unsupported notion that some uniquely ‘‘talented’’ individuals can attain superior performance in a given domain without much practice appears to be a destructive myth that could discourage people from investing the necessary efforts to reach expert levels of performance.

It is true that, for certain pursuits, fundamental physical characteristics such as body size and height can overpower the effects of sustained and effortful practice.  But there are always exceptions – just ask Spud Webb or Mugsy Bogues.  Apart from size and height, a review of the evidence indicates that necessary physical adaptations can be achieved through appropriate practice.  For most things, size is not a reason for the sighs that accompany discouragement and despondency!

Does this suggest that the only limiting factor in your experiential learning is the effort you are able to invest and sustain?

Believing that others are ‘better’ because they are ‘naturals’ usually undersells their efforts and certainly sells yourself short.  Natural ability may be a convenient excuse but it is never a constraint.  This is not to suggest that the learning ‘playing field’ is level for all, far from it in fact.  Opportunities, resources and support can be very unevenly distributed but these things, in the same way as ‘natural ability’, don’t determine your learning outcomes.  If you apply yourself, you might find the formula for success:

In your learning journey, you don’t transcribe the formulae for they are implicit in the understanding you develop through experience and reflected in the internal models, patterns and representations you use to perform effectively and efficiently.  These critically important elements do NOT come naturally!

It might be natural to assume that not being a ‘natural’ is an insurmountable obstacle.  But it isn’t an obstacle, it is an illusion.  It is an illusion that can be shattered by effort.

It’s never natural; it’s always effortful.

Be A Breeze

January 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s Australia Day today.

There are celebrations and ceremonies, flag waving and hoopla.  At the risk of being labelled un-Australian, for there really is no such thing, this collective national exuberance can seem a bit forced, as though it’s more important to be seen to be celebrating than to celebrate.

And this excessive outpouring of national pride (on one day of the year) links to ways of helping others.  Traditionally, the preferred helping approach is to be explicit and obvious, to be right there when needed, to be unambiguously supportive by making the support so apparent that nobody could fail to notice it.  It’s like shouting, “I AM HERE FOR YOU” from the rooftops, with possibly the best of intentions and probably the least useful of outcomes.

Some recent research has indicated that the value of social support is maximised when it is invisible, although perhaps less visible is more apt.  It’s the difference between performing a service and serving up a performance.  The former helps the recipient, the latter helps you.  And helping is about the other.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are full of opportunities to help and receive help; as these opportunities become performances, an end in themselves, they become a distraction and an irrelevance.

To give help, be invisible.  Make the help about the other, not about yourself.  Have an effect, affect their affect, and be there for them without being on stage, act without performing.  Have an influence much like the wind:

But even the wind can sometimes take centre stage, so perhaps the metaphor should be reconsidered.

Be a breeze.

Near > Dear, Lost > Gained

December 17th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler read about the Jeopardy Quiz Show challenge the other day that will pit human champions against a ‘thinking’ machine, similar to past contests between Grandmaster chess champions and their technological opponents.  This will provide an insight into how nuanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become and how far there is yet to go.  Is that the Singularity I see up ahead?

Our decision making is beset with nuance, opinion, hope and bias; these influences, and many more besides, play a much greater role than a logical, systematic analysis of the available data.  Synthesising a broad theme from the huge amount of work in this area leads to this ‘tis nobler adage:

It’s more important not to lose certain immediate inconsistencies.

If this sentence is unpacked, four things fall out – it’s more important not to lose, it’s more important to opt for certainty, it’s more important to favour the immediate and that these three produce the many inconsistencies in our choices.

When faced with a decision or dilemma, the odds are (for, after all, we live in a probabilistic world) that you will favour not losing over the possibility of winning even when the chances of each outcome are identical, you will favour a small certainty over a much better but less certain outcome and that you will favour taking immediate issues into account at the expense of broader, potentially much more important criteria.

And then there are all the other influences.  Perhaps all decision making reduces to a comparative assessment of whether what we lose in the fire, we gain in the flood:

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Every step of an experiential learning or behavioural change journey is accompanied by decisions and judgments.  Some are trivial, some matter, some are crucial and a few could be life-changing.  How will you discriminate between these types and then, within these types, how discriminating will you be?

Even Though You Know

November 10th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Your Own, Right Your Own

October 29th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Here is a video that relates to your journey, whether it’s a journey of learning or behavioural change.  It embodies concepts covered in previous posts in an entertaining way.  But it is up to you to extract their value to you; you could dismiss the video as a bit of pop psychology or philosophy or you could burrow down below the surface of the video and explore some of the most important issues confronting you.  It’s your choice:

Write your own story.

Right your own life.


October 20th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  Sincerely, thank you.

The start of this post was both an expression of gratitude and a fiendishly clever psychological tactic.  If you are still reading this, thank you once again.  Did I mention ‘fiendish’?  Of course, there’s nothing actually fiendish about it as you’ll see because doing the right thing is never fiendish!

Saying ‘thanks’ is not just a common courtesy (that may not be all that common these days) but is also a way to generate subsequent support from the person being thanked.  There is evidence that thanking someone for helping you makes it more likely that they will help again if you ask them to.  And it is not a marginal effect; in fact, they are twice as likely to help (compared to the rate of helping when thanking is withheld).  It seems that the act of thanking makes people feel both appreciated and useful – there are many reasons for withholding assistance and being thanked seems to make these less relevant.  After all, why not continue to help when you know that you are actually helping?

Further, one instance of gratitude seems to encourage people to help in independent circumstances; if I thanked you and then someone else subsequently asked you for similar help, the evidence indicates you are more likely to help out this ‘stranger’ (i.e. someone who hasn’t yet thanked you).  Validation of your helping behaviour helps you to keep helping.

Experiential learning can be a social, yet ‘anonymous’, activity – you may not know the other learners or participants.  While learning is your responsibility, there will be many small examples of help along the way.  If you want more help, show you appreciate what you’ve been given.  Regardless, showing appreciation requires nothing but the willingness to show it.  It’s neither a duty nor a chore; it’s simply a decent, positive thing to do.

‘tis nobler will now let Sinead O’Connor close this post.  Thank you, see you tomorrow.

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Vigilant Removal

October 19th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is unclear whether anybody actually said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance – there have been a number of variations on this theme.  Andrew Jackson did say:

“ ….eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.”

Whatever the object, the price can be vigilance.  Does this apply when the object is avoidance of bad habits?  In Lines and Spaces, ‘tis nobler had written:

Having commenced as goal-driven activities, both habits and skills become ends in themselves.  Both are therefore (and unsurprisingly) difficult to control or vary by altering goals – there is little point, given the learning, reinforcement and repetition of apparently successful behaviours, in trying to extinguish habits or modify skills by announcing that your goal has changed. 

Habits are more effectively controlled by inhibiting habitual behaviours once they have been activated or reducing exposure to trigger situations.  There is evidence that effortful self-control can override or replace habits.  The challenges of change and self-management are much greater for skills.  Skills are so much more than the structured execution of habits.

Effortful self-control requires vigilant monitoring as, otherwise, before you know it, you’ll find yourself doing the very thing you are meant to be controlling.  As bad habits can apply across aspects of your life, it can be difficult to reduce exposure to trigger situations, reinforcing the need for vigilant self-control.

Temptations are a bit different to bad habits – they are more localised (e.g. the kitchen or hotel), they are more specific (chocolate cake or jug of beer) and they are more difficult to control (the more you tell yourself not to think about chocolate cake, the more likely you are to think about it and then act on those thoughts).  Here, vigilant monitoring can actually be counterproductive, something ‘tis nobler discussed in The Manager Manages The Manager and Don’t Do That, D’oh.

It is better to control temptations by reducing or eliminating triggers (not going to the hotel is preferable to going to the hotel and then trying to control the temptation of alcohol).  Of course, a single temptation can go hand in hand with one or more other temptations; sometimes, what you end up with is a Temptations Mix:

While temptations can be found in groups, bad habits are often not far away either.  Naturally, bad habits and temptations can be closely intertwined so effective self-management is a delicate balancing act.

Now, who said “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing?”  Find your own way to balance bad habits and temptations, using both vigilance and removal.

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.

LAW Connections

September 28th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Do you remember the song “I fought the law (and the law won)”, originally recorded by Sonny Curtis and the Crickets?  The best cover versions were put out by the Bobby Fuller Four and The Clash.  But this post isn’t about the law; neither is it about fighting, it’s more about a struggle.

The LAW in this post refers to a well-known trilogy in experiential learning and behavioural change – liking, achieving, wanting (although I’ve put them in that order so that the acronym would make some sense).  The logical sequence would be WAL, although logic can go out the window when struggling with WAL.

How are wanting and liking connected when achieving is the go-between?  Do we want what we haven’t got and do we still like it when we get it?  WAL can be confusing if there are variations driven by achievement and, in these variations, you can lose yourself:

The evidence indicates that achieving something that you really want can lead to you liking it less.  Conversely, achieving something that you weren’t too interested in can lead to you liking it more.  It seems that differences in wanting can produce the opposite difference in liking, once the goal in question has been achieved.  As with any rule, there are exceptions.

One of the ways to offset this inverse wanting/liking relationship is to engage with the achievement process.  If you have worked diligently, if you haven’t had achievement handed to you on a plate, if achievement is produced by your effort and involvement, wanting and liking do align.

Do what you want.  Want to try rather than be found wanting.  Like the effort as much as the outcome.  Want more, try more, like more.  Find your own WAL way.


July 6th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you are too liberal with perfume or aftershave, the result can be overpowering.  Luckily, you can remedy the situation by washing some off.  Does this seem reasonable to you?  If you put too much chili in your stir fry, it can be overwhelming.  Luckily, you can soften the effect by adding more vegetables.  Does this seem sensible to you?  If you find yourself in situations that impose on you in ways that don’t suit you at the time, what can you do?  Luckily, this is where your character shines through and you just behave in ways that reflect your personality.  Does this seem correct to you?

On first principles, I’d be happy to say the first is reasonable and the second is sensible.  But the evidence indicates that the third is not correct!  This is an uncomfortable finding for most people and a salutary message for learners.  What we (decide to) do is often determined by situational factors rather than personality, although many people mistakenly assume the opposite. 

Herein lies the key message for experiential learners.  In learning situations, you shouldn’t necessarily attribute the behaviour of others to their character but rather to the way they are dealing with their circumstances.  Context trumps character, specific, short-term needs override general, longer-term orientations.  It is possible for situations to turn saints into sinners and sinners into saints; between these extremes is the fuzziness of life.  To learn about situations, place more emphasis on understanding the action rather than passing judgement on the actors.  What did Prefab Sprout mean when they sang “One Of The Broken” – should you assume that only the ‘saints’ will sing this song?

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In principle, most people would care for ‘one of the broken’.  In practice, however, they might be in a hurry, they might be focusing on a conversation, they might be trying to decide whether to quit their job or they might feel threatened; they will be interacting with the situation in so many specific ways that their (enduring) care for ‘one of the broken’ is overpowered.

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


June 16th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

“I’ll do that if you pay me.”  That’s commerce or, possibly, growing up.

“I’ll pay you if you do these things.”  That’s management or, possibly, parenting.

“If you do this, I’ll reward you.  If you don’t do this, I’ll sanction you.  If you do something else, I’ll punish you.”  These are all forms of learning.

Aren’t they?

Positive reinforcement can and does shape behaviour, although what constitutes ‘positive’ can vary significantly.  For pigeons, it is a food pellet but that won’t work for you!  For shaping to occur, the situation needs to be unambiguous and consistent, with a clear, reliable link between ‘trigger’ and response.  If pigeons have to pick their peck, they might pack it in.  Once the situation changes, desired behaviours can be extinguished as the specific link is lost or swamped.

Do these reward processes apply to experiential learning?  The short answer is ‘No’, although the answer in the short term could be ‘Yes’.  The aim of experiential learning is NOT to obtain rewards but to strive for robust understanding, awareness and expertise in an activity.  Occasionally and unexpectedly, the provision of rewards can serve a useful purpose; if they are predictable and dominant, learning is sacrificed for artifice, self-management strategies for stratagems. 

There is a time for rewards but it’s not always, there is a schedule for rewards but it’s not predictable, there is a place for rewards but it’s not outside (you).  Revel in what you are doing while you are learning for the way it makes you feel, for the new horizons it opens up, not for what others are giving you for doing it.  Revel in what you are doing for that is the best reward:

You cannot delegate responsibility for your learning to others.  Neither can you delegate responsibility for your motivation to others.  Extrinsic must become intrinsic or else what could be sustainable and sensational will only ever be short term and satisfactory.

And that’s not finding your own way, that’s acceding to theirs.