We have all endured bad feedback and had at some point to give it or to receive it.
Non constructive criticism and gossip is all about judging people and putting them below us. If you want your spouse to leave you or your colleagues to hate you, this is exactly what you should do.
I am not going to talk about unsolicited advice which is just a narcissistic way to speak about others when you in fact just want to talk about yourself. Also, it’s very rude. So don’t do it.
How to receive feedback ?
First, with humility. Especially when it’s praise.
I remember someone giving the best answer you could give to a compliment: "Thanks”.
I haven’t found better yet.
What about negative feedback ? If the feedback is uncomfortable, use the baseball technique (thanks Neil Strauss for the insight) : you first catch the feedback in your hand like a ball. Then you look at it and you decide wether it’s relevant or not. Then you choose to discard it or to keep it for later reviewing.
What’s interesting about this, is that it takes the emotional baggage away and lets you decide how you want to deal with it.
Just remember that when one person says that you are an asshole, you don’t care. But if fifty persons tell you you are an asshole, you probably want to look into it…
Why Feedback ?
Now if we talk about constructive criticism, we need to talk about the why ? Why do we give feedback ? And why do we want it ?
Constructive (and we could say proper) feedback is about raising people and making them better.
There are two criteria which I think are necessary for a good feedback.
If we think about how we can make people want our feedback or if we just ask ourselves the question first: “do they want my feedback ?”. You have already solved most issues with criticism and unwanted advice.
Make sure people want your feedback before you actually give it to them. Even when giving advice or feedback is your actual job and you are being paid for it, you want to make sure people are receptive to what you are saying. So you want to create the conditions for being heard. One way to do it is to focus on the positive and to build trust at first. Once you have a positive relationship with someone, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Once you have created a relationship and that your communication is well received, don’t screw everything. Being constructive means you want to build something. If your feedback is in fact only criticism, what exactly are you building ? Being helpful does not mean that there are no flaws or that everything is perfect. It just implies that you are always aiming at creating value for them with your feedback, that you want them to get something from you. If you think about it, feedback is not about making you feel better, or making them feel worse, or not even about pointing out what’s not working. Feedback is about improving. We want our feedback to help others and we want the feedback we receive to improve ourselves.
What and How ?
During a recent workshop I learned one method of giving feedback. Something you could call the Wow technique.
The Wow method consists in dealing with the WHAT and with the HOW. (hence the catchy phonetic mnemonic W-How, I am just adding the panda for extra impact)
The method goes like this:
This is pretty simple and also very efficient.
Why does it work ?
When you focus on what you liked, you have to find positive things. And the beauty of it, is that there is always something you can enjoy in someone else’s work or performance. It could be their efforts, their attitude, their courage, their persistence, their technique...
Just to be clear, this is not about sugar-coating it. This is about finding what you actually enjoyed about their piece. And when you find something you genuinely like and you tell them. They will feel it and they will thank you for it. If you do this consistently, they will always want your feedback because they will know how much you appreciate and value their efforts.
With the next step, you focus on what can be improved. Notice that there is nothing in your feedback which could be seen as negative or criticising. This is designed so that the feedback is really constructive and can be heard and understood. This is not about you, this is about them and what they could do better.
Please, please, please before going out and using this method, remember to give feedback only to people who actually ask for it or want it!
The goal is not to get you to talk to your brother in law and tell him what you like about his style and how he could improve it…
In a nutshell:
Let me know if you find it useful !
If you don’t know it already. I am a big routine geek and I love repetition.
Let me tell you about the three smallest things I do everyday to show you how lazy I am.
5 minutes meditation
I failed 20 minutes meditation, I even failed 10 minutes meditation, I have no excuse not to do five minutes in the morning and in the evening and it is the only thing that stuck so far. Meditation does not come easy to me. Sitting still and closing my mouth was like chinese torture to me a while ago and is still challenging. I think everyone knows how good meditation is for you, for your health, your mind, your memory, your focus, pretty much everything… It probably even saves polar bears.
Whatever you do for yourself every day, take 5 minutes and give yourself the gift of time and chill.
Nothing too complicated, I just write down three things I am grateful for every day. It could be living in a healthy body, having wonderful friends and family, or just something as simple as being able to enjoy the sun outside or the wind in my face.
If I cannot write it down, I will just think about it quickly in my head. It’s funny to realise that I had to force myself for a while and now if I don’t do it, something does not feel quite right.
Gratitude makes my mood better, improves my overall view of the world and makes me less likely to indulge in negativity or complaining. It even improves my communication with my wife and kids as we share what we are grateful for instead of just badmouthing people and moaning about our day.
Very basic health
Two glasses of water and push ups/pull ups. I tried supplements, spinach and eggs for my breakfast, or a strict workout routine every morning. I have found that I can drop all of these when I am traveling or on vacation, or basically if anything comes up... So I kept reducing it and reducing it to the things I can do anywhere, anytime. Again, I have no excuses not to do those healthy habits. Even a specific number of reps was too much as sometimes my body felt different and I did not want to work out as much every day. So my rule for exercise is the following: “enough to feel good”. Guess what ? I always can tell if it feels good or not.
So the insight for me from all these micro habits (and the others small things which create my daily routine) is that I only keep what sticks. I know that if it’s too big or too complex I will drop it. This is how I work and it is part of who I am. I don’t want my daily routine to become this sacred ritual that I can’t move away from or that I cannot skip without having a “bad day”. They are small habits that build on each other and can be dropped or added anytime and anywhere and rely only upon myself.
There is this book called The Willpower Instinct in which the author explains that eliminating excessive options and anything that depletes your willpower basically reduces the amount of decisions you have to make. The less decisions you have to make, the less effort you have to exert and the easier it is to do the things that really matter to you.
There are some days where I will have time and energy to do a full routine which is more complex and has a lot of other elements in it but I also know that I can always take 10 minutes to do the most basic version of my routine which requires very little effort.
Whatever you want to do in the morning and evening, make sure these routines work for you and don't require too much willpower so that you will enjoy doing them whatever comes up !
I am happy to discuss your daily routines or mine in more details, so let me know if you want to read more about them !
Improving your communication is close to improving everything else in your life. No kidding.
Skilled communicators are able to make you think of something and let you think that was actually your idea. They can agree with you while convincing you of something else. They can describe what you want better than you. And it is oh so pleasant to listen to them all evening long.
Not only do great communicators make more money according to studies, they also have stronger relationships and marriages and have a higher self-esteem.
So let’s get to it shall we ?
I have found some common important elements of efficient communication. Developing any of them guarantees that you will see great improvement in your interactions and might even get you invited to this VIP event you have been dreaming about.
Excellent communicators master active listening
The first element of great communication is to actually shut up.
Active listening is not just about staying silent (although it is a big part of it). Giving others the space to speak - to really speak - is something you rarely see these days. And when you are staying silent, the trick is to not just wait for your turn to speak, thinking about what you are burning to say. The key is to be present and to actively listen to the person in front of you. Drink their words as if they were the best water you ever had. Savour them and let them fill you up, listening to every word they utter. The language they speak will give you amazing insight into who they are and what their needs and beliefs are.
In Neuro linguistic programming there is a broad concept called sensory acuity under which you can find several useful tools to boost your active listening skills. One of them is sensory specific language. Every person uses different representational systems to describe their world and we all have a favourite one.
These representational systems are sensory based : visual, auditory, kinaesthetic (touch), smell and taste. Once you pay attention to what words people use, you will find they have a favourite sense they use to illustrate their speech. For example a visual person like me will use a lot of visual words or expressions like: "do you see what I mean ? This is perfectly clear to me. Let’s focus on this. He is really bright ! Let me clarify something. That looks good !”
Whereas a more auditory person would use more of the following: “You are not listening to me. Did you hear that ? It needs some fine tuning. We all have a voice. Wait until things get quiet. Let’s discuss this another day.”
When you pay attention and clearly see which sense people prefer. You know which words they are more likely to respond to. They will give you some key words and you want to make a mental note for later as you know they will respond well to them.
A good question to ask yourself when listening to someone is: What is their preferred representational system for communication and what are some of their key words ?
Listening to their words is powerful. Listening to their body is even better. It’s no secret that body language gives away a lot of informations. And I am not just talking about knowing when people lie to you or who stole the cookies. But also about how they feel, in which mental state they are and what kind of unspoken message they are passing on to you. Non-verbal communication is according to many studies much more important than we think and might represent two thirds of all our communication. (although nobody agrees on the numbers but you get the idea…)
Our body gives away a lot of information through our level of eye contact, our tone of voice, the speed of our speech, our body posture and gestures, just to name a few. The problem is that we usually don’t pay much attention to the body because we are so focused on the words or what we want to say next. A good way to build your awareness of body language is to start looking at it while you are listening. Just notice something about their body, their voice or their face that you haven’t seen before and more importantly imagine what it means or what they are trying to convey through this non-spoken communication.
A question you can ask yourself: What is their body communicating right now ?
Focusing on their message is probably the biggest thing you can do to improve your listening skills. Too often we wait for someone to stop talking so that we can answer. When we are focused on our thoughts or on how we will respond, we don’t fully grasp the communication presented to us. In fact, most people cannot even repeat what another person just stated. Especially if that person has been speaking for more than thirty seconds. Would you be able to summarise what a person just told you ? Or even repeat some of her sentences ? If not, it probably means that you have not been paying enough attention. Sometimes we nod, we agree, we say yes and then we move on to our comment. Being able to acknowledge what the person in front of us has just said, or to just explain what we understood from it is a powerful sign of our listening and people will love you for it. Make sure you remember what people tell you. Make a mental note of something interesting this person just told you. If it makes you think of something, keep your reaction for later and wait until they are done talking. It will help you discover what their message really is about.
The question that works well for me is : What do I understand from their overall communication ?
Great communicators create space for efficient communication
The second element of excellent communication is to create the conditions for it.
Rapport is another concept from NLP that is widely used and maybe abused. It’s defined as the ability to relate to others to create a climate of trust and understanding. Unfortunately, it has been reduced sometimes to mirroring people or repeating their words to get what you want from them. Even though it is true that having a certain level of coordination or mirroring with the people you encounter can help your communication, it is hardly a way to trick people into doing certain things. The key to rapport is in the definition: a climate of trust and understanding. You cannot have real rapport if you don’t build genuine trust and understanding. You cannot fake trust, not for long anyway. Some ways to build rapport is indeed to adjust your body language so that you make the other person comfortable. It does not mean mimicking them, but if they are sitting and you are standing. Sitting along them might be a good way to put them at ease. Looking in the same direction and using words they enjoy would also contribute to such a climate. Mutual attentiveness is part of rapport and this is why active listening is so important. If you actually listened, when it's your turn to speak you can show how well you have listened and people will notice !
Information cannot be pushed into a brain, it has to be pulled in. One of the three pillars of delivering a powerful speech you can find in "Talk like TED" is passion. If you want to create a human connection and make sure your message get across, you want to be passionate. If people does not feel any passion or captivating feeling coming from what you are saying, they will lose interest very quickly and move on to something more enticing. Whatever you are speaking about, make sure to choose a topic you really care about. Researcher Melissa Cardon who studied passion and its correlation with entrepreneurial success said that “People who are genuinely passionate about their topic make better speakers”. If the current theme does not suit you, then reorient the conversation on one that you enjoy. Only then, can you avoid the trap of falling in unending and boring discussions. If a conversation is not interesting, it is your responsibility to make it about something interesting. This means of course, knowing what interests you in the first place and sharing it. It does not matter which topic you choose and wether you are a hobby horse fan or a stamp collector. As long as you are passionate about your subject, people will relate. Sometimes they won’t and this is why you want to be able to calibrate to your audience if needed. People who are curious and can discuss any subject with enthusiasm are the ones that get the best press.
Impactful communication happens when excellent communicators make a strong impression with the smallest amount of words. It is like using a hammer instead of your fists to hit the nail. Impactful communication is built around three main mechanisms. Pattern interrupts, curiosity arousal and powerful metaphors. I remember this great example of a textbook impactful communication. It was a radio show and the topic was regret. Guests were speaking and suddenly the host starts saying loudly: “three legged dogs ! three legged dogs !” And of course everyone stops talking and they start asking what about three legged dogs ? And to no surprise he starts explaining why three legged dogs are the perfect example of how to deal with regret and difficult events. He built some curiosity for a while and everyone just went completely silent and listened to his words religiously. Then he delivered this excellent metaphor of a dog that lost a leg after an accident. The dog does not spend one second complaining about it or regretting his lost leg. He starts running right away. Of course he struggles and falls pitifully. But he is still a dog ! He does not doubt for a second that he is a dog and keeps behaving as a dog. His mood is not affected at all by his lost leg and he starts learning right away how to run on three legs. Actually most of them seem they even run faster after a while with three legs than with four.
And here you have it laid it out for you: a strong pattern interrupt, “three legged dogs!”. A few words that catch people’s attention to stop the current flow of the discussion. Then the curiosity arousal part: you don’t get into your message right away ! You build it up, you explain why this is great stuff and why it is so interesting and where it’s coming from or how it impacted people so much. This will make people want to hear what you have to say even more. And they will actually listen, it makes certain that they really pay attention. The last point is: you have to deliver the goods ! You give now a powerful metaphor. We love stories and a good story speaks to us on many levels. It resonates with us much more than just raw data or logical arguments. Make sure this story or metaphor is indeed interesting, enjoyable and entertaining for the people listening to you. Deliver it correctly and it’s a home run.
Powerful communication benefits all
Mutual help is not only the way to get a better relationship with your neighbour. It is also key to almost all communication. Most people like to speak about themselves and themselves only. If you show interest in them and honestly try to help them or give them value, they will listen to you. And chances are, they will reciprocate. Try to find which values and needs they have so that you can find how you can help them best. You want to ask yourself what you can do for them, how you can give them useful or entertaining information. How can you leave them with the impression of increase for having met you ? When you start thinking less about your own agenda, and when you genuinely want to help, people feel it and it’s exhilarating both for you and them. Reciprocity is a powerful social rule and ensures that any act you carry out on someone will likely be repaid in some way. Even communication falls under this reciprocity norm. So make sure you are using your communication to give value to people. This is not just to make the world a better place, but also for you own sake.
A great way to communicate passionately is to inspire people through challenge. Wether it is through your enthusiasm or your dedication, a positive attitude is contagious. If you share your interests and make it so that other people want to follow your lead or associate themselves with what you are doing. You will make a big impact on them. This is not something we do very often, and we actually tend to avoid motivating or challenging other people. First because it feels awkward and it might even make us seem arrogant. And also because we tend to respect the status quo. I love it when people share their dreams and projects with me. But I also feel a bit out of place when I ask them : “When will your book be finished ?”. I know this is uncomfortable, and sometimes more for myself than for them. But I also know that at the end of such a conversation, their motivation is actually reinforced because I respect their word and I trust them for being able to carry out their project. I would not start asking people about it but I definitely am going to keep asking questions about the how and the when if they share their thoughts with me. Not only will I ask them to describe their challenge to me, I will also keep them accountable for it if they want to. A conversation which usually starts with surprise and a bit of fear at first, usually ends up with a big smile when they tell me when and how they will carry out their project and agree to send me an email when they are done. Just give people an opportunity to amaze you !
Make requests. We all have needs and in order to fulfil them we sometimes need to ask for help. If there is something you would like from someone, just ask. People who have the will to ask for what they want share a multitude of positive traits. One of them being humility: they know they need others to achieve more. Courage: they have the guts to ask for what they want and be told no. Vulnerability: they are ok with giving the power to someone else or to put themselves in an asking position. Openness and gratitude: because they value what others have or know and will put themselves in the position of being indebted to them. People who know how to ask also have strong social skills and are good at negotiating because they know that in order to receive, you first have to give. Asking people for help is also known to improve relationships as in the famous Benjamin Franklin effect. So next time you speak with someone, make sure to ask them for help or advice, it will improve your communication and your relationship both.
To summarise, here are a few practical ways to improve your communication:
I have been discussing relationships a lot lately, working with people on how we can defuse our past.
And when we talk about relationships, we usually talk about what’s wrong with them.
Relationships in the family, relationships with our significant other, with our friends and also our relationships at work and even with our inner voices.
I find people have mostly two types of complaints when they talk about relationships: the lack of one or their poor quality.
It is true that we resent or regret strongly the relationships we never had or the ones we have lost. It could be for example the distant father who traveled a lot, the mother in distress who needed help or this great friend we somehow lost sight of.
Then come the relationships we are not happy with: the difficult boss, the critical spouse, the ungrateful kid, the lazy friend. These relationships are present in our lives but they make us frustrated or unsatisfied. Often we want to change something about those relationships. And when we say change something about them, we mean that we want the other person in the relationship to change.
Just to give you an example, in France there were 231000 marriages in 2015 (which is the lowest number since 1945). And each year there are about 130000 divorces. Which means that these days, about 45% of marriages end up in a divorce.
These statistics are not that relevant if we only look at the numbers. Our society has changed a lot in the last few decades. Our culture, our economy, our spirituality and gender equality all play a huge role in how we approach long term relationships. Fact is, people don’t live the way they did 60 years ago.
What’s more important, are probably the causes of such divorces: in France infidelity accounts for a third of all separations and it seems to be the main reason in most countries. This does not come as a surprise contrary to the next two main causes of divorce: communication problems (25%), and lack of connection (20%).
Infidelity is only the tip of the iceberg, it is the consequence of an ongoing situation, not the cause.
These statistics about divorce are a good example of why relationships fail wether it is in a couple, in business or between friends.
There are three main categories of issues in relationships:
Trust is like a fire
It has to be fed if you don’t want it to die out. First we get it going by trusting people even when there is no trust to begin with. Then, when something happens that makes us lose some of this trust, we have to give it again if we want to gain it back.
For most of us, this is not how we have learned to behave. What normally happens is that someone will do something that makes us lose our trust in them. Next, we will start doubting the other person and we will keep asking them to prove themselves. The result is more mistrust between us and a lot of resentment, which leads to even more mistrust.
If we want to improve the relationship, we have to give it before we receive it. There is no such thing as unconditional trust, so it must go both ways: we give it and we then receive it. But if after a while, we keep giving it without receiving it in return, it will be lost for both people.
Just like a fire, trust needs both fuel and air. If just one person is trusting the other and is actively showing signs of trust, the relationship won’t work.
Doctor John Gottman, an expert in relationships and one of the most influential researcher and therapist of the last 30 years wrote in one of his articles about trust: "On PsychInfo, the database that psychologists use to do a literature review, there were 96,000 references to “trust.” And it turns out that when social psychologists ask people in relationships, “What is the most desirable quality you’re looking for in a partner when you’re dating?”, trustworthiness is number one. It’s not being sexy or attractive. It’s really being able to trust somebody. - To answer this, I looked at focus groups we did around the United States, involving couples at every social class level and from every ethnic and racial group in the country. - What I found was that the number one most important issue that came up to these couples was trust and betrayal."
Communication is essential to relationships, good or bad. Especially the bad.
It’s the lifeline of the relationship. What makes it work.
We sometimes think that if we don’t speak about something, it will go away. We don’t like to face what’s wrong or what’s difficult in a relationship.
My first instinct when I get into an argument with my wife would be to go away and remain silent while thinking about all the things I am right and she’s wrong about (or so I think). This could go on for a long time before anything changes and the situation almost never gets better on its own. But if at some point, I am willing to reengage and talk to her. We usually find a solution very quickly. And if we don’t, we at least talk it out and feel closer than before.
The important thing to remember with communication is that you can never have too much of it. Some of us don’t like to talk and just want to get things done, but communication is not just about being effective or getting results. It’s about interacting with each other and showing your willingness to be open and to work together. When we communicate, we relate to each other, we are actually creating the relationship just by talking to each other.
Without communication, there can be no relationship. Most relationships fail because of a lack of communication or a bad one. You can almost guess how fast a relationship will decline, just by looking at how little people in the relationship communicate with each other. In fact Doctor Leveson and Gottman in long term studies (some of them over 20 years) were able to predict with 90% accuracy which couples would divorce by studying their types of communication and also when. One of their best signs to predict separation was to check if the following four types of communication patterns nicknamed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the couple were present: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
Connection is what makes relationships last.
Connection is more than love, friendship or affection. It is how strongly you feel connected to another human being. The stronger that connection, the stronger your bond to the other person is.
From birth we bond with people and we create connections.
Proximity has probably the biggest impact on connection. We bond with the people we come in contact with and with whom we spend time with. Studies show that we are much more likely to form relations with those who are close by. (Check out the Proximity Principle if you haven’t yet).
All these connections are strengthened by the amount of time we spend together. Spending quality time with a partner or a friend is probably the best way to improve your relationship whichever activity you decide to share.
People have different ways to connect with each other. In his book "The Five Love Languages", Gary Chapman gives five ways people experience and express love. They are Gift Giving, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.
The key about these ways of expressing love and connection is that we all have a favourite one that we like to use to express our love and which is also our favorite way of receiving love. For example if I really like to thank people through Words of Affirmation and tell them how great they are. And because this is my favorite way of expressing love, I also appreciate it a lot when people thank me and tell me how great I am.
My love/connection tank will get filled up pretty quickly if I receive this kind of love. Much more so than if someone is hugging me or holding my hand for example.
The problem is that everyone is different, and my spouse or my friend might have a different preferred love language.
If their default love and connection language is doing acts of service for someone or spending time with them, I will probably respond much less to it.
This is why it is important not only to make sure we connect every chance we have in our relationships, but that we also make sure that we are aware of what the best way to connect with this specific person is. Make sure that you speak the same language in your relationships.
Here are a couple steps you can take to improve your relationships right away:
Let me know what you think and if you want to read more about relationships.
I am a big potato chips eater. I have always been.
I love this salty and crispy taste in my mouth and the sound it makes when it’s crushed by my teeth. I even started a crisps review in Japan a few years back to try different and original flavours every couple of days.
The problem with chips is that they are not really healthy for you. They pack a lot of carbs, a lot of fat (not the good kind) and a ton of salt which is also really not good for you.
So how did I stop eating crisps on a daily basis ?
I stopped buying them. That’s it. No crazy trick or dieting journal.
I admit that I still buy crips from time to time but it is mostly for a special occasion or to celebrate something. Anyway, I am proud to say that I rarely eat crisps anymore.
Put crisps in front of me I will eat them, put them away I am good.
It’s all about ecology.
The Average Man
Truth is, a lot of who we are and what we do is directly influenced by our environment. Change the environment, change the behaviour.
I remember this Harvard study about obesity and how it can be socially contagious. In their findings, they concluded that if one of your friends was obese you had 50% more chances to become obese yourself. Fortunately, it works the other way around as well. If your friends are healthy and fit, you have more chances to be healthy and fit yourself.
Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. We usually use the term to refer to the scientific analysis of a natural environment. We tend to forget that we also have a social and artificial environment: our family and friends, our homes and cars, our work and leisure places. And like the air we breathe and the food we eat, what surrounds us every day has a big impact on our health, mood and actions.
There is a famous quote from Jim Rohn which I refer to as the Entourage Theory : “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
We are not just talking about your weight or health. But also about your income, your education, your culture, your language, your mood and your favourite activities. It makes you think about whom you really want to spend your time with.
Are you the smartest person among your peers ? Then you might want to find people who are smarter than you and whom you can learn from.
We must strive to surround ourselves with people who are better than us.
James Altucher even expanded on this concept with his 5x5 rule :
"You are the average of the 5 habits you do, the 5 foods you eat, the 5 ideas you have and the content you consume."
This is certainly not a new idea but there is a lot of value in looking closely at all these things, people and actions that gravitate around us. What do all these say about ourselves ?
We are the average man. So let’s look at this average.
Unfortunately, there is no formula to calculate the average man (or woman) we are as there is one to calculate the arithmetic or the geometric mean. We can only look at the results, and also we can look at the variables.
So the question is: what do you surround yourself with ? Who are your friends ? The people you spend time with ? What kind of food do you put in your fridge ? What kind of information you read or watch ? All the choices we make about what we accept in our life and what we choose to keep.
If we make an inventory of our environment and if we rate it without disdain or guilt but with honesty. It brings up even more questions: Is this what I really want to have around me ? Am I happy with my life and everything that's in it ?
And if the answer is no, we can decide to change it.
It will be incremental at first. But as the tiny insect in the pond, it can have a big impact at every level of the food chain.
Your lifestyle is mostly determined by your environment. The great thing that ecology teaches us is that you can choose your environment and you can willingly change it. And as you are having an influence on your environment, your environment will have an influence on you.
The Proximity Principle
You want to make it easy to eat the nuts and hard to eat the crisps. You put the nuts on display and you hide the crisps away or you don’t even buy them in the first place. As we are lazy human beings, when we crave crips, we won’t go to the store to buy some. Instead, we will default back to whatever is available. Therefore we want to make “what’s available” as good as we can.
Are you spending too much time watching TV ? Unplug it and hide the remote control in another room.
For this reason you want to make it as hard as you can to get to the “bad” stuff and as easy as you can to get to the “good” stuff.
Too much internet distraction ? Use the Freedom app to lock your internet for a limited period of time where your productivity matters.
Although environment is not everything, it is a big part of our days. What is available to us will usually be what we choose. It’s easy to say : “Whatever happens, I will do what I want”, but often when we are faced with a limited choice, we make the lesser choice.
Why is a certain fast food chain so popular ? Because it’s everywhere. You cannot escape a certain kind of sweets or meals if you are surrounded with junk food all day anywhere you look.
The proximity principle is a concept from social psychology that explains the tendency for individuals to form relations with those who are close by. Proximity promotes interaction between individuals and groups.
If we apply this principle not only to our social group but to all aspect of our life. We might ask ourselves: what do I want to keep close to my chest ? And also, what do I want to keep away from ?
73% of people asked, said they believe their use of electronic devices has contributed to stress in their life. Yet what do they put on their bedside table ? What is the first thing they look at when they have a break ?
People ask me often how they can improve their focus. Our will can be trained and improving focus is indeed very rewarding. But it also demands a lot of energy. No matter how much focus you have, you can only focus on one thing at a time. We like to believe our will is the ultimate solution and that having more willpower and motivation can solve all our problems. I find that relying on laziness is often much more efficient.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu
The human mind is like a cat, it gets distracted by any little thing: a light, a feather, anything that moves. Because we have a very limited attention, we should make it easy for us to get back on track when we get distracted.
If the first thing I serve to my kids are vegetables, they are more likely to eat them if I don't put anything else on the table.
It's exactly the same for adults. If you turn off your phone in your living room and have a few books on your bedside table, you will notice you are reading your books much faster.
Don't give yourself a choice: schedule the hard stuff first and the sweet stuff after.
There are two ways to improve focus: one way is to increase the amount of overall focus you have. The other one is to use your will only when it matters, and to rely on your environment the rest of the time.
Keep a nurturing environment around you that reflects how you want to act.
A well-formed outcome is a high quality goal that meets a certain number of criteria to improve the chances of success.
Here are a few of these criteria:
It must be stated positively and be solution-oriented.
Instead of saying what we don’t want or on focusing on the problem like “I want to stop smoking”, “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get rid of debt”. We focus on what we do want: “I want to breathe clean air”, “I want to be fit”, “I want to save money and grow my income”.
It must be specific and tangible so that anyone could clearly imagine what it would be like.
The more details you have about your goals and the more real and sensitive you can make it, the better. Our mind is very susceptible to imagery and visualisation. Whatever we think about tends to put us in a certain state. So let’s think about what motivates us.
It must be within your control and not dependant on outside circumstances.
If your outcome depends on other people doing or saying certain things, it’s probably not a good outcome and you might be creating some extra frustration for yourself.
And finally maybe the most important one:
It must be ecological.
It means that the desired outcome is appropriate for all circumstances, and that all its consequences are welcome in your life and your relationships.
All our outcomes are connected with the rest of our lives. We all have values and responsibilities that needs to be taken care of, whatever our daily schedule looks like.
If your goal is to run a marathon and you decide to train every day for one hour. This will have a great impact on your schedule and on your energy level. Is this congruent with how you want to behave with your family, your work and your relationships ? This is the kind of question we want to ask ourselves before we get started.
When I decide to go to a seminar or to attend an event abroad. I know that it will mean time away from my wife, my kids and my work. Of course this is something I love to do, but I also love to spend time with my close ones and to have a healthy family life.
It makes sense to make sure that our outcomes are aligned with our other priorities because we don’t want to sacrifice one for the other.
“There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.” Simon Sinek
The question is what is more important to us ? I am not saying you should not run a marathon or that you should not go for a great goal. I am saying it should be a goal that is aligned with who you are and what you want in your life. If by pursuing a goal, we sacrifice something else that is very dear to us. We might regret our choice later on it this particular goal is in conflict with some of our core values.
This is why we make an ecology check first: is this what I really want ? How does is fit in my life and in my schedule ? Is it aligned with my values ? In order to say yes to this, what do I have to say no to ? Am I ok with all the consequences of this choice ?
Be smart, be ecological.
To summarise how ecology can help you in your life:
Goal setting is a big topic for self-development geeks. It can raise eyebrows and sometimes gets you in trouble like being cornered into an unpleasant online argument.
The reason goal setting is so controversial is surely because it adresses one of the most basic and most frustrating problems we all face. I am talking about procrastination. The dreadful enemy of accomplishment, life success and we all know it: true happiness.
Everyone struggle with procrastination at some point, most of us on a daily basis and we know that there are perfectly good reasons for always postponing some tasks. One of them being that our brain wants to protect us from anything tiring, boring and unexciting. Our body does not want to sit for hours while focusing on a single task, it does not care about strenuous and repetitive work that might pay off in the future, it wants us to feel good now.
Here are the three main reasons why we procrastinate:
(I mean you, I don’t procrastinate, ever...)
One of the basic human needs is variety, there is literally an infinite amount of things we want. And we always want the next thing. Whenever we reach a goal, we want the next one. Whatever we have or experience, we want something more.
There is no limit to what we want, it’s in our human nature. Even if we experience some moments of satisfaction, we move on to the next thing : status, power, entertainment, love, spirituality, purpose...
Faced with this amazing and endless choice of options, our mind freezes as we are unable to choose.
Inability to choose is the first and probably biggest source of procrastination.
Making a decision is far too complex. Choosing any option would mean saying no to everything else. How can we say no to all these other possibilities and things that we also want ? We all know someone who sits at a restaurant and needs twenty minutes to select a meal. It’s just a meal, and not an insurance policy or an important career choice. And yet, people are blocked by the wide choice that is offered to them, unable to decide.
I remember reading this marketing experiment about a supermarket offering a choice of 6 sorts of jams on one day and 24 different kinds on another day as a test. People who were presented with only 2 sorts of jams were 10 times more likely to buy than the ones who were presented with a wider choice.
Our life is like a big supermarket full of different products competing for our attention. It’s really hard to decide what to put in our basket. And sometimes that’s all there is to the inability to choose: a lack of clarity. We don’t know what we want exactly, because we haven’t thought about it so how could we know ?
There is another reason for this indecisiveness: worry and doubt. The cool thing about not choosing is that we are sure that we are not making a mistake because we are not choosing anything. When we are afraid to make a mistake, we prefer to wait or to just not choose. What if this goal that we are choosing was not the right one ? What if it was a waste of time or even worse: what if we failed and ridiculed ourselves ?
Fear of choosing prevents us from deciding what we want and puts our life on pause. People who experience a lot of anxiety and doubts will often have difficulty choosing for themselves and setting goals.
The remedy to Indecision Procrastination is learning how to make a Decision by setting Priorities.
You don’t have to give up on everything but you do have to focus on one goal at a time. Jim Collins the author of Good to Great said: “If you have more than three priorities, then you don't have any”. If you have a purpose and you consistently work at it, things will start to move into place quickly. But you need to find this purpose first ! You want to allow yourself to make this decision and to accept the fact that you will never know if this choice is the right one. Not choosing among an infinity of possibilities is making the choice of nothingness. We want to accept the responsibility we have of choosing our time and what we do with it.
Choose a target and aim.
Waiting for motivation and energy to get started
We all have goals or some kind of ideal even if we haven’t read anything about goal setting. Truth is: "once I am motivated, I am unstoppable. And when the time is right, and when this first thing will be finished and when I have a bit more free time and when all the planets align and this and that... Then I will do it ! Now is just not a good time. OK ?"
We all have goals and yet, we sometimes don’t do anything about them. We don’t even get started ! We have projects and dreams, and so much we want to accomplish. We know we are supposed to achieve a lot and that we are capable of anything we put our mind to, at least that’s what this great picture on the internet with an ancient quote is saying.
We all know someone who means well but is always late, someone who gives their word but rarely keeps it, someone who really tried to but did not deliver. If we let our current levels of motivation and energy dictate what we accomplish, we will face situations where we just don’t feel doing anything at all and we never really start to move toward our dreams.
So why don’t we actually do it ? Why don’t we do what we say we really want to do ?
If we rely on motivation and energy to get started, the problem is that as soon as they decrease, we get easily distracted.
In his Ted Talk, Tim urban explains how his own mind works as a master procrastinator:
He has this great plan laid out for his goal with enough time planned to do everything. Yet suddenly the "Instant Gratification Monkey" appears. It’s the little monkey in our brain that just loves everything easy and fun. And it will do everything it can to stop the rational decision maker in our brain.
It’s called being “distracted" from our objective. We mean one thing, but we do something else instead.
We say that some people have ADHD, or are “right brain”, or just daydreamers. Whatever belief we have around why we get distracted and have difficulty to focus, it is perfectly normal. Some of us struggle with it more than others and we all experience it. This Instant Gratification Monkey does not want us to focus, not until it is too late and a deadline approaches. This is when the "Panic Monster” appears as Tim Urban puts it. Then we are able to achieve a lot of work in a short amount of time without any distraction because the urgency of the task became so huge.
The only problem with this process is that we are filled with guilt and that we are frustrated to always do things at the last minute.
More importantly, there are some tasks or projects where there are no deadlines and will therefore never become urgent. So even if the Panic Monster helps with short term deadlines, it cannot help us with bigger goals such as being healthier, improving our relationships, developing our skills or spending more quality time with our loved ones.
If we wait for extrinsic sources of motivation to schedule our life, we will miss out on the most important things.
The solution to Extrinsic Motivation Procrastination is Action.
It is to simply get started without waiting for the energy and the motivation to be there. It sounds awfully simple and stupid and yet it works. Saying to yourself 1, 2, 3 let’s go is the main thing when it comes about lack of motivation. Some people are really good at getting themselves motivated even when they feel down. They either learned it or they put systems in place that help them make sure they will do what they want to do regardless of their current motivation or enthusiasm.
We want to accept the fact that we sometimes don’t feel motivated or energised and that it is ok because we know the solution is to start moving.
Baby stepping the process is often a great solution to get started: want to work out ? How about doing three push ups ? Just three push ups, then we will see how we feel. Getting this momentum going and not waiting for the perfect time or circumstances is huge to counter this lack of motivation.
Get started now, lay the first stone of your castle.
Letting your current results drive your actions
Most goals fail because we lack persistence. We usually stop before we get to the real treasure.
This is very common and probably has a lot to do with our education system. The way we are taught in schools is to learn something and then we are tested on what we learned a short while after. The grades we receive will determine how well we have done and what kind of a student we are, not only to the people around us, but also to ourselves.
For example I remember having a really hard time with mathematics when I was in high school and in prep school. When I say hard time, I mean I had some of the worst grades in the class. It had nothing to do with my capacities.
I remember vividly hating every minute of the class and dragging my feet to do my homework or study for a test. I always managed to get the minimum grades so that I could pass the exams and move on to the next grade or school. So the problem was not my knowledge or my amount of study, or even my grades. These were all consequences of one thing: my attitude about the subject.
When working on a project or on a goal, it’s easy to see what we lack. Especially in the beginning or when we are doing something we have never done before. We fail and we fail again. We make mistakes and we usually feel bad about it. I will always remember the look on some of my teachers’ face when they would give me back a paper with a bad grade on it. I just disappointed them and they sometimes even told me how bad of a student I was. This did not make feel good and surely did not make want to study more.
There is a definition of attitude that I like a lot: attitude is the combination of your thoughts, your feelings and your actions.
What kind of attitude do we usually have about failure or bad results ? We don’t like making mistakes, and we don’t like admitting that we are wrong. And even if we do, people will think we are being foolish or dishonest.
Some people don’t dare to ask questions because they are afraid of looking foolish. And we all know someone who is always having “a bad day” whatever happens and their attitude is pretty much the same all year round.
If we manage to choose a goal, and if we succeed to get started, we very often don’t follow through. I am not just talking about new year resolutions, I am talking about every type of goal that requires some time and effort. It could be a project for work that has started, or a book we are reading, or even this event we are planning. We want to know that whatever happens, whatever obstacle we face or problem arises, we will be able to push through and keep our eyes on the prize.
We cannot do this if our attitude about the problems is negative. What kind of thoughts are we having when we are having “a bad day” ? We know for a fact that life always happens, that problems will always show up. Now it is up to us to decide wether we will let these circumstances become “a bad day” or if we will use it as an opportunity and keep a positive attitude whatever happens.
It's easy to be really motivated and excited when things go well. But as soon as something unexpected happens, how do we feel about it ? And more importantly, what do we do about it ?
Negative feedback procrastination happens when we stop doing what we said we would do.
We make a plan, we put it in motion and then something happens and we just give up. Negative feedback is always around the corner, from our colleagues, from our family members and our loved ones, from what the society tells us or even from our own body signals. If we let our current results drive our attitude, we won’t get what we want.
So how do we change our attitude about results and about problems ?
The same way we learned to react to them.
The cure to Negative Feedback Procrastination is through habits.
Habits are not results oriented, they are state oriented. It means that we do the things we do because of how it makes us feel not because of what we think we will get out of it. Once we start doing things as a routine, we unconsciously rely on our default mode instead of relying on effort, motivation and circumstances. The way to create a routine is through repetition, we build one small habit at a time and little by little, it becomes natural.
The great thing about this process is that it requires very little effort and creates lasting change. We feel good not because of the results we instantly get but because of the sense of accomplishment we get every time we go through our routine. A routine does not require much effort, it does not need to be perfect and it is not something that requires a lot of time. If we want to read more, how about reading one page a day ? If we want to eat healthier, how about eating veggies once a day to start ? If we want to write a book, why not write one hundred words a day ? All these outcomes become manageable and yet will have a huge impact if applied consistently.
A good way to create a new routine in your life is to set yourself a 30 day challenge (could be 21 days or 40, or 66 days depending on who you ask), then make sure the task you want to do is aligned with your bigger outcome and is something that will make you feel good and will require little effort.
To put it in a nutshell: choose what you want, start doing it now, keep doing it until you are satisfied with your results.
If you want to get started now (no pressure !) here are a few practical tips:
Choosing a target : Use the rule of 3 to select your priorities, use a vision board to remind yourself of your choices
Getting started and building your goals : Use Well-defined outcomes and the 5 seconds rule to start.
Surfing the daily routines and creating habits : Use the 30 day challenge, and deliberate practice to harness the power of repetition
We will look today at a very powerful exercise called the Trauma Egg. This exercise takes a bit of effort and it is so worth it ! I have learned a lot about myself and my past doing this exercise and I hope you will find it useful.
Short description: You will draw all the traumatic events in your life in an egg.
Material needed: One large sheet of paper (A4 or bigger), pens and crayons
Interest: Looking at the roots of emotional trauma and being able to share it will help you identify your patterns of trauma and the associated coping mechanisms.
The trauma egg was developed as a tool for treating emotional trauma by Marilyn Murray, an internationally-recognized authority on trauma, abuse and its consequences. It is part of what’s known as The Murray Method, which she has developed and expanded upon throughout her more than 30 years of experience.
Time recommended: 2 hours (1 hour to list and draw the egg and the traumas and 1 hour to analyse and share it)
Tips: You might be overwhelmed by emotions as you sometimes relive some of the traumas while drawing them, if you need to take a break and relax, do it. Remember that you are just drawing something that happened in the past and that you are now safe. If you feel that one of the traumas needs more attention, you can draw a mini egg around it to expand it within the big egg. Include even the smallest events as long as you feel that you experienced some emotional pain during that time .
This very deep exercise allows you to share some of the traumas you might have never shared before and gain closure. As you share it and look at it, you become more aware of your traumatic experiences and the beliefs around them. It allows you to see some patterns in the ways you were traumatised in your life and what kind of triggers puts you back in a childlike or vulnerable state. It allows you to deal with the future triggers better, knowing that you don’t need to go back to the inner child to deal with the situation. You can identify how you felt during a certain event, where it came from and how far in your childhood it brought you back. You are then left with some messages that got stuck with you all these years. Messages about how you are or how you sometimes think you should behave. Seeing where these messages come from, shows you what emotional needs you need to fulfill. Example of such messages: “I am a failure”, “I am unsafe”, “I am broken”, “I am not good enough”… You can then ask yourself: “What does my higher power say about these messages?” and “Are these messages true ?”.
Let me know what are your thoughts or comments about the exercise and if you found it helpful.
The average training budget for companies is over 4 millions dollars per year and in the US over 160 billion dollars are spent each year on training alone.
Training is indeed a big priority for companies and according to this survey, training and learning opportunities are more and more important to employees these days for job satisfaction, especially among younger generations.
Quote: “Given the changes in the way organisations are operating and the shifting demographic composition of the workforce, offering career development opportunities to employees could be extremely beneficial to employers.”
The overall demand in quality training and development is high and companies are doing everything they can to satisfy their precious workforce.
Unfortunately, too often the trainings seem to frustrate employees or to leave them disappointed.
Most trainings are aimed at teaching people to know more and are mostly job specific. But when you look at criteria for job satisfaction, this kind of training only comes in 20th position. What is much higher in the rankings are the following: trust between employees and management, opportunities to use skills and abilities on one’s work, relationship with supervisor, overall communication, and career advancement opportunities.
Unfortunately not many trainings offer insight on these topics and when they do, they often do it wrong.
So what’s wrong with most employee trainings ?
It’s too short:
When you attend a seminar or a class, it’s usually a one day event. Sometimes a couple days if you are lucky. But on average people spend very little time in training each year. In the US, it can be as little as one minute a month !
We expect people to sit and digest slides and a whole year of training in one big gulp. The truth is most employees have high expectations from training and they want more of it.
Sometimes, a very condensed training is made more palatable with the help of mnemonics, visual content and some practical training but you will still find many trainings where people are sitting in a chair while staring at a powerpoint for several hours. Then after a few days, most of the training is forgotten and people get back to their routine.
It’s unpractical and content focused:
Only 12% of learners say they apply the skills received from training to their work. What point is there to learn about MBTI, Process Com or sales techniques if people don’t use it ?
Trainers and coaches present people with new tools and concepts and after a couple exercises you are expected to apply it in your everyday life. Implementing new habits and developing new skills require more than just knowledge.
There is a trend nowadays to make the training more experiential and to make sure people enjoy it and actually use it. Unfortunately there is still little training which aims at developing skills rather than transferring knowledge. One key way to make sure you get a return on investment in training is to test the skills learned throughout the year and to have strong follow-ups and performance feedbacks for the trainees as well as for the trainers.
It’s not individualised:
In training, classroom style is still king. Technology has provided us with more delivery options than ever before. However most companies still teach in classrooms with a single instructor addressing the crowd. It represents more than 75% of trainings.
There are other methods which are proven to be more effective than instructor-led training. For example coaching and mentoring is one of them, not only it is more efficient, there is usually a much higher satisfaction and engagement from employees who have this opportunity.
Other types of training like e-learning, on-the-job exercises and peer-to-peer learning are still underexploited and provide an important variety in the employee’s experience.
The challenge is to deliver the training people want and not the training the company ordered. People learn best when they are engaged and have a strong desire to learn. If they are not into it and don’t see the point, they won’t retain the information.
The first principle of learning is readiness which implies a strong focus and an eagerness to learn. Making sure the training you provide to employees is the one they want is the best way to ensure they will get the most out of it.
What can we do to change it ?
If you are an employee and want more quality training: ask your management for more frequent and longer trainings which correspond to your specific needs. Don’t hesitate to handpick something you are interested in and to present it to your management.
If you are an employer or in charge of training and development at your company: make sure you involve your employees in the selection of the trainings and that you get feedback from them once the training is done. Asking for follow-ups from the trainer would also be a big plus.
Sources and references:
One of the best scenes in the movie Rounders with Matt Damon and Edward Norton involves no poker at all. It’s when the main character Mike McDermott goes through the different stashes in his apartment to get the cash he saved on the side to gamble all of it.
An emergency basket is just that: a reserve of cash that you set aside and don’t touch unless you need to. (you don’t have to hide it in your poker books by the way…)
Why do I need a stash/emergency basket/rainy day fund ?
When I work with people who want to improve their financial health, one of the first goals we set is to create an emergency basket. Even though this seems often very difficult or too early; building this cash reserve is one of the pillars of a healthy financial situation.
Having some cash on the side allows you to sleep better at night.
And when you are struggling with your finances, this is a must-have.
Building a cash reserve that will be used when something happens, gives you the power to take those hits.
When you have a nice budget and a beautiful financial plan, every dollar is accounted for. You are proud of your newfound control.
Then, what usually happens is that after a couple months working on your debt-reducing, savings and investing goals, something will happen. Your car breaks down, your laptop dies on you, you need a plumber or you are getting sued by this crazy neighbour.
Basically life happens.
And you will always use your emergency fund.
Because life... always... happens. (#micdrop)
A time will come where you will badly need this cash, and you will need it right away.
Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. – Ayn Rand
How much money should I put in my emergency basket ?
It mostly depends on how “safe" you want to feel. We all have a different feeling of how much money we need to feel OK.
Most people need a couple months of expenses covered to feel better, some others just need a few hundreds in cash to take care of the unexpected. There's also people who want enough money to live without any income for at least a year.
A good rule of thumb is to plan for the next most likely misfortune that will happen. Just look at your last three unexpected expenses and use it as a basis.
How do I build one ?
You start small. And you also want to make it your priority. Any extra income or saved money should go first into your emergency basket.
Why ? Because if you postpone it and start doing something else with your money, the next unplanned expense will be a big financial blow. You might have to use credit or even overdraft because whatever happens will be urgent and will need to be taken care of right away. It always does.
Whatever your goal is for your emergency fund, set a short term goal. I find that 3 to 6 months works best to stay focused and reach a meaningful amount.
Divide up the total amount you want to reach in tiny time units. It can be months, weeks or even days. If you need to save 1200 dollars in 6 months, it sounds much easier to save 50 bucks per week for 24 weeks.
You might need to use this money before your basket is complete. That’s ok, the fund is made for emergencies, so use it if it’s an emergency.
What’s an emergency you ask ? An emergency is what you say it is, according to your criteria. (yeah I know: duh!)
It’s a good idea to make a list of what constitutes an emergency for you before starting your emergency fund to avoid this kind of dilemma in the future: “Shit I forgot about my brother's birthday ! Wait I have this extra cash for emergencies…” Bye bye emergency fund !
I can't tell you what is an emergency because it is different for everyone. Someone might absolutely need to change their laptop because they need it for work while some others cannot survive without their espresso machine...
What happens when I actually use my emergency basket ?
When you reach in your custom-made stash, wether it’s a real one or in an account, you will first feel warm and smart and say something like: “Yes, I am so smart !”
Unfortunately, you will then find yourself with a diminished or maybe depleted fund and we don't want that.
No worries. You can either use the money from other accounts (provided you know what you are doing with your money) to replenish it or just work back your way up as you previously did with small increments.
Don’t underestimate the “sleeping well at night” effect of the emergency fund. When fighting debt and overspending, being able to work on a simple short term goal that has an immediate impact on your daily life is huge. It gives you more control over your finances and it feels great.
It is also surprising to see how many people who consider themselves wealthy or fortunate, don’t have any cash available in case something happens. This has nothing to do with how much money you make or how much your net worth is. And it also does not have anything to do with your ego or believing the economy could collapse tomorrow...
Here’s a quick summary if you want to get started on your emergency basket:
When you work on yourself, there are two main things you can work on.
The first one is awareness.
“Self-love is a good thing but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go ‘Uh, I’m kind of an asshole.” ― Louis C.K.
Becoming aware of who we are, our feelings, how we act and why, gives us a lot to reflect upon. It expands our model of the world and it changes the way we see ourselves and others. This is the prerequisite of any growth. Sometimes we search for this awareness ourselves by reading books, listening to people we admire or studying. And sometimes we just experience something new that has a deep impact on our psyche. This is what they call an epiphany or a “ah-ah” moment, and it resonates with our core.
I still remember going through the pages of a book and stopping after a sentence struck me like lightning. I was in awe and something just clicked in my brain. Somehow I felt these new connections happening in my brain and suddenly I could see a lot of my past experiences in a complete new light.
Many self-help tools and books aim at giving us more awareness and learning more about ourselves. For example, we can use these tools to discover what type of personality we have, what is our preferred mode of communication, our unique set of strengths or what are some of our favorite ways of expressing and receiving love. (MBTI/Process Com/Strengthfinders/The 5 Love languages)
Some tools focus on developing our awareness about others. We learn how they look differently at the world, how to better communicate with them, how to relate to them better and what their needs are.
There are also countless methods and techniques whose purpose is building awareness through meditation, breathing, mindfulness, or even something as crazy as meeting other people and talking to them. As an avid reader, I love to collect those like little shiny memorabilia made of porcelain.
So awareness truly is something really really cool and the more we peel the layers of the “onion” that is our own consciousness, the wider our world becomes.
Unfortunately, awareness is not enough. Well for most people anyway. Some guys like Eckhart Tolle or Mohandas Ghandi just need this one time experience where their consciousness shifts and they just fall deep in Wonderland and never come back.
Sadly for most of us, raising our awareness is more like a nice documentary on television.
You watch the documentary. You find it fascinating and you learn so many new things you had no idea even existed in the first place. And then, you turn it off and go to bed. That’s it.
There is of course the slight chance that someone will speak about that particular topic or that you yourself think about it in the future. In that case, you will be quite thrilled to share your knowledge on the subject and maybe even make a very insightful comment about it like: “Hey yes, I know about that ! It is so cool !"
But very likely, your life will not be affected by this documentary you watched. And you will probably never personally encounter anything that actually was in it.
It’s the same deal with raising awareness. It’s a nice ride, you will learn a lot from it and it sure looks inspiring and fascinating. And yes it might even make you aware of some problems or concepts you have never heard of. But usually, people don’t follow through on it.
What do we do now ? (Amazing wisdom from my wife)
My wife gave me a wonderful summary of human development one day. It goes like this: Awareness + Practice = Growth
And I think it’s brilliant ! It should be written in golden letters on the doors of every school !
Awareness without practice will give you a lot of frustration and possibly a “wise ass” syndrome.
Practice without awareness is like watching these guys competing in eating contests:
They don’t know why they are doing it. It’s just something they started doing and kept getting better at, destroying their body and self-respect in the process.
Without awareness, you are like a ship in a storm. It does not matter how good, strong or smart you are, you will end up stranded somewhere you did not intend to.
But with both of them, oh yes now we are talking !
Being aware of what makes you tick AND being able to act on it.
And even more : not just doing something about it but practicing it. That is the key.
"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. "
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
There is an endless list of books who speak almost exclusively about practice and its super powers: the compound effect, the power of habit, Think and grow rich, Practice Perfect, Talent is overrated, The Achievement Factory, 7 habits of highly effective people, etc.
They all agree on one thing: practice is he holy grail and to make something effective and see real results it needs to be practiced again and again, and again and again…
The repetition of practice is what makes it so powerful. By repeating on a daily basis, a physical, intellectual or even spiritual practice, we integrate it in our mind and our body. It becomes a part of us. This new practice which was strange to us a couple months ago or even painful has now become a habit.
It is very important that we make sure to include the results of our awareness in our daily practice if we want to see visible changes in ourselves and in our lives.
We all know a lot of stuff, we have been to school, we have read a lot of books and watched thousands of hours of videos. We learned so many concepts and discovered so much about ourselves and others. But it does not mean that we apply what we know. It does not mean we do anything differently.
Actually most of the time, we don’t apply any of it and just go back to our default mode. Just look at people’s new year resolutions.
Self-improvement is not different than golf, running or singing, practice makes perfect.
Purposeful practice. (Feedback, Focus, Forward pushing)
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
― Samuel Johnson
How should we practice ? It’s not enough to repeat something until nausea if it does not give us the results we are looking for.
Knowing what to practice and how to practice it, is essential to getting the results we want. I remember working out like crazy when I was younger and not seeing any visible results for months except being tired, sore and miserable. I was overworking my already weak body and I was certainly not eating accordingly to my daily regimen. There was no way my body could keep up with the pace at which I was training. In no time I was hurting everywhere and was still not seeing much improvement. Reducing my workout and focusing on my diet and sleep gave me much better results. It’s exactly the same with everything else, if you try to practice without knowing the laws, chances are that you won’t see much improvement.
I have read a wonderful book excerpt on the benefits of purposeful practice and the authors explains what are the three components of purposeful or deliberate practice.
"Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals."
This kind of practice differs from “naive practice” in the way that every time you practice, you have a clear and detailed goal. For example if you are practicing music on your drum kit. Instead of just playing for 15-30 minutes and trying to play one song. Your goal might be to go through the piece 3 times without stopping and losing the beat. Or maybe it could be to finish the song twice without any mistake.
You want these practices to all aim toward small baby steps, and then each step will bring you closer to the bigger objective. You need to be able to gather feedback after each practice to measure your progress and know what works and what doesn't.
“Purposeful practice is focused.”
Your whole attention must be focused on whatever you are practicing right now. We all get distracted, especially nowadays with all the different screens and connected devices around us that demand our attention and constantly reward us for not focusing on a single task.
You want to close those curtains, turn off your phone, mute your app and just focus on what you are practicing now.
Especially if this practice is important to your results.
Don’t be the person who studies in front of the TV, who works while surfing the internet or works out while checking your apps.
"Purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone”
Every time you practice, you are looking to achieve more. It does not mean you actually improve every time. But you want to go further every time.
So if you did it in 5 minutes last time, you want to try to go down to 4 minutes. Once you can do it in 4 minutes, you want to try to do it in 3 minutes…
Whatever your metrics are, you want to make sure to improve one of them every time you practice.
This permanent thirst for growth is something well summarised by the japanese concept of Kaizen. Kaizen means "constant improvement" and is used in many business areas including in world famous companies to improve productivity and involvement on every level.
This philosophy of improvement values any kind of amelioration, even the smallest ones. If you can do one thing better during your practice. Even if it’s a very small enhancement, you might want to go for it and reap the rewards of these constant improvements.
If you invest 10000 hours of practice into something, make sure they count and that you are actually spending those hours getting better and not just practicing what you already know.
Find the awareness, practice purposefully and watch yourself grow.
How to apply this :
This is something you have never done but always wanted to. Whatever “this” is, it is something you are aware of and if you have not done it yet, it will get you out of your comfort zone, however small it is.
5 minutes and "the first step" is very specific and focused. If you do this, you are much more likely to follow through on the next step and the next one, until you have done it.
Let me know how it goes and if you actually do the first step.
Here is the original article posted on Steemit.
Performance coach, world traveler, tribe builder, NLP enthusiast and mnemonist. I am passionate about self-development and life changing coaching tools.
Defusing The Past