The art of choosing; how to increase your self-awareness around choice

choice

The world famous expert on choice and decisions, Sheena Iyengar, wrote her book titled, “The Art of Choosing” to explain years of her cumulative research on human decision making. What makes her book so interesting (and a global book chart dominator) is that she combines psychology, politics, technology, business, and culture to understand what influences choice, how external factors affect us and what we can do better.

External factors and choice

Learning how to make choices is more important today than ever. We live in a noisy world, where choices are in abundance – being self-aware around our decision making cuts the complexity (and bias) out of our choices. Iyengar became one of the world’s most prominent researchers in this field following her famous jam study, whereby shoppers could sample 6 or 24 different varieties of jam at a supermarket. The study found six times more purchases when fewer jams were available.

How to be more self-aware around decision making

1. Understand your culture and how much choice you need

Cultures that focus and protect individual freedoms and rights, for example, Europe, and the U.S produce people who want autonomy and independence. Eastern cultures are typically more focused on community and feel more at ease with collective decisions being made on their behalf.

In a study where Asian-American and Anglo-American children were either given a toy to play with by their mothers or allowed to select a toy to play with themselves, the Asian kids played longer when their parents chose their toy, whereas the American kids played longer if they self-selected.

This kind of environmental bias can determine our overall happiness and career satisfaction. Be mindful of how much choice you need in your life and try to negotiate a career that can give you what you need.

2. A lack of choice, if left unresolved, can impact your health

Typically those in higher paid roles, with higher responsibility have better mental health. Studies show this isn’t due to more money but due to the increased freedom to structure work and tasks experienced by those in higher responsibility roles.

Feeling like you have a choice is so important that even the perception of choice matters a great deal. For example, when new residents of a nursing home were given a schedule of activities, along with instructions stating they were “allowed” to visit other floors, they felt like their health was the staff’s responsibility, and they gave up on it. Telling a second group that everything was their choice made them much happier, even though technically both groups were free to do as they pleased. This is something to remember if you lead a group of employees, choice is key to employee morale, innovation and productivity.

3. Sometimes delegating our freedom of choice is better for us, but only if we’re properly informed

Sometimes in life, we have to make really, really hard choices. This can range from life or death situations for example, deciding to keep a loved one on life support or big business choices for example, deciding how many employees you have to make redundant. In these situations, it’s often better for your mental health to delegate to an expert however, it only makes you feel better if you’re well informed about the entire decision making process.

In a study where participants read about the following three scenarios, the group that didn’t have to make the decision but was well-informed felt best about it:

  1. The parents aren’t informed about their child’s survival chances, the doctors stop the treatment and the child dies.
  2. The parents are told there’s a 60% survival chance, but with severe neurological disabilities, before the doctors stop the treatment and the child dies.
  3. The parents are told the chances and have to decide themselves.

Groups 1 and 3 felt equally as bad, for being robbed of choice and for having to deal with the circumstances, while group 2 felt glad to know what was going on and that the choice was inevitable.

Choices are everywhere and we make them multiple times a day. Our objective should be to increase self-awareness around the most important areas of our life. Why am I making this choice? Is there any external factors that may make this choice less objective? Small, probing questions can increase self-awareness around your external biases and allow you to make decisions that best serve your long term goals.

 

 

 

 

How to create your own reality

reality

 

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe – Albert Einstien

The phrase “you can create your own reality” has been buzzing around the self-development world for a while now. Without really understanding it’s significance it can seem like a vacuous, self-righteous statement when the truth is, it’s so much more. In fact, it hasn’t just been made up by an enthusiastic life coach, others have expressed the same thought for centuries: Buddha said, “What you dwell upon you become.” Hindu teachings from Shankaracharya says, “Whatever a person’s mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what he becomes.” Mahatma Gandhi says “Your beliefs become your thoughts and it says in the Talmud, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Your thoughts control your reality

So what does all of this mean? In simple terms, it means that your system of beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious in their existence, actually control the reality you experience. This rather bold statement is also supported by science.

If you think you’re incapable of something, it’s very unlikely that you will ever prove yourself wrong. This in psychology, is called the “self-fulfilling prophecy”.  A widely accepted principle that your own beliefs, shape your behavior and therefore directly influence your reality.

On a subconscious level, our beliefs have a stronger influence on the reality we perceive. Dr. Leonard Mlodinow explains it in his book, “Subliminal—How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior. “The point is that we are not like computers that crunch data in a relatively straightforward manner and calculate results.  Instead, our brains are made up of a collection of many modules that work in parallel, with complex interactions, most of which operate outside our consciousness.”  Mlodinow goes on to make a very interesting point about our memory in that we “smooth out memories”. This describes the process of us adding information to, or self-editing past memories when they seem incomprehensible to us so that those past memories can fit in with our current realities. In short, we are making stuff up!

What does this mean for us? Well, it’s an important reminder that our life experience is constantly being shaped, motivated and influenced by our existing beliefs. Our belief system is a collection of the memories/experiences we have absorbed from our past. It impacts our reaction to new situations as our unconscious will automatically search our belief system for easy and automatic responses and fill it in.  If our belief system is primarily negative, in relation to a certain new experience—the experience will automatically be filled in with negative responses.  If our belief system sways to the positive— then the circumstance will be created with a positive spin.

How to create your own reality

  • Have a concrete idea of what your core beliefs systems are
  • Try to be self-aware about how past experiences can shape future reactions. It won’t be easy to dip into your subconscious but writing a timeline of life events and gaining an understanding of how these could impact your future reactions is a great start
  • Work towards eliminating any negative beliefs such as insecurities and fears – this is not an easy process but you cannot hope to achieve the reality you desire if you carry all of this baggage.
  • Enlist the help of someone who believes in you. The most successful people have done this by hiring professional coaches. There are coaching and mentoring providers in every industry from legal coaching providers to communication and performance training coaches – for more information read here.

Becoming more self-aware is no easy task and in fact, it’s a lifelong lesson but every day we can make progress and become the best version of ourselves.

To read more about the science of creating your own reality, read here

 

5 ways to dramatically advance your self-development with communication

communication

“The way we communicate with ourselves and others ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” – Tony Robbins 

Communication and self-development are two concepts inextricably linked to one another, you cannot improve one without improving the other.

Effective communication is your ability to clearly articulate information and ideas to yourself and others.

If you think about it, our entire lives are influenced by how effectively we can communicate concepts;

  • By effectively communicating to an interview panel we can advance our careers
  • By defining our personal goals, with clarity, we can construct efficient paths to success
  • If we properly and genuinely communicate with a significant other, we can have more meaningful and long-lasting relationships.

We cannot expect to advance our lives without mastering the art of communication. So, here are 5 ways to improve your communication and in turn enhance your self-development.

1. Communicate with intention

When you communicate, in any context, communicate with intention. Don’t just state facts to yourself or your audience, explain the relevance of why this information is important. For example, if your personal goal is to make X amount per month, always support this goal with your intention. This type of communication is far more influential than just listing points. It adds meaning and inspires action. Everything becomes clearer with a purpose.

2. Support your communication with emotion

If you want to inspire yourself, or anybody else in your life, you need to be emotive in your communications. This doesn’t mean become dramatic or overly enthusiastic but simply be true to your emotions. If a particular piece of information makes you feel excited, show it. If something you are communicating makes you feel sad, then don’t be afraid of showing vulnerability. “Stone-faced” communications are both boring and uninspiring. Further, when you allow yourself to connect your emotions, to external information, you are increasing your own self-awareness by understanding how you interact with the noisy world around you.

3. Relate communications to stories

By giving context to your communications, through stories, you can become a highly engaging communicator. The stories you rely upon should be real-life events and not fictional fairy tales. Stories help yourself, and others to comprehensively understand new information by relating it to similar past experiences. It gives your communications much-needed context and is also a bulletproof way for you and others to actually remember the information.

4. Be mindful of phrasing

The way your phrase communications has a powerful impact on your motivation. For example, when you are thinking about what you need to complete in a day, how often do you say “I have to do”, as opposed to “I get to do”, something? The people who’ve built the most fulfilling and successful lifestyles are those that spend the majority of their time in the “I get to” zone. This type of self-communication actually redefines how you perceive your life. If you spend more time in the “I get to” zone, you boost your self-confidence, morale, self-control and overall self-development. It’s a communication trick that increases your daily motivation.

5. Simply communicate

Injecting unnecessary big words into your communications only stands to make what you say, confusing. If you can’t explain something in a few sentences than, you haven’t grasped the concept and your audience won’t either. Intelligent and effective communication is about clarity. Express all communications, in their simplest form. If a complicated word is the only way to express a point, then, of course, use it but don’t bolster information with long words to simply show intelligence because, in fact, it communicates the contrary. Learning how to simplify concepts also helps you to understand what you want from your life. Goals might sound great on paper, but when broken down to their core concepts might not actually provide what you desire. Ensure you understand every concept within your career and personal goal sphere, by breaking it down to it’s simplest form.

If you are determined to enhance your communication skills there is no better way to do this than by hiring an experienced coaching or mentoring provider. Professional coaching providers will find a coach most suited to you and your personal needs. Find out more here.

5 proven ways to boost your knowledge retention now

retention

It’s scary to think we waste hours, absorbing new information just to forget it minutes later. What’s the point of learning if we don’t practice knowledge retention? Luckily, there are 5 scientifically proven ways to beat this ubiquitous knowledge retention issue, many of us face, on a daily basis.

Why we struggle with knowledge retention

Before we can meaningfully apply these retention strategies it’s important to understand why our brain forgets new knowledge. This can be explained in two simple points:

1. Our brains get stuck at the first hurdle

When we read a book or listen to a presentation we can miss up to 3 or 4 concepts in just the first few minutes. This is because the brain gets stuck at the first new concept/obstacle. It then tries to apply the new concept but fails. And if you continue to read the book or listen to the speaker. The brain is still focused on the first point and fails to absorb all of the new points, even if you hear them, they don’t get retained. And of course, without complete information, you have ‘incomplete information’.

2. We need to make the mistake, ourselves

No matter how good the explanation and how well you feel you understand the concept. You won’t really grasp or retain the concept until you make a mistake when implementing it. This is because your interpretation will vary from the actual meaning the writer/speaker intends to communicate. You’ve only interpreted what they’ve said, and more often than not, the interpretation is not quite correct. You can only find out how far off the mark you are by trying to implement the concept.

How we best retain knowledge

Some interesting stats about how different learning processes influence our retention.

We retain;

  • 90% of knowledge when we teach someone else/practically apply it, immediately after learning.
  • 75% of knowledge when we practically apply it.
  • 50% of knowledge when we engage in a group discussion.
  • 30% of knowledge when we see a demonstration.
  • 20% of knowledge from audio-visual.
  • 10% of knowledge from reading.
  • 5% of knowledge from lectures.

Read more about the stats here.

Interesting stuff but how we can try to retain more when we are forced to rely on things such as books and presentations? Here are 5 scientifically proven ways to encourage your knowledge retention, even if the learning process is statistically against you!

5 tips to boost knowledge retention

1)Ask yourself questions about the new material

If you are reading a textbook, this can simply be what is the main point of this section?

What are the key discussion points?

Try to answer these questions as you read along the text. Writing the questions and answers down is even more helpful.

2) Engage in reflective learning 

Similar to the above point but more practically focused. When learning new materials you should be constantly be asking yourself “How can I immediately apply what I just learned?” If you focus on how to immediately apply the knowledge to your current job, it will increase retention and positively influence performance/deliverables in a big way.

3) Skim material

The idea here is to skim-read material first and pick up on keywords and concepts that you’ll be covering. This way when you read the material, properly, your brain knows what to expect. And you can organize the new information into your pre-learned headings.

4) Relate new material to what you already know 

In one study, participants who were provided with relevant context linking to previous knowledge, before listening to prose passages were better at knowledge recall later than those who had received no context before.

You can add context for new material as you are learning it, or you can prepare and spend some time thinking about what you already know about the topic before you begin studying.

5) Visualization 

You can connect the new information to visuals in various ways. For example, you can imagine that you are having a conversation with a friend about the new information, you can visualize a story about or even better, you can vizualize practically applying the new information.

 

What’s the one thing you are going to do after reading this blog? Try applying one of the retention techniques and I bet you will retain more from this blog, than most things you have read today.

 

The concept of allowing and how it can change your life

allowing

The concept of allowing is a powerful life philosophy, used to advance success, happiness, and self-development. Allowing is about letting go of resistance and accepting things just as they are. When you stop controlling all aspects of your life, you avoid forcing things into unnatural paths and you allow yourself to experience (and learn) what is meant for you. Allowing gives you the opportunity to see situations and people, as they truly are. Regardless of whether allowing uncovers the reality you desire, you can be assured that it reveals the truth. The concept of allowing, for many, is the understanding and acceptance that life has put them exactly where they need to be.

“If it’s meant for you, you won’t have to beg for it…You will never have to sacrifice your dignity for your destiny.”

Why is allowing relevant to success?

The concept of allowing is often incorrectly conflated with apathy or laziness. This reasoning exposes a very unhealthy attitude to our own success. It rests on an innate fear that if we slow down or stop pushing so hard every day, our goals and everything we have worked for will come crashing down. This type of thinking shows a lack of belief in our own abilities. Why not think that your goals will find you just as much as you try to find them?

Allowing is an immensely difficult concept to practice, especially for the target driven, workers of today. However, allowing is premised on the idea that, regardless of your incessant hard work– if something’s not meant for you, it just won’t happen. Think about it – is feeling as though you have to make absolutely everything happen in your life sustainable? Success, for some, starts with a lucky strike and for others, appears once they have overcome a mountain. However, once people reach their success “peak”, they describe a path opening and things just, “falling together”.

This is the concept of allowing – success is not meant to be one giant uphill struggle – if things are meant to work in your favor, trusting that they will, puts an end to unnecessary suffering. An action is important but it must be balanced with your ability to allow.

Allowing and self-confidence

You cannot successfully practice the concept of allowing without self-confidence. This is because, typically when we want to control every aspect of something, we innately believe that without our control, it would escape us. The deeper aspect of allowing has to do with trusting in yourself and believing that what you want to create will become your reality.

How to practice allowing

The best-selling author of “Bring Your Wholeself To Work” and sought-after motivational keynote speaker, Mike Robbins explains that allowing, is truly an art, which often goes against our societal grain. Instead of believing that hard-work and tunnel vision will get you to your goals, allowing is about keeping an inner state of flexibility, ensuring that you are not so tightly bound to your visions that you impede other opportunities, more suited to your life path.

Mike Robbins suggests three ways you can incorporate the concept of allowing into your life;

1.Understand your relationship with allowing

Firstly, you must understand how you feel about the idea of allowing. Are you comfortable with exercising less control in important areas of your life? Do you feel comfortable with uncertainty? Do you have strong enough self-confidence to believe that the things you desire will become your reality? Tell yourself the truth about how you relate to allowing, and you will be able to implement it successfully. It is, after all, designed to help you grow into your true self.

2. Pay attention to your actions vs allowing

Asses this point in terms of your biggest goals, dreams, and aspirations. How much of your energy is focused on actions, and how much is focused on allowing? While both action and allowing are important, it’s likely you’re putting a disproportionate amount of attention on the action. Increasing your focus on allowing can be an incredibly effective way for you to understand whether your goals are right for you. Do they fit into your life naturally? Do they bring you happiness? This is often the missing piece in ascertaining whether your goals will, in turn, bring you fulfillment.

3. Create an allowing habit

This is a simple, daily practice where you put your attention on allowing: accepting things as they are; trusting things are working out as they are meant to and really believing it. Remember to be kind to yourself – there is no smooth path to reaching goals. Allowing is a lot easier to think than to genuinely believe and routinely practice. However, the more attention you put on allowing, the easier it gets to embody into your life.

 

15 affirmations that will immediately change your mindset

affirmation

We are an embodiment of our thoughts. Whilst external factors do have influence over what we think, how we construe those external factors, is the most important part of our thought process. I’ve written extensively on how failure has driven many to success, well, affirmations premise on the same principle – we can’t control what happens in our life but we can control our reaction to those circumstances, it’s all down to our thinking. Life truly stems from our thoughts – we are what we think and affirmations help us to craft the life we want.

Why affirmations offer so much value

Affirmations help to purify and clarify our thoughts so that we stay aligned with our internal values. Affirmations are very powerful and actually restructure the dynamic of our brains because they raise the level of positive hormones in our brain and create “positive thought” neurons (http://www.arlenetaylor.org/brain-care/953-affirmation). This process creates, new, positive thinking channels allowing us to permanently change the way in which we think, for the better.  The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, originally meaning “to make steady, strengthen.

Why we should practice self-affirmation

Affirmations strengthen us by helping us to believe in the potential of an action we desire to manifest. By saying our dreams and aspirations aloud in our heads, we instantly feel empowered and reassured by our own words. This is because we actively discount other (conscious or unconscious) negative thoughts or doubts we have attached to our goals and we finally allow ourselves to truly believe our dreams can and will become a reality. Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement, not only do they re-wire our brain, as discussed,  but they play a crucial role in crafting our future. Thinking positively and ultimately believing in yourself opens you to a world of opportunities, one that could easily be closed, with a more negative mindset.

15 of the most impactful affirmations

So, on days when you feel clouded or bogged down because things may not be going your way, here are the most impactful thought affirmations to help you instantly change your mindset, for the long-term;

1) I am superior to negative thoughts and ill-intentioned actions

2) My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite

3) I acknowledge my own self-worth; I have no need for external validation

4) I am confident and I can handle any obstacle thrown in front of me

5) I am calm, peaceful and want the best for everyone around me

6) I am right where I am meant to be in my life, I trust in my path

7) I am intelligent and capable of accomplishing anything I desire

8) My positive attitude, confidence and hard work naturally brings me to new opportunities

9) I am grateful for everything I have in my life

10) I always make other people feel important when I am around them

11) I accept people for who they are and believe they are doing their best

12) I attract success easily into my life

13) My thoughts are filled with positivity and my life is plentiful with prosperity

14) Though these times are difficult, they are only a short phase of life

15) Today, I wake up with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind

For more about affirmations and how they can benefit your life read this comprehensive blog here for affirmations for every area of life read here 

 

3 easy steps for instant motivation at work

Monday. 9am. You vs computer screen. Motivation = zero. You are most definitely not winning. The thing is, do you care? Maybe not in that moment. But, you will. Here are some tips to get yourself out of that slump and motivated.

3 Easy Steps

Step 1 – incentivise

Think about how great your weekend was. Think about how valuable it is to have a work-life balance. Think about how non-existent your work-life balance will become when you haven’t completed enough work for your upcoming deadline. Think about what will do once you have finished – that beer after work or that extra –  unstressed – hour you could spend with a loved one. Then, think about how the only useful thing you could be doing with your precious time whilst at work, is work.

Step 2 –  reason

Think about why you are at your computer. Yes, there might be a moralistic reason to your work but you also like your salary, don’t you? Imagine life without your salary. Then imagine life with your salary. It’s a quick and simple trick to get those fingers moving.

Step 3 – end game

This can go one of two ways. For this step to work you really do need to like your career. You have studied, trained and/or jumped through hoops of fire to get yourself where you are. If you are unhappy you need to admit this – feeling unmotivated through dissatisfaction with your career is your gut begging for honesty and cannot – unfortunately – be remedied by a self help guide you have googled on the internet. If this resonates with you then think thoroughly about whether a career change is best. Career coaches can bring you valuable clarity if you are unsure, for more information click here. For those of you happy in your career, focus on the end game. Your career has many steps and the only way to reach the next one is to keep your eyes on the prize. Just like your favourite athlete you need to adopt a winning mindset to bring home the gold, read more about this here. Don’t give your employer a reason to hire someone else over you.

Image curtesey of Vic on flickr Vic – flickr the image has not been amended.

By Leila Mezoughi

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