Can you control your emotions? December 22, 2009
An easy question to answer – it depends…
Being in control of your emotions does not mean you can’t get angry, upset, sad or even happy. It means you have choice of what emotion you feel when.
At least in the western world, ‘emotional control’ often implies no emotion at all. A robot.
The opposite side of this is the person who is a rudderless boat under full sail in an emotional storm. Every event they have a full emotional response to. Very young kids are often like this.
For an aduly, both are just as bad as the other.
Part of the reason for this is there is a prevailing idea that emotions are out of our control. Many times you’ll read an article or listen to someone speak and notice the underlying current that because someone has emotional control, they are somewhat special, or somewhat alien. In reality they are special like someone with a ham sandwich is special – anyone can get a ham sandwich if they put the effort in.
With your friends, they are used to your emotional responses, be they high, low or inbetween. When interacting with someone new, the amount of emotion you can display changes with the person you’re speaking with. For example, in general if you’re speaking to Japanese, emotional outbursts will damage your credibility (or worse). Not enough emotion when speaking to others will achieve the same result.
The trick is to always know yourself first, and then the person you’re speaking to.
Self deception is good? December 3, 2009
Such interesting research that it fits into many different areas. From life, sports, business and other pursuits. And the research hints at top performers often ’self-deceive’ more than others.
Psychologist by the name of Joanna Starek discovered that swimmers who lie to themselves swim faster than those who do not. (Link to the research).
The document hints at much of the other evidence out there that ’self-deception’ helps with stress, depression, happiness, and more.
Above all, this shows that the ability to focus on your goal, ignoring any other information that goes against that goal, makes it more likely to reach your goal.
So what do you think? Is self-deception needed for success? Does it help at all from your perspective?
Thanks to Radiolab for the links.
Meaning and belief October 29, 2009
Events have no meaning in themselves.
Imagine you’ve planned a huge party. You’ve planned the food, layed out the tables and drinks on your lawn. Put up streamers and lights preparing for a big night. The sun is high as people arrive. Soon the party is rocking, everyone enjoying themselves. Suddenly, within minutes the wind picks up. Dark clouds gather and rain begins to fall. How do you feel about the rain?
As a seporate example, imagine you are sitting at home reading a book. Outside is a cold winters day, but inside is warm and cosy. You’ve just got yourself a nice warm beverage. Suddenly, within minutes the wind picks up. Dark clouds gather and rain begins to fall, spattering the windows. How do you feel about the rain?
As a third example, imagine you are a farmer and your farm has been in drout for the past three years. You’re walking through a dusty field and suddenly, within minutes the wind picks up. Dark clouds gather and rain begins to fall. How do you feel about the rain?
The rain itself is the same, the surrounding events different. All that really makes the difference is not the rain, but the meaning you attribute to that rain.
Beliefs are like this as well. Because of a belief we attribute specific meaning to events.
How to improve your lie-detection October 22, 2009
From my previous post, I forgot to mention one of the most important aspects needed to improve! (and not just lie-detection either)
That aspect is feedback. It’s all well and good to think you caught a hint that something was wrong. It’s another thing entirely to follow up and find out if it is/was misunderstanding, exaggeration or mistake.
You may think you’re the best person at detecting lies, but unless you follow up to confirm your suspicions, you’re just lying to yourself. Think of poker players, they have to first spot, then test that the tells are consistent.
So what are some of the ways you can get feedback? As I discussed, outright asking won’t help. One of the best methods I know of and use is to write down my suspicions. Write out what they did and said, and what you thought was going on. You can refer back to this in a few months time after the situation has changed. You can ask someone about it at that time as well, as usually the overall situation has changed and they won’t mind telling you what was happening. Often new information will come to light just over that time.
A good example of this was many years ago when I was working as a consultant. One of my clients was a single older female who wore a lot of jewelry. Many rings, often multiple on each finger, bracelets and necklaces.
This went on for many months, until one day she came into work wearing just as many necklaces and bracelets, but a single very simple ring. Instantly this change got my attention. I made a joking, exploring comment along the lines of “Anything special happen on the weekend?” And she replied with a no.
So I made a note. Described the behaviour, and that I thought she had gotten engaged. A few weeks later I got confirmation that indeed she was engaged.
If you do this and discover that you’re wrong, this is much better feedback that if you’re right. And this is the main reason I write down what happened as wel as what I thought. It means I can adjust my thoughts next time I see that same behaviour. Being right means you’re right. Being wrong means you’re learning. But only if you make that effort.
Today is the day… October 15, 2009
Stressed and under pressure?
Take a breath and put to one side all that stress and pressure that you’re under. We’ll come back to it soon enough.
Now we’ve got a break, let’s ask a few questions to give us some perspective.
What is your outcome from work?
Two years ago, where did you want to be?
Two years ago, what did you want to be doing?
Two years ago, who did you want to be?
What do you want to achieve right now?
What do you want to achieve in two years?
What do you want to be doing in 2 years?
Who do you want to be doing it with?
Who do you want to be?
If you could do whatever you want without failure, what would you do?
What would you be doing if it didn’t mean anything about who you are?
What would you do if it was ok to fail?
How would you know when you achieved your outcome?
How would the people around you get tangible benefit?
Take another breath.
Decide now if you want to pick up that stress, that will sit and wait for you indefinitely, or if you want to do something else. Be something else?
Thinking outside the box September 10, 2009
Many people talk about doing it, but few can tell you _how_ to think outside the box.
One of the easiest methods is to ask questions. But not just any set of questions. Questions that are designed to force your thinking outside the box.
We, as humans, have been well trained that a question, any question, has an answer. We find it difficult to not answer a question. If we don’t know the answer we are often forced to say “I don’t know” as the actual answer. Use this to your advantage.
Below is a list of my favourite ‘out of the box’ questions. As you read them, think of a problem or issue you currently have. Also, as you ask them assume there is at least three different answers to each question.
“If I were to do X, how would I?”
“In what situations or context is this problem a benefit?” or “In what situation or context is this problem a solution to another problem?”
“How have I caused this?”
“If someone came to me with this problem, what advice would I give?”
As you read some of the questions, you may think they do not apply to you. These are the ones most likely to present you with ‘out of the box thinking’ – so make sure these are the ones you actually answer!
How to get an hour of free time August 26, 2009
If you have an office, and are constantly interrupted throughout the day, there is a simple thing you can do to get an hour or two uninterrupted.
Yes, an open door policy works well and can be good, however, it can distract and derail your thinking.
Invest in a $2 “Do Not Disturb” sign. While this does not always work, with training, the people in your office will get the message. You can also add a “Will return at X O’clock”.
Let everyone that visits the office know what you’re doing, and why.
Then be consistent. For example every three to four pm be unavailable. It might take a little time, but soon everyone will know you’re unavailable during those times.
When stressed, your brain stops. August 20, 2009
For many years I’ve been using this idea. And not just that the brain stops, but under ongoing stress, we become less likely to be able to make good decisions and de-stress ourselves. Another way to describe this is: The path to burnout. We become so stressed over time that we can’t think of any solutions. This is the exact situation I found myself in years ago.
Now there is some research that shows that when we are stressed, the brain changes in ways that keep us stressed! In short the researched shows that under chronic stress, the rats stopped making their usual decisions. Instead relying on their last choice – even when it didn’t serve.
I’ve seen this behaviour many times in the people I work with. They are so stressed, they miss vital information. This vital information is often in the form of feedback from the world in relation to their decisions. This feedback is not taken as information for a new decision but instead feeds straight into the stress. Increasing our stress and thus making our decisions even less useful. A vicious cycle. And the people I work with keep doing the same things that cause their stress at the same time they are unable to think of a way out.
As I’ve said many times before, if you’re trying to change your stress while under stress you’re fighting an uphill battle. First you need to catch a breath, make some space, or just take a break. Then you can learn and train the skills needed to keep that stress managed.
So here is the test: If you think you can’t make the decision to take a break or you don’t know how to take a break, you’re too stressed to make that choice! Your biology is working against you. If that’s the case, take a break RIGHT NOW. Stop what you’re doing and go for a 5 minute walk outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your pyjamas, or that it’s raining or snowing outside. Go for the walk, you need it more than another 5 minutes surfing the web.
Indecision and Poor Decisions August 3, 2009
We make decisions every day. Some decisions are more important, and have different results than others. The decision does not have to be perfect. An incorrect, but immediate decision is usually better than a perfect and withheld decision. But think about it; there is no such thing as a perfect decision, there is only the best decision with the given information.
In every case, the immediate, incorrect decision will be more valid than a perfect unmade decision.
When I was learning to play golf many years ago, my teacher taught me: “When you are putting, having the ball go 3 feet past the hole is better than 1 foot short. Three feet past has a chance to go in, 1 foot short will never go in.” And when I’ve told other golfers this they sometimes argue with me and say things like, “if you putt too far to the left or right, it’s not going in”. This is true, and yet if you don’t put the ball past the hole there is zero chance of it ever going in.
Some tips for making good decisions.
1. Delegate where possible. This will give your employees more stake in the business, more responsibility, and save you work.
2. If the decision can’t be made immediately, set a date and time for when the decision will be made. Stick to this timeframe regardless and decide on or before that date (re-deciding to set another date might be valid).
3. Get only the facts you need to be right 75% of the time. If you think you know the best choice, you do. Make that decision now.
4. Courage is needed to make the decision and then act. Have that courage with the knowledge that if you get it wrong, you can always re-decide.
What other things do you think help in making decisions?
Who’s on your side? July 29, 2009
A year ago today I got access to an online group called Triiibes.com. The entire group, like me, joined without knowing what we were joining.
A short while before joining Seth Godin asked to pre-purchase his latest book (Tribes), sight unseen, to get access to the group, also sight unseen.
It was a leap of faith, and it was well worth the leap.
Over the year this diverse group has asked, given and shared advice, implemented many new businesses, made a difference and changed the world.
I’m constantly surprised and awed by the skill, expertise, humour, and support that flows freely.
We were on Seth’s side in the beginning. Willing to support him in an unknown adventure. I suspect it grew much larger and further than he ever expected. And now, a year later, the Triiibe members have bonded and are helping each other to do and be more. That kind of support is needed in any environment.
Call it your mastermind, friends, associates, or mentors. This group is willing to listen to your problems, and share their own. Willing to offer you suggestions, and implement yours. Be able to honestly and openly communicate, even when it’s difficult. All of this came for me with a leap of faith a year ago. These are the people who are on my side.
Who’s on your side?
P.S. For more reading on the Triiibes experience from others, have a look here.older posts »