Posts Tagged ‘will’

Juggling Doubts

December 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not that there are doubts about your ability to juggle, although these doubts could very well be justified.

Nor is it that juggling doubts is a method for resolving them.  Doubtless, you will recall that ‘tis nobler has already suggested that ‘double doubting’ is a more potent technique for reducing doubts than juggling could ever be:

Research has suggested that it’s better to question your doubts – be doubtful about them – and, through this internal interrogation, turn the certainty that you cannot into a possibility that you can. Think of this as untying the ‘not’ and discarding it…..Rather than learning in the shadows of self-doubt, realise that these doubts do not reflect certainties but simply possibilities that can be managed and reduced, if not eliminated. Fail to doubt your doubts and they may become self-fulfilling prophecies; doubt your doubts and become self-fulfilling.

You might also recall that ‘tis nobler noted that ‘shouting’ was useless in coping with doubts, as useless as juggling:

Strenuous advocacy can be a reflection of personal uncertainty.  In these circumstances, such ‘shouting’ is designed to reduce doubts – a sort of “I must be right because I am stressing my ‘rightness’ so forcefully.”  Trying to reduce your doubts by committing more strongly to that which you doubt has an even stronger influence on those topics/skills/behaviours that you deem more important.  If it’s more important to you, you’ll ‘shout’ more often and more loudly.

The theme of this post is the doubts that arise from figuratively ‘juggling’ – trying to keep as many things going as possible and being pulled from one to the next in a never-ending struggle that aims to balance competing priorities, problems or personalities.  Of course, actual juggling is itself a skill and, within reason, it is possible to keep the balls in the air:

But most of us struggle with ‘juggling’ for task-related and/or social demands can exceed our capacity and/or capability at times.  It is reasonable to think that, in these ambiguously trying circumstances, the things that we hold most dear or identify with the most become even more important to us.  However, some recent research has produced evidence that such circumstances can make us doubt our ‘mission’ rather than strengthen it.

It’s interesting to wonder whether these ‘juggling’ doubts can themselves be a coping mechanism, a way to refresh and reinvigorate rather than raise the white flag.  ‘tis nobler has written about the relationship between the type of task and the effect of doubt:

Introducing doubts can benefit performance on simple tasks or more complex tasks that have become automated through substantial practice.  There is no clear explanation for this, although motivation plays a central role.  The arrival of doubt could prevent complacency, increase task focus or reduce the likelihood of distractions.  If tasks are not simple or automated, doubt could increase conscious/intentional effort and this type of manual control is resource-intensive;  performance is not enhanced as all effort is directed at just maintaining performance.

Juggling is an everyday feature of life, whether you are juggling tasks, demands, workload, decisions, responsibilities or people.  With balance tantalisingly out of reach, the effort to achieve balance continues on and on.  This can be wearing as this constant struggle can encourage doubts to enter.  Doubtful juggling and juggling doubts combine to drag you down.

Juggle because you can’t avoid it.  Doubt because you can’t avoid it.  Find your own solution because you must.

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!

May I Make A Suggestion?

September 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion?  In addition to the explicit request, this simple question could conceal a range of subtexts and pretexts – you need my help, you need my help because you’re not very good, you need my help as I am better than you or you need my help all the time.

But at least permission is sought and, if approved, a suggestion clearly follows.  To mangle some metaphors, as soon as you appear to be out of your depth, others can’t resist sticking their oar in.  Occasionally, a row develops.  Advice is always appealing to the giver and therefore freely given; it is less appealing to the receiver and, more importantly, ultimately more costly.  Advice can complement yet never replace finding your own way.

For every explicit request, though, there are many more instances in which suggestions are imposed on an unknowing receiver.  Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote about the ways in which we’ve been framed?  As a consequence of external framing strategies, sometimes provided by the very people we thought were giving objective advice, we become internally primed to see what we expect to see, we hear what we expect to hear and we can also taste what we expect to taste.  The power of suggestion is beautifully demonstrated in this video:

As an experiential learner or behavioural changer, you can be pushed and pulled in many directions.  Unlike that other road, the road to confusion is paved with the intentions of others and these intentions are not always in your best interests.  While there is serious and continuing debate on the validity of free will – the latest evidence suggests the brain forms intentions before we are consciously aware of them -, others will always try to determine large chunks of every learning journey.  It’s neat, tidy, and inherently, fundamentally ineffective.

If you receive what you expect to receive, what do you actually expect to receive?  As importantly, where do these expectations really come from?

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion? Find your own way.

Deeply, Durably, Highly

September 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think deeply, commit durably, aspire highly!


What Does Pride Go Before?

September 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break Up Or Down

August 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Mountain High Enough, Except ……

July 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Nothing will stop me from getting there!  You know there ain’t no mountain high enough:

There ain’t no valley low enough.  There ain’t no river wide enough.  To keep me from getting to you …..

So, why is ‘except’ in the title of this post?  Won’t determination and application prevail over the highest of mountains, the lowest of valleys and the widest of rivers?  Nothing is going to stop you from achieving your goals.  Nothing, absolutely nothing at all.

Except, perhaps,  if someone else gets there first.  Most people might consider the achievements of others to represent an incentive for them to continue their pursuit of the same goal – if they can do it, so can I.  It reinforces the reality of achievement for it’s no longer an abstract possibility.  ‘Can anyone do this?’ is no longer a question for you have direct evidence that ‘they’ can do it.  And, if they can do it, surely it makes you more motivated to reach the goal they have already attained.

This sounds reasonable, it makes sense – except for the evidence that being a witness to the achievements of others can be deflating rather than uplifting.  Instead of ‘if they can do it then so can I’, research has shown the consequence to be more like ‘they have done it so I can stop trying now’.

Sharing the limelight that shines on others as a result of their efforts is not just pointless, it can be counterproductive.  Their achievements are not yours, their ‘limelight’ doesn’t shine on you and their efforts do not mean that your efforts can cease.

What does achievement mean to you?

Point Or Prison?

July 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

You must do at least 30 minutes of study every night means you must do at least 30 minutes of study every night.  But this is not how it is perceived; ‘at least’ becomes the least of your concerns and 30 minutes is all that you do (assuming you do any, that is).

Your minimum credit card payment this month is $36.00 means that your minimum credit card payment this month is $36.00.  But this is not how it is perceived; $36.00 becomes the reference point that determines your payment (which, for many people and for psychological rather than financial reasons, is close to the minimum required).  Your decision is heavily influenced by the reference point and research has demonstrated a significant correlation between minimum credit card payments and actual credit card payments.

This weekend only, all suits are 30% off means that all suits are 30% off this weekend.  But this is not how it is perceived; the 30% discount assumes greatest importance, overshadowing the absolute price, the (possibly poor) value for money and whether you actually need a new suit.

These numbers, and many other things besides, act to distort your reasoning.  These numbers, and many other things besides, act as psychological anchors that keep you ‘moored’ to the reference; rather than being a simple reference point, they become self-regulatory prisons from which you rarely escape.  These ‘anchors’ can stop you moving, these ‘anchors’ can weigh you down and these ‘anchors’ can channel you in directions chosen by others.  Anchors are heavy, which means that is often seen as better to simply accept them than try to move them.

While an anchor is initially derived from a reference point, the anchor then becomes the reference point for future assessments.  And so this connection endures even though it is based on an irrelevancy.  It might be easier but is it better to refer to something that’s irrelevant than to attempt to create something relevant?

Naturally, not all anchors are bad, for positive connections can help you to ignore external reference points, sustain the important, internal ‘anchors’ and escape the self regulatory prison:

Reference points are pervasive and persuasive and yet there is often little point to them.  They might provide a starting point and yet, if this is where you stop, you have never really started.  Weigh up the anchors and then it’s anchors away!

Waiting For, God, Oh, Like Forever

June 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How often, if at all, do you resemble Vladimir or Estragon?  These two men are the central characters in the renowned, absurdist Beckett play, ‘Waiting For Godot’.  There have been as many interpretations of this play as there have been productions – you can read into it, and take out if it, what you will for it supports a variety of presumed meanings.  However, ‘waiting’ is a central and enduring theme as Godot never arrives.

There’s no need to do anything for better times are coming.  If we are waiting for Godot, all we have to do is wait, and wait we shall.  The wait can become a weight, a weight that prevents you doing anything other than waiting.  Things will change any time now and there is no need to do anything except wait for the expected change.

Waiting for something equates to doing nothing with nothing to do but wait.  And so everything reduces to nothing.  It’s a show about nothing:

It becomes a show about nothing with nothing happening except waiting.  But just waiting for something is really nothing.  Should you wait for learning in the same way that Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot, pretending that doing nothing is actually doing something?

We may constantly acknowledge and affirm the challenges in experiential learning and behavioural change but this affirmation may not transcend the words for we are always looking for easier ways, ways that avoid rather than resolve the challenges.  We wait and hope for ‘a pill’ to cure our ills rather than prevent or better manage them through sensible lifestyle choices.  One study demonstrated that people reduced their likely levels of exercise upon becoming aware of new drug treatments for chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity and hypertension.  Do you think that waiting for something that will enable you to avoid the effort is worthwhile?  How long are you prepared to wait for something that may not arrive?

Waiting for Godot is absurd and therein can be found its real strength.  Waiting for, god, oh, like forever is also absurd and therein can be found the greatest danger to your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts.

Neither life nor learning are waiting games.  How will you ever find your own way if you just wait for others to show you the(ir) way?

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’.

Right Or Wrong?

June 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Slippery?

June 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Split Enz sang that they had ‘just spent six months in a leaky boat, looking just to keep afloat’.  Many people spend a lot of time pursuing goals; this pursuit also ‘leaks’ and you have to keep looking (at what you’re doing) to stay on track.

Deviations from the pursuit may last seconds, minutes, days or forever.  You may get back on track very quickly, you might have to work your way back after a significant departure or you might elect to follow another path (something which can be healthy and positive.  It may be that you spend little time on track during the pursuit for you slither and slide from one side to the other in an erratic fashion – too far off to one side, overshoot the track when trying to get back and go off to the other side and so this cycle continues.  If you are trying to control your behaviour through ‘mind control’ alone, things will probably only get worse!

It is reasonable to expect that minor or transient behavioural deviations will occur as nobody is perfect.  The worrying aspect of these little ‘blips’ is that they can turn into bigger ‘BLIPS’, aggravating further, larger deviations rather than initiating a ‘return to normal’.  As April Lavigne sings, “All my life I’ve been good, but now I’m thinking – What the hell”.  If you substitute ‘diet’, ‘exercise’, ‘practice’ or ‘study’ for ‘life’,  you can find yourself confronting the ‘what the hell’ effect:

However, it is equally possible for these little ‘blips’ to trigger compensatory behaviour and a renewed focus on goal attainment.  The evidence for ‘little blip’ effects is contradictory, with empirical support available for both (diametrically opposed) outcomes.  This is understandable when you consider the range of situations, activities, motives and personalities that interact to produce either outcome at different times.

Sometimes, it really is ‘What the hell, why not?’; at other times, it can be ‘What the hell am I doing?’  It is essential to remember that reliable does not mean robotic.  There will be diversions and deviations along the way, for no journey is entirely smooth and straight but this never means that the journey has come to an end.  Self management involves enjoying the highs and coping with the hiccups in order to continue the journey in the right direction.

Experiential learning and behavioural change can be a slippery slope at times; sliding back seems easier than holding your ground.  It’s your journey – you set the direction, you define the next destination and, at all times, you determine how slippery the slope actually is.

Intentional Protection

May 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can you remember when ‘tis nobler used lines and spaces to compare and contrast habits and skills:

Think of habits as lines and skills as spaces; habits are specific, skills are general.  Habits are towns, skills are continents …….. Lines can exist in space but there is no space in a line.  You can only move along a line; in a space, you can move in any direction you choose.  A specific situation triggers the habit whereas skills operate across situations.  Lines are static, spaces can be dynamic.  The link between situation and habit is explicit and known to the learner; skill learning is implicit in the situation, with the learner often being unaware of what is actually being learnt.

Habits can be notoriously difficult to change as habitual behaviour can be as unthinking as skilled behaviour is automatic.  It’s a deliberately ambiguous question, then: Can you intentionally protect yourself against your habits?

Intentions can influence behaviour.  Given their closer proximity to behaviour, intentions are a more reliable predictor of behaviour than attitudes or (more distant) values and achieve this by closing off (inhibiting) alternatives.  But it’s hard to rely on your good intentions ‘when your head is full of things you can’t mention ….. and you miss so much that requires attention ”:

If the connection between intentions and behaviour is imperfect, can intentions overcome the more ingrained habitual behaviours?  And the answer is ‘Yes’, for there is recent evidence that implementing intentions that are not concordant with habits can reduce the incidence of habitual behaviours (and that this is also achieved through an inhibitory mechanism).  As you should expect, the connection is again imperfect, suggesting that the road away from habits may be paved with good intentions but you might still end up heading towards them!

Even though you intend to move away from your (bad) habits, you might still act habitually because inhibition takes effort – it’s not easy being ‘single-minded’ -and this effort might not be sufficient or might be directed elsewhere.  The intention might only address one element of the habitual behaviour and is swamped by the other elements, it might be rendered impotent by your (negative) emotional state or it might sometimes just not be strong enough.  Intention is important but there are many reasons why it might not be enough.  Still, a positive intention is always a good start.

Intention is not a cure for bad habits – even when you’re attending to what you’re intending – but it is a useful tool in your self-management toolkit.  But a robust toolkit needs more than an intentions implement – how do you intend strengthening your intentions?

Too Busy?

May 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has too many things on the go.  ‘tis nobler will try to get around to it but ‘tis nobler can’t give any promises.  There aren’t enough hours in the day.   Busy, busy, busy.  Sorry, ‘tis nobler hasn’t started on that either yet.  ‘tis nobler has been meaning to do that for a while but, well, you know how things are.

Things are busy.  And things don’t get done, which is understandable given how busy things are.  Has ‘tis nobler mentioned how busy things are?  Yes?  ‘tis nobler must have been too busy to notice mentioning how busy things are.

Is there a better excuse for not doing things than ‘being busy’?  Everybody understands it, everybody experiences it, everybody usually accepts it.  Not doing things because you are too busy seems reasonable, except that the evidence suggests that you should be unable to use ‘being busy’ as a reason.  And thus it reduces to just another excuse, one of many avoidance strategies.

While the evidence comes from school settings, it indicated that those who started assignments earlier performed better than those who delayed.  More interestingly, it suggested that those who were busier started earlier.  Perhaps, most of the time, ‘too busy’ is a convenient misrepresentation.  In ‘Many the miles’, Sara Bareilles sings that there are ‘too many things I haven’t done yet … can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down ….”:

Excuses can’t be abolished, only minimised; forgiving and moving on is much better than festering and staying stuck.  In ‘Forgiving’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Putting a missed opportunity behind you by forgiving yourself for missing it and focussing fully on acting on the next opportunity is a way to both overcome procrastination and improve subsequent performance through better preparation.  Alexander Pope wrote:

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Respectfully, ‘tis nobler writes:

To err while learning is human and to procrastinate is commonplace, to practise and to forgive yourself for not practising reduces both error and procrastination and that’s divine.

Regardless of what you do, you’ll have your reasons, even if these reasons are nothing more than excuses.  Except for the times when you really are too busy, you are never too busy.  Can you recognise the difference between too busy and ‘too busy’, between reasons and excuses?  You’re not too busy to start thinking this through right now!

Compared To What?

March 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A glorious future awaits – a future where we are happier, more fulfilled, better paid, healthier and more successful.  We just have to work out how to get there.  Once we arrive, it’s going to be great.  Tomorrow never comes fast enough, in part because the tomorrow we really want constantly recedes.  Unless we act.

If you are trying to realise a goal – trying to make it real – what should you do?  Dee Dee Bridgewater drops a hint in this song:

The hint is the use of comparisons.  But, as you may have come to expect as you explore the various elements of experiential learning and behavioural change, the comparisons are not necessarily simple and neither are they ever simple comparisons, for there is a difference.

If you just focus on the goal-achieved future, you may never get there.  Then again, if you just focus on your current situation, you may never leave.  There is evidence that a key to commitment and achievement of goals is in the active contrast of today and tomorrow – where you are and where you want to be.  If you’re trying to make it real, this answers the ‘Compared to what’ question.  Compare and contrast the now with the soon to be, the present with the future.

But wait, there’s more, otherwise this could just be another exercise in despair as the contrast is too stark, the gap too wide.  The contrast process is a two-way street controlled by the ‘success expectations’ police who direct traffic one way or the other.

They’ll direct it towards the goal if, and only if, the contrast process is fuelled by reasonable expectations of success.  In these circumstances, the contrast strengthens commitment and initiates the effort.  You can see where you are, you know where you want to be and you believe you can get there.  And so off you go.

They’ll direct it away from the goal if expectations of success are low or lacking.  This contrast procedure need not be negative for it can direct you towards other goals rather than just leave you in a vacuum.  And so off you go, heading to elsewhere.

Both directions have a desirable destination that is defined by you.  All that the contrast process does is assist you in determining your direction of travel.  Without contrast, you may never arrive or you may never leave.

To Do, Not To Do

February 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Aristotle said:

“What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”

Willpower and self control are recurring themes in experiential learning and behavioural change, vital building blocks in systemic performance.  But their portrayal in programs does leave a lot to be desired, often reducing to simple encouragement to ‘do better’ or ‘try harder’.  There is a great to-do about ‘to do’ and ‘not to do’.

In ‘Ends can end the means’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Learning can never be about dogmatic willpower, for what could be an exciting future will progressively narrow to a constantly receding pinpoint of light.   Don’t let your attachment to goals prevent you from reaching them!

Summary: willpower is never enough!

In ‘This too shall pass’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

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

Summary:  limited willpower may just be in your head and it is possible for unlimited willpower to be there instead!

In ‘The manager manages the manager’ and ‘Don’t do that, d’oh’, the ineffectiveness of suppression, of thoughts and behaviour, was noted.  You always remember that which you are consciously trying to forget while just trying to stop doing something leads to you doing it more often.

Summary:  to suppress is to pretend you’re in control.

And we shouldn’t forget the issue of ‘baggage’, that there is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be.  It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here.

Luckily, we can rely on Aristotle to tie up some of the many loose ends; he said:

“For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.”

And the point of this post is that there is evidence to indicate that there is a practice effect for self-control.  Implementing self control behaviours, rather than just coping through willpower or suppressing the ‘objects of your desires’, does lead to more effective self control.

If you have to learn self control before you can control yourself, you learn self control by controlling yourself.  And if, through effortful practice, you equip yourself as well as you can, everything looks sharper, more colourful, crisper and more meaningful:

Think of self control as a skill that responds to practice rather than a practice that requires finite willpower or a strong personality.  It’s never beyond you for you just need to make the effort to learn.

If Only Or If, Then?

February 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments


If only this post was more entertaining, my life would be much better.  But it isn’t and it isn’t.

Sigh.  If only things were different, things would be better.  But they aren’t and they aren’t.

So we wait for all of our ‘if onlys’ to arrive and for things to then change.  But they don’t and they don’t.  And we pay the price, in many different ways, for this inaction.  And the price we pay pushes positive action further and further away.  For, when we get disheartened or annoyed, frustrated or irritated, the evidence indicates that we are more likely to be reckless.  In fact, there is evidence for associations between negative feelings and a range of negative behaviours.  If only I didn’t get so annoyed, I wouldn’t be so reckless.  But you do and so you are.  Annoyed and reckless.


What happens if you tolerate this?  The Manic Street Preachers sang about this at a societal level; if you tolerate an ‘if only’ perspective, what are the personal consequences?

One thing to consider is the potential value of ‘If – Then’ thinking, for which there is supporting evidence.  In contrast to the passive nature of ‘if only’ thinking, ‘If – Then’ can promote positive action by replacing usually forlorn hope with practical actions.

And it may be that the commitment to act that is implicit in ‘If – Then’ is more important than the specific type of action.  But that’s another story, another part of the journey.

If only we could replace ‘if only’ with ‘If – Then’, things would be different.  Sigh.

If we find ourselves bemoaning the lost opportunities reflected in ‘if only’, then we’ll replace ‘if only’ with ‘If – Then’.  And then we’ll act accordingly rather than just hope to act.

Only then will things change.

Hoping, It’s Never Enough

January 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It was a Pope who said that hope springs eternal, the same Pope who was quoted in the ‘tis nobler post ‘Forgiving’. 

This Pope may have been clement, but he wasn’t Clement.  This Pope may have been innocent, but he wasn’t Innocent.  This Pope may have been urbane or pious, but he had too many letters to have been Urban or Pius.  And this is strange, for he was a man of letters.  This Pope was Alexander, and he was a Pope by name, not by office.

Hope springs eternal, and that is a good thing.  But the fact that hope springs eternal can also have a downside.  And this downside is when action is confined to hoping rather than being transferred to the doing.  You can hope for all eternity, yet your life can be eternally unchanging.  Hope is a starting point, not a destination.  Hope is a means, not an end.

Of course, this doesn’t stop us from committing to hopes as though this is the same as committing to action.  The best example of this may be resolutions, particularly around the New Year.  We resolve to change many aspects of our lives but our resolution to accomplish our resolutions is often less than resolute.  And, naturally, nothing is resolved for this is another of the (countless) examples of False Hope Syndrome.

Listen to the lyrics of ‘Hope’ by R.E.M. –

“You want to climb the ladder,

You want to see forever …


And you’re looking for salvation,

And you’re looking for deliverance ….


You want to go forever …”

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You will never climb the ladder just by hoping to climb it.  You might want, really want, to go forever but unless you get going, you will never leave.

And you’re looking for deliverance, but deliverance is never delivered.  You have to do more than hope.

If you are hoping to learn experientially, you must first learn that hoping to learn may be necessary but it is always insufficient.  Effort is essential.

Be The Source

January 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This article  states that, from an advertising perspective, celebrity endorsements are almost always a big waste of money.

This raises the more general issue of message discounting in a learning and change context; if the source is not perceived as authoritative or authentic, the impact of the message is diluted; we discount its value and dismiss its message.  As a result, advertisers spend very large amounts of money to portray their particular version of the Emperor wearing the very finest clothes.  More time and effort is spent on making the inauthentic appear authentic than on actually changing the inauthentic.

And these efforts persist because they exploit one of our failings – our inability to retain the discounting effect.  What we might discount and/or dismiss now could be something that we recall and/or act on in the future, in part because we have discounted and/or dismissed the original discounting.

And this failing contributes to the so-called sleeper effect, the delayed impact of persuasive material some time after exposure to it.  The second contribution to the sleeper effect is the initial ‘wow’ factor of the initial exposure – it has to be sufficiently memorable to re-surface when the discounting has disappeared.  And then we accept what was said, we change in ways that were recommended and we’re ultimately persuaded by the very things that we originally dismissed.  And so the world turns and, often, it’s like waiting for the end of the world:

Learning can never depend on just waiting, can never depend on the messages that others impart for their own purposes and can never depend on the insincerity to dissipate over time such that insincerity is replaced by the apparent sincerity of the original message.  One strategy to cope with this maelstrom of messages and massaging is to be the source rather than the recipient.

For then, you can never discount the content of your experiences.  Or can you?  Sleep as a learner and your learning may only exist in your dreams.  Wait as a learner and your learning may only ever exist in the future.  Receive as a learner and your learning may never be as authentic as you need it to be.

Find your own way.  Be the source of your learning and change.

Becoming True

December 13th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Clichés are so hackneyed and so trite that we tend to be very dismissive of them.

Just take it one day at a time.  Ho-hum.  Time flies.  Yawn.  Tomorrow never comes.  Hrrumph.

But many clichés are true, something that is conveniently overlooked to avoid their real meaning in the here-and-now.  In the current circumstances, what does ‘just take it one day at a time’ really mean for me, right here, right now?

It’s a cliché to say that things can change in an instant.  But they can and they do.

Today, for ’tis nobler, they did and then, eventually, normal service was thankfully resumed.  Sometimes, unfortunately, normal service is not resumed; things have changed forever.

Please realise that clichés do become true, eventually but unpredictably:

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And live your life accordingly.  It’s up to you. Yeah, you.