Ayoung man went to his grandfather for advice. The grandfather puffed on his pipe and listened as the young man described how hard and difficult his life was. Nothing seemed to be going well for him. As hard as he tried, as soon as he solved one of his life’s problem another one would immediately rise up. The young man told his grandfather he was tired of struggling and was at his wits ends. “Grandfather,” he cried, ” I don’t know what I can do.” The grandfather merely arose from where he sat and beckoned the young man to follow him. The young man’s spirits lifted immediately. His grandfather was a wise old man. Surely he was going to help him.
The Grandfather led the young man into the kitchen where he instructed him to get three pots, fill them with water and place them on the stove to boil. The young man was puzzled but he did as his Grandfather asked. The Grandfather then instructed the young man to get a carrot and place it in one pot, an egg in another, and coffee beans in the last pot. The young man was even more perplexed. His grandfather was an excellent cook and this was nothing of the sort of meal he would normally prepare. When the young man had done as his grandfather had instructed, his grandfather turned to him, pointing at a kitchen chair saying, Now, please sit and watch.” Now even more perplexed than ever and beginning to become a bit angry at his grandfather the young man sat as directed crying out, ” But Grandfather, what am I watching for and I thought you were going to help me with my problems.” The grandfather merely put a fingers to his lips. “Shssss, just watch,” was all he said.
The French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) developed a concept of mind and body that came to be known as Dualism. The mind was thought to be non-material, not subject to the laws of nature, while the body was thought to be like a machine. Dualism holds that there is a rigid distinction between the mind and the body or matter. The mind can interact with the body much like a driver interacts with a car. But just like the thoughts of the driver cannot influence or affect the actions of the car, the thoughts in the mind cannot affect or influence the body.
The mind-body problem is a philosophical question which continues to occupy philosophers today. In addition to being a philosophical question, it also became the accepted scientific description of the relationship between the mind and the body. For a considerable period of time a scientific explanation of a mind-body connection could not be provided. As a result, anything that depended on a theory of mind-body connection was discounted despite any demonstrable results. Acupuncture is illustrative of this thinking.
Part 4 – The Cloudy Crystal Ball looked at how to set up a S.M.A.R.T. goal as a way of achieving your New Year’s Resolution. Recall that the acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for:
Your S.M.A.R.T. goal needs to:
The third Big Blunder that people make with their New Year’s Resolution is that they don’t create a plan that will get them from where they are to where they want to be. They have a good idea of what they want but a very poor idea of how they are going to get there!
A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.
The best S.M.A.R.T. goals in the world are of little value if you have no plan to put them into action.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
On May 25th, 1961, US President John F. Kennedy, speaking to a joint session of Congress, declared “. . . . I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
When Kennedy set out this goal it was clear that NASA did not have the answers that would permit them to successfully land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. Now NASA could have started immediately firing rockets into space trying one thing and then another – with catastrophic results for everyone. Or it could have become frustrated and quit because it did not have all the answers at hand. And this is what some people do with their personal goals. They either try all kinds of things one after another or they become frustrated and quit because they can not immediately see all the steps they need to take.
Part 3 three discussed how the RAS works and how it can either help or hinder us in achieving our resolutions. This showed that it was far better to have one resolution to focus on rather than having a “laundry list” of New Year’s Resolutions.
The second Big Blunder that people make with the New Year’s resolutions is that they are far too vague. Take a look at the list of top 10 resolutions for 2015 on the Statistic Brain Research Institute website. They are all pretty vague aren’t they! Take number 4 on the list for example – Enjoy Life to the fullest. Exactly what does that mean? What you understand “enjoy life” to mean is probably quite different than what I want.
Let’s look at an example. Suppose you want some new clothes and go into a clothing store. The sales clerk asks if they can help you. You answer yes – I want to buy some clothes. The sales clerk is likely to roll their eyes at you – what do you want? Pants sweaters, shirts, underwear, socks, shoes? The sales clerk isn’t going to be able to help you much if you are this vague. You may walk out of the store without buying anything or you may actually purchase something. But is it what you actually needed or wanted?
Vague resolutions are like this and your RAS is like the sales clerk. It will try and help you to the best of what it thinks you want. So unless you are more specific in your resolution how can you expect your RAS, which attempts to match specific patterns to help you achieve your goal, really be able to help you? The upshot of it is that it won’t.
Now there are certainly times when you actually just want to browse around and see what is out there and you might end up buying something. (Impulse buying is a big problem for a lot of people and how to get a grip on it will be the topic of another blog.) However, if you are actually serious about getting new clothing, it is far better to walk into store and say to the clerk I am looking for sweaters, my size is medium and I would prefer them to be made out of wool and my favorite colours are blue and brown. Now you have programmed the sales clerk to look for things on your behalf. The clerk will take you to exactly the right section and show you what you want to look at. And if they don’t have exactly what you are looking for the clerk has enough information to show you alternatives that might fit your needs.
This is exactly what you want to do with your resolutions for your RAS.
There is nothing wrong with any of the resolutions on the Statistic Brain Research Institute website you if you use them as a starting point and not the end product. However, if you want results you need to make your resolutions clear, precise and specific. The best way to do this is to use the S.M.A.R.T. goal planning process to make your goals clear and precise.
In Part 2 we saw that the RAS is a part of the brain that acts as a pattern recognition system and filter, only allowing through to the conscious mind those things that it deems important. We also saw that, unlike our reptilian ancestors, whose RAS was predominantly hard wired to respond only to a certain set of patterns, humans have the ability to “program” their RAS to a wider set of patterns. This programming is an imaginative function and depends upon what we choose to focus on. This gives us the method by which we can program our RAS to be more help to us in achieving our New Year’s resolutions.
The first Big Blunder most people make with their New Year’s Resolutions is that they create a laundry or shopping list of all the things they think they would like to accomplish over the next year. Creating a long list of resolutions sends a confusing message to the unconscious mind and affects how you are programing your RAS. What actually is the most important item on your list? Is it the first item? If you focus on the first item on the list, you will program your RAS to look for things that match that. When you switch your focus to the ninth item on the list you will then program your RAS to look for things that match that and stop looking for things that match the first item you focused on.
In Part 1 it was noted that research shows that the vast majority of people are unsuccessful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. This part will explore how a specific part of the brain helps or hinders us in achieving our resolutions.
The first thing to really understand is that it is the unconscious mind, not the conscious mind, which does most of the heavy work in achieving our resolutions. As I discussed in a previous blog post, in a contest between imagination and willpower, imagination will always win out. In fact, it can be said that strong will power is created by an active imagination which creates the picture of the conditions we want to achieve. Without that picture there is nothing for willpower to work towards!
Now there is a part of the brain, about the size of your little finger, located at the core of the brain stem between the medulla oblongata and mesencephalon, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).This tiny portion of the brain has many functions, one of which, pattern recognition, is critical to your ability to achieve your resolutions or goals. The RAS is part of the human brain that we have inherited from our reptilian ancestors
The concept of making resolutions at the beginning of a new year dates back several thousand years. The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year to return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans started each year by making promises to the god Janus. In the Medieval period, typically during the last feast of the Christmas week, Knights took the “peacock vow”, recommitting themselves to the ideals of chivalry for the next twelve months. In many different Christian traditions the watch night service, held late on New Year’s Eve provides an opportunity for people to review the year that has passed and make preparations for the new year by praying and making resolutions. And of course many of us make New Year’s Resolutions on our own every year.
So it is quite popular to make resolutions at the start of the New Year for things we want to change in our life. Did you make New Year’s Resolutions this year? You might have even made a list of them. Did your list look something like the picture? Now that we are almost two months into the New Year how are you doing on your resolutions?
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. It also shows that 49% have infrequent success, and 24% never succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. This means that a whole lot of people almost never succeed in achieving their resolutions! So if you are not doing so well on your resolutions – you are not alone!
Seeing as so many people have trouble achieving their resolutions, what can be done to improve their chances?
Part II will explore how the brain works to help or hinder you in achieving your resolutions.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Just put your mind to it,” or “if you have enough will power you can do anything.” Many people believe they could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower. With more willpower they could eat right, exercise regularly, avoid drugs and alcohol, save for retirement, stop procrastinating, and achieve all sorts of fantastic goals.
There are many names for willpower: determination, drive, resolve, self-discipline, self-control. But exactly what is will power? Will power can be described as the motivation to exercise ‘will’ – the ability to make conscious choices. Willpower then, is the inner strength that enables you to make decisions and carry them out. It gives you the strength to take action and perform tasks and make plans, despite inner resistance, discomfort, or difficulties. Pretty powerful stuff this willpower!
Is there somewhere in the body where you create and store willpower and then access it or release it as you need it, like the way the pancreas produces enzymes to aid digestion and insulin to regulate blood sugar. Surely not, as it is quite clear that willpower is not a physical function but rather a function of the mind. (more…)
Good communication is the key to success. Without good communications, confusion and chaos reigns. Clarity and purpose flow from good communications. While any communication can get results, clear and purposeful communication is powerful and much more likely to get the desired results. A good understanding of how to convey information, how to hear and see information, and how to interpret the meaning of information is essential to clear, powerful, purposeful, and effective communications.
Our minds do not directly process negatives. For the mind to understand a negative such as: “Do not touch that cup,” it first must, at the very least, imagine touching the cup. Only then can the mind conceive of “not” touching the cup.
Lou Adler in his post “Why Good People Underperform”, 20 Oct 2015 points out several reasons why he believes this is true.
“They’re not motivated to do the actual work required since the job they’re being asked to perform after being hired was ill-defined before they were hired.
Being competent to do something is not the same as being motivated to do it.
Being motivated to get a job is not the same as being motivated to do the job.
The interview focused on assessing competencies, behaviors and depth of skills that only weakly map to the actual work required to be done.
The hiring manager and candidate don’t work too well together.
While actual cultural fit is very important, few managers or recruiters understand what this means and how to measure it properly.”
He believes that the personality screening tests used by most organizations are flawed and ill advised because they can not adequately address any of these issues. (more…)