Why this blog?

Because wherever you are, you can have more happiness and for more of the time than you ever imagined. 'Do more of what you like, and less of what you don't!' (c) Richard Walker, 2009. And because happiness is often misunderstood. "Do you live to work, or do you work to live?" I reckon happy people do both at the same time. Make the decision now to tenaciously seek out what feels good – and find ways of doing more of it - rather than settle for “not bad.” There's a big difference. And when it comes to making changes, that's what I specialise in at abetterlife-uk.com and http://hertscollegeofhypnosisandnlp.co.uk

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why worry is bad and how to stop

Do you know how some people use anxiety to motivate themselves, or believe that worrying makes sure that you don’t miss important things to be done? It doesn’t actually help, and I’ll explain why - which also suggests the solution.

In a recent article I explored how some worriers inadvertently undermine others, and suggested a way to win them around. This time we are talking about how to stop the worrying itself.
The core feature of worrying is fearing some unpleasant or unwanted outcome. This actually means that it is being imagined, either consciously or subconsciously. There are three key facts to realise now. The first is that you can’t NOT think about something that you are trying NOT to think about, without actually thinking about it. If you think about it. It’s like the old tease that goes “don’t think about a pink elephant”, and realise that you had to think of it.
The second point is that psychology and neuroscience have shown that you are most likely to achieve those outcomes or goals that you visualise and obsess on. Thirdly, realise that obsessing on something you wish to avoid is, in fact, equivalent to obsessing on the very unwanted outcome, and making it more likely to happen. So worrying tends to make things worse, apart from how unpleasant it feels.
How do good worriers avoid the unwanted outcome? Well, they worry right up to near the deadline and then frantically throw all their effort into heading off towards some preferable outcome. What a tough way to operate!
Can you see the solution? It couldn’t be more simple.
  1. Take a moment to get clear on what precisely you are worrying about.
  2. Ask yourself, “what is the unwanted outcome that I am imagining?”
  3. Now, deliberately, MAKE UP the most constructive positive solution that is possible. Literally, deliberately consciously construct it in your mind.
  4. Notice, what happened to the anxiety? It went.
  5. Repeat as frequently as is necessary.
Is this a good idea? Yes. Are you deluding yourself? No. Because what I didn’t spell out to you, is that your mind is now focussed on the constructive outcome. If there is any bad news, it’s tongue-in-cheek, in that you will now have to seek out ways to make the positive outcome happen instead of worrying.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Stress about tests? Maybe you use the wrong ways to learn

What's the best way to learn for a test, an interview or a presentation? It’s the kind of thing that can stress any of us – and does not make for a happy life. Scientific American Mind has just published a review of work carried out by researchers earlier this year on this very topic.
Maybe surprisingly for some of us, the least effective were summarising, highlighting passages of text, re-reading, using keyword mnemonics, and using imagery (unless the material lends itself particularly well imagining). Well, that explains my poor exam performances in the past! 
Taking practice tests and scheduling your studying over time were the most effective. Which makes sense to me, because I did best in the old “O” levels where we practised lots of past papers during the term preceding the exams. 
Ten different learning techniques were examined by Dunlosky his team, and here’s a summary of the results which I have tracked down in their original paper (ref below):
Low effectiveness: Summarising, Highlighting/underlining, Keyword mnemonic (using keywords and mental imagery), Imagery for text (making mental images from the text), Re-reading
Moderate effectiveness: Elaborative interrogation (explaining why some fact or concept is true), Self-explanation (explaining how new information relates to known information, or explaining steps taken during problem solving), Interleaved practice (mixing different kinds of study or study material within a session).
High effectiveness: Practice testing (‘flash cards’ or taking practice tests), Distributed practice (scheduling your study over time).

The authors don't claim miracle improvements, but do recommend you use the more highly effective methods! And this applies to your kids doing their studies, of course... 

Ref. Dunlosky et al., (2013), Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology, Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 14(1) 4–58


Friday, September 6, 2013

Linguistic “Tai Chi” – happy and effective persuasion

At a recent networking event, I got chatting to a chap about how to handle someone who tends to worry too much. And since I am the local “happiness guy”, he asked me for a tip for handling it better. Whilst he had a family matter in mind, the same could apply to anyone who tends to worry too much about the adequate performance of others; for example, about staff making mistakes with clients, or worrying about delegating tasks - which comes up a lot in small businesses as they grow. 
One of big ideas of the famous hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson MD, was to view anything that someone does as a wonderful resource, no matter what it is, even if it appears to be a problem. Like worrying. He would then find a way to make use of it (“ultilisation”), rather than confronting it where this only tends to make things worse (like trying to reassure a good worrier that things will be alright.) 
It’s a kind of gentle linguistic Aikido, or Tai Chi – in which you go with the flow of something and nudge it in a new direction, rather than standing in front of a moving object and perhaps getting knocked over.   
Back to the chap in the networking meeting, for a moment. He told me how his wife was fretting over his daughter, Sam, going off to University. He had tried reassuring her, but that tended to lead her to counter by listing her imagined worries in even more detail, which only made her feel even worse. 
Here’s the example I offered him to try with his wife: “I know that you worry about our daughter, which is only natural. Perhaps you had better be even more concerned that you don’t let her get the idea that you really don’t believe in her ability to handle whatever she faces in life? That would really undermine her strength and ability, wouldn’t it?” Do you see what this does? 
Applying this to the case of delegating, here’s an example you might try: “I know you worry about [name] making a mistake. Perhaps you should worry even more about letting [name] get the idea that you don’t believe in his/her ability to learn? That really would be something to worry about, wouldn’t it?”   
Do you begin to see the pattern? There are three steps, focused on the person you want to influence:
  1. Identify what is the generic “skill” that they are displaying here? In my examples it was concern or worry for someone they are involved with (a staff member, daughter etc).
  2. Get clear on a plausible, appropriate and more positive outcome, which you want the person to focus on instead. In my examples of worrying, I took the view that this was to come to acknowledge the capabilities of that person (latent or otherwise); eg to learn and to improve, or to handle what comes up.
  3. The third step is to acknowledge the skill, which validates it instead of opposing it.
  4. Utilise the “skill” by turning it back on itself; eg. to worry about worrying, which both accepts the skill and moves the focus to worrying about something more important.
With ingenuity, you can do this with almost any “problem” behaviour trait. Take people who become all self-conscious, eg. when talking to groups. You might try, ”Because you are sensitive, you can be really aware of how others are feeling, can’t you? -Which is really caring. In fact, could you not really get absorbed in doing what it takes to help those you are speaking feel more comfortable?” Beginning to get the idea? 
This is an example of a number of things we teach in the use of language aspect of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), specifically reframing, utilisation and how to create beneficial  “binds.” If you want to run an example by me to see if we can create a response to a situation that you are facing, send me an email and I’ll have a go.