Taking control of your mind – post 2 of 2

In this second and last post of the series, I will explain another way that we can use the conscious mind to retrain the other-than-conscious mind; again something I use myself and introduce to my clients. As with the REACT framework™ it is surprisingly simple; I have known clients who ‘got it’ very quickly, applied it diligently and achieved powerful results quickly. On the other hand, I know some clients have struggled, taking weeks and even months to adopt the practice assiduously in order to get the same potent outcomes.

REACT_Calm

I once worked with a client who I can best describe as a ‘force of nature’; intense, determined and forceful. Along with these came what I experienced during our first few sessions as an almost constant torrent of negativity, pessimism and, at times, despair. I will not breach client confidentially about the source and nature of what had driven some deeply held beliefs into the client’s other-than-conscious mind, but suffice to say the timing was in childhood. The client seemed to me to naturally experience any situation in a somewhat negative way, identifying problems and obstacles over possibilities and benefits, relating more to pain and worry over joy and harmony.

After considerable persistence on my part (and resistance on hers), I finally managed to persuade her to close her every day by writing down in a journal three positive things from the day. A very simple concept that took her much effort to implement as it seemed so strange and unnatural to her to recognise positives over negatives. In the end, I think I wore her down and she completed daily night-time homework diligently each evening as she went to bed. Once a week, she identified the three best things in her journal. At the end of the month she identified the three most outstanding entries from that month. I detected changes in her behaviour with the negativity gradually decreasing and then a gradual move to equanimity in her demeanour. Towards the end of the second month, she commented spontaneously that she felt she was a lot happier in herself, explaining that a problem at work the day before, which would previously have thrown her into a tail-spin, had seemed to her to be actually rather funny.

I urge you to try out this second method of training the other-than-conscious mind; I know from my clients you have little to lose and much to gain. Find whatever way, mechanism or device works for you and makes it easy for you to do this work every day. Routine is important. Doing this at the same time each day emphasises the routine nature and gets you into the discipline of the daily recording of three positives.

3 good things a day

As you do whatever works well for you, ensure the positives you identify are also expressed in positive terms: ‘I completed the new page for my website’ or ‘I got to speak to the prospect I have been trying to reach for days’ or ‘My new clients just settled my first invoice’. They don’t need to be momentous, ground-breaking or particularly significant. They could include a particularly nice meal, a chat with a friend, or a beautiful sunset. The positives don’t need to be things you have achieved they should be what you have experienced. They just need to be positives that are positively expressed. They should not be expressed as the avoidance of a negative: ‘That meeting could have gone a lot worse’ or ‘We haven’t heard about our bid, so at least we haven’t been thrown out yet’ or ‘We haven’t lost any more customers today’. Remember, this is about training the other-than-conscious mind to recognise positives.

As with the REACT framework™, this is a very simple technique that produces outstanding behavioural changes if you adopt it as a daily habit. I wish you every success; if you want more information or help applying either technique contact me at piw@wttresults.co.uk or call me on 07764 658071 or register for the REACT framework™ workshop here.

WTT Results designs and delivers transformational change, enabling businesses and individuals to be the best that they want to be. To discuss how we can help your business, please get in touch as above. www.wttresults.co.uk

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Taking control of your mind – post 1 of 2

Most of the time our behaviours, our thoughts, our feelings are determined by our other-than-conscious minds. The other-than-conscious mind is hugely influenced by what was drilled into us as children, by our early experiences in life, by events we encounter up to our mid-teenage years. I endured too many years of unhappiness because my parents had drilled into me that marriage was for life – ‘til death do us part’. Another favourite homily of theirs was ‘curiosity kills the cat’; it took me months of toil and heartache to inculcate into my persona the ability to replace judgement about right and wrong with inquisitiveness about what might be – a vital component of my modus operandi these days.

So how do we recognise that it is the other-than-conscious mind that is in control, and what can we do to replace the influence of our early-life experiences with something that is more useful to us in the here and now? It’s surprisingly simple but requires a strenuous struggle to master the means and make it habitual. In essence, it is to use the conscious mind to teach the other-than-conscious new ways of thinking. Sounds straightforward – but only if we begin to use our conscious capacity more, to recognise that the sources of our actions, notions and moods are not from the very moment we are experiencing them, but from a time long ago and far away, when we were a different person.

I am a great supporter and practitioner of mindfulness. Note Claire’s Insight 1 in her blog post at the hyperlink in the line above and you will begin to understand why it was so critical for me to win my struggle with ‘curiosity kills the cat’.

mindfulness

Every day, whenever in the day I am about to start a new task, I use mindfulness as the starting point for running the REACT framework™ to ensure I am in the best state, with the right resources to achieve what I want. This involves my conscious mind taking control decisively to recognise what my current state is and to identify whether my state is appropriate. Our state is made up of a combination of any or all of our physiology, our environment, and our acuity as well as our thoughts, our emotions, and our spiritual condition. If my state is not ideal for what I want to achieve, I consciously identify what resources I think would be appropriate to the task I am about to undertake. These could be physical resources (a cool drink as I am thirsty) or they could be more nebulous, esoteric even (a feeling that I am very creative right now). I then (and this is where the other-than-conscious mind joins in) seek a time when I was really (for example) creative and relive the moment in a very meaningful way. I will repeat this for all the resources I need (for instance curiosity might be a useful addition to creativity). Having claimed my resources, I then take them with me as I undertake the task I want to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this each time I make a sandwich of a cup of coffee – it’s reserved for the times when I need to be at my best to achieve something important and potentially challenging.

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For help putting this into action, contact me at piw@wttresults.co.uk or call me on 07764 658071 or register for the REACT framework™ workshop here. In the next post, I will give you another very simple technique you can use to reclaim control of your other-than-conscious mind to achieve powerful results.

WTT Results designs and delivers transformational change, enabling businesses and individuals to be the best that they want to be. To discuss how we can help your business, please get in touch as above. www.wttresults.co.uk

Be the best you want to be – blog post 2/5

In this second blog post in the series on the REACT framework™ we reach the letter ‘E’.

 

R

 

Recognise

E Evaluate
A Appropriate
C Claim
T Take
 

E is for Evaluate your state. Is your state appropriate for what you want to do, how you want to feel, how you want to be with the world? If you are feeling a little blue, is that helping you right now? Are you excited, buoyant and focused?

If your breathing is rapid and shallow, does that fit with what you want to do? If you want to really exercise, it may be appropriate. If you want to deeply consider something complex, important and long-term in nature, perhaps controlling your breathing and taking long, deep, slow breaths would be more useful.

Your state can be affected by your environment; what is your environment like at the moment and what impact is it having on you right now? Continuing with the theme of deep consideration, are you somewhere calm and tranquil, or are you in a noisy, bustling, crowded area with many visual and auditory distractions?

evaluateWe don’t always appreciate where our state originated. It may be it is not even our natural state, but one that has been conditioned into us. To this day, I have ‘white-coat’ syndrome whenever someone suggests taking my blood pressure. I know where it comes from – my father’s family had a strong (and correct) concern that having their blood pressure taken could reveal an increased possibility of experiencing a heart attack. I know it isn’t my state, and if I don’t react to that state, I can feel my heart rate increasing. Years ago, I would not be conscious of my state of anxiety at the time of annual medicals, would not recognise that it wasn’t even my state and that my resultant actions followed my state. There was a period when my company doctor had concerns that my blood pressure readings were consistently higher than he liked. Once I learned to recognise my state, and to react accordingly my doctor’s concerns lessened as my readings fell. (I would love to tell you they fell and stayed low, but if you recall, earlier in this paragraph I told you I still struggle with the condition even now.)

doctor_white coatIn the Evaluate stage, all you want to do is to understand whether or not your state is appropriate. If it is, is there anything you can change that would amplify the effect, would give you an even more appropriate state? Perhaps some quiet and soothing music would help. Switching off that ‘phone or computer so you know you won’t be interrupted? Some little treat that would make you feel even better? (Chocoholics know what I mean!)

Stay calm as you evaluate your state; it is what it currently is. The talent lies in recognising whether or not your current state is the right state for you to be in to be the best you want to be.

In the next blog post, we will move towards creating the right state that will enable you to be the best you want to be. If you want to really understand the REACT framework™, and want to perfect your use of it to be the best you want to be click here http://bit.ly/REACTworkshop

Ethical marketing – increasingly vital in business

Ethical marketing“Ethical marketing – isn’t that an oxymoron?” I hear you ask. I think it need not be. Marketing should be true to the brand and, for me, a brand is a promise kept. Brand is vital for small businesses. So often, the business owner is the brand. We may have some brand extensions such as our qualifications or accreditations, but the core of the brand is us individually. Our brand is what we do, who we are; it is our values and beliefs and our overriding sense of purpose. We know the risks to our brand of not being ethical in all ways at all times.

As our lives become increasingly fast-paced and ever-more complex the opportunity for marketing to trick us increases exponentially and this is why I think ethical marketing is increasingly important. Let me develop the logic, the emotion and the response.

Technology develops faster than we do as a species. We know that often our modern day actions and reactions are little different from those of our cave-dwelling ancestors. We all recognise the “fight/flight” reactions that certain situations automatically produce within us. How often do we see groups of people all doing the same things and looking very similar – the “pack instinct” in us? As technology develops ever-faster, our natural capacity to process more and more information is increasingly likely to be insufficient to manage the excess of choice, change, stimulation and challenge presented to us by our increasingly complex world. I recently read a report identifying that the amount of data in the world is now doubling every two- to two and a half-years. This baffling complexity makes our brains hurt because the brain is unable to process the bewildering array of messages, possibilities, implications and interpretations presented to us. We need a mechanism to enable us to cope.

Fortunately, we have such a mechanism that we use without cognitive recognition. In many ways, the use of this mechanism is similar to other species who cannot cope with complexity. If we look in the animal kingdom, where there is less brain power available to the species, we see how they cope. Their intelligence is often insufficient to process all the information available to them, so they don’t. Instead they rely on single pieces of information.

An experiment by the animal behaviourist M.W. Fox, undertaken in the 1970’s, illustrates my point. The study involved turkeys, specifically mother turkeys. These creatures spent (and still do spend) great effort looking after their chicks; warming, cleaning, tending and generally looking after them and huddling the chicks underneath them. Fox identified that the turkeys doled out their tender loving care based on one single piece of information. Available to the turkeys was a range of information to enable them to identify their chicks – their smell, their feel, their appearance and so on. However, Fox concluded that the turkeys relied solely on one piece of information, the “cheep, cheep” sound of young turkey chicks.

Unconvinced? Fox’s experiment introduced individual mother turkeys to a stuffed polecat (it was an experiment conducted in America) – the natural enemy of the turkeys. Unsurprisingly, the introduction of the stuffed polecat invoked a response from the turkeys of squawking, clawing, pecking rage. However, if the stuffed polecat had within it a small recorder that played a recording of young turkey chicks making “cheep, cheep” sounds when the stuffed polecat was introduced, a very different response was invoked. The mother turkey not only accepted the stuffed polecat, but drew it underneath her. Switching off the recorder led to the vicious attacks seen without the identifying noise. This behaviour is known as fixed-action patterns. Similar experiments have been reproduced in other species, for example substituting the red feathers of a stuffed robin with blue feathers produced different behaviour.

Surprisingly, we see humans frequently also rely on single pieces of information. To take one example, how often do we look to see what other people are doing in a situation where we are uncertain, and then mimic their actions? If everybody else is acting the same way, that must be the right thing to do – right? Often we don’t bother to process all the information available to us, we just rely on one piece – in this case what everybody else appears to be doing. Just because everybody else is doing X doesn’t make it right. Everybody else is walking past the man collapsed on the street, so we do the same – ignoring his moans and clear distress. Maybe everyone else knows he is drunk and it is his own fault. Why bother to process any more information than the single piece of what others are doing?

Narita

It works in reverse (what people are not doing) too. When I lived in Japan, I had a visa that permitted me to enter the country through the passport queue used by Japanese nationals. Narita Airport queues were often long, and frequently there was great disparity in the size of queues at the respective passport checks for nationals and for foreigners. After a long flight, and before a long train journey from Narita to my home in Tokyo, the last thing I needed was a long queue. Accordingly, I went to whichever queue was shorter. If that was the queue for foreigners, I passed through without incident. Almost without fail, when I went through the queue for nationals there was pandemonium and great unease and muttered conversations around me, and several people would earnestly explain to me in halting English that I was in the wrong queue. My explanation in Japanese that I was permitted to use the queue for nationals led to even more earnest urgings to use the other queue. One piece of information, my looks, was all those around me (apart from the passport inspectors) needed to govern their behaviour.

So as the world becomes ever more complex, our brains come to rely more frequently on fixed-action patterns and single pieces of information. This makes us vulnerable to unscrupulous marketers who bombard us with erroneous information, as we exhibit more of a tendency not to process all that is available.

I want to be very clear that I recognise the benefits of fixed-action patterns and using single pieces of information. Their use can make our lives easier; I am not an advocate of the brain ache caused by considering every single piece of information all the time. When making decisions, we will less frequently enjoy the sumptuousness of a fully considered analysis of all the information. Instead we will rely increasingly on a focus on one single, usually reliable feature. Where those single features are truly reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with our shortcut approach of picking a single factor and using fixed-action patterns to arrive at an automatic response. The problem arises where something causes the normally trustworthy to lead us to errant actions and wrong-headed decisions.

The “something” in the previous sentence is often the result of unethical marketing, aimed specifically at tricking us into the rather mindless and mechanical nature of our shortcut approach. This can be as crass as marketers adding canned laughter to a TV programme (everybody laughed, so we laugh too) or making up statistics to try to convince us that their products are the “fastest selling” products (Where? For how long? At a fraction of the price you are now offering it to me?) This is why I think ethical marketing is so important, and will become ever more important as our world becomes increasing complex. Marketers can help us to cope with complexity by giving us information that is genuine and does not pervert and distort. The treachery is when the profit motive tempts them to make their profits in a way that threatens the reliability of our shortcuts. To avoid brain-ache we have to have reliable shortcuts, faithful rules of thumb that we can depend on. These are no longer luxuries for us; instead they are increasingly becoming vital cornerstones that allow us to cope with modern life. Where we see unethical marketing we should shout about it from the rooftops and shame those who use it.

Better still, we should boycott the product or service being unethically marketed, and let the marketer know why we are so doing. Maybe I am being too cynical, but when I see a retailer, who has a price-match promise, increase the price of an item by 40% I begin to think. They get 40% more at the till, and give you a coupon so you get the money back when you next shop there. “No harm, no foul”? I think not! This is unethical marketing. You may get your money back off your next shop, but they get the cash flow and the return visit. The hyper-cynic in me is just waiting for the future promotion that proclaims “Great Price Reduction, Previously Priced 40% Higher!!!” Leave the item where it is and tell the store manager why! Better still, don’t use the retailer at all and tell them why.

It’s time to fight back against unethical marketing. Ensuring we market our businesses ethically is no longer enough, because unethical marketing is compromising the vital cornerstones and faithful rules of thumb that we need to thrive in our increasingly complex world.

Want a brighter future?

These days, you can get a Coach for almost every aspect of your life. You can have an Executive Coach, a Life Coach, or a Financial and Wealth Coach. You can seek out a Career Coach, Conflict Coach, or Sports Coach to help you. Then there are Educational Coaches, Style and Image Coaches and even Dating Coaches. So what is a “Performance Coach”?  Should you have one? How do you decide? What would be the impact on your business results? Is it an investment worth considering in these tough times? A-Brighter-Future1-300x240

Performance Coaching is the use of coaching in the business context, focused on the bottom-line impact. It is about Performance, Learning and Enjoyment. As we talk to other business people, we hear about coaching being used by organisations for a range of explicit or implied reasons. It may be that a company is down-sizing and uses Coaches to help their employees get through a potential or actual redundancy process. Perhaps a poorly-performing individual or team is offered a Coach to improve their performance, or a “high-flier” works with a Coach to help them to fly higher more quickly. Maybe the CEO employs a Coach to help him or her work through the strategic options for the business, possibly to act as a sounding board.

Performance Coaching is unlocking the potential of people to maximise their own performance. It is more about the person being coached, about enabling them to achieve more, with more confidence and creativity, and with more self-direction. The key is that Performance Coaching is about the future potential of the coachee, not the past or present performance. A good Performance Coach will use a range of tools and techniques to help those being coached to develop more awareness, responsibility and self-belief.

Coaching has evolved over time and is still evolving. The origins can be traced back to several sources: sports coaching and sports psychology, psychology, sociology, therapeutic and counselling disciplines, organisation development and management theory. Each of the sources has influenced the development of certain tools, models and perspectives that can be used by a Performance Coach to address specific challenges and to devise innovative ways of helping those they coach to develop more awareness, responsibility and self-belief.

A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported that over 80% of organisations using coaching used line managers as the coaches, and over 60% used external coaches. When asked about the effectiveness of this coaching, over 80% reported line manager coaching as “effective” or “very effective”, while more than 90% judged external coaching to be effective using the same criteria. Coaching by line managers is widespread, but external coaching is being proved to be more effective.

Research shows that good Performance Coaching gives people feedback on both their strengths and weaknesses, supports changes in attitudes and behaviour that can lead to more effective performance, and enables them to refocus and take a critical look at their approaches and style at work. It helps to promote individual self-awareness and self-direction, helping people to identify barriers that are preventing them from being more effective in their jobs. Importantly, it helps people commit to new performance goals and creates individual responsibility for performance and development.

There are many studies showing the progressive people management practices lead to significantly improved bottom-line business results. In the next blog on this topic I will take you through little-used ways that maximise your success when using Performance Coaching.