Posts Tagged ‘success’

Will Concrete Make Us Happy?

December 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

It’s in the ocean, yeah!

Happiness is all around, happiness!

It’s in the sunlight, yeah!

Happiness is all around…  

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

Concrete is everywhere.

Happiness is all around.

Therefore, concrete IS happiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will This Make Me Happy?

December 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Around Is Not Forward

October 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Movement does not necessarily signify progress; neither does change necessarily signify improvement.  Deckchairs on the Titanic or chickens parted from their heads represent evidence that around is not forward.  Around poses problems for individuals but it is an almost irresistible temptation for groups.

Around does have particular appeal for it alludes to effort – satisfying a pre-requisite that people must be seen to be doing something – while progress eludes those making such ‘effort’.  The latter satisfies a second pre-requisite for many such activities – retention of the status quo.

Not only is around not forward, around prevents forward.  In a standard twist, forward must not only be prevented, it must NOT be seen to be prevented.  Prevention is better when unclear!

There is significant evidence indicating how this happens within groups but no clear explanations for why this happens.  Possible explanations will be left for another time – perhaps things will move forward if ‘tis nobler hangs around – so let’s just set out the basic problem.

And the basic problem is ‘around’.  Groups are not the sum of the individuals that comprise them; rather, groups are often the parts of each individual that are shared with all other group members.  Instead of bringing all of themselves to the group, each person brings only those things shared with others.  In this sense, while groups comprise more people, group performance can reflect the limited performance of less than one individual.

If you can’t or don’t use all of your abilities to help the group move forward, look what happens:

Expanding numbers can produce shrinking performance, for all reduce to the shared rather than share the unique.  It’s the opposite of synergy – the whole is less rather than greater than the sum of its parts.

There’s a lot of ‘going around’ going around.  Go forward, not around.

Starting At The Finish

September 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Where do you begin?

With an experiential learning and behavioural change focus, addressing this question philosophically or biologically doesn’t add much value; in fact, this enquiry has nothing to do with chronology.  It’s an enquiry related to decision making.

As a fundamental form of thinking, analogous reasoning suggests starting at the start, building up relationships and ending at the finish.  It’s one-way traffic, reasoning from start to finish. It’s reasonable to see your involvement as reason-able and reasoned.

But it need not, and often isn’t, this way – We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians; further, we should remember that ….. 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.  Foibles, failings, priorities and preferences ensure that reasoning is a two-way street, one in which you can still find yourself going the ‘wrong’ way.

Without being unreason-able, for you are still reasoning, albeit in a motivated rather than objective manner, you can start at the finish and work your way around until you arrive – at the finish (which is where you started!).  After all, starting at the finish and then working backwards to reach the same finish line does ensure that you end up where you wanted to be.  When you start at the finish, it is virtually guaranteed that you finish where you started.

You can take reasoned, reason-able actions that derive the finish from these actions or you can take actions that ensure that you achieve what you wanted.  Think about it – affect aligns with one or more biases and affects thinking effects. In one sense, starting at the finish is like living life backwards:

Where do you begin? It’s a simple question that has dramatic ramifications for the quality and validity of your reasoning.  You can always think of ‘reasons’ to support starting at the finish but they tend to be rationalisations rather than rationales.  And these ‘reasons’ are difficult to detect for people are effective at masking the affective with the apparently objective.

Where do you begin? It’s a reasonable question – is your answer reasoned or known in advance (for you started at the finish)?

Stranded

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.

 

Before Connecting

August 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slipping Through, Working Through

August 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last week, it was noted that retrieval of memories is not a neutral process – it’s not a case that we remember something and then file this untouched memory away again.  The present influences our recall of the past, revising pre-existing memories or creating false memories.  The retrieval process is active, not passive.

Now, you would expect that vision is a neutral process; after all, our eyes do the seeing and the brain supplies the meaning.  But the more we understand visual perception, the more the balance shifts towards the brain.  The eyes let the light in and the brain does the rest – it’s more about perception and (as we’ll soon see) perceptions than sensation.  Vision is an active process, not passive.

In biological terms, this is similar to the difference between diffusion and facilitated osmosis, between slipping through and ‘working’ your way through, between effortless and effortful (ignoring the detail, regular osmosis can be passive).  Diffusion and the two types of osmosis are explained in this short video, perhaps more fascinating than entertaining:

The specific trigger for this post was some recent research that indicated that exposure to gossip affected vision as well as judgement.  As noted, vision transcends sensation and perception is, in one sense, just a subset of perceptions (which can be cognitive as well as sensory).  Images with negative information were given preference (by the brain) if this information (gossip) was socially relevant, that is, it allowed users to pass judgement.  Negative but socially irrelevant information (e.g. broke their leg) did not attract preferential treatment.  Can you imagine why we subconsciously direct our visual attention more to those associated with socially negative information?

But there’s a broader issue at play here, with implications for experiential learning and behavioural change.  Perhaps novices operate more as diffusers, ‘allowing’ information in and out with little effort or control and unable to operate strategically.  Gaining experience can be seen as a way to shift from passive to active, to move from externally controlled (or pushed around) to internally controlling (or effectively self managing).

Diffuse or osmotic applies at the cellular level and can be used as ways to describe (in a non-technical sense) vision and memory processing.  In the labyrinthine ‘world’ of experiential learning and behavioural change, can you connect these concepts, and the shift from one to the other, to effortful practice and self management?  Is it ever possible to simply slip through to success or do you always have to work your way through the challenges?

Experience, A Placebo?

August 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It seems that medicine need not be medicinal for benefits to accrue – welcome to the placebo effect.  Placebos are traditionally denoted as inert substances that have the appearance but not the mechanism for a therapeutic role.  Give one group a white pill containing an active agent and a second group apparently the same white pill without the active agent; it could just be a sugar pill.  It stands to reason that the difference between the groups will be due to the active agent.  It’s reasonable but often incorrect.

The more we investigate the role of placebos, the more interesting their role seems to become.  There is evidence that placebos are becoming more effective and, more recently, some initial evidence that positive effects are produced even when people know they are receiving a placebo (usually, deception has been thought of as a pre-condition for the placebo effect).

In psychology, the Hawthorne Effect (and a range of other ‘effects) could represent types of placebo effects whereby the process of being studied is an active agent in its own right.  Sometimes, perhaps all the time, just being there (or even being nearby) can effect change.  In experiential learning, can experience itself operate sometimes as a placebo?

‘tis nobler suggests that the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.  Fundamentally, the issue is not whether experience offers learning value, for it always does; the issue concerns the efficiency with which this learning value is extracted from the experience.  Participating in any experience, directly, indirectly or vicariously, offers learning opportunities even when you think these experiences are nothing more than ‘sugar pills’.  Despite just going through the motions, learning is still taking place, albeit more slowly, more half-heartedly and much more inefficiently:

‘tis nobler was reminded of ‘experience as placebo’ when reading about some recent happiness research.  The conclusion was very telling – ‘We conclude that happiness interventions are more than just placebos, but that they are most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention’ (emphasis added).

Experience can be a placebo but it can and should be more than just a placebo.  If you know about, endorse and commit to experiential learning, learning outcomes will be more effective and much more efficient.  ‘Spectators’ learn but participants learn more quickly and more deeply.

Going through the motions is a form of self-deception. How do you deceive yourself when exposed to each and every experience that adds learning value?  Find your own way to enable your experiences to be more than placebos.

Places And The Moon

July 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

For a start, there’s the Sea of Tranquillity, the site for the first Moon landing.  What’s that?  Read the title of this post carefully.  It’s ‘and’, not ‘on’. Is there a link between places AND the Moon?

The first, um, place to start is with some recent research that reinforces the value of pattern recognition derived from experience.  When people were asked to make quick judgments on the safety of (photographs of) unfamiliar neighbourhoods, their ‘gut feelings’ were accurate.  Of course, this has little to do with ‘the gut’, for the explanation can be found between the ears.  Neither should you dismiss this capability as just ‘a feeling’ or intuition, for the effort invested to produce these snap judgments is substantial.

This research complements many other studies that have shown the emergence of pattern recognition as a function of increasing experience.  Learners move from trying to cope with all the little bits through to holistic assessments of more global patterns.  Experienced learners just ‘know’ things, not because they get better at guessing but because they can identify, understand and act on the patterns they perceive.

That’s the relevance of places, now for the Moon; enjoy this fabulous song by The Waterboys and pay particular attention to the lyrics:

I had flashes.”  Novice learners deal with the bits they encounter.  “But you saw the plan.”  Experienced learners combine (or chunk) these bits and operate on the basis of patterns, not bits.

I saw the crescent.”  Novice learners deal with some, but not all, of the bits they encounter.  “You saw the whole of the Moon.”  Experienced learners incorporate all of the bits into the one pattern.

I saw the rain dirty valley.”  Novice learners deal with the bits literally and independently.  “You saw Brigadoon.”  Experienced learners are able to extract meaning from patterns (in part because they’re not overwhelmed by juggling the many bits) and ‘see’ not just the big picture but beyond it as well.

Can you imagine the benefits to precision, fluency, workload and decision making when you see the whole of the Moon and not just the crescent?  Commitment to a sustained learning journey will take you many places and, eventually, take you to the (whole of the) Moon.

Mindful

July 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What should you be mindful of?  The usual answer is to be mindful of the moment.

Mindfulness is a concept that requires a unilateral focus on the immediate, the here and know, the moment.  It is a way to focus, to relax and to renew.  It underpins aspects of religion, meditation, therapy and ‘life coaching’.  The focus can be very narrow – breathing – or it can be very wide – the situation you’re confronting – but the emphasis is on devoting attention, your full attention, to everything.

As a learner, what should you be mindful of?  ‘tis nobler’s answer would be to be mindful of not being too mindful, except when being mindful recharges your learning journey.  What do you think the relationship between mindfulness and experiential learning is?

A single-minded focus on the immediate enables you to push away all of the other elements that comprise learning.  If you do so as a needed break from your learning, then that’s fantastic; if you do so because you believe this focus is necessary for learning, then that’s probably misplaced.

Narrowing your learning in time while expanding the amount of information you’re taking in can be counterproductive.  If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the moments that are yet to arrive, the ‘future’ moments that you should be anticipating and preparing for?  If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the reverberations of the moments that seem to have passed?

You can undoubtedly find things ‘in the moment’ but you can also be lost in the moment:

‘tis nobler thinks it’s wrong to conceive of the here and now as comprising all of the information you need to perform.  This conception suggests that the more mindful you are, the more successful you’ll be as a skilled performer.  Experiential learning adopts the opposite approach – the more your ‘here and now’ performance reflects the sum total of your entire learning journey, past, present and future, the more successful you’ll be.

What many consider to be thinking ‘on your feet’, another way to describe applied mindfulness, misrepresents this type of thinking for the better performers are thinking through their journey and applying the lessons learned; they are not just thinking about where they happen to be standing at any point in time.

Being mindful is about conscious control, conscious processing and conscious awareness; being experienced is about shifting from the conscious to the automatic.  The specific challenge may be in the here and now but its solution is created over a much longer timeframe.

‘tis nobler encourages you to practise mindfulness when you want to relax and recharge.  When you want to learn, ‘tis nobler encourages you to practise being mindful-less.

Behind

July 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In many children’s pantomimes, there is often a part where the leading character is being stalked by a ‘baddie’.  At these times, it is mandatory for the audience to shout “He’s behind you” as loud as they can, and then the merriment ensues.  But what happens when you’re behind?  What happens when you’re losing?

Research guidance on this question revolves around momentum, force, motivation and self-belief.  Let’s first think about the concept of momentum, which is the product of a body’s mass and rate of movement.  The bigger ‘you’ are and/or the faster ‘you’ are moving, the more momentum ‘you’ have.  The law of conservation of linear momentum says that momentum doesn’t change unless acted on by outside forces.  Sometimes, momentum appears unstoppable but only because the force needed to change or stop it is not available.

Now think of motivation as a force, something that can be applied to alter momentum.  In this sense, motivation is not an absolute force – applied at the same level regardless of circumstances.  Think of this motivation in relative terms, for it does relate to both ‘distance’ and self-belief.  The smaller the gap and/or the stronger the self-belief, the more likely you are to be successful in altering momentum to your advantage.  Losing by a small margin yet believing that you are capable of overcoming the deficit produces a higher than expected rate of ultimate success.

The Aimee Mann song ‘Momentum’ captures this well when she sings:

But I can’t confront the doubts I have

I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad

And so, for the sake of momentum

I’m condemning the future to death

So it can match the past.

Events and outcomes will match the past if you make little or no effort to change them.  And changing momentum requires the application of motivational force that, in turn, requires self-belief.  Self-belief can be sustained when hope remains intact; a small gap can fuel hope and nurture self-belief.

Momentum can always be shifted by the appropriate force.  The ongoing challenge is to keep the motivation to achieve this alive by ensuring the required force remains within manageable limits.  May the force to shift momentum be with you!

Vague? Precisely!

July 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you translate this sentence?  To be more precise, take the sentence “How do you translate this sentence?” and translate it into English.

How did you go?  Did it take you long?  Did you make any mistakes?  Really, it couldn’t have been any easier given the absolute precision of instructions and the simplicity of the task.

Now, look at these four sentences and try to work out what they mean:

Comment traduisez-vous cette phrase?  Miten kääntää tämän lauseen?  Πώς μεταφράζεται αυτή η πρόταση?  इस वाक्य दूसरों के लिए अलग है?

Did you make any headway?  Did you recognise that the first sentence was written in French?  Doesn’t ‘comment’ mean ‘how’ in English as in ‘Comment allez-vous?’ – ‘How are you?’  And perhaps the French word ‘phrase’ has some overlap with the English word ‘phrase’.  Could the French ‘phrase’ be translated into English as ‘sentence’.  How, something, something, sentence, and then a question mark.  If you can see an emerging pattern, then the French sentence does indeed translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’

The second, third and fourth languages are Finnish, Greek and Hindi.  As they are all questions and if the pattern continues, they probably all translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’  And you’d be right – almost – as the Hindi sentence is a translation of ‘Is this sentence different to the others?’ 🙂

Even if you are monolingual, you are still an interpreter for precision and clarity are uncommon features of experiential learning and behavioural change.  You must make sense of the situation as it unfolds and perform effectively and efficiently in the circumstances – the demands being imposed on you are never fully defined, never just handed to you on a plate.  Translate, interpret, act.

And this is where there must a real change.  Teachers, trainers and instructors have traditionally thought that their job is to make things as easy as possible by providing their learners with the ‘safety’ of precise instructions and unambiguous advice.  In certain tasks, viz closed-loop skills, this remains the case.

But when you must learn by doing and not by doing what you’ve been told to do, the value of ‘the vague’ has received research support.  ‘Vague’ supports personal value-adding while ‘precise’ removes the personal contribution from the process.  ‘Vague’ may be more challenging and more daunting but the essence of your learning – your own experience – can’t be artificially ‘injected’ by an outsider.  Their role is to facilitate, not force.

‘tis nobler could tell you what (‘tis nobler thinks) this video – ‘Hat’ – is all about:

And you might simply adopt ‘tis nobler’s interpretation as your own, becoming a parrot that recites without understanding rather than a performer who demonstrates the value of experiences and reflection.  Vagueness encourages autonomous learning; you should learn with autonomy rather than learn as an automaton (for there is no real learning involved in mindlessly obeying instructions)!

In experiential learning, vague suggestions are the new precise instructions.  Vague?  Precisely!

Constant Mess

June 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Today’s post is more than a game of connecting the dots, it’s a search for understanding what these dots mean for your learning and change efforts.  There’s an initial hint – it’s more about the constant than it is about the mess.  Firstly, let’s hear from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Secondly, let’s hear from The Pet Shop Boys:

And then turn the title around – “What do I deserve for what I’ve done?”

Thirdly, think through the saying ‘Winning Isn’t Everything’, particularly as it relates to the way you ‘play the game’.  When you do, including all sorts of concepts such as self efficacy, motivation, engagement and success into your musings, it might be useful to know that the evidence for the relationship between ‘getting’ and ‘deserving’ supports many interpretations.  For example, self efficacy has been shown to be an important predictor of enjoyment; at the same time, enjoyment has been shown to be an important predictor of self efficacy.  Engagement can be both a cause and an effect.  You will sometimes be motivated by reasoned action and you will sometimes act on the basis of motivated reasoning.  It’s getting very messy.

Perhaps this is a Gordian Knot problem, requiring a ‘Great’ solution.  Rather than trying to disentangle the messiness, it might be better to realise that explaining this messiness, like so many other aspects of experiential learning, is subordinate to the one constant that always applies and that is your effort.

Unfortunately, effort itself can get messy and highly variable, but only if you allow it to become so.  Effort can be independent of time, place and situation.  Effort can determine if you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get.

It’s not a constant mess, for systematic effort will refine your operating systems.  Without the constant, though, things will remain a mess.  And it’s a constant struggle to overcome the mess for ‘Everyone wants better.  No one wants change’.

Looking Elsewhere

June 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Apparently, there are over 300 species of (domesticated) goats.  As far as ‘tis nobler knows, none of these types of goat have much to do with experiential learning or behavioural change.

There is, however, another type of goat that features regularly in learning and change activities.

And this type of goat can always be relied upon to perform poorly.  You won’t necessarily find poor performance in its own eyes but you will always find it reflected in the eyes of others.  It’s a handy type of goat to have around even though you prefer to talk about it rather than to it.

It’s a scapegoat.

It’s standard practice in sporting organisations to hold coaches responsible for team performance, with the sacking of coaches being a regular occurrence.  A very extensive and detailed investigation of this activity within the German soccer league found no evidence to support sacking a coach as a way to improve team performance.  Any apparent improvement can be explained as a return to average levels of performance that are largely independent of coaching influence.

Scapegoating is yet another ‘out’, another excuse for all of the leaks in your learning and behavioural change efforts.  It’s easy to play the ‘blame game’ even when you don’t fully understand what is going on:

As a ‘solution’, scapegoating is one example of the potential for convenience to take precedence over validity.  As a strategy, blaming others is much, much more common than it is effective.  Why is it that being seen to be doing ‘something that is really nothing’ is more favoured than just getting on with the job of doing ‘something that is something’?  Pretending that the problems are ‘elsewhere’ because that is where you prefer to look is never a solution.

Where do you end up when you take the easy way out?

How Should You See The Future?

June 17th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is sure you’ve heard things like this before:

“Can you picture yourself receiving the medal?  Can you imagine the teacher giving you an A for this test?  Can you see how your life will change when you succeed?”

It’s become very popular to imagine (visualise) a desired future as a way of motivating you to achieve it.  Will the dreamers inherit their future?

Back here, ‘tis nobler explored the potential benefits of positive expectations and negative dreams as well as the potential disadvantages of positive dreams.  That post concluded with these words:

Having positive expectations, supported by evidence (of effort, insight, progress, feedback etc), leads to success.  Having negative ‘dreams’, the images that the learning process will be demanding, time-consuming and extensive can also contribute to success, for they are directly connected with the evidence on which expectations are based.  Positive ‘dreams’ are unconnected with anything except your dreaming.

Expect the positive and imagine the negative!

Let’s expand this issue a bit by adding that the means are more important than the end for expectations, visualisations and dreams – anything that conjures up images of the future.  If you focus on the end result, you focus on the destination with little regard for the journey.  With scant attention paid to how you’re going to get there, the chances are increased that you’ll fail to arrive.  You may fail to even set off, for this type of visualisation is not benignly ineffective – it can actually make matters worse.  As The Cranberries sing, you are ‘living not for the reality, it was just my imagination’:

What do you imagine happens when it’s just your imagination? As you fail to make progress, there can also be an emotional cost when your effort, plans and journey are subordinated or swamped by a dreamy pre-occupation with the outcome.  It can make you anxious when you realise that the destination doesn’t appear to be getting any closer despite your fixations on it.  You might end up wanting it more and more as time passes but more than hope is required.  As the nursery rhyme states, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Dream the process, don’t just process the dream.  Live the dream, don’t just dream the life.  Use your imagination to reinforce rather than remove the required effort.  You can’t arrive without leaving and you won’t leave if you just imagine that you’ve already arrived.

Distance Between Strategy, Motivation And Excuse

May 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A constant theme in ‘tis nobler posts is that of the learning journey, a journey that, for it to be effective, efficient and durable, demands that you must find your own way. Not surprisingly, then, ‘distance’ has featured prominently. It was used as a metaphor for progress and as an important self control strategy (here and here).

The use of ‘distance’ is a way to gain insights into your own behaviour and the ‘distance’ that still lies ahead improves goal adherence. It has also been used to dismiss decision making styles as a helpful framework.

‘tis nobler has covered quite a, um, distance in exploring the concept of ‘distance’, which is central to construal level theory. But that’s another story, a story for, shall we say, further down the track.

There is some recent evidence that ‘social distancing’ – the interpersonal rather than the intrapersonal ‘distance’ or greater interpersonal ‘distances’ (between strangers and friends) – can also assist problem solving and creativity. Add these to the list of ‘distance’ beneficiaries listed above and dealing with the ‘concrete’ – the directly and immediately personal – seems to be on shaky ground. Abstraction can assist, if only because it removes a number of personal distractions that would otherwise apply.  In this song by Brandon Heath, he sings:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the once forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

It doesn’t really matter whether it is ‘Your’ (as intended) or ‘your’ in this chorus, the principle remains. Using ‘distance’ can help in many ways, ways that lead to breakthroughs, solutions and actions.

‘tis nobler wonders whether a ‘distance’ strategy (using the abstract to solve the concrete) gradually evolves into a ‘distance’ motivation (motivated more by the abstract than the concrete) and eventually into a ‘distance’ excuse of only being interested in the abstract. Finding ways to understand the personally concrete is fantastic, using one of these ways as an excuse for avoiding the concrete much, much less so.

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

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.

While Or Instead?

March 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Happy’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Can you be effective when affective?  Obviously, it is a matter of degree (in a similar way to arousal) – too much or too little and performance suffers.  But being happy could be viewed as a desirable precondition for learning.  Experiential learning can have a social dimension – learning with others – and research has shown that learners who are happy extract more value from their situation than those who are annoyed or frustrated.  Interestingly, being on the ‘same affective page’ – either all happy or all annoyed – can enhance the learning experience (defined as information transfer).  Still, as a general rule, it is better to be content than congruent!

So, as a general rule, whistle while you work:

But be careful that you don’t whistle instead of work.  It is important to view happiness as an end – after all, everyone aspires and deserves to be happy – but it must also, and simultaneously, be viewed as a means.  In a large study investigating the relationship between positive affect and college success, the inferred difference between while and instead appears stark:

Instead is positively associated with self-reported measures of success – feeling good just by itself creates higher self-assessments of success, but:

Instead is negatively associated with objective measures of success – feeling good just by itself produces lower levels of performance.

You will feel better if you whistle instead of work, and you’ll believe that you are doing better as well.  The first may be usually true but the second rarely is.  The challenge is to multi-task by replacing instead with while.  Whistling and working is more effective than whistling rather than working!

Whistle while you work.  If you feel you can do both, It may be the best way to both feel and do better.

A Patient Heart

March 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

The long road makes for a patient heart.

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

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

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

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

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

Excellence is never achieved through exhortation.

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

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

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