Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

Now Or Never?

December 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this music video;

See you in 2012!

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?

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?

It’s Extraordinary

December 9th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

It is extraordinary.  If it wasn’t for the plentiful evidence, it would be unbelievable.  And the effect that it has on our behaviour is both extraordinary and extra ordinary.

It is extraordinary that we have a predisposition to focus on the extraordinary.  It’s a twist on the usual ‘forest and trees’ connection; in this case, we can’t see the trees all around us as we focus on the chance that a sasquatch lives in the forest and the danger this would represent.  What makes something extraordinary is precisely why this focus is misplaced.  If it was just a question of misplacement, it would be less of an issue for priorities can always be rearranged.

However, concern does grow when displacement enters the cognitive arena.  Displacement is close to replacement; once the crucial focus on the very common ordinary is replaced by an unwavering focus on the very infrequent extraordinary, the risks we (fail to) perceive and the decisions we make accordingly affect our behaviour adversely.

How many falling branches, snakes, spiders, cliffs or weather conditions do you tend to overlook because you think that the real danger is found in the possible presence of an angry Bigfoot?  It’s extraordinary that the extraordinary is so extraordinarily influential.

This music video for the song ‘Extraordinary’ assembles many extraordinary events and piles them one on top of the other but, as you watch it, you have to remember that ‘extraordinary’ is almost never the problem.  However risky you perceive this behaviour, it should never distort your perception of risk towards the extraordinary:

One of the many benefits of effortful experience is the ability to see the bigger picture.  But operating at the level of the bigger picture should not and does not arrive at the expense of only seeing/looking for the biggest risks.  It’s an interesting contrast – experiential learning allows you to cope with the many ordinary risks automatically while you concurrently focus on the extraordinary risks intentionally.

‘tis nobler hopes that you achieve extraordinary things, perhaps just by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.  This will involve some risk management – skilled yet ‘ordinary’ performance that should not be distorted by an intentional focus on the extraordinary.

And yet it remains extraordinary that we continually act on our predisposition to focus on the extraordinary.  In what way will you be extraordinary?

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!

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.

Forward Is Not Straightforward

October 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

We realise from the last post that around is not forward.  Around is around, and around is anything but forward.  Around can be a backward step in many ways, and not one of those ways is forward.

Trying to unpack ‘forward is not straightforward’ can also lead us in many directions.  One of the main reasons why forward is not straightforward is that going around is comfortable and non-threatening.  How do you break away from going around (in circles) in order to move forward?

It’s interesting that the last thing to do is often the first thing done – reduce the challenge and complexity involved in breaking away to simple catchcries and empty slogans.  If ‘just do it’ enabled people to ‘just do it’, then ‘it’ would always get done.  It’s just not that easy.  There is some general guidance from research studies that might make moving forward more straightforward (and remember, be positive, think comparative).

To move forward rather than around, realise firstly that everything is more important than it may appear, for the opportunity to move forward is ever present.  This does not mean that everything is crucial or critical; neither does it mean that you must never miss an opportunity for you will miss many, many opportunities.  But if you move forward more often because you understand that things are more important than they seem, it’s a step in the right direction!  And these steps form a pattern, and we all know how important patterns are to learning and behavioural change.

At the tipping point for moving forward, implement rather than create.  Thinking ‘on your feet’ might be all you need to decide that it’s safer to go around rather than forward.  Make symbolic changes as a means to an end; many think that symbolic change is an end in its own right for it is, after all, a change.  Real change, demonstrated by moving forward, can be made more likely by making small changes that symbolise a commitment to change.

Don’t focus on the process and ignore the occasional stumble; remember and reinforce the reason for moving forward.  You can avoid the process and the stumbles by going around but you also avoid the reason for breaking away from just going around at the same time.  Regardless of how you do it, the principle underpinning all of these strategies is a simple one:

Don’t hold back, just push things forward!

Forward does not necessarily mean straight so only you can decide whether ‘crooked’ is forward or around.  Straight or ‘crooked’, though, forward is never straightforward.  Can you get your head around that?

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.

Appearing Positive

October 21st, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Apparently, this week has been about appearances.  At least, that is how it has seemed.  Making an appearance, as appearance has done this week, suggests that there are periods of absence.  Appearing then departing, appearing (in the sense of seeming) then becoming clear(er) or absent and then appearing, the change in ‘state’ may be the most noticeable feature.  Of course, the regular appearance of change blindness suggests that we can be blind to a change in appearance.

Who would have thought that appearance was such an awkward concept?

Still, In the face of continuing uncertainty and constant change, we are often told to stay positive, suggesting we were positive in the first place.  But ‘appearing positive’ – the title of today’s post – is not about affect; rather, it’s about grammar.  And it’s about the relevance of the relative and the abandonment of the absolute.

The positive is the base form of an adjective – easy, safe, hard or dangerous – and it is in this form that many people view experiential learning and behavioural change.  They view it in absolute terms.  Things might appear positive – they might appear safe or easy – but the ways things appear can be deceiving.

But things are rarely absolute and so we need to think of ‘appearing positive’ in degrees – safer, easier or less dangerous.  This is the comparative form, the form that is more appropriate for learners and changers.  You are never safe but you can always be safer, things are never easy but effort can make them easier.  If you think ‘positive’, you see things in black and white.  To appreciate the many subtleties that influence learning and behaviour, you need to see both others and situations (and yourself) in true colours:

As soon as you slip back to accepting that things appear positive, and therefore they are absolute, the potential for error increases.  We can be lulled into this type of thinking for the real world often conspires against us:

  • We operate in forgiving environments and so we are often unaware of being forgiven.
  • We operate in familiar environments and so we are often unaware of the subtle variations.
  • We operate in self-paced environments and so we are often unaware of our efforts to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Forgiving, familiar and self-paced are ‘positive’.  But we need more, or less, to guide our journey – more forgiving, less familiar, and more self-paced.  Is more or less more or less appropriate than the positive? Can you be absolutely positive or is it better to be surely relative?

Things might appear positive but they aren’t.  Be positive, think comparative.

Appearing Random

October 19th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This is the fifth (of six) ‘strategic’ post in a row, which hardly seems random (for the sole reason that it isn’t).  Yet the appearance of randomness influences learning and behavioural change in a host of ways.  Let’s start with a few questions.

Would your friends describe you as fantastic or bombastic?  Would your friends describe you as gymnastic or inelastic?  Would your friends describe you as enthusiastic or plastic?  Would your friends describe you as ecclesiastic or scholastic?

Would your friends think these rating are drastic or exaggerated?  Exaggerated?  EXAGGERATED??  That doesn’t fit the pattern!

The use of ‘exaggerated’ isn’t sarcastic – it’s stochastic.  Actually, it’s not stochastic, but ‘tis nobler is trying to make a point.  And the point has to do with how you go about explaining things, for your explanations can affect everything you do.

Stochastic means random, a messy word that might be best defined as unpredictable, although this might just mean things are happening according to a pattern of which we are unaware.  Just because things look random doesn’t mean that they are – even many sets of ‘random’ numbers are, in technical terms, pseudo-random rather than truly random.

The difference between things appearing mostly random or mostly predictable is you!

Everybody knows the saying, ‘S#@t happens’.  Is this just ‘bad luck’?  Was it unavoidable?  Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Was there anything you could have done differently?  In order, ‘tis nobler suggests that the answers to these questions are improbable, probably not, possibly and absolutely.

How would you answer these same questions?

Stochastic systems aren’t entirely chaotic; they have both predictable and unpredictable elements – just knowing how they start out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll know how they finish (if it did, the system would be deterministic, not stochastic).  Traffic is stochastic – you can predict reliably, but not perfectly, what most other drivers will do because most behave in accordance with rules and social norms most of the time.  You can predict that almost every driver will stay on their side of the road almost all of the time but you can’t be completely sure that, as you round the next corner, you won’t be faced with another car coming straight towards you on your side of the road.  Welcome to the stochastic world!

Unpredictability is always from a particular viewpoint – an event may appear unpredictable to you but not to others.  An event may appear unpredictable to you simply because you didn’t notice the things that led up to it.  It may have been surprising (to you) but it wasn’t unpredictable.  If you don’t see something, does this make it inherently unpredictable?

Being ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t mean being unavoidable; the key dimension is time.  You can ‘predict’ something just as it is about to happen but that’s not much of a prediction.  The challenge is to operate ahead of time, to anticipate so that you have the time to work out what to do and then do it.  Anticipation is a hallmark of experience.

Until now, we’ve talked about stochastic things as things you have to anticipate, avoid or cope with.  But there’s another side that is exciting:

“What’s the point of living it without a tiny little bit of ….” 

Don’t be determined by others or by events that you think are beyond your control.  Be determined to find your own way, even when the process appears stochastic. Appearing random can be transformed into being in control through that essential element – effort.

It will remain a partially stochastic behavioural world.  Stochasticity is part of the challenge but it’s also part of the fun.


Appearing Frozen

October 17th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Learning and change can be great fun, producing memorable experiences that just seem to flow.  But these don’t last forever.

Learning and change can be real ordeals, producing difficult periods that you just can’t seem to shake.  But these don’t last forever.

Between the fun times and the ordeals, learning and change can just be!  They remain a part of your day to day life, even though they may be swamped by apparently more pressing matters.

How should you treat the highs?  How should you cope with the lows?  And how should you persevere when you are in the much, much larger ‘space’ between them?  There is much guidance on overcoming procrastination and much assistance on perseverance – much of which you can find by browsing these archives or exploring elsewhere.  None of this information has real meaning unless you derive it personally.  Without this investment of effort, just empty words remain.

Learning isn’t consistent, progress isn’t linear, change isn’t guaranteed and perseverance isn’t unchanging.  While there will be times when you feel like you’re making great progress, it’s probably more likely that you’ll be feeling as though there’s nothing left to learn (which is wrong because you’ll continue to improve for many years).  It’s a rollercoaster ride – sometimes you roll along, sometimes you coast and sometimes you struggle to cope because it’s a rollercoaster.  All the time, however, you are riding.

Even when you don’t think you are in ‘the game’, you ARE in ‘the game’.

Still, there will be many times when you’re going to feel as though you are frozen, something which (you and) others may not understand.  But, when you unfreeze, just look at the response!

At different times, actions, learning, motivation and progress can appear frozen.  Learning and change should not be icy.  Instead, learning and change should always aim to be ‘I See’. Think of effort as the great defroster! Think of what will get you moving again!

Zero Tolerance

October 12th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Zero tolerance is a well-known approach to law and order that dismisses discretion and imposes automatic punishments.  If you do something, then this will happen.  No ifs, no buts, no nonsense, no escape.  There’s an iron-clad guarantee of a specific response.  These are the rules, and the rules must be obeyed.

There is debate within criminology and the justice system about the efficacy of zero tolerance.  There should be no debate within experiential learning and behavioural change circles about the intrusive influence of (arbitrary) rules.  They shouldn’t be tolerated.

And yet learning and change are often reduced to simple rules, but that’s another story for another time.

The previous post pointed powerfully to the pursuit of alliterative prose.  No, it didn’t but the previous sentence did have a point (and it had to do with tolerance!). The previous post talked about the relative ease of separating the possible from the ‘impossible’, which just left the ongoing challenge of sorting out the probable from the less probable.  Zero separation is straightforward; beyond zero lies everything with which you must cope.  And that, as every learner and changer knows, is not easy!

Can you identify things for which you do have zero tolerance?  For these things, is it zero tolerance in principle or do you actually practise zero tolerance?  As you know, individuals, corporations and governments do (sometimes or often) condone things for which they have expressed a zero tolerance attitude.

Beyond these things, that is beyond ‘zero’, what are your tolerances?  More importantly, how variable are these tolerances and how do they affect the way you behave?  These sorts of questions reinforce the principle that what you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are .

This father finds himself in a peculiar situation, for Buck is different – can you/should you  draw any conclusions that generalise beyond the situation?

Was Hamlet talking about zero tolerance when he stated “…it is a custom more honor’d in the breach than the observance …”?  The real challenge, though, can again be found beyond zero.  What are your tolerances and how flexible are they?

Possible, probable and tolerable all exist beyond zero; there’s nothing more to say but everything for you to do.

Zero Separation

October 10th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Last week, there was nothing and this week it is all about nothing.  Nothing changes, and therein can be found a key dimension of experiential learning and behavioural change.  It’s not that nothing changes for nothing does change – if you see what ‘tis nobler means.

Neither is it that nothing changes into something, for nothing has been something all along.  If some think that nothing is nothing, ‘tis nobler wonders whether this is why some also hold the view that nothing changes.  And they hold this view even when nothing changes! T here is much ado about nothing; not for nothing is nothing this week’s theme.

Zero separation suggests absolute proximity or the closest of close contact.  You might hear people say that you can’t tell two things apart or that they can’t split them.  Zero separation indicates equivalence and difficulty.  But, for experiential learners and behavioural changers, zero separation is often the first and always the easiest thing to do.

Unfortunately, being first and easiest can create problems, and this is the downside of zero separation.

It is easy to identify things that reside completely beyond your learning and change challenges – those things that have zero probability of occurring.  Separating these things from things that have a chance of occurring is straightforward for you only need to concentrate on the most extreme of events – your diet being threatened by winning a lifetime supply of donuts or crashing your car after swerving to avoid space junk that had just fallen from the sky.  The simplicity of removing the impossible may however spill over into a biased view of the possible – a sort of ‘simple is as simple isn’t’!

Separating the possible from the ‘impossible’ adds little value to your learning/change journey and neither does separating the possible from the ‘certain’.  All of the value can be found in how well you distinguish the probable from the less probable, realising at the same time that these probabilities change continually.

Once you leave zero behind, all you have to do is zero in – as much as possible – on the possible for it is in the way you cope with the richness of experience between zero and not zero that will define you.  The value of effort and experience is clearly demonstrated in the knowledge that beyond zero is everything:

It’s certainly possible to manage the probable but everything depends on you.

Faster Than You Know

September 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)?

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the meaning of life?  Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all.  ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning.  After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.

Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge?  Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!

First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning.  Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture.  These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance.  Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced.  Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow.  Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!

You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’.  As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:

Secondly, there is the issue of depth.  ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow.  Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion).  Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.

When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections.  It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding.  ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.

Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions.  Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?