Thursday, January 29, 2015

Speeding up

People often ask whether there isn't some way to speed up transition, to get it over sooner; when they do, they are usually thinking of the time in the neutral zone when very little seems to be happening. As does any unfolding natural process, the neutral zone takes its own sweet time. "Speeding things up,' hitting the fast forward button, is a tempting idea, but that only stirs things up in ways that disrupt the natural formative processes that are going on. Far from bringing you out of the neurtral zone sooner, such tactics usually set you back and force you to start over again. Frustrating through it is, the best advice is to opt for the turtle and forget the hare.

At the same time, do keep moving. Because the opposite temptation - to try to undo the changes and put things back the way they were before the transition started - is equally misguided. That undoubtedly was an easier time than this nonplace you occupy now! But your life lacks a replay button. The transition that brought you to this place cannot be undone. Even putting things back "the way they were" is a misnomer, because back then, you hadn't had the experience of being plunged into transition. And that experience won't go away.

William Bridges

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chances and opportunities

When pessimists think they're taking a chance, optimists feel they're grasping a great opportunity.

Illusions of Patterns

The human understanding, once it has adopted an opinion, collects any instances that conform it, and through the contrary instances may be more numerous and more weighty, it either does not notice them or else rejects them, in order that this opinion will remain unshaken.

Francis Bacon

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Regret is overrated

Regret is an emotion, and it is also a punishment that we administer to ourselves. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make (‘Don’t do this, you will regret it’ is a common warning), and the actual experience of regret is familiar. The emotional state has been well described by two Dutch psychologists, who noted that regret is “accompanied by feelings that one should have known better, by a sinking feeling, by thoughts about the mistake one has made and the opportunities lost, by a tendency to kick oneself and to correct one’s mistake, and by wanting to undo the event and to get a second chance.” Intense regret is what you experience when you can most easily imagine yourself doing something other than what you did.

Decision makers know that they are prone to regret, and the anticipation of that painful emotion plays a part in many decisions.

We spend much of our day anticipating, and trying to avoid, the emotional pains we inflict on ourselves. Susceptibility regret, like susceptibility to fainting spells, is a fact of life to which one must adjust.

You can take precautions that will inoculate you against regret. Perhaps the most useful is to be explicit about the anticipation of regret. If you can remember when things go badly that you considered the possibility of regret carefully before deciding, you are likely to experience less of it. You should also know that regret and hindsight bias will come together, so anything you can do to preclude hindsight is likely to be helpful. You should not put too much weight on regret; even if you have some, it will hurt less than you now think.

Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Monday, January 26, 2015

Life is Hard

"When I hear somebody sigh, 'Life is hard.' I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'"
Sydney J. Harris

Seeing Victory

A plank 12” wide laying on the floor would be easy to walk. Place the same plank between two ten story buildings and “walk the plank” is a different matter. You “see” yourself easily and safely walking the plank on the floor. You “see” yourself falling from the plank stretched between the buildings. Since the mind completes the picture you paint in it, your fears are quite real. Many times a golfer will knock a ball in the lake or hit it out of bounds and then stop back with the comment, “I know I was going to do that.” His mind painted a picture and his body completed the action. On the positive, side, the successful gofer knows that he must ‘see’ the ball going into the cup before he strokes it. A hitter in baseball sees the ball dropping in for a base hit before he swings at the ball, and the successful salesman sees the customer buying before he makes the calls. Michelangelo clearly saw the Mighty Moses in that block of marble before he struck the first blow.

Zig Ziglar
See You at the Top

Friday, January 23, 2015

Show You

When people show you who they are, believe them. - Maya Angelou

Taking Action

Many people wait for something to happen or someone to take care of them. But people who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.

Stephen Covey
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Memories are Overrated

A comment I heard from a member of the audience after a lecture illustrates the difficulty of distinguishing memories from experiences. He told of listening raptly to a long symphony on a disc that was scratched near the end, producing a shocking sound, and he reported that the bad ending “ruined the whole experience.” But the experience was not actually ruined, only the memory of it. The experience itself was almost entirely good, and the bad end could not undo it, because it had already happened. My questioner had assigned the entire episode a failing grade because it had ended very badly, but that grade effectively ignored 40 minutes of musical bliss. Does the actual experience count for nothing?

Confusing experience with the memory of it is a compelling cognitive illusion – and it is the substitution that makes us believe a past experience can be ruined. The experiencing self does not have a voice. The remembering self is sometimes wrong, but it is the one that keep score and governs what we learn from living, and it is the one that makes decisions. What we learn from the past is to maximize the qualities of our future memories, not necessarily of our future experience. This is the tyranny of the remembering self.

We have strong preferences about the duration of our experiences of pain and pleasure. We want pain to be brief and pleasure to last. But our memory (represents) the most intense moments of an episode of pain or pleasure and the feelings when the episode was at its end. A memory that neglects duration will not serve our preferences for long pleasure and short pains.

Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

First things first

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.... When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased. - C.S. Lewis

Setting Goals

Can you imagine Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, explaining how he was able to accomplish that feat? Suppose he explained he was just out walking around one day when he happened to find himself at the top of the tallest mountain in the world. Or the Chairman of the Board of General Motors explaining that he got his position because he just kept showing up for work and they just kept promoting him until one day he was Chairman of the Board. Ridiculous – of course – but no more ridiculous than your thinking you can accomplish anything significant without specific goals.

Zig Ziglar
See You at the Top

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Getting hooked

Should the makers of habit-forming products be praised as innovative entrepreneurs? Or shunned as the immoral equivalents of drug pushers? Ian Bogost, a designer of video games, describes them as nothing less than the “cigarette of this century”. Paul Graham, a Silicon Valley investor, worries that humans have not had time to develop societal “antibodies to addictive new things”.

If any other business were found to be employing people with the title of “behaviour designers”, they would be seen as exploitative and downright creepy. The internet is becoming ever more powerful and pervasive. And every new technological leap makes it easier for behaviour designers to weave digital technology into consumers’ daily habits. As smartphones become loaded with ever more sensors, and with software that can interpret their users’ emotional states (see article), the scope for manipulating minds is growing. The world is also on the cusp of a wearable revolution which will fix Google Glasses to people’s skulls and put smart T-shirts onto their torsos: the irresistible, all-knowing machines will be ever more ubiquitous. And the trouble with insatiable desires is that the struggle to sate them leaves everyone as exhausted as they are unfulfilled.

The Economist

Monday, January 19, 2015

Helping myself

When I can’t help myself, maybe someone else’s problems can help me. 
Andrew Boyd

The Image

As Americans, we're obsessed with images. Who we are isn't as important as how we appear. In fact, we spend so much time and effort on appearances, we lose the ability to recognize the true identity of another person, or even ourselves. We've become more familiar with the image than we are with the real thing.

Dating relationships are especially vulnerable to this problem. A person isn't evaluated on character or individuality, but on how close he or she measures up to the other's image of the ideal mate. Real people take second chair to the ideal; they measure up to the image or they don't.

Have you ever noticed the excitement at the beginning of a romance that later faded with growing familiarity? In the early stages of any new friendship, we're usually seeing more of the image than we are of the real person. We've seen enough of the surface to see similarities between the object of our affections and the ideal we seek, but not enough to show us that our ideal and the new friend are not the same person. In essence, we're falling in love with the image, with the idea that this one person might be "it." Sooner or later the real person is going to start breaking through that image, and disillusionment will set in.

The success of a marriage comes not in finding the "right" person, but in the ability of both partners to adjust to the real person they inevitably realize they married. Some people never make this adjustment, becoming trapped in an endless search for an image that does not exist.

John Fischer
Real Christians Don’t Dance!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Meaning and Pleasure

When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure. - Viktor Frankl