This tool is life-changing!
Make yourself and your family more resilient against depression, anxiety and the challenges of life.
This tool is life-changing!
Make yourself and your family more resilient against depression, anxiety and the challenges of life.
A number of motivational psychologists have asked the same question: “Which gives better results: focusing on positives or negatives?” (Another questions they ask is “Why do people enjoy bowling?” – just kidding.)
Four researchers at the University of Wisconsin decided to find out (about focus that is). They used one of America’s most popular adult sports, bowling, to do the research. The experiment involved monitoring the scores of low-skilled bowlers in four leagues over a few months, and two leagues showed something startling. One league had been asked to track only what they did right and focus on doing those things more; another league had been asked to track only the mistakes and focus on avoiding those errors in the future. While both teams improved, the team tracking what they did right had 100 percent greater improvement than the team that was tracking its mistakes!
The researchers go on to say that when people are new at skills lots of positive feedback and ideas are the most helpful. Once someone has mastered a skill set a higher ratio of negative feedback is more helpful for improvement. In other words, keep newbies focused on how to do the skill. Distracting with too much negative takes them off course and can diminish important confidence-building.
The bottom-line is that focusing on both positives and negative are important. Both prime people. But prime well, so that they are clear about what how to do the skill well, and they motivated to keep improving. This calms the caveman and energizes the artist.
Whoop it up! Celebrate the positives. At first, only point out negatives that will make a big deal if not fixed. Then quickly get back to what is working, and what is best to do next.
Go bowl nonstop strikes!
Research Note: Kirschenbaum, D. S., A. M. Ordman, A. J. Tomarken, and R. Holtzbauer.
“Effects of Differential Self-monitoring and Level of Mastery on Sports Performance: Brain Power Bowling.” Cognitive Therapy and Research 6, no. 3 (1982): 335–42.
“Hope without critical thinking leads to naïveté and critical thinking without hope leads to cynicism. To survive, we need both.” Maria Popova
“if you combine those two mental qualities [you achieve] wisdom… The absence of both gets you apathy.” Coert’s Visser
These wise insights capture beautifully what I often teach. What gives us the most power and insight is the right blend of optimism while facing the hard truths as well.
The research by Barbara Fredrickson on the ideal balance of positive to negative communication also supports this. There are no easy answers or beliefs that we can use to make all decisions. We need to take each situation face the hard truth of that situation, then switch a solution focus for ideas. The right balance makes us far better decision makers (and more credible as well).
Popova profoundly states, “Yes, people sometimes do horrible things, and we can speculate about why they do them until we run out of words and sanity. But evil only prevails when we mistake it for the norm. There is so much goodness in the world — all we have to do is remind one another of it, show up for it, and refuse to leave.”
Would you like to raise your optimism level (and still be grounded in reality)?
Would you like your children to really know how good life is for them? To have greater confidence, self-esteem, and more resilient in the face of life’s many challenges?
Would you like your team to be more positive, creative and focused on solutions (not just the problems)?
I created this activity, inspired by research in Positive Psychology, 7 years ago. It’s made my relationships more positive. I’ve heard from many people who’ve attended my speeches that they’ve transformed their family dynamics with this simple, fun activity.
The key is to do it daily when you can. It gradually creates the habits of looking for what’s good in your life, what you’re good at, what you love, and even confidence for the future. It helps rebalance for the natural negativity bias. It helps us get our ACT together as well.
This description comes from our Leadership University program. Use it to make your life happier and more productive.
Please come tell me how it’s working for you. Feel free to ask questions about it too.
Our brains do some weird things when we are successful. It can pay to prepare for it. Especially, because we can get what I call “expertitis.”
I have a confession to make. After getting some really rough feedback about ten years ago I realized that I had come down with a bad case of expertitis. I had become successful as a change agent, and at helping people transform. This success unfortunately went to my head (which swelled a few sizes). I began to lecture people who had no interest in my advice. I was showing the first two symptoms below. No surprise, my success rate (and popularity) began to decline.
Symptoms: Expertitis is that dreaded egotistical state that shows itself in one or more of the following behaviors:
My solutions to priming by brain to be more realistic and helpful were simple, if not easy.
I’d love to hear what you do to balance yourself and prevent expertitis.
Also, I love learning about other brain geeks that use research to help us all learn how to work and live better.
I’ve followed Dr. Srini Pillay for a while. Here are his great suggestions for counteracting expertitis in the Harvard Business Review blog. The Unexpected Consequences of Success
Would you like to be calmer in the face of work and family stress?
Would you like to be more content with life as it is, and less affected by the imaginary dangers that play in your mind?
Would you like to make better, more rational decisions?
I’m going to give some of my thoughts, and those of Sam Harris, a renowned philosopher and neuroscientist.
Increasing mindfulness does all three of these things. Mindfulness is being able to calmly face the exaggerated threats our mind creates without fighting, fleeing or freezing. That means to not have to suppress our unwanted urges, run from our own emotions, or deny our own thoughts and feelings. Instead, noticing our thoughts and feelings with equanimity, allowing these urges to “float” by instead of choosing to react to them. Then choosing the “right” action toward what is best for oneself, instead of merely away from momentary discomfort and toward comfort.
I created the ACT Team to give people an easy step in this direction. These represent aspects of our brain that embody certain fearful urges and motivations. Seeing them as somewhat separate allows us some mental distance, and increases the ability to choose “right” action instead of simply react to their promptings. This also allows us to see ourselves as more than our thoughts, our feelings and our urges. In addition, it allows us to influence our own motivations a bit more objectively, instead of be a victim to them.
The fearful urges and motivations we feel in a given moment distort our sense of what is real, creating reactionary “inner movies.” Inner movies are our brain’s guess of what is real combined with our biases, fears and hopes. It plays them out in our minds like a visual, auditory or sensed movie. Most of the time we’re caught up in the inner movies of life, not realizing that they are simply movies, not reality. Mindfulness is being able to look past the movie to see what is really there, with less bias from our fears, hopes and biases. This is what I argue that “enlightenment” truly is—seeing reality more clearly. More mental light is now shining on what is actually happening, and less on the internal distortions. For example, we may have an inner movie that our child is “shaming the family” by choosing career we dislike, when the reality is that she is usually simply being attracted to what she finds interesting and enjoyable. You can see how much unnecessary conflict this kind of inner movie causes for ourselves, and for those around us.
Sam Harris explains mindfulness well in his book “Waking Up”.
My friend Joseph Goldstein…likens this shift in awareness to the experience of being fully immersed in a film and then suddenly realizing that you are sitting in a theater watching a mere play of light on a wall. Your perception is unchanged, but the spell is broken. Most of us spend every waking moment lost in the movie of our lives. Until we see that an alternative to this enchantment exists, we are entirely at the mercy of appearances…
We crave lasting happiness in the midst of change: Our bodies age, cherished objects break, pleasures fade, relationships fail. Our attachment to the good things in life and our aversion to the bad amount to a denial of these realities, and this inevitably leads to feelings of dissatisfaction. Mindfulness is a technique for achieving equanimity amid the flux, allowing us to simply be aware of the quality of experience in each moment, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This may seem like a recipe for apathy, but it needn’t be. It is actually possible to be mindful—and, therefore, to be at peace with the present moment—even while working to change the world for the better.
(Sam Harris teaches how to achieve mindfulness through various exercises in “Waking Up”. He has audio guides to this kind of mediation on his website. He manages to extract the powerful insights of Buddhist meditation from the mythology, so that it’s relevant to everyone regardless of your beliefs.)
Happiness. Bliss. Serenity. Mental Health. There are many worthwhile goals of mindfulness meditation. A very small segment of people find sitting for days, weeks, months or even years at a time appealing. The goal for most of us though, as Harris describes it, is increasing happiness. Not reaching some magical state of nirvana, enlightenment, etc.
What is the next step you will take to becoming more mindful?
To make better decisions?
To be more content with life as it is, and less affected by the imaginary dangers of your inner movie?
Tom Raffio interviews Bob Faw about how to get your ACT together on their radio show.
Here are tips for motivating yourself, and others, particularly during busy or stressful times.
Tom Raffio is the leader of Northeast Delta Dental. He is also the co-author of “There Are No Do-Overs: The Big Red Factors For Sustaining a Business Long Term” with Dave Cowens and Barbara McLaughlin
In addition to calming the Caveman’s fears and energizing the Artist, positive change of any type also requires convincing the Thinker. This part of the brain wants to have a clear vision of how to get to your goals. If there’s too much detail, the Caveman gets bored and confused, but too little detail leaves the Thinker unconvinced. For example, when I had to change the vicious cycles of economic despair into the vital cycles of a great career, I created a few steps that I thought would lead me to my goals. I planned the first step, but I didn’t worry too much about the following steps until I was ready for them. Each person’s Thinker is different and requires a different blend of information. Experiment to find out how much planning is enough to make your Thinker confident, without planning so much that you lose motivation in the process. The Caveman part of our brain starts to rebel when plans get too complex.
Some people need lots of background information and analysis to help convince the Thinker. However, people who have stronger Artist tendencies are happier with a big picture and motivating reasons; and are impatient with too much data. When motivating others, choose your approach based on what they prefer.
There are some things that both the Caveman and the Thinker like. For example, both like it when you are clear about a specific amount to accomplish. This works whether your goal is money, job satisfaction, depth of relationship, or any other goal in life. Both of these parts of the brain also like things that are clearly beneficial to all aspects of your life. For example, when I started doing more public speaking, my Thinker enjoyed the mental stimulation and potential for bringing in more work, my Caveman enjoyed the fun I had working a crowd, and my Artist thrived on the passion I felt talking about positive change.
I have fun playing the “caveman”, one of the most primitive aspects of our survival response. I describe the “Caveman” (or Cavewoman, if you prefer) and its responses to stress.
… then there are goofy outtakes
FYI, The “F Responses”–Fight, flight and freeze are technically part of the limbic system of the brain. We call it the Caveman to make it easier to remember and deal with.