Archive for the ‘Topic – Personal development’ Category

Scare Yourself Today!

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

I have finally got around to tidying up the three vlogs I recorded in Glacier National Park, Montana US earlier this year. I did really scare myself with this first one – I came face to face with a grizzly bear and her cub! But we can learn by scaring ourselves – but it needs to be managed! This will show you how!

Breathe’s YouTube channel goes live!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Very excited to launch our YouTube channel! I have had so much (yes, so much!) fun in creating my first half a dozen vlogs, and learned so much too. The first few are spoilt slightly due to the sound quality (the Colorado River caused the problem), but I am learning – and have purchased an additional microphone! Two vlogs available at the moment, the others to be released gradually and two more currently in production – one using Lego which has been particularly fun! If you choose to watch any – thank you – and any feedback welcome to help me in my learning!

Paul

Rapid Lava Learning

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Mile 180. Lava Falls Rapid, Grand Canyon. One of the most notorious, if not the most notorious, rapid on the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon.  A snarling, noisy cauldron of churning waters intent on devouring anything or anyone who doesn’t show any respect – and some who do.

For those people like me rafting the 225 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this is one of the white water highlights. For the guides taking us down the river, this is also a highlight – but even more so a challenge. They know the risk of the boats capsizing, together with the risk of serious injury (or worse) for themselves or their charges if the relevant respect is not shown. They also know that reputations are won and lost on the few seconds taken to navigate Lava Falls. YouTube logs many guides’ attempts to negotiate the rapids – often the ones that didn’t go according to plan.

I had already witnessed our guides ‘scouting’ (this is where the guides leave the boats and walk ahead an up so that they can look down on the rapids to check the prevailing conditions) previous challenging rapids and seen indications of the seriousness and perhaps mild apprehension with which they approached them – tones of voices became more serious, then, as they stood over the rapids the tightening of already recently tightened life-vest straps.

Different guides displayed different signs, and I was particularly impressed by one of the guides in terms of her skills in these situations. Kiki is a woman in her mid-twenties who has guided many parties and regards the Grand Canyon – and in particular the Colorado River – as her home.  She has also never capsized a boat on the river – although she has taken quite a few unintentional swims through rapids – but is aware that capsizing is likely to happen at some point.

I was interested in her approach to navigating Lava Falls and she was kind enough to spend some time discussing it with me the evening before we “ran Lava”.

There were several points of particular note.

Kiki said that Lava Falls enters her consciousness early on in the trip (although the Falls are not negotiated until around Day 12), and often prior to the start of the trip. She described experiencing short “adrenalin bursts” on these occasions in anticipation of the Falls. When I asked how she reacted to these, she explained that whenever she experienced this, she would visualise the Falls and her anticipated route through the Falls (the preferred route can alter depending on a number of factors, but mainly on the water level of the River). Kiki found this a useful process in both making use of the adrenalin burst and in meaningful preparation for the rapids.

She then described how the guides would discuss the Falls the evening prior to running them, and how on the actual day of the event as she approached the Falls she would start to experience some nervousness and anticipation. She recognised that whilst these emotions were understandable, they were also potentially unhelpful, so she recognised and dealt with them.  She achieved this by discussing information and factual aspects about the Falls with her passengers. She explained that this helped expel the unhelpful emotions and focussed her on the cognitive task in hand in a helpful manner.

Having scouted the Falls and returned to her boat to run the Rapids, Kiki described how she monitored her breathing. She recounted how if she then felt apprehensive at all, she would take deep breaths – for two reasons. Firstly because it helped her to refocus her energy and ensure she was in the best physiological state to negotiate Lava, and secondly for a very practical reason – if she did capsize or go for an unintentional swim she would have plenty of breath! The importance of this last point was illustrated by one of the other guides who explained how they were thrown out of their boat, spent 38 seconds underwater in the clutches of the Colorado and were then spat out 25 yards from where they went under.

Finally, Kiki explained how she reflected on her approach, line and skills after the event – considering what went well and what, if anything she could have done differently – thus maximising her learning for the next time.

The majority of people reading this will not be river guides, but the approaches, behaviours, processes and practices that Kiki so effectively uses are instantly transferable to other situations – she demonstrates a use of Emotional Intelligence beyond her years in recognising and managing her emotions, she understands and applies the principles of being focused and managing her breathing, and she makes the most of every experience by implementing the Experiential Learning Cycle.

Whilst I have written about them before, I think this is a really helpful and practical application of these theories, and it demonstrates how versatile and effective they can be in supporting effective performance – whatever the context.

If I had been training as a river guide, the discussion we had would also have been a good illustration of NLP Modelling. If you want to identify and fully reproduce the detailed skills of a successful person, it is insufficient purely to watch their behaviours – you need to fully explore and comprehend their thoughts, mind-set and emotions in order to achieve their level of excellence. Due to the breadth, depth and quality of information gleaned, the process also accelerates a person’s learning.

And how did we get on? All the oared boats made it through, but the lighter (and more likely to capsize) paddle boat didn’t make it. It capsized, throwing out all seven occupants, however, four climbed on top of the overturned raft to row it through “Son of Lava Falls”, and the three others swam it – with one of the occupants receiving a minor head injury which looked a lot worse than it was due to the amount of blood he lost. A reminder of the power of Lava Falls and the need for the preparation and skills Kiki displayed.

Paul

 

Toxicity of Trying

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Are these really Andy Murray’s motivational notes? I really do hope they are not – but there has been no denial and they appear to have been written on the back of a letter to him.

Why do I hope they are not? Well, to me they appear toxic. Toxic to a top sports person seeking to be the best they can be (in other words winning every match).

As with all top sports people, I’m sure that Andy and his team pore over huge amounts of performance data to analyse what he is doing, how he is doing it, when he is doing it, etc.  So let’s undertake a little analyse of these motivational notes:

  • There are 61 words on the page
  • These are divided into 10 points
  • There are 4 words – which are either verbs or words with 3 or more letters – that appear three or more times – ‘be’ (4), ‘your’ (4), ‘the’ (3) and ‘try’ (3).

Of that analysis, the last point is the most striking and concerning for me.

Murray is going to ‘try’ to do something.

And almost of a third of the 10 points he is going to ‘try’ to achieve.

The word ‘try’ is one of the most unhelpful – perhaps even toxic – words that can be used in relation to performance management and improvement.

How many organisations publish goals that say they are going to ‘try’ to do something?

In your personal or professional life, what do you mean when you say you are going to ‘try’ to do something? Just say it to yourself now …

It usually means one of two things. Firstly, it could mean that you might have a go, but you’re not convinced that you will be able to achieve it – because of your personal abilities, your belief or your other time constraints. Secondly, it could mean that you have no intention of doing or will to do it, but you add the word ‘try’ in to avoid the discussion around the fact you will not be doing it.

It isn’t even a word that needs replacing – it just needs taking out.

“Try to be the one dictating”, becomes “Be the one dictating”.

“Try to keep him at the baseline make him move”, becomes “Keep him at the baseline make him move”.

How different do those sentences sound and feel without the word ‘try’?

I have worked with a number of people who have struggled to pass exams – I work with them on their personal approach and exam techniques. I am proud of my success in that every person who I have worked with – all who have previously failed the nominated exam – have all passed (or even gained Distinctions) with the work we have undertaken together.

One of the foundations of this approach is that I will not permit the use of the word ‘try’. As I have mentioned previously in one of my blogs, Yoda understand this.

In the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help mould the youth into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  “No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

As Murray’s team continues to mould him into the best tennis player he can be, they need to address the ‘try’ – “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Incidentally, Murray lost the match.

You might not be a tennis player, or taking an exam – but the principle is the same – so when do you use the word ‘try’ and what impact can it have for you if you were to drop it?

Paul

An examination of writer’s block

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

One of my early blogs related to how I coach people who are struggling to pass exams – not because they don’t have the knowledge, but because they panic or talk themselves out of it, or something similar. This work is often with CIPD candidates, and I worked with another such person in the lead up to the exam at the end of January.

One specific aspect we worked on together was that of writer’s block. Have you been in that situation? You have a pen in your hand or your fingers are hovering over the keyboard with that pristine piece of paper or the blank screen … and nothing happens. Where do you start? What do you start with? The longer you wait, the harder it can become – you convince yourself it will not happen, and so of course it doesn’t.

Perhaps the starting point for all this is our brain – and how we have been trained to use it since childhood.  At school we were taught to be very reliant on our left brain – using its logic, detail and patterns – however, the creativity and flow comes from the right brain. Sadly, the left brain doesn’t get the right brain, and vice versa – they don’t play together well.

The consequence of this is that if we attempt to generate ideas and write creatively (with our right brain) and structure and edit our work at the same time (with our left brain) it often doesn’t work very well. Our efforts become victim to our brains’ battles … and the paper or screen remains blank and our fingers are like living statues.

As an aside, do you know what your personal preference is for the use of your left or right brain? This fun experiment from Youtube can tell you!

The other increasingly evident issue for those taking written time-bound examinations is their normal reliance on computers. The younger members of society have been brought up on computers. They have never had to get a document just right from the start – pen and paper or typewriters were never very forgiving if you got your sequencing wrong. Secondly, writing with a pen for 2 or 3 hours is hard work if it’s not something you are used to – another aspect that if dwelt on, confidence can start to ooze out of their pen far quicker than any ink does.

Those are the problems. Here are some top tips to experiment with:

1              If it happens don’t say to yourself (more than once), “I’ve got writers block”. It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and make it much more difficult to change your state. Move around in your chair a little, stretch your hands and use one of the following techniques which you will already have tried and tested …

2              The University of Reading suggests you should, put your pen down, take a deep breath, sit back and relax for a moment. If you’re in the middle of an answer, read through what you have written so far – what happens next? If you have to remember formulae, try associating them with pictures or music while revising. If you really can’t progress with this answer, leave a gap. It will probably come back to you once you are less anxious.”  Becoming less anxious is easier said than done, you may say to yourself – possibly, but here are some tips to assist you.

3              Warwick University Counselling Services suggest, “brain-storming or making a mind map of the information”, together with, “Try to ignore any critical voices in your head. Don’t aim for ‘perfect’; remember your objective is to get yourself working again.” I have outlined the issue of ‘being perfect’ in previous blogs, together with how to address it.

4              And ‘perfection’ means 100% – but you don’t need 100%! The majority of exams require between 40% and 70% to pass.  Remind yourself of this. You can (and will!) make mistakes and drop marks – it happens with everyone in every exam.

5              Author Seth Godin says, “No one ever gets talkers block”. I’m not sure that’s completely accurate, but I understand what he means.  If you are stuck, start talking to yourself as if you were talking to your tutor or explaining the ides to a friend or colleague.

6              Another option is to start in the middle of an essay. Leave the first page blank and come back to it later. Report writers will complete the Executive Summary last of all, even though it is at the start of the report – consider completing your introduction as the last part of your essay.

7              Perhaps you are an auditory person – you learn and are motivated through listening. If so, there may be a song that helps you. For me, the Eagles’ “Do Something” fires me out of inaction in certain circumstances. I hum or sing the chorus and off I go! Here are some of the lyrics:

But when I feel like giving up
And I’m ready to walk away
In the stillness, I can hear
A voice inside me say
Do something
Do something

Don’t leave it up for someone else
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Why don’t you do something?
Do something
It’s not over
No, it’s never too late
Do something
Don’t wait too long
Even if it’s wrong
You’ve got to do something
Do something

8              Finally, what’s to say you have to use every line on the page? In most exams you are marked for content rather than the number of lines you use or don’t use. Your take on normality and acceptability will possibly make it harder for you to only use alternate lines, or leaving 5 lines between paragraphs – but try it. This will give you the chance to go back and make additional points if you wish to – thus releasing the concern of having to get it right first time.

One or more of these ides will help you to start writing something meaningful – and once you get that first point or sentence down it becomes a whole lot easier.

Final tip – don’t leave this until the day of the exam to practice. Try them out beforehand (as suggested in Tip 1). You will then know which work for you – which will give you additional confidence as you wait to turn over the exam paper …

Do you have other tips that work?

Let me know which ones work for you.

Paul

 

Manage your performance – then manage others’

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

In my last post I explored the concept of the importance of managing ourselves when managing a potentially challenging performance conversation.

Here are the tips I promised to help if you are one of those people who think they could do with a little more positive belief!

Breathe – “take a deep breath”, people sometimes say when about to undertake a new or challenging situation … this is because breathing is at the core of effective performance. As soon as we lose our usual breathing pattern, it has a negative influence on our physiology, our posture, our feelings, our ability to perform. If you feel you are losing it, take a deep breath!

Count to 10 – And then they say, “Count to 10”. This can help if you are experiencing unhelpful emotions – anger or frustration for example. Concentrating on a cognitive task can help re-focus your thoughts and regain composure.

Smile more – when I coach people for job interviews, one of the behaviours I ask them to experiment with is smiling – from an hour before the interview. Smiling activates different emotions to frowning, and so will make a person feel more positive. Do you have a (clean!) pen or pencil nearby? If so, put it horizontally between your lips. Now do the same with it between your teeth. What is the difference? French researchers found that when people watched comedies with pencils between their teeth they found them funnier than when people watched them with pencils between their lips – the former making them smile, the latter giving them a sadder expression. Simple facial movements, but they can have a huge effect on the rest of you.

Take control of your self-talk – don’t tell yourself something is going to go wrong – tell yourself it will go right!.  And do you use the word “try” when you tell yourself you are about to do something? If so, you are possibly going to stop yourself before you start.  When Yoda, the small and strange Jedi Master in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, is training the young Luke Skywalker, he sets Luke numerous challenges and tests to help build the boy into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  ”No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Tell yourself you will do it – as opposed to telling yourself you will try to do it. Create your own history with positive self-fulfilling prophecies, and in order to do this …

Visualise yourself succeeding – you need more than talk. Picture yourself and hear yourself performing well in the situation you face. Experience the positive feelings this generates. Practice this and relatively quickly a person can turn a situation they are concerned about into a situation where they see themselves performing exceptionally well – and then they stay synchronised and carry it through on the day. If you would like more details on this technique, please let me know.

But a word of warning – these techniques take a little time to perfect. Don’t practice them for the first time at the workshop, practice them beforehand. Find out what works for you. Develop them to meet your own needs.

Manage your own performance – and then manage the performance of the other person.

Do you have any other techniques that work? If so, please let me know.

Paul

 

Managing your Performance – what do you believe?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I have recently been delivering some Performance Management Workshops. They have been designed to help managers address difficult conversations more effectively, and to equip managers with more skills to improve staff performance.

Delegates have been directed to some excellent models, theories and reading materials prior to attending the workshops.

What I have noticed, however, is that the majority of such theories and models address how to deal with the other person – and pay little or no attention to how the manager manages their own needs. From my experience, managers often know these theories, but are not as effective as they could be in implementing them due to their own levels of confidence.

This happens to a lot of people in such situations – and in similar ones such as job interviews and presenting to audiences. But it doesn’t need to be like that. If you are such a person, these two posts will help you.

Take yourself back to the last time you dealt with a potentially challenging performance management issue (or job interview, or presentation, etc), what were you thinking to yourself immediately beforehand? Perhaps it was one of the following:

  • I have to do this
  • I think this isn’t going to go well
  • I need to do this
  • I want to have a go at doing this
  • I will try and do this
  • I am going to do this effectively

Often our beliefs will become ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’ – we talk ourselves into a belief and that’s what happens … and then we say to ourselves, “there, see, I knew that is how it would turn out”. You need to approach such situations truly believing the last statement – you are going to deal with the situation effectively.

This is what top sports people do – they visualise themselves winning, or scoring the penalty; they convince themselves they will achieve what they need to.

What they say to themselves immediately before performing will relate to the final one of the six statements. And this is where you need to be.

The boxer Muhammed Ali was one of the greatest exponents of this. He would undertake research on his opponents, discuss the information with his team, plan how he wanted the boxing match to go, and ultimately predict his winning round. Not only did he convince himself of this, he would also tell the press and his opponents what round he would win in. He would put his predictions into poems, which made them more memorable – for both him and his opponents – and more newsworthy for the journalists. Many of his opponents were unable to disregard this information – the result being that more often than not Ali won in the round he predicted.  He wrote his own script. And you can write your own scripts.

What Ali did was to gather information, analyse it and make predictions based on this (using his IQ) and then make those predictions a reality using his Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quota (EQ). Effective managers understand the need for and ability to use their Emotional Intelligence.

Ali was also obviously attempting to negatively influence his opponents – you will not have opponents in your situation, so it may be that a Winston Churchill quote works for you – “Do something about the things you can do something about – and then go to sleep”. What that quote does is capture where your energies should be when addressing what could be a challenging situation with a work colleague. Too many people think (and worry) about what the person we are due to meet may say, think or do. This is often unhelpful as all they end up doing is thinking about the worst case scenarios – and in turn work themselves up even more! Concentrate on what you can do something about.

There are 4 key aspects of Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

– and whilst all are important, the key requirement for many people when dealing with a challenging situation is the aspect of Self-management.

Within the Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Bradberry and Greaves, Self-management is summarised as:

  • The ability to use your awareness of your emotions to stay flexible, and direct your behaviour positively
  • The ability to tolerate an exploration of your emotions, understand the breadth of your feelings and allow the best course of action to show itself

Without effective Self-management, a person is unlikely to function effectively – and this will impact on all the other aspects of EI.

How do you manage yourself in such situations? What techniques do you use?

In my next post, I will give you some tips on how you can be more positive in such situations – and so improve your performance and effectiveness.

Paul

 

MBTI for Kids – your questions answered!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Since my last blog on how we can now administer the MMTIC, it has been great to see how much interest it has generated. Consequently, it seemed like a good idea to respond to some of the questions and comments.

“What does the Report cover?”

There are actually three Student Reports available, all tailored to three age ranges. The age ranges are 7-11 years, 11-14 years and 14-18 years – and if you click on the relevant age category, the link will take you to a sample Report.

The Report covers aspects such as:

  • The person’s results from completing the questionnaire
  • Their likely ‘Strengths’ and ‘Stretches’
  • Practical applications for them within school and within relationships

There are further Reports that can be generated which deal with more specific aspects, such as careers.

“Who gets the Report?”

The child owns the Report as it is about them – so they get the Report. No adult should be given the results of a child’s Report unless the child is also given the results. Any Reports resulting from the completion of the tool are considered confidential.

“Who is there when the child receives the interpretation of their Report?”

The child needs to understand that the Report belongs to them – they also need to understand that in order to use it for developmental purposes it is beneficial for their parent, carer, teacher, etc, also to be there so that they can assist the child to use it and build on the findings.

In order for the child to feel relaxed about hearing the interpretation of their Report consideration also needs to be given to the number of people present. With the child, a parent and the interpreter, there are already 3 people – the potential effects of additional people needs to be considered on an individual basis. If the intention is also to use the results in the school environment, it may be that the child and parent wish the teacher to understand the results. It will usually be best for the child if this is a separate meeting, or the teacher is given the information separately – but only, of course, with the child’s knowledge and consent.

“How accurate is it?”

A young person’s Type will still be developing. Since Type is developing in children, when we interpret a person’s Report we have to recognise that children’s awareness of their Type may not be firm, especially if it is the auxiliary function (the second most prominent of their mental functions – these being Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling). Extraversion and Introversion as well as Judging and Perceiving (the attitudes) may be clearer than the mental functions.

Because of this, children are given an opportunity to discuss their profiles and disagree with the results, if they consider them inaccurate.  The obtained psychological Type profile is only confirmed when the child confirms the description is accurate. If there is disagreement, the person is helped to understand that Type is developmental and that the instrument may not be able to identify everyone’s preferences every time. The schild is then helped to become aware of the differences between Type profiles and is reassured that it is okay to disagree with the results of any instrument.

“Another example of putting people into boxes, but this time doing it when they are children. I think this is a step backwards. Hmmmm.”

The Report and interpretation is all about helping people understand that different people use different ways to communicate, to take in information and to make decisions. The better (and earlier) that people understand these differences, together with how to work more effectively with these different types of people, the more effective they are likely to be in their lives.

“How much does it cost?”

The child needs to answer the set of questions, and we then input these into our domain within the MMTC site. This generates the Student Report mentioned earlier. We then print a copy of the Report, meet with the child and parent, carer or guardian and undertake a personal interpretation of the report. This activity lasts for 60 – 90 minutes. The complete cost of this is £45.

And if you have any other questions, we would be happy to respond to them!

Paul

Barefoot Moments

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

You know those moments, those moments when you just lose who you are … when you lose all your inhibitions … you just do what you want to do and have so much fun doing it!

Whenever I experience such moments, I usually re-visit this, for me, very thought provoking poem, “If I had my life to live over”:

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.
One after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. If i had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

What images, sounds and feelings that triggers!

It is attributed to an 85 year old woman called Nadine Stair, although there is conjecture as to whether it was written by her or, in fact, if she even existed. Whatever the truth around that, I find the words thought provoking.

We would probably all want more of this in our lives, wouldn’t we? So is it a person reflecting sadly on their life? Or perhaps there is a positive side to it in that the writer has had so many of them – thus enabling them to write such a powerful poem – that they would have liked even more.

If we would like to “start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall” what can we do about it? When I reflect back on my own moments of pleasure they are often in situations where I would not have envisaged such huge surges of emotion. They weren’t planned. They are often predominantly outside my control.

But you have to plan to live in order to have the chance of having them – we have to be in it to win it.

We are ‘human beings’, not ‘human doings’.

So what stops us? Predominantly socialisation?

The rules, the norms, the expected behaviours. It starts from an early age, so by the time we know that we need to do something about it, it can be too late or too difficult. Most of us will have played and had fun as children – but even by that time, we will have been conforming in certain ways in order to get the love and affection we required to survive.

Perhaps, therefore, this absolute pure fun is unachievable? Or perhaps it is achievable if we are a bit more drastic.

When I need to access skills that I don’t believe I have in sufficient depth, or that are sufficiently polished, I ‘become’ someone who does have these skills. And usually it helps me. In such situations, the people I am interacting with see me, so they have no idea what’s going on for me. Take that one step further – when I become Father Christmas, I lose even more of myself, as I have described previously.

As Dr Seuss advised, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who don’t matter don’t mind”. I certainly have too many people in my life who don’t matter.

And how could this help you impact on others at home and at work?

And help them have more moments? As Kate Bush reflected in her song “Moments of Pleasure”, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful piano:

Just being alive
It can really hurt
And the moments given
Are a gift from time
Just let us try
To give these moments back
To those we love
To those who will survive

Perhaps we need to think less about surviving, or wishing we had more moments – and more about doing something about it. It’s never too late to learn.

Paul

 

A New Year State of Mind

Monday, December 31st, 2012

As we head towards the start of another year, many of us will make resolutions as to what we will do differently over the coming months or year, or what we will seek to achieve. I wondered how many people who set themselves New Year’s Resolutions actually achieve them?

American research from the University of Scranton found that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, 17% make them infrequently and 38% never make them at all. 8% of this total population group said that they were successful in achieving their Resolutions.

As an aside, I found these statistics interesting in relation to Shelle Rose Charvet’s Motivational Traits theory. One of the Traits – Direction – relates to whether people are motivated by having an objective or avoiding problems – whether they are ‘Toward’ or ‘Away From’. In other words, are they motivated by a carrot or a stick. Her research found that approximately 40% of the population are ‘Toward’, and approximately 40% are ‘Away from’ with the remaining 20% being a mixture of the two – these figures have some resonance with the findings of the University of Scranton.

Returning to Resolutions, according to Wikipedia, “a 2007 study by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bath involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year’s Resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying ‘lose weight’), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends”.

So, if setting goals only makes a difference for 8 – 12% of the population (based on these studies), what might be a more universally productive approach?

As I was contemplating this, I recalled some statistics I use when delivering sessions on Emotional Intelligence (EI). According to Travis Bradberry, we experience 27 emotions an hour, 456 each day and so over 3,000 a week. How much notice do we take of this information?

A four year old child laughs 300 times a day, yet a forty year old laughs only 4 times a day according to this blog. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but there are other similar such statistics available – and you only have to spend some time with people of those ages to know that children laugh and smile more than adults.

Perhaps New Year could be about re-connecting with fundamental skills – skills that perhaps we think we use but which really we have let slip. Skills we used far more effectively as children.

And then I saw this book that our son bought for Peta this Christmas – “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith.  What a great book.

Early in the book the writer provides a list of ideas for the exploration of our world:

  1. Always be looking (notice the ground beneath your feet).
  2. Consider everything alive and animate.
  3. Everything is interesting. Look closer.
  4. Alter your course often.
  5. Observe for long durations (and short ones).
  6. Notice the stories going on around you.
  7. Notice patterns, make connections.
  8. Document your findings (field notes) in a
    variety of ways.
  9. Incorporate indeterminacy.
  10. Observe movement.
  11. Create a personal dialogue with your
    environment. Talk to it.
  12. Trace things back to their origins.
  13. Use all of the senses in your investigations.

If you are one of the 90% who doesn’t use New Year’s Resolutions, or who sets them and doesn’t follow through, perhaps using this template could be an alternative approach to being more effective in the New Year?

Happy New Year!

Paul