Posts Tagged ‘self-management’

Adding Up

January 16th, 2012 | Strategic | 0 Comments

The last ‘Slow Down Sunday’ post had a strong numerical theme; ‘tis nobler thought numbers could feature in this post to explore some fundamental themes in experiential learning and behavioural change.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.

That’s arithmetic – in experiential learning and behavioural change, you’ll use much more sophisticated mathematics without really being aware of it.  And you’ll do this even if you think you’re no good at maths.  In the artificial world of the classroom, you might struggle with maths but, in the real world of learning and changing, you’re a maths wizard!

10 > 1 +2 +3 +4.

That’s synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Life and learning are not additive pursuits.  When you devote effort to the 1s, 2s 3s and 4s (etc), this experience produces something that is greater, more elegant, more effective and more efficient.  Mindlessly following a recipe is a recipe for ‘disaster’.  Transcend the mechanical.

2 + 2 = 4, NOT 5, 6, 3.5 or any other number suggested by someone else to satisfy specific circumstances.

That’s a reflection of values.  While mathematics is the one absolute and universal discipline, undisciplined or expedient behaviour can be applied to mathematics and, more broadly, the scientific method, to distort the truth.  Thinking, saying or doing ‘calculations’ in which 2 + 2 = 5 is the slipperiest of all slippery slopes.  Stay true and stay truthful, for numbers don’t lie:

Finally, remember that any number (and the distance between any two numbers) equals infinity.  Apparently straightforward tasks possess depth and complex tasks have great depth.  It just doesn’t make sense to think that you can skate over the surface and cope with all the challenges.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  But there are infinite ways to get to 10. 

The best way is your way. Find it



Tweaking The Talk

December 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s a well-known distinction between those that do and those that talk about doing – walking the walk compared to just talking the talk.

You don’t often hear about tweaking the talk.  But tweaking the talk – modifying the content of your talking over time – is a very common feature of our interaction with others.  ‘Talking the talk’ is tweaked all the time such that your talking becomes more impressive and more remote from any and all instances of actually ‘walking the walk’.  It is likely that when you talk the (particular) talk today, it will deviate substantially from the first time you talked that particular talk.  Embellishment is an inextricable component of expression.

We often create false memories 

Thinking we know, often without either knowing or thinking, can create all sorts of problems.  One example is in the false memories we have of our performance and behaviour.  To fill in the short-term gaps, we ‘remember’ things that never happened, we assume or infer rather than recall.  How often have you heard people explain their mistakes by saying “I thought that ….” when this thinking is at odds with the situation?

And our recollection of past events is not a process of neutral recall:

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.

Some recent evidence emphasises the social nature of this embellishment process.  We embellish for others and because of others, not just by and for ourselves.   Conformity is a frequent characteristic of group performance – don’t stand up, don’t stand out, just stand in line as that makes it easiest to toe that line.  These studies demonstrated that conformity can affect memories in an enduring way.   Socially-imposed illusion, even ones that are known to be wrong by individuals, can supplant individual memories; these will often remain in place even when the original illusion is shown to be false.  It’s seems true that two (or more) wrongs can make an individual’s right (memory) turn into the same wrong.

Do you often talk to be typical, of your friends, of your generation, of your experiences?  Conversation is often typified by a desire to conform rather than communicate.  Conversation is often the outcome of memory and emotion.  Conversation is not just about facts and passive discourse; it can also be about fictions and ‘theatre’:

Fact may be stranger than fiction but fiction is more frequent than fact.  How do you find your own way through this quagmire?  Do you do it by tweaking your talk?

How Typical

December 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is that heading a statement, probably pejorative in nature, or is it a question without the question mark?  What’s that – you think it’s a statement?  How typical (which ‘tis nobler confirms is not a question).  Sorry, that sounded unintentionally pejorative, which is not typical of ‘tis nobler.

And, with your interest in experiential learning and behavioural change (why else would you be reading this?), it’s not typical of you either.

But what is typical, particularly when most of these judgements concern ‘global’ concepts, concepts that may have concrete definitions that mask their abstract nature?  Are you a typical teenager?  Are you a typical learner?  Are you typical of those trying to change their behaviour?  Are you a typical driver?  Are you typical?

The short answer to these questions is that people regard others who are similar to themselves as typical.  You are typical if you are like me for I like to regard myself as typical – I fit the ‘model’, I am the archetype.  There’s an interesting interplay going on here:

If you are like me, you are typical (for I consider myself the standard), and/or

If I like you (or what you are doing), you are typical (for I consider myself to be or do exactly like that too).

As Jamie Foxx sings in the song ‘Just Like Me’ – You’re just like me and I’m just like you …… How typical. How typical?

Think about and through the possible processes going on.  There may be elements of efficient pattern matching intertwined with perceptions of personal qualities that are influenced by self esteem in this judgement process.  It seems that concluding that someone else is typical is typically complicated.  The implications of this process can be equally complicated when you think about ‘Islands’:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.  Further, if I think you are dissimilar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am less likely to behave poorly.  In both these cases, I don’t need to know anything about you other than your level of similarity.

Assuming someone is typical because they are like you is typical.  Of course, people are books but you can only see their ‘covers’ in judging whether they are typical or not.

Do you judge a book by its cover?  How typical is this cover of the book?  Does your pattern matching transcend the cover?  Based on the way you answer these questions, should ‘tis nobler apply the statement, the question or both?

How typical.  How typical?

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!

The End Of Fooling

December 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

That must be good news, surely – the end of fooling.  However, where fooling ends is not necessarily the end of fooling.

In a 1939 radio address, President Franklin D Roosevelt uttered these words:

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.

This is undoubtedly true in principle.  A fiction does not become a fact simply through the process of being repeated.  But the evidence indicates that it is not always true in practice, particularly where an individual and management of their own behaviour is concerned.

Unless we are vigilant, monitoring and managing our behaviour, the ‘lies’ we employ can and do transform into our ‘truths’.  Fooling ends because we no longer consider ourselves to be fooling and that is, perhaps, the ultimate foolishness.  The Doobie Brothers acknowledged this in their – What A Fool Believes – when they sang that ‘what a fool believes, he see’:

Fooling can end when we ‘see the light’.  However, fooling can also end when we hide the light so deeply that we forget that this particular light exists, replacing it with the false illumination produced by our deceptive behaviour.

The approach known as bounded rationality does not mean that our rationality is applied in leaps and bounds; it means that our rationality can be constrained.  Our rationality is not bound (in the sense of ‘heading for’) the right reason or understanding.  Rather, it is bound (in the sense of ‘tied up’) to just a slice of the situation we find ourselves in.  Within this situational slice, it is both easy and tempting to distort things to suit your needs and then consider this distortion as truth.  Are lies the new honesty?

What a fool believes, he sees.  If you see it often enough, what you see eventually becomes true for you.  The end of fooling is determined by what you remember and what you forget.  Will you remember to not believe your own lies or will you forget that your own lies are (and will always remain) lies?  Do you repeatedly transform your own lies into truths?

Fooling Permits

November 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

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

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

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

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

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

Do foolish games come from ‘fooling’ games?

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!

Standard Bearers

November 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The past two posts have highlighted the potential pitfalls of anonymity – anonymity breeds aberration and as perceived anonymity increases, so does the level of aberration.  Are increasing numbers directly and immutably linked to decreasing standards?  Do groups ditch their (shared) standards rather than retain them?

When you shift from exactly like you to someone like you (who seems to be like everybody else due to the situation being confronted), are you and all of the ‘someones’ like you destined to spiral downwards?  It’s reasonable to think that groups dominate the individual – after all, we talk about being ‘caught up in the moment’ or of being ‘lost in the crowd’.

Recent events have shown how (group) behaviour can deteriorate rapidly but this focus can blind us to the presence and effect of standard bearers, those that can influence groups in constructive ways.

It is possible for a (large) group to remain partly a group and partly a group of individuals.  And therein might exist the key to unleash the positive potential that all groups possess, for individual differences can influence and resist what might otherwise be a mob mentality.  Whether you are alone or in the midst of many others, it is worth remembering the essential message in this song by Bon Jovi:

We weren’t born to follow

Come on and get up off your knees

When life is a bitter pill to swallow

You gotta hold on to what you believe

Choice is ever present; in the middle of a crowd, you can still choose to be yourself or you can choose to ‘follow’ someone like you.  ‘Like you’ refers to standards and, for a range of reasons, someone like you could be the standard bearer you need.  Of course, you can ‘choose’ to follow someone that is nothing like you – groups can do that to you.

Will you bear witness to the standards you bear by being a standard bearer should the need arise?  Walking together in the same direction is not following; rather, it is being led by your shared and positive standards.  Walking away from these standards does involve following – following blindly.  We weren’t born to follow in this way.

Exactly Like You

November 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Who is exactly like you?  While a range of criteria could be used to answer this question, let’s just use one – standards.

As individuals, we have standards.  Some of these standards are personal, others are broadly normative and yet others are societal.  In descending order of importance (from the personal to the societal), these standards help to define us.

As members of a small group, we have standards.  Some of these standards remain personal, others reflect specific group norms.  Broadly normative and societal standards also remain in place.

As members of a larger group, we have standards.  Some of these standards reflect specific group norms, while broadly normative and societal standards remain in place.  Did you notice the change?

In the previous post, the relationship between anonymity and aberration was explored in general terms – with anonymity comes aberration.  But, as groups get larger, our personal standards recede further and further into the distance.  Does this indicate that there are degrees of anonymity?  Is it possible for the personal to disappear completely within the impersonal group?  The evidence supports the notion of disappearance.

Anonymity breeds aberration and the more anonymous you believe you are, the more aberrant your behaviour becomes.  In large groups, you can scan the sea of faces trying to find someone like you:

And realise, perhaps ashamedly, that they are all like you and you are like all of them.  Situations overwhelm standards and inhibitions disappear as your personal standards depart.  Due to the situation and the behaviour of others, you become someone like you and not someone exactly like you.

What does it take to be exactly like you across situations and within groups?  Only you can answer that question.  It is essential to realise, though, that self management doesn’t cease simply because you’re with others!

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.

A Balancing Act

November 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  It’s not valid.   It’s definitely not balanced and, while it is not an act, it influences many of our actions.  Whichever way you look at it, where ‘it’ is the ways you think about yourself and others, the way of looking at it is unequal.  Where does this fundamental problem come from?  Who could be responsible for this inequality? As ‘tis nobler asks these questions, the answer is clear – ‘tis nobler.

Of course, if you are asking the very same questions, the answer is equally clear – you.  Along with wide shut (see previous post), everyone is also unbalanced:

I know myself better than you know yourself.

I know you better than you know me.

My ‘group’ knows your ‘group’ better than your ‘group’ knows my ‘group’.

Your actions ‘speak louder’ (say more about you) than my actions (say about me).

My thoughts ‘speak louder’ (are more consistent with who I am) than your (less consistent) thoughts.

And yet this lack of balance is generally ignored.  Indeed, the suggestion that ‘you know me better than I know myself’ is be a popular theme in literature and music:

But this contention is not supported by the evidence.  The origins of ‘Know Thyself’ are somewhat murky and the application of this saying to daily life is equally problematic.  We think others know us as an open book but our senses and thinking can be ‘wide shut’ and we think we know others much more than they know us because we lack balance.  How can we know ourselves when our perspective is so unbalanced?

Insight can be a marvellous quality but it (and other forms of thinking) can be distorted in many ways.  When you use insight, what is literally and figuratively in sight?  Can you think through these issues in a balanced way?

Find your own way through and around these distortions – it’s a balancing act!

Wide Shut

November 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you look up, what do you see?  If you’re indoors and taking this question literally, you might answer ‘the ceiling’.  If you’re outdoors and thinking atmospherically, you could answer ‘the sky’.  There is one answer that is independent of location and almost certainly correct regardless of where you are, who you are or what you are doing.

Any ideas on what this could be?  It’s not really a trick question although the answer does involve trickery.  This ‘thing’ must always be above you for you are always under it.

What are you always under?  An illusion!  Being under an illusion – that you are as clear to others as you are to yourself – is a constant companion in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts, simply because you are you and you are therefore not somebody else.  Of course, they (being all the others) are under the same illusion that you are; this turns the shared illusion into the reality with which we all must cope.  It’s crowded under there!

We all think that others will understand us as we understand ourselves.  We believe this should be straightforward as we consider our feelings and actions to be an ‘open book’, unambiguously there for all to see and comprehend.  Further, as our ‘book’ is open, we should all be on the same page all the time.  But even ‘open books’ present many challenges:

Can you imagine the ways in which misunderstandings flow from our mistaken belief that we are transparent to others?  Can you imagine the ways in which this illusion is compounded because we also assume that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are?

As a learner and changer, it’s never easy being ‘you’ for you are continually monitoring, identifying, analysing and resolving challenges.  During this process, you will be selective, sometimes to your advantage and sometimes not, you will be suspicious without necessarily knowing the cause and you will be caught short-handed for demands may exceed your capacity to cope.

It’s hard enough being you.  With the ‘book’ metaphor, it is challenging enough to establish where you are, what is happening and what it all means, even when you know the page, paragraph and preceding chapters.  Can you really expect others to ‘read what you are reading’ and therefore understand what you understand?

Try to be transparent, for valid connections with others can only help your journey.  Never just assume that you are transparent, for even though you consider yourself to be an ‘open book’, you will still often appear as an enigma machine to others.

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?

Bobbing Cork, Sailing Craft

November 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If ‘tis nobler said that this post was ‘hicoec’, would you realise that it is about choice (or, less cryptically, choice about)?  Perhaps this unusual opening indicates that the spelling of choice is adaptive – that is, it can be changed to adapt to a different situation.  And in this case, the different situation involved a need to be cryptic.

Exercising choice is inherently adaptive in a way that is much deeper and much more important than you might realise.  If you stay on the surface, it is easy to be dismissive of your role in making choices, something which happens many times every day.  After all, many of these choices are straightforward, many of them don’t need a second thought (in fact, many of them don’t even need a (conscious) first thought).  These choices are made to preserve patterns that provide the foundation for skilled performance (and patterns can be known as mental models, schema, mental representations etc).

The methods we use to make our choices are subject to many distortions and biases and yet we strive to avoid losses while trying to gain some benefits.  Most of the time, we’re OK at this (with OK being some distance from ‘good’); some of the time, though, we’re absolutely hopeless.  Again, if you stay on the surface, you can just look at the rewards within a given choice and then bounce from choice to choice.  This sort of behaviour could be considered specifically adaptive and generally positive (adaptive behaviour is designed to make things better).

But choices provide the opportunity to go deeper than this, should we so choose!  It is possible to transcend the rewards within our choices and reap the rewards that exist beyond specific choices, rewards that are found in the act rather than the outcome of choosing.  A bird in the hand might be worth two in the bush but a bird in the hand will always be worth less than the three birds you can obtain by making the effort.

Each choice gives you the opportunity to put your personal stamp on things, to make real that which is important to you.  Choice is about choosing – the surface view – and choice is about control – the deeper view.  Choice as control goes to the heart of self management and is fundamentally adaptive.  The previous post ended with these words:

You have the power to choose to stop. You have the power to choose to change.

And now you should realise that you also have the power to control through choosing.  What you actually do is up to you, for you are free to decide:

A bobbing cork at the mercy of the waves and the wind or a sailing craft pursuing the course established by you as captain – you do have the choice.  Find your own way to choose and control.

You Are Free To Stop

October 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s an open secret that an open secret is an oxymoron.  ‘tis nobler is unsure whether this old news came from military intelligence or the Italian government for there has been a deafening silence.  There are contradictory views on the involvement of paradoxes and contradictions in oxymorons; actually paradoxes lead to contradictions so it might be a case that everything ‘tis nobler writes is false.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether you are able to exclude that last assertion from your conclusion; if you cannot do this, it’s rather paradoxical.

Perhaps it’s like concluding that you are not free to do but (and say this in your best Yoda voice) you are free to do not.  It would be more realistic if you said ‘free you are to do not’.

Are you free to do not?  So it would seem from the evidence (although it is restricted to very simple experimental tasks).  This is a very big topic – one that will generate much discussion between neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers for it is fraught with methodological  and conceptual issues – but let’s pick out the very essence of it as it reinforces the fundamental importance of self management.

One fundamental advantage of experiential learning is the shift from conscious or intentional processing of information to subconscious and unintentional (but NOT unintended) operation.  There are many, many examples that you could draw on from personal experience in which you are doing things in a sensible, co-ordinated, effective and efficient manner without being fully aware of them – the most ubiquitous example could be driving a car, much of which takes place ‘in the background’ and occasionally from the backseat!  Are you exercising free will in these instances?

This may or may not be different from the chain of events that underpin specific and isolated choices, for what affects these discrete choices may still be as complex as any skilled behaviour.  Being unaware of ‘what and why’ prior to the conscious act may have little to do with free will and more to do with learned, validated and elegant patterns.  Who knows?

But, regardless of the precise mechanism(s), it appears possible to stop this automatic process before the (non-conscious) action is implemented.  While the status of a ‘go motion’ remains debatable, a ‘stop motion’ exists.  Stop motion is a paradox and yet it is exceedingly clever.  It relies on compressing a large number of very subtle changes to produce a fluid pattern, which is not that far away from the goals of experiential learning:

Even on autopilot and not consciously aware of what you are doing, you retain the capacity to stop and change.  You should be aware that you have choices, even when you are unaware of their existence.

You have the power to choose to stop.  You have the power to choose to change.  What will you choose to do?

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.

Deeply, Durably, Highly

September 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think deeply, commit durably, aspire highly!


What Does Pride Go Before?

September 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Psst, look over there.  Can you see something really tempting?  You know you shouldn’t give in to temptation but perhaps you will.  It’s only a couple of cream buns, or a dozen cans of beer, or an excuse to miss an exercise session.  What are you going to do?  How will your decision on whether to give in be affected by how you imagine you’ll feel afterwards?

Usually, it will go one of two ways.  Firstly, there’s thinking about the (future) shame or disgust of giving in:

That was absolutely hopeless!  I am ashamed of myself.  Why did I give in?  How pathetic am I?  And I know I shouldn’t do it.  Shame on me, shame!

Then there’s thinking about the (future) satisfaction or pride in not giving in:

Hey, I’m proud of myself for resisting.  I didn’t really need to eat/drink/sit around and I’m glad I didn’t just cave in.  I reckon I’m stronger than people give me credit for.  I didn’t give in to the temptation.  Well done, me!  I feel really good now.

What approach do you think is more effective for maintaining self control – imagining your future shame for giving in or imagining your future pride in having resisted?  The research evidence is in and ‘tis nobler will allow the finding to be announced by Elmo (and the Goo Goo Dolls):

Elmo reached the highest shelf …. and you feel that pride …’.  Dragging yourself down with the shame of poor self control is not the way to go; the pride in resistance outweighs the shame of succumbing as a way to sustain self control.  As a guiding principle, it’s always better to lean towards a positive approach than it is to manage your behaviour through fear or shame.

‘tis nobler wonders whether there is another control issue at work here that might help explain this finding.  How would you control the assessment process?  It might be easier to soften the impact of (future) shame than it would be to elevate the pride that results from resisting.  Even if you negated the effect of shame completely, pride remains effective relative to a neutral approach; it’s not just that pride is better than shame for pride is also better than passivity.

‘tis nobler needs to re-write a familiar saying: Pride goes before better self control (but gloating still goes before a fall).  Be proud of your continuing efforts by taking pride in what you are becoming.  To control yourself, will you drag yourself down or raise yourself up?  Be proud.

Break Up Or Down

August 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Goals are funny things if you stop to think about them, not that many people do.  Goals are usually and blindly accepted as good things:

People often assume that having goals is a good thing, and it is.  People often assume that these goals are a source of motivation, and they might be.  People often assume that a fixed attachment to their goals is both required and desirable and they are wrong.  Goals are an end, but they can also end the means, yet another behavioural paradox!

Goals aren’t neutral, defining an end and then waiting passively on the sidelines for you to act accordingly in order to arrive.  For as long as they exist, they will have an influence and you must decide, actively and continually, whether this influence is positive or negative at any point.  In the post linked above, tis nobler stated:

If you see your future as fixed, you are less likely to arrive there.

And if you imagine that this future is positive, you are also less likely to arrive there – you should expect the positive and imagine the negative!  Reasonable (in size and probability) expectations of success can direct your efforts towards goal achievement; in contrast, low expectations of success can see you heading somewhere else (which is not necessarily a bad thing if you think it through. It’s healthy to think of ‘failure’ as delayed success).

Now, here’s another finding to throw into the decision making mix – there are benefits in breaking goals down and breaking goals up.  The direction doesn’t matter as either direction can keep you heading in the right direction.  Reframing goals into more easily digested, bite-sized pieces is the key. ‘tis nobler isn’t talking about global goals that can be fixed, fuzzy and forever out of reach; ‘tis nobler is talking about concrete, shorter term goals that affect the next few months or a year or so.  These goals – think of weight loss as the example – require regular effort.

Framing a commitment as ‘3 hours per week’ seems less likely to be sustained than its reframed version of ‘less than half an hour a day’.  It just appears easier and effort is maintained when things are a little easier:

Making things seem a little easier is not the same as making things easier.  Perception is the issue, not effort.  Making things seem a little easier is NOT avoiding the harder stuff; it’s a way of making the harder stuff more likely to occur.  You can construct a better future by deconstructing your goals, and you can do this without altering them. How easy is that?