Coaching & Counselling blog: Stress management post Brexit

Blog Post No. 42

27th December 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Stress management post Brexit:

How do we become more resilient in the face of bad news?

Introduction

In this blog, I will briefly describe some strategies which have been adopted by several universities to help their staff handle the disruption and uncertainty around Brexit – the impending withdrawal of the UK from the European Union – and the possible (probable?!) end of research funding for projects which are being undertaken by university staff all over the UK.

brexit

Then the effectiveness of these strategies will be considered, and alternative ones described.

Headline: “Dons in distress get Brexit therapy”

This “Dons in distress” statement is the title of an article that was written in the Sunday Times on the 4th December, 2016. The article describes the emotions (of “uncertainty, grief and anger“) that university staff are feeling because of the Brexit vote. Research funding has been disrupted and/or stopped, and in some cases people are totally uncertainty about their future employment prospects.

Nottingham University, the article explains, is now holding resilience workshops to help the staff understand where their huge amounts of stress originate from. This is so they will have an increased sense of control over what is happening to them.

Leeds University staff counselling department and the Psychological Services have created a written guide which clarifies that the feeling of grief, anger, depression and anxiety are stages which are part of the process of handling change.

stages-of-change

They explain to staff that if they don’t call a halt to their constant checking of the news, then they will continue to feel bad. “If you receive a lot of news shocks, your body is likely to experience fear”, they state.

In addition to feeling fear, another result of constant checking of the bad news is that the ability of the academic staff to get a decent night’s sleep would be reduced.

As an alternative to anxious worrying, the guide helpfully recommends exercise, resting and eating well.  (They could have added that “news fasting”, for long periods of time, would also help).

Resilience workshops

Offering workshops and printed guides to staff is a very constructive way to help them get a new sense of control over their lives. However, one of the major drawbacks are this approach the fragility of human memory: Because of the way human memory works, only about 20% of the information from the workshops will be remembered on the following day. And then as the days pass less and less detail will be recallable.  A special effort to record and retain the information would be needed: such as frequent reviews of the same helpful material, to get it into long-term memory.

The same applies to books and booklets: unless they are analysed, and notes taken and transformed into action steps, then their value is limited, and not fully realised.

The difference between declarative and procedural knowledge

Knowing all about how to handle change and the stresses that go with it, is a good start. And this type of knowledge is called ‘declarative knowledge’. Here’s an example:  many heavy smokers are very informed and knowledgeable about the risks of smoking. Does this knowledge help them to give up smoking? Not in the slightest!

To start new habits, or change old habits, we need ‘procedural knowledge’. We need to know how to do something, which is a very different matter. (If you look at my blog on habit creation this will show you a summary of the process).

How, then, do we cope in the face of life’s uncertainties; to manage our resilience levels; and to develop procedural knowledge of the process?

 Building our resilience.

ancestors

One thing that is easy to forget is that we are all human animals. We’ve evolved from our pre-human ancestors, which evolved into our African hominid and human ancestors. We humans originally lived in the trees and then descended from them onto the plains of Africa. Our ancestors lived and raised children in small groups, and were biologically shaped to adapt to an environment in which each day’s food had to be searched for.

Otherwise, as vulnerable humans, we would not have survived as a race. The innate ‘fight or flight’ response – an internal, non-conscious, physiological (appraise and respond) mechanism – kept our ancestors alive and able to flee from dangers, or to try to fight animals that threatened them.

We’ve got exactly the same mechanism within us as our ancestors had, and we have a need to handle threats and dangers through physical activity. Our ancestors dealt with their own problems as they arose. But now the resilience and energy of people is being sapped by a background of continuous bad news, as people try to work, and raise their families in a turbulent world.

T-V-screen.JPG

Handling bad news

Each day the most distressing news is carefully presented to us, and endlessly repeated, and our bodies register the negative information, and react to it physically. Unless we take action on a daily basis to burn off the stress hormones created by this endless newsfeed, we will get saturated with those hormones.

The Leeds University guide warns against news addiction, and recommends that staff manage their exposure to news. Apparently, according to the article, dons are having news programmes on continually and checking the news in the middle of the night.

stress-loop

Taking action to build resilience immediately

As a former lecturer at a FE college for approximately 35 years, I would like to share with you the three top techniques I used to survive in an educational environment which had a lot of waves of changes and uncertainty. Managing to emerge relatively unscathed, I’d like to recommend these three invaluable strategies for you to try out for yourself; and to experience the benefits of them yourself (assuming you don’t practise them already).

The first and foremost technique, in my opinion, to deal with massive change and uncertainty in the workplace, is daily exercise, which will burn off stress hormones from the previous day’s hassles. And not only does it quickly reduce feelings of anxiety or depression (or implosive anger) – our bodies make sure we find it a pleasurable activity, and release feel-good hormones.

Firstly I would recommend that you give up watching the evening news, and/or breakfast news on television each day, and instead do a bout of dancing, jogging, yoga, Chi-gong or any other kind of physical activity that you really enjoy. This is a great way to burn off the stress created by the previous day’s hassles, and it also releases endorphins, which are happiness chemicals, which lift your mood.

According to Robert Parry (2001) – in his book on Chi-gong – when we do exercise which involves deep breathing, like Chi-gong or yoga, then this type of breathing actually stimulates the parasympathetic part of our nervous systems, which is the part that helps the body rest, and restore; and renew itself through the digestive process. (This is called the ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous system).

We activate this process by breathing from our bellies, not our chests. (That is to say, we breathe into the bottom of the lungs, which pushes the diaphragm downwards, and the belly outwards).

belly-breathing-frog

This means that if we deliberately breathe deeply (from our diaphragm, expanding our bellies) as we do our exercises, we are able to influence our physical state: our body then switches from a stressed state to the parasympathetic relaxed state.

Parry states that: “Tests measuring the electromagnetic resonance of the brain confirm that our brains shift into what is termed the ‘Alpha’ state of relaxation and deep rest during Chi-gong breathing exercises, a state in which not only the digestion but the body’s immune function too can operate at its optimal level. This is why Chi-gong helps us feel more in touch with our emotions and thoughts.” (Page 125).

For these reasons, I strongly recommend that workers need to exercise most days of the week in order to handle stress at work.

The second technique: using assertiveness strategies

In addition to physical exercise, I also recommend assertive communication strategies.

Robert Sapolsky wrote a fascinating book called ‘Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers’, which I strongly recommend. And the reason they don’t get ulcers, fundamentally, is that they can run away very swiftly from predators who want to eat them for lunch.

If we come across predators (or threats) at work, for example in the form of challenges to our sense of dignity and competence (like being insulted, harassed verbally, or shouted at by a member of staff [or told our funding has been removed!]), we can’t really run away. We have to stay in this stressful situation, and handle these sorts of problems, because we need the income to support our families and keep a roof over our heads.

Because we cannot abandon our jobs when the going gets tough, and because not everybody we work with will be charming and gracious, and good negotiators, life at work can become very difficult.  People can make our lives miserable if we don’t learn how to handle them skilfully.

So my second recommendation is this: Start learning assertiveness techniques to strengthen yourself in the workplace. Learning specific assertiveness techniques, and using them to communicate with colleagues, will mean that you will develop a strong sense of control over your life. This reduces your stress levels.

barbara-berkhan-book-cover

But how are you to learn to be more assertive?  Some good ideas can be found in books – as in Barbara Berckhan’s book on Judo with Words.  Or you can watch videos on assertive communication on YouTube.  Or you can go on an Assertiveness Training course, if you can find one.

A more available option is to go to a good coach-counsellor for help.  Role-plays with a supportive coach or counsellor (like yours truly) can really help to strengthen you. These techniques can be used immediately to create a better working environment for people, or help them come to terms with a situation in which their options are limited.

With role-play you can get descriptions of the techniques to use; coaching on how to do this; and immediate, constructive feedback on how you are communicating.  And it is a very powerful way to help you learn to protect your energy (and your dignity!) For example it gives you practice in expressing yourself confidently, handling requests and complaints, etc., and gives you very useful phrases to use to do your job effectively with reduced wear and tear on your nervous system. You quickly learn to ask for what you want; to say ‘No’ to what you do not want; and how to communicate your needs, wants and feelings to others.

The third recommendation: ‘Daily pages’ or a diary.

The-Artists-Way.jpg

The third recommendation is to write daily reflections on how your day went at work, or at home; and how you experienced events. The daily accounts are called “Daily pages”; or “Morning pages”, by Julia Cameron. She uses this technique to unblock creative people who have lost touch with their authentic selves and creative energies. She recommends writing three sides of A4 paper every morning. (This can be stream of consciousness, or deliberate, reflective logs of specific challenges at work, or at home) If this seems a lot, then aim to write at least one side of A4. This daily discipline works for the following crucial reason: our brains are designed to deal with incoming information – we are problem-solving creatures.  Ruminating in our minds, without committing our ideas to paper, simply causes us to go round and round the same old track, without learning or changing anything very much.

If we’re faced with challenges which we can’t handle, or need to ‘get (something) off our chests’ then we can write down what happens and our reaction to the events. This is externalising the information, and putting it out there on the page. Once the information is down on paper and out of our heads, we can see it. And because we can see it, our brain can then go into problem-solving mode and slowly a solution will appear from your brain-mind, magically.

philippa-perry-quoteLetting worries and fears about the future go round and round in our minds without expressing them in some way, is really bad for us and can affect our immune systems. Writing about what’s bugging us has an immediate therapeutic effect, and there is lots of evidence of its value.

It’s also private, with no financial cost, and it builds resilience in people because it puts them in touch with themselves and helps them learn about their own bodies-minds and responses to outside stressors.

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writing-therapy-bookIf you wanted more details about the value of writing, then a really good book written by Dr Jim Byrne, details the benefits and research findings which show what a very effective technique it is. You can find it here: The Writing Solution.***

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Conclusion

If you want to become more resilient in the face of constant change and challenges, then start to practice these three techniques on a daily basis:

# Physical exercise (preferably something like Chi-gong or yoga);

# Assertive communication skills;

# Daily writing in a journal or diary.

Immediately, and increasingly, these strategies will make you stronger physically and mentally, which is what you need to survive in the face of an incessantly changing society.

Daily exercise, assertive communication and daily written reflections are the foundation stones of self-care. With these three mind-body practices, you hold the key to protecting yourself and your energies in this crazy culture, so that you can survive and do your best for your family and loved ones, and get more enjoyment and relaxation out of the time that you have.

I hope you give them a try and enjoy the benefits!

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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References:

Sapolsky, R. (2004) Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers.  New York: St Martins Griffin.

Berckhan, B. (2001) Judo with Words: An intelligent way to counter verbal attacks. London: Free Association Press.

Cameron, J. (1992) The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity.  London: Souvenir Press.

Byrne, J. (2016) Narrative Therapy and the Writing Solution: An emotive-cognitive approach to feeling better and solving problems (Narrative Therapy Series Book 1) Kindle Edition. Available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Narrative-Therapy-Writing-Solution-emotive-cognitive-ebook/dp/B01LNE73L0 

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A rave review of Dr Carol Dweck’s book – ‘Mindset’ – which is about mental attitude, resilience, achievement and success…

Blog Post No. 21

Posted on 27th November 2016 (Previously posted on 5th February 2016)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: A rave review of Dr Carol Dweck’s book – ‘Mindset’ – which is about mental attitude, resilience, achievement and success…

Introduction

carol-dweck-bookIn this blog I will explain a simple model based on the findings of Dr Carol Dweck and her university research team.

Then I will describe some of the ways in which the model has proved to be effective, plus some useful questions that can help children and adults maximise their potential and enjoy their talents and skills more.

The bottom line is this:

Most of us have been persuaded (falsely) by our educational experiences in the past:

  1. That intelligence is innate, and fixed.
  2. That some people are just innately more intelligent than others.
  3. That you cannot change your intelligence level.
  4. That ‘really intelligent’ people never make any mistakes in the process of studying new material.
  5. That people who struggle to learn are ‘losers’ – and, the corollary – that people who we believe to be ‘winners’ never make any mistakes.

But there is no really good evidence for any of these historical prejudices!  And most of them have been shown to be false by Dr Carol Dweck and her research collaborators.

Who is Carol Dweck?

carol-dweckDr Carol Dweck is a world famous Stanford University psychologist who has done many years of research into achievement and success in learning.

At the start of her book on ‘Mindset’ she describes going into a school to do research with children.

She gave them puzzles, some of which were easy to solve, and some which became increasingly hard for the children to solve. She wanted to see how the children would handle the challenge.

She describes one child, a ten year old boy, who did the following:

“He pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips together and cried out, ’I love a challenge!’ ”

carol-dweck-quote

She then went on to describe another child who was sweating with the exertion of solving the puzzles, and who looked up at her and said, with a pleased expression on her face, and with authority in her voice:

You know, I was hoping this would be informative.”

Carol Dweck was fascinated by their reactions and thought to herself, “What’s wrong with them?”

She couldn’t believe that they enjoyed learning, and didn’t get discouraged when they made mistakes.

She then went on to say:

“I, on the other hand, thought that human qualities were carved in stone. You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t. It was that simple. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures (at all costs) you could stay smart. Struggles, mistakes, and perseverance were just not part of the picture.”

So these children became her role models, and she created a theory based on what she found when she started investigating the attitudes of children towards learning.

The two mind-sets:

She discovered that there were two identifiable and distinct mind-sets (or perspectives) which affected how children (and grown-ups) learn.  One of these mind-sets (or viewpoints) assumes that we are fixed entities who cannot grow and develop significantly; and the other one states that we are growth-organisms who change and develop through experience and practice.

And she explains that: “For twenty years my research has shown that the view (or mind-set) that you adopt for yourself, profoundly affects the way you lead your life”. (Page 6)

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Here is a video of Dr Carol Dweck explaining her ideas and research findings:

What this means, in practice, is that:

(1)  if you hold the fixed mind-set (regarding the possibilities of your own life) then you are stuck being the way you are today.  No really significant growth will result from that mind-set. Or:

(2) that if you hold the growth mind-set (regarding the possibilities of your own life) then you can set goals and struggle persistently towards those goals, without being dragged down by the fear of failures along the way towards success!

I will now present those two mind-sets in brief:

  1. A ‘Fixed’ mind-set means that:

# You think your qualities, skills and talents are carved in stone.

# You feel you have to prove your ability over and over again.

# You think that skill and talents should come naturally – that you shouldn’t need to make any effort. (Dweck considers that this is one of the worst beliefs anyone can have).

# You believe you have to hide your mistakes and deficiencies from others.

# You think you have to run from errors as quickly as possible.

# Basically, you are convinced that your traits are just givens: that you have a certain amount of brains and talents and nothing can alter that.

Questions that children ask themselves when they have this mind-set are:

‘Will I succeed or fail?’

‘Will I look smart or dumb?’

‘Will I be accepted or rejected?’

‘Will I feel like a winner or a loser?’

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And now for the second mind-set:

  1. A ‘Growth’ mind-set means that:

# You think that your intelligence can be developed through receiving teaching, mentoring, and by applying yourself to what needs to be learned and practised.

# You know that making an effort consistently will lead to an increase in ability over time.

# You accept your mistakes and confront your deficiencies.

# You realise that being talented is just the starting point.

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How do children get these mind-sets?

Dweck and her researchers wanted to find out how these mind-sets were transmitted to children. Over the course of fifteen years of research they discovered that indiscriminate praising of children’s behaviour was unhelpful. Praising them, and telling them how brilliant and talented they were, led to the children developing a ‘fixed’ mind-set. It made them avoid and fear challenges. They didn’t want to take risks because they wanted to ‘look good’ to others.

So how can parents help children develop a ‘growth’ mind-set?

Dweck recommends that praising the process that the children are going through, as they work at developing their skills, will be very constructive for the child.  So the take away message is: Don’t praise another person’s results or outcomes.  Praise their approach to the problem.

When children in a Chicago school were unable to pass a unit, instead of the grade saying ‘Fail’, it said, “Not yet.”  This kept the child on the learning curve. They had not been classified as ‘a failure’, but rather as ‘still learning’.

A question she recommends that parents ask their children round the dinner table is: “Who had a fabulous struggle today?”

She recommends that if the process of learning is valued, and acknowledged, then struggling and making mistakes is accepted as a crucial part of the growth process.

So she contends that a ‘Growth’ mind-set:

  1. allows students (or learners) to embrace learning;
  2. helps them understand the role of effort in creating intelligence, and:
  3. also helps them maintain resilience when they are faced with setbacks, instead of running from their mistakes.

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An experiment conducted with 7th grade students in the US.

Carol Dweck describes, in her presentation to the Royal Society of Arts, in 2013, an experiment conducted with 7th grade students, who were assigned to two different groups:

# Group 1, the ‘Growth mind-set’ students, were given eight sessions of study skills.

They were also given one session on the growth mind-set which involved them reading an article entitled, ‘You can grow your intelligence’, which described facts about how the brain works and how the brain can be developed like a muscle.

Then they were assigned a task e.g. ‘Write a letter to a struggling friend using a growth mind-set’.

# Group 2, the control group, were given eight sessions of study skills, without the extra session on the growth mind-set.

After the input to the two groups, the maths grades of the two groups were tested and analysed. The results were as follows:

The control group, who had only had study skills tuition, continued to have declining maths grades. But the students who had the study skills input plus the ‘growth’ mind-set session, showed a sharp rebound in their maths skills.

This is one example of the value of using this approach, and Dweck mentions other research studies in her presentation, which also confirm that the students’ learning is powerfully enhanced by teaching the growth mind-set.

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Conclusion

How can Dweck’s theory and her research help children and adults?

Children have a very tough job of developing their skills in the hothouse of a school environment, with the spotlight of the teacher and their peer group on them most of the time. Who can blame them for forming (closed mind-set) limiting views of their abilities, when they are surrounded by judgments and constant evaluations of their progress (rather than their efforts and persistence)?

But they can be strengthened in their resilience and determination if the teacher and/or their parents use the growth mind-set when asking the children about their school work.

Here is a visual summary by Nigel Holmes of the two mind-sets and their differences:

>>>

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For adults, the rewards of experimenting with the growth mind-set would mean that they persist in the face of difficulty, and keep going until they learn a way forward.  Instead of seeing their errors during learning tasks as something that they have to flee from, they would see their mistakes as something that they could learn from.

They would give up rating themselves as a winner or a loser on the basis of the fact that it takes time to learn new knowledge and skills.

They would come to see the belief that we are a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ (during the learning process) as a dysfunctional belief based on a lack of understanding about the way the brain-mind actually works.

Here are a few questions which can develop our own ‘growth’ mind-set, which are suitable for children and adults:

Growth questions:

“What can I learn from this result?”

“What can I do next time when I am in the same situation?”

“What opportunities are there for my growth today?”

“What do I need to do to maintain and continue my growth?”

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I strongly recommend Dr Dweck’s presentations and books, and hope you find them very useful for yourselves.

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If you feel stuck in a situation where your current skills and knowledge will not take you forward, and you have the fixed mind-set, then you can’t make any progress.

Unless you figure out how to develop the growth mind-set, you cannot move forward.  I can assure you, despite what you have been taught, that you can grow and change and develop.  If you need help with that process, I can point you in some productive and constructive directions!

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843629

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Reference:

Dr.Carol Dweck (2006) Mindset. London: Random House.

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Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach: no glucose – no willpower!

Blog Post No. 41

4th November 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach!

callout-1-shopping-image

Introduction

My last blog was about habits – changing them and starting new ones. But to make any changes in our behaviour, we need willpower. And willpower is fuelled by the glucose in our bodies that we get from our diet. Food is much more important and powerful than we realise.

Our willpower is strong if we have a good supply of glucose in us. But when we face the challenges of our daily lives, and the constant decision-making that we have to do throughout the day, slowly our level of glucose drops, and this can strongly affect our behaviour.

Yes.  Decisions take energy, which is provided by blood-glucose, which is provided by the foods that we eat.

In this blog I’m going to give you some amazing examples of how our mood and behaviour is affected by low blood sugar, because of lack of food. Also in the blog are some brief summaries of the research into how willpower, energy and self-control are dependent on the food we eat and what we drink. I’ll also mention some suggestions that show how you can benefit in your daily life from the valuable insights that researchers have identified in this area.

Let’s look at one experiment:

The ‘Radish’ experiment

callout-2-radishes

This experiment was conducted by Roy Baumeister (1996).

A group of students, who’d been fasting (so they were all about equally hungry), were asked to enter a room which was filled with the smell of warm, freshly-baked cookies (biscuits).

The students then had to sit at a table which had 3 different types of food on it: warm cookies, some pieces of chocolate, and a dish of radishes.

After that they were split up into 3 groups:

# The first group was a control group of students, who were not offered food of any kind.

# In the second group, participants were invited to eat the cookies or the chocolate, which was on the table.

# And in the third group, the participants were only allowed to eat the radishes.

To increase the pressure on the students, the researchers left the room, and, from a private vantage point, watched the students as they ate their food.

A few of the students in the ‘radish’ group picked up the cookies and smelled them, but then put them back again, and didn’t give in to temptation, even though it was clear that they really wanted to eat them.

callout-3-cookies

Then all the students were taken into a room where there was a selection of puzzles laid out. These puzzles were actually unsolvable, and the researchers wanted to see how long the students would work at attempting to solve the puzzles before they gave up.

(Apparently the value of giving them this task, which is used by many stress researchers, is that it’s a very useful indicator of people’s general level of perseverance).

The results were as follows:

1. The students who had been allowed to eat the cookies typically worked on the puzzles for twenty minutes.

2. The control group of students also managed to work on the puzzles for twenty minutes (even though they had no cookies or radishes to eat).

3. What about the radish-eating students? They gave up after only eight minutes! This is a large and significant difference by the result levels of laboratory experiments. The researchers concluded that the temptation of looking at the cookies and having to control their desire to eat them, had affected their energy levels considerably.

The value of the ‘radish’ experiment

This experiment shows that people’s ability to keep going at a task is reduced by being frustrated beforehand. Baumeister called it “ego depletion,” meaning that people have a reduced ability to manage their thoughts, feelings and actions if they have had to use their self-control repeatedly. And the radish-eating students had had to control their feelings about the cookies and chocolate!

When frustrating experiences take place, it causes a slow-down in a specific part of the brain (called the anterior cingulate cortex). And this is the specific part of the brain that is essential for self-control. So too many frustrations results in slower brain activity and people then can’t control their reactions to events as well as they normally could. The result is that they struggle to do things that normally wouldn’t be a problem for them.

How our relationships can be affected by ego-depletion

couple

A marital therapist called Don Baucom, when he heard about this research experiment conducted by Baumeister, stated that this helped him to understand a common pattern that he’d observed in the dual career couples that he had been counselling for many years. But (up to that point) he hadn’t understood the meaning behind the pattern.

What many couples had reported to him was that as soon as they got home from work, they would start having arguments about really insignificant things, and this took place every evening. This naturally was causing the couples a lot of unhappiness.

And what he had done sometimes was recommend that they try to go home early from work. He’d realised that the long hours at work were badly affecting their energy.

When they got home after a tough day at work they’d got nothing left to help them handle their partner’s irritating habits. They had no energy left to be generous or considerate with their partner, and had no energy to stop sarcastic comments being said.

dont-thrash-out-serious-probs

Baucom realised that the couples would really benefit if they left work early while they still had some energy left. He could see that when the stress levels at work were high, it had a serious effect on people’s marriages. People were using up all their willpower on the job and had nothing left when they got home.

One of the most revealing examples of the effects of low blood sugar – (a low level of glucose in the bloodstream) – was the research that was done into the decision-making patterns of Israeli Judges.

 

The Israeli Judges

A team of psychologists, led by Shai Danziger of the Ben-Gurion University, and Jonathan Levav  of Columbia University, reviewed over a thousand decisions that Parole Board judges made over a period of 10 months, in an Israeli prison, in 2010.

After hearing appeals by the prisoners, each judge had to then listen to advice from criminologists and sociologists on the parole board, in order to decide whether they should allow the prisoner to go out on parole or not. They had to bear in mind that there was a risk that if parole were to be granted, then the prisoner might go on to reoffend.

israeli-judgesEach judge, on average, granted parole to one out of three prisoners. What was apparent was that there was a pattern which emerged in the decisions made by the judges and it was this:

If a prisoner appeared in front of the judge in the early morning session, they were granted parole approximately 65% of the time. And if a prisoner appeared later in the day, they got parole less than 10% of the time.

graph

Another pattern emerged in the judges’ behaviour half-way through the morning.  Before 10.30am, the parole board would stop for a short break, during which the judges would eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit. This would give them a boost of energy, in the form of glucose, into their bloodstreams.

Apparently the prisoners who appeared just prior to the break, had a 15% chance of getting parole, but the prisoners who were seen immediately after the break had a 65% chance of being granted parole.

Then, amazingly, the same pattern emerged after lunch. Around 12.30 pm the likelihood of being granted parole was only 20%, in this period of time, before the lunch was served. And if you were seen by the judge immediately after lunch, the likelihood of being granted parole increased to more than 60%!

callout-4-same-willpower

Why did their decision-making follow such marked patterns?

Roy Baumeister and John Tierney (2012) are of the opinion that when we make decisions, we use up energy (in the form of glucose). This would have meant that the judges became drained of energy after a morning of decision-making, and that if there were any doubt in their minds about the wisdom of granting parole to a prisoner, if they had very little energy, the judges would opt to maintain the status quo, and play safe and keep the prisoner in jail.

Decision-making reduces our willpower, (by reducing the fuel that it depends upon!), and if we are making decisions all day, then as our energy gets depleted, we then choose easy options, or avoid making decisions, to escape from the hard labour of thinking.

Watching a video with words flashed on the screen

Another experiment measured the glucose levels of participants before and after they did a simple task of watching a video. As they watched the video, at the bottom of the screen were words, which were flashed onto the screen at varied intervals. There were two groups, as follows:

# The first group of people were told to pay no attention to the words on the screen, and they could just relax and watch in any way they wanted to.

# The second group of people had been told that they had to avoid reading the words. When the glucose levels (of this second group) were checked, they had a big drop in their brain’s glucose levels.

students-watching-screenWith regard to the first group, the levels of glucose had remained constant in these people, who had been told to view the screen however they wished.

So it was apparent (from the second group, by contrast with the first) that having to make mental efforts to avoid seeing words flashed on the screen, used up the glucose levels in their brains.

But scientists have to be very careful about the conclusions they form, and go back and check their inferences using additional experiments.

Checking out the accuracy of the research results

A later experiment, using lemonade, was conducted, to make sure that there really was a connection between decision making and a reduction in glucose levels in people.

The ‘lemonade’ experiment

Researchers gave out drinks of lemonade to two groups of people:

# One group were given lemonade drinks with diet sweetener in them.

# The other group were given lemonade with a small amount of sugar, to give them a quick shot of glucose.

lemonade-glass

When these two groups of participants started playing a computer game, the differences in the drinks they had consumed became very obvious.

To reduce the participants’ willpower, the computer game had been rigged, and after a while it became apparent that it was very difficult to play.  Slowly the participants began to get annoyed. But the participants with the sugar in their drink just moaned a bit and kept going.

The other participants (with the diet drink) started swearing and hitting the computer. And when an insulting (scripted) remark was made by one of the experimenters, then the people who had not got any glucose in their drinks became angry at the experimenter’s provocative remark.

This led to the following insight:

“No glucose – no willpower: the pattern showed up time and time again as researchers tested more people in more situations”, stated Baumeister and Tierney. (Page 49)

The implications of these findings for us

What can we learn from these experiments?

If our willpower is greatly reduced, then this can result in low levels of self-control. And this can cause us major problems.

Here’s an example: When we go shopping, because of all the different types of offers and goods on display in the shops, we use up lots of energy (glucose) paying attention to many different things, which are often potential choices to make, which are also potential decisions to wrestle with.  As a result, we can suffer from decision fatigue, just like the people in the research experiments.

Here’s an example:

Choosing an outfit

 swatchesCompanies selling goods know about the energy-draining effects of decision-making and can use it to their advantage. Here is an account by a Columbia University psychologist called Jonathan Levav. He had to buy a bespoke suit (made-to-measure by a tailor), for a wedding that he would be attending.

At the tailors, he went through all the different choices of fabrics, style of linings, style of buttons and other aspects of his new suit design.

How did this affect him?

By the time I got through my third pile of fabric swatches I wanted to kill myself”, Levav said. “I couldn’t tell the choices apart any more. After a while my only response to the tailor became: ‘What do you recommend?’ I just couldn’t take it.”

As it turned out Levav didn’t go ahead with the suit purchase (partially helped by the $2,000 price tag).

But because he felt overwhelmed and exhausted by all the choices he was given, and the decisions he was asked to make, this gave him an idea for some research experiments. One scenario for his research, conducted with other colleagues, was to observe what happened at car dealerships, specifically a car dealership in Germany.

The researchers surreptitiously observed real customers who were asked to make choices about their design options for their new sedan cars.

car-forecourt

At first the customers took the choices they had to make very seriously. Here are some of the options they faced. There were:

~Four styles of gearshift knobs

~Thirteen kinds of tyres and rims

~Twenty-five combinations of the engine and the gearbox

~Fifty six different colours for the car’s interior.

Slowly the more difficult choices wore out the buyers’ energy, and they ended up choosing the habit-based, traditional route, and they thereby “settled for the path of least resistance.”

Levav and his researchers discovered:

# The salespeople seemed to consciously manipulate the potential buyers, by overloading them with information;

# the net result was that the buyers abandoned all apparent choices open to them, and left it up to the salesperson to decide what they should have; and

# the customer ended up being ‘given’ a more expensive option than they could have got, if they’s had the energy (glucose) to compute the available options.  ( And the average difference totalled more than fifteen hundred euros per car (which was about $2,000 dollars at the time of the observations).

Another example

Sometimes shoppers get fed up making decisions, and stop buying things. But this doesn’t stop the marketeers. Have you noticed that in supermarkets, after people have used up their decision-making energy – looking at the different special offers, price reductions and varied choices of food and drinks, etc. – they finally arrive at the checkout area, where they have another range of choices?

check-out-at-supermarket

This is where the customers with decision fatigue (low glucose levels) are at their lowest ebb, and most vulnerable (especially if they have young children with them, clamouring for sweets). The sweets and chocolates are deliberately there at the checkout for anyone desperate for a glucose fix.

So what can we do in the face of this information about how our bodies and brains work – information which has been used, and will continue to be used, relentlessly by big (and small) businesses, to get our money? How can we get stronger?

no-glucose-no-willpower

Eat your way to willpower

As always, information is power, and Roy Baumeister and John Tierney (2012) make some very helpful suggestions so that we can benefit from their findings. They mention the key insights from all the willpower research that has taken place with thousands of people inside and outside the lab:

1. Firstly, we have a limited amount of willpower(which is fuelled by glucose!)

2.Secondly, we use the same store of willpower for a wide variety of tasks. So if you check your mobile phone about once every 4.3 minutes, as one recent study has found – (Sunday Times, October 30th, 2016,  Page 29) – then don’t expect to have much energy later on in the day for other decisions or uses of your willpower (like communicating with your loved ones at home at the end of the day!)

How can we use our store of willpower effectively?

Baumeister and Tierney recommend that you keep your level of glucose as constant as possible:

“Glucose depletion can turn the most charming companion into a monster. The old advice about eating a good breakfast applies all day long, particularly on days when you’re physically or mentally stressed.

“If you have a test, an important meeting or a vital project, don’t take it on without glucose. Don’t get into an argument with your boss four hours after lunch. Don’t thrash out serious problems with your partner just before dinner.”

(Very briefly, do not take this emphasis on the importance of glucose for willpower as advice to eat white sugar.  White sugar, and other sugary foods, like white bread and pasta, will give you a quick spike of glucose, but your insulin will then shoot up, and suck the sugar out of your system, leaving you with less blood glucose than you had before you had your quick sugar hit).

Making glucose work for you

healthy-food

In order to have a steady level of self-control, these authors advise people to eat foods which have a low-glycaemic index. This means that the food is converted into glucose at a slow and steady rate throughout the day. Suitable food examples are fish, meat, nuts, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, cheese, olive oil and other beneficial fats.

The evidence of the value of this type of diet is shown in the research findings from the behaviour changes of many teenagers held in detention centres. After the centres swapped sugary foods and refined carbohydrates with vegetables, fruits and wholegrains, there was a steep reduction in attempts to escape, violence and other behaviour problems.

Making sure you get enough sleep has a beneficial effect on your glucose level

If we don’t get enough sleep, we have less self-control and less ability to perform related processes like decision-making! Lack of sleep also interferes with the body’s ability to process glucose which can, over a longer period of time, create a higher risk of diabetes.

sleeping-child

And by resting, we reduce the body’s need for glucose, and we improve our body’s ability to use the glucose that we have in our bloodstream.

Changing your habits

These authors recommend that if you want to make a big change in your life, keep it simple:.  This is what they say:

“Focus on one project at a time…if you  set more than one self-improvement goal, you may succeed for a while by drawing on reserves to power through, but that leaves you more depleted and more prone to serious mistakes later.

“People who are trying to quit smoking, for example, will have their best shot at succeeding if they aren’t trying to change other behaviours at the same time”.

Don’t make any New Year’s resolution lists!

new-years-eve

The final insight from this book that I want to share with you is this wise advice:

“Above all, don’t make a list of new year resolutions…by February 1st people are too embarrassed to even look at the list.

“But instead of lamenting their lack of willpower, they should put the blame where it belongs – on the list! No-one has enough willpower for that list. Because you’ve only one supply of willpower, the resolutions all compete with each other. A better plan is to make one resolution and stick to it. That’s challenge enough.” (Page 38)

quote-on-eating-regularly

Conclusion

In this blog, I have looked at how our willpower depends upon our blood glucose levels; and how vested interests in the market use this against us.

I hope you find this information useful! Soon all of us will be exposed to intense and powerful marketing techniques and high-pressure sales bids, as we start to look for presents for our family and friends in the next month, leading up to Christmas. So don’t forget your glucose level, keep yourself as well-fed as you can afford, and it will keep your self-control strong!  (But always go for slow-burning fuel, and not quick spikes of refined sugar products!)

If you need support as you attempt lifestyle changes, contact me. Some changes are much harder to bring about in our lives than others. There’s no substitute for having a good coach, as I’m sure Andy Murray will agree.

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

~~~

References:

Willpower: Rediscovering our greatest strength By Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, (2012) London, Penguin

‘Driven to Distraction’@joshglancy (30.10.2016, page 29) The Sunday Times, London.

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How to change your negative habits

Blog Post No. 40

15th October 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A ‘Rave review’ of “The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change”, by Charles Duhigg

Introduction      

lady-eatingCharles Duhigg’s fabulous book about The Power of Habit is a fascinating read. It’s a very practical guide to changing our habits and is very straightforward, and helpful, and contains case studies which show the process of habit change from start to finish. It’s also got easily understandable illustrations.  So, if you have some bad habits you want to eliminate, this book could be a huge help to you!

The nature of habits

What are habits? Here are two definitions

The definition of Habit by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as follows: It’s (1) “… (a) behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance” or (2): “…An acquired mode of behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”

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All our life, so far as it has definite form, is a mass of habits”.

(William James, 1892)

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We are habit-based human beings, and the more we know about how we form habits, the easier it will be for us to change old ones that aren’t working for us, and create new ones.

A researcher at Duke University in 2006 discovered that more than 40% of the activities people engaged in every day were habits, and not decisions they had made.  And some theorists would say that this is as high as 95% (Bargh and Chartrand, 1999).

zigs-quoteOur brains have developed the ability to create habits because they allow our brains to save effort, and to think more efficiently without having our minds cluttered with the mechanics of the many basic behaviours we have to follow each day.

The structure of a habit

In his book, Charles Duhigg has looked very closely at the specific features of what makes up a habit. They are like a loop that has three parts: the cue; the routine; and the reward.  Here is a picture of that loop:

simple-habit-loop

  1. Firstly, there is a cue (a trigger that starts off a routine: e.g. the sound of the alarm clock in the morning).

Here’s an example of a cue that I recently found in the Sunday Times Magazine, in an article by Viv Groscop (who performed her one-woman show at Edinburgh in August this year).  Viv stated that, to make her exercise routine strong, she started keeping her workout clothes and trainers next to her bed, so they were the first things she saw- the Cue! – in the early morning, as soon as she woke up. (She lost 3 stone [or 42 pounds in weight] in one year through changes in her exercise and nutrition habits).

2. Secondly, this is followed by a routine.

A routine is here defined as any pattern of behaviour.  Examples include: eating, going to the pub, watching a TV programme, going to the gym, doing homework, buying clothes, smoking, placing a bet, etc.

3. Finally, there is a reward – the most important part of the loop.

All habits have a reward at the end of them. Here’s are some examples of rewards: The feeling of comradeship when drinking at the pub; the rush of pleasure after you have just done a bout of exercise; giving yourself a cup of coffee when you’ve done your daily exercise. Seeing the good, pleasurable results of any difficult task.

callout-1The importance of craving!

For habit change to work you have to crave the reward.

There is an important alert here: You have to really crave the reward, or you won’t have the incentive to change your behaviour. Charles Duhigg describes a research project undertaken by the National Weight control agency. The agency examined the routines for eating food that had been created by people who were successful dieters. They investigated more than 6,000 people’s routines.

What was discovered was that all the successful dieters eat a breakfast (which was cued by the time of day). But they also had very real, very desirable rewards in place for themselves if they stuck to their diet plans – and it was the reward that they craved. (For example, being able to fit into new clothes in a smaller size; etc.)

lady-exercising-with-mental-image-of-rewardAnd if they felt themselves weakening in their commitment, they changed their focus onto the rewards that they would get if they kept to their plans. This visualisation of the very real rewards they would get, kept them strong in the face of temptation.

Apparently people who started new exercise routines showed that they were more likely to follow an exercise routine if they chose a specific cue (first thing in the morning, or as soon as they get in from work, or before bedtime). So having a cue in place is crucial to initiate the new behaviour.

The new routine follows from the cue.

And the reward is what people crave at the end.  Some of the rewards mentioned were having a beer, or allowing yourself an evening of watching the TV without guilt.

powerspin2As my own experiment, I wanted to establish a daily habit of exercising my arm muscles, to firm them up.  Therefore, I set up a cue which is the start of the BBC TV programme “Pointless” at 5.15pm every day.

When I hear the theme music for Pointless, I get out our “Powerspin” device (illustrated above) and do a pre-planned (recommended) set of exercises.

This exercise routine is designed to strengthen our arms and back muscles, and core (stomach), and is very simple.

And the reward for me (which I crave strongly – otherwise it won’t work) is the knowledge that my arms and back and core muscles are getting stronger and fitter, and will keep me fit and able to carry heavy objects into old age! And so far so good – I’ve only missed a few times!

Duhigg’s own experiment

Charles Duhigg did a really interesting personal experiment to see if he could change one of his own habits.  He was eating too many cookies and he was starting to put on weight. Here’s his explanation.  His description of his experiment and the results are shown in the following YouTube video clip:

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The importance of substitution

What if we have a habit that we want to change? Can we get rid of it?

How do we go about it? Charles Duhigg states that we can’t get rid of old habits – but what we can do is substitute new routines for the old ones, and get the same rewards.

habit-change-process

He explains that a golden rule of habit change, which has been validated by repeated studies for a long time, is as follows:

“To change a habit, we must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but change the routine.

“That’s the rule: if you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behaviour can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same”. (Page 62)

He gives the example of someone who wants to give up cigarettes. If the person wanting to quit smoking fails to find something else to do, when they start to crave nicotine, then they will be unable to stop!  It will be too hard for them.

Stopping addictions

Charles Duhigg states that the organisation called ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ is effective in helping people reduce their drinking habits because it examines and shines a very clear light on the cues which trigger drinking in people; and their program deliberately encourages people to identify the cues and rewards that encourages their alcoholic habits, and then assists them as they try to find new behaviours.

So the implied question that AA asks an alcoholic is: “What rewards do you get from alcohol?”

“In order for alcoholics to get the same rewards that they get in a bar, AA has built a system of meetings and companionship – (the ‘Sponsor’ each person works with) – that strives to offer as much escape, distraction and catharsis as a Friday night bender.” (Page 71)

If someone wants to get support from another person, they can receive this by talking to their sponsor or by going to a group meeting, rather than “toasting a drinking buddy”.

aa-logo

A researcher called J. Scott Tonigan has been looking at the work of AA for more than ten years, and he states that if you look at Step 4 of the 12 step program, (which is to make a ‘searching and fearless inventory of ourselves and to admit to God, to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs’), then he considers that something crucial is taking place, which he sums up like this:

“It’s not obvious from the way they are written, but to complete those steps, someone has to create a list of triggers for all their alcoholic urges. When you make a self-inventory, you’re figuring out all the things that make you drink…”  The cues!

The rewards of drinking

The AA organisation then asks alcoholics (or alcohol dependent individuals) to look really hard for the rewards they get from alcohol, and the cravings that are behind the behaviour. And what is discovered?

“Alcoholics crave a drink because it offers escape, relaxation, companionship, the blunting of anxieties and an opportunity for emotional release….the physical effects of alcohol are one of the least rewarding parts of drinking for addicts.” (Page 71)

So what AA does is gets you to create new routines for your spare time instead of going out drinking. You can relax and talk through any worries or concerns you might have at the meetings.

The triggers (cues) are the same, and the payoffs (rewards) are the same, it’s just the behaviour that changes,” states Tonigan.

structure-of-a-habitDuhigg includes in his book a summary of a valuable experiment conducted in 2007 by a German neurologist called Muellor. He and his fellow researchers at the University of Magdeburg, identified the specific part of the brain (the basal ganglia) where the habit loop is based, and recruited alcoholics who had been in rehab and had been unable to give up drink. They recruited five alcoholics.

What they did next was embed small electrical appliances into the brains of these men. They put them in the part of the brain where the ‘habit loop’ resides, which is in the basal ganglia.

basal-ganglia

These appliances gave off a small electrical charge which interrupted the neurological reward sequence that created a craving in people. This stopped the habit loop completely.

After the operations had taken place and the participants had recovered, they were shown a sequence of images. The images were related to their drinking habits, and they were pictures of a glass of beer, or people going into a bar.

When the electrical charges were being run, they stopped the men reacting in their habitual way, and they stopped drinking. And one of the participants told Mueller that when this electrical current was operating on his brain, then his longings for alcohol disappeared.

However these cravings came back as soon as the participants’ brains were not receiving an electrical charge. The participants’ drinking habits returned with full force for four out of the five subjects.

lads-drinking

What was noticed was that the participants relapsed when very stressful events happened in their lives, and to curb their anxiety they turned to self-medication: i.e. alcohol.

But the good news was that once they learned new routines for managing their stress, their drinking stopped completely! Some of the participants decided to go for therapy, and one participant started attending AA meetings.

So the men taking part in the experiment embedded these new behaviour patterns, or routines – (going to therapy/learning and using new stress management techniques; or going to the AA meetings) – into their lives, and were successful at managing their alcohol use. And one of the men, who had tried to detox from alcohol sixty times previously and was unsuccessful, found that, after this routine change, he never had another drink.

The result of the experiment

To summarise the value of the experiment, it showed that the former alcoholics only succeeded in eliminating their drinking behaviour because they developed new routines which followed the old triggers (or cues), and gave them their comforting rewards.

Apparently the techniques that were developed by the AA for changing habits have also been successfully applied to children’s temper tantrums, sex addictions and other types of behaviour.

The AA is described in Duhigg’s book as an organisation which creates techniques to change the habits associated with the use of alcohol:

“AA is in essence a giant machine for changing habit loops and though the habits associated with alcohol consumption are extreme, the lessons AA provides demonstrates how almost any habit – even the most obstinate – can be changed.” Charles Duhigg

He makes it clear in his book that overeating, alcoholism, or smoking, are ingrained habits that take real commitment to change. But if you know how your habits are working, this makes it easier to experiment with new behaviours.

Sherlock-holmes-image.JPG

Essentially, Duhigg considers that if you look very carefully at the cues (or triggers) and cravings and the rewards that fuel any unhealthy or self-destructive habit that you have, then this scrutiny will help you choose more constructive routines which deliver the same rewards.

The book has several really interesting case studies in it. For example, right at the beginning of the book, Lisa Allen is described. She focussed on one specific pattern – smoking – and this was described as a Keystone habit’. This smoking habit, after being successfully changed by her, led her to reprogram a lot of the other routines in her life as well, because her achievement had a knock-on effect.

What is a ‘keystone’ habit?

Duhigg admits that identifying keystone habits isn’t easy: they are the habits which, if you change them, will give you ‘small wins’. They facilitate new structures of behaviour in someone’s life and start to make it easier to change other, bigger habits. Here are some examples taken from research:

Exercise seems to be a keystone habit that has a beneficial, ‘knock-on’ effect. When people begin exercising, and it can be as little as once a week, they begin to change other, unconnected habits in their lives. It has been discovered that they reduce their smoking, spend money less, and have more understanding for their family and the people they work with.

Exercise spills over“, stated James Prochaska (a University of Rhode Island researcher). “There’s something about it that makes good habits easier.”

Other studies have revealed that families who have their meals together regularly raise children with higher school grades, more emotional control, better homework skills and increased confidence.

Apparently making your bed every morning is also a habit that has a spill over effect. It is correlated with a higher level of happiness, stronger skills at sticking to a budget and a higher level of productivity.

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A powerful example

habit-reversal-trainingHere is an example of the full process of habit change.

Mandy, a chronic, nail-biting graduate student who was at the Mississippi State University, went into the counselling centre at the university and they referred her to a doctoral psychology student who was studying a type of therapy called: “habit reversal training.”

What this psychology student got Mandy to do was very simple: He got her to describe what triggered her nail-biting. (That is her cue!) She was asked to describe what she felt just before she lifted her hands to nibble at her nails. (What cued her?)

The answer Mandy gave was that she felt tension in her fingers (the cue) and once she had started to bite her nails to reduce the tension, she felt she couldn’t stop until she had bitten all her nails.

As they talked, it became clear that she bit her nails when she was bored, and as she described a number of situations, it also became apparent that when she had bitten all her nails, she felt a “sense of completeness”. This was a physical experience that was rewarding for her.

At the end of their first session, this psychologist asked Mandy to do some homework:

“Carry an index card and each time you feel the cue – a tension in your fingers – make a check mark on the card”.

Index-cards-image.JPG

The following week she came back to the psychologist and she’d made 28 marks on the card, at times when she was conscious of feeling tension in her finger tips, which was her cue to start biting her nails.

The next thing the psychologist taught Mandy was to create a “competing response”. When she experienced the familiar tension in her fingers (which had always led to her biting her nails), she was to look around quickly for something that would make her unable to put her fingers into her mouth e.g. putting her hands in her pockets, or underneath her legs, or take hold of a pencil.

Then she was to look around for something physically stimulating like rubbing her arms, or any type of physical movement.

The cue – tension in the fingers – stayed the same. But the routine changed (to rubbing and/or physical movement); and the rewards stayed the same (relief from tension in her fingers).

She practised the new routine and when she left the psychologist’s office she was given another homework task. This time, she was to keep using the card to do a checkmark whenever she felt the urge to bite her nails, and to make a hash mark when she succeeded in overcoming her nail-biting habit.

Manicured-nails.JPG

The result: The following week Mandy showed that she had only bitten her nails three times, and had made the competing response  (rubbing arms, or physical movement) seven times. So she rewarded herself with a manicure, and continued using the cards.

After a month had passed, her habit had disappeared, and her new ways of responding to the feelings of tension in her fingers, the “competing responses”, were now totally automatic! One habit had taken the place of the previous habit.

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Habit reversal

Here is a quote by Nathan Azrin, who was one of the people who developed habit reversal training:

“It seems ridiculously simple, but once you are aware of how your habit works, once you recognise the cues and the rewards, you’re half-way to changing it.”

Apparently today, habit reversal is used to treat gambling, depression, smoking, anxiety, procrastination, and sex and alcohol addiction etc.

Charles Duhigg makes the point that although the habit process can be simply described, it doesn’t mean that it’s easily changed.

mark-twain

Charles Duhigg states:

“It’s facile to imply that smoking, alcoholism, over-eating or other ingrained patterns can be upended without real effort. Genuine change requires real work and self-understanding of the cravings driving the behaviours. No one will quit smoking because they can sketch a habit loop.

“However, by understanding habits’ mechanisms, we gain insights that make new behaviours easier to grasp. Anyone struggling with addiction or destructive behaviours can benefit from help from many quarters, including trained therapists, physicians, social workers and clergy.

“Much of those changes are accomplished because people examine the cues, cravings and rewards that drive their behaviours and then find ways to replace their self-destructive routines with healthier alternatives, even if they aren’t aware of what they are doing at the time. Understanding the cues and cravings driving your habits won’t make them suddenly disappear – but it will give you a way to change the pattern.” (Page 77)

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kids-smokingConclusion

Why do I think this is such a valuable and useful book for people to read? Its value lies in the way it makes habit change understandable, and this is very hope-inspiring in all of us who have habits we want to change.  And also for those of us who are committed to helping other people change their unwanted habits.

The book also has examples of organisations that tried to develop the habits of their employees to make them create more productive businesses and other very interesting information.

So what habit would you like to change? If you have one specific habit in mind, for example like reducing your weight and as a reward, wearing a particular dress or outfit at Christmas, then what this book gives you are the tools to help you change your behaviour.

It’s very tough to do it on your own, and having a lifestyle coach or counsellor can help you achieve these goals. So that’s where I come in.

Contact me if you’ve got a sense of hope from reading about the techniques I have summarised from this book, and you want to change your life in a positive way.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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References:

The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change. By Charles Duhigg, (2012) London, William Heinemann.

Bargh, J.A. and Chartrand, T.L. (1999) The unbearable automaticity of being.  American Psychologist, 54(7): 462-479.

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Why meditation is really good for you…

Blog Post No.6

Published on 18th September 2016 (Previously posted on 7th October 2015)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2015

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: A *star* technique for enjoying your life more: Daily meditation

Introduction:

nata-5-jpg-w300h225In this blog I am going to explain why meditation is really good for you. It’s the mental equivalent of being on a very nutritious and healthy diet.

And it’s better for our bodies than going on holiday, or going shopping –because you feel good for longer and it doesn’t reduce your bank balance!

That’s a big claim, so I’d better explain why I think it’s so good for you. In order to do that I need to get a bit technical.

But firstly, let me clarify what I mean by ‘meditation’: Sitting quietly, clearing your mind of mental chatter, and focusing your attention in the here and now by counting your breaths in and out.  It’s that simple.  But you can always get more guidance on how to do it by consulting our How to Meditate page.***

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Mental demands on our energy

In our daily lives, here are some examples of the mental demands we face:

# Starting the day with too much to do and too little time to do it.

# If you are married: Getting the kids dressed, breakfasted and ready for school – and keeping the mobile phone on, so you can be easily contacted

# Other people’s conversations (and problems), and responding to them appropriately

# TV and radio news which always give the bad news first, relentlessly

stress-at-work3# If you use a mobile phone: Text messages throughout the day – with good or bad news; and the ever-present threat of a bad/stressing phone call

# Emails waiting for us when we get to work

# Adverts trying to get us to buy things

# If you are a car driver: Other drivers’ behaviour on the roads

# The demands of the job when you get to work

# Your inner dialogue (mind chatter), as you prepare, respond and carry out your daily responsibilities

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Have I missed anything out? Probably!

Our poor brains are deluged with information overload, and the messages don’t stop until we crawl, tired out, into bed, hoping for a decent night’s sleep.

By that time your body has got plenty of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) circulating in it, so the quality of your sleep will be affected by them. That’s the bad news.

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The good news: how meditation works

stop-stress2What meditation does is it switches off your stress response, and switches on the relaxation response.

The stress response is a natural, human response to all the daily challenges you’ve been facing. You’ve probably heard it referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’.  Your heart rate and breathing increase; your big muscles tense up to fight or run; your digestive system closes down, to conserve energy; your body/brain fills with cortisol and adrenaline, so it becomes difficult to think straight.

We’ve got 2 nervous systems in our body: the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system, which activates our ‘fight or flight’ response; and the ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, which switches on when threats to us have passed.  The parasympathetic nervous system is also called the ‘rest and digest’ or ‘relaxation’ response.

These two systems alternate with each other, to keep a balance in the body – a bit like mixer taps for hot and cold water.

Meditation gets your body’s relaxation response activated which means that the feelings of stress drain away and the ‘rest and digest’ mechanisms start to operate in your body.

So your body stops producing cortisol, and switches to the relaxation part of your autonomic nervous system. Your digestion starts working again, your big muscles relax, and mental relaxation and whole-body rest take place.

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Breath-counting – recommended by the Buddha:

school-meditation-008Begin by sitting quietly, with no external distractions. Switch off the TV or radio. Sit in a room which does not have any human activity going on. And focus your attention completely on your breathing, so that your thinking about yesterday and tomorrow close down.

Counting your breaths over and over for a period of time rests your brain and reconnects you to your body – to the regular rhythms of your breathing. And in this way your thoughts settle down, lose their power to disturb or run you ragged, and become mere thoughts which come and go, like clouds in the sky.

Meditation roots you more powerfully in the reality of your body and your current surroundings and less in the world of your thoughts.

You may quickly feel sleepy when you start meditating – this is a sign that your body needs rest and wants more sleep.

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How do you do it?

the-buddha-copyYou sit still, in a quiet place, and slowly start counting your breaths from 1 to 4, over and over again. It’s as simple as that.  Count 1 on the in-breath; 2 on the out-breath; 3 on the in-breath; and 4 on the out-breath.  And repeat.  Slowly, slowly; let your rate of breathing slow down, and relax your body.

For more guidance, see our How to Meditate page.***

I suggest you try 10 minutes a day at first. Ten minutes of peace!

But as you get to feel the effects on your body I would suggest that you build up to 30 minutes a day. That will be really good for your mind and body.

You will be able to feel and experience the benefits for yourself, and may well want to go into the subject of meditation in more depth.

The Buddha recommended counting your breaths, but there are loads of different types of mediation.

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Regular practice makes for successful meditation

meditation-effects-copyWhy meditate every day? You will only get the full benefits of meditation, and experience them for yourself, if you do it every day, because it takes time to reap the rewards, just like when you start an exercise programme.

Zig Ziglar once said: ‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily’.

The same applies to meditation.  Daily practice will strengthen your connection to your body, slow down your mind, build up your stamina and lower your blood pressure. The resultant increase in relaxation will mean that when you experience stressful events, you will be meeting them with a more relaxed body/mind. Therefore the stress response will be less powerful and you’ll recover more quickly.

And the only time the brain rests is when we’re meditating!

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The benefits of meditating:

Here is a link to a website which has listed 100 of the benefits of meditation: http://www.lotustemple.us/images/Benefits_of_Meditation.pdf

And here is a more detailed account of how to meditate which my partner, Jim Byrne and myself, wrote some time ago: our How to Meditate page.***

How come such a beneficial technique isn’t more popular?

Well, firstly, you will need to get up earlier in the morning or carve out the time in your daily life, if you want to experiment with it.  And some people don’t like having to do that!

It’s not a quick fix, and some people are not very patient.  Give it time to work. The benefits will be worth the effort.  For examples: people have been able to give up hard drugs, cigarettes, lose weight, change their lives, start exercise routines, etc., through using this very simple technique.

meditation-benefits-copy

It is also very useful if you have difficulty getting to sleep at night or wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about past or future events. The simple practice of breath-counting will help you get off to sleep more quickly.

That’s all for now. I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance

Blog Post No. 38

14th September 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A ‘Rave Review’ of Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance by Dr Angela Duckworth

Introduction      

In this blog I want to explain to you why I think this book – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth is a great book, and show you how her research can help us in our daily lives, as we try to achieve our goals.

angelas-pictureDr Angela Duckworth is an Associate Professor of psychology, at the University of Pennsylvania. When she was in her second year of graduate school, she started researching the achievements of highly effective people in different areas of life: business, the arts, journalism, medicine, athletics, the law, etc.

She wanted to know if there were any common features that successful people, at the top of these various fields, shared. And so she interviewed the leaders in these different occupations and discovered something which she found of great interest. There was a distinctive way of behaving that they all shared. When they faced failure, in one form or another, they just kept going!

She found that highly successful people were remarkably persevering. They were really hard-working and could bounce back after set-backs. And they knew where they were headed. They were passionate about what they were doing and this drove them on.

In her book she states:

“No matter what the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in 2 ways. Firstly, these exemplars were unusually hard-working and resilient. Secondly, they knew in a very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination – they had direction.”

grit-coverGradually, as the interviews with these highly successful people progressed, she was able to create a series of questions. These questions tried to gauge the extent of someone’s ability to keep going in the face of obstacles, and how passionate they were about their chosen activities.

With these questions, she created a questionnaire called the ‘Grit scale’, and she decided grit – meaning passion and perseverance – was the outstanding feature of the successful people she interviewed. In the scale, she has several questions about perseverance and also questions about passion.

She describes passion as: “…a compass – the thing that takes you some time to build and tinker with and finally get right, and that then guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately, you want to be”.

Angela Duckworth starts her book with a description of the training of new recruits to the United States Military Academy at West point. She describes highly capable and dedicated cadets, who, in order to be selected, have had to produce excellent high school grades and demonstrate top marks in physical fitness tests.

They have to undergo seven weeks of initial training, which is very rigorous and demanding, and hence is called “Beast Barracks”.

These cadet trainees had applied in their junior year in high school to join the West Point cadets, and although 14,000 apply, this number is cut down to 4,000 who then have to get nominated (by a member of Congress, or a senator, or the Vice-President of the United States). These 4,000 are then reduced because fewer than half will meet the strict academic and physical standards of West Point.

west-point-cadetsFrom this group of approximately 2,500, there is a final group selected of 1,200 who are enrolled and admitted into the academy.

What fascinated Angela Duckworth was the number of trainees who didn’t make it to the end of the training course and she wanted to find out why. During this 7 week training, (which is very strenuous, with no weekends off and no contact with friends and family), there is a drop-out rate of 1 in 5 cadets.

Why was this drop-out rate so high with young recruits who had worked for years to achieve their dream of becoming a West Point cadet for the United States Military?

To find an explanation, she used her own ‘Grit scale’, which I mentioned at the start of this blog, to see if the results achieved by cadets (prior to their training) gave a clue as to who would drop out of the 7 week training, and who would complete the training course successfully.

She administered the test in July 2004 to 1,218 West Point cadets and discovered something remarkable. What she did was to compare the scores on the ‘Grit scale’, which the cadets had achieved, and their ‘Whole candidate scores’.

These ‘Whole Candidate scores’ were the test and exam results that had been collated during the cadets’ lengthy admission process, starting from junior high school onwards. These scores showed the levels of academic ability, physical fitness, plus military fitness predictions.

When she compared the scores for the ‘Grit scale’ and ‘Whole candidate scores’, it became apparent to her that no matter how gifted a cadet was, this was no indication of their Grit level.

Here is a sample  of her Grit scale (all of which can be found on page 55 of her book):

Grit-scale.JPG

 

She saw this same pattern (of lack of correlation between talent and grit) repeated in the later scores when she gave the test again the following year. This was her conclusion, based on the results:

The only thing that could successfully predict that a cadet would get through the “Beast barracks” initial training programme was their scores on the ‘Grit scale’, and not their high school rank, or their academic ability, leadership experience, athletic ability or their ‘Whole candidate score’.

She continued her research into the power of grit in the sales profession, which can be a very strenuous training ground. As they try to sell their goods, salespeople constantly get rejection from other people, and have to manage their reactions to this, and keep motivated.

The ‘Grit scale’ predicted the people who stayed the course, in the sales industry. She states:

“No other commonly-measured personality trait – including extraversion, emotional stability and conscientiousness – was as effective as grit in predicting job retention”.

Grit-quote-3.JPGShe also used the test at the request of the Chicago Public Schools Services, and she discovered, through administering the Grit Scale to the students, that the level of grit of the students was a more revealing measure of whether they would graduate or not.

Their level of completion of academic work, or how much they liked school or felt secure in the school environment, was not as good an indicator as the Grit score.

 

She also completed 2 extensive samples of American adult students, and found that adults who were ‘gritty’ (meaning having high scores on the grit test) were more successful in their academic studies.

Angela Duckworth then initiated a collaboration with the US Army Special Operations Forces, known as the Green Berets. After a very difficult training period, (which included a boot camp, 4 weeks of infantry training, 3 weeks of airborne school, and 4 weeks of day and night land navigation) the recruits then do a Selection Course which she describes as, “Making Beast Barracks look like a summer vacation”.

On the selection course there are daytime and night time challenges, runs and marches, obstacle courses etc. And simply to be chosen for the selection course was an achievement in itself.

However 42% of the candidates that she observed, pulled out of the training of their own free will before the selection course had finished.

She found that a high score on the ‘Grit scale’ predicted who would make it through the Selection Course. So grit in candidates was the best predictor of future success – not talent.

She states: “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another”.

grit-versus-iq-scoreAfter a number of years teaching, Angela Duckworth could see very clearly that “talent was not destiny”, and she decided to leave teaching for psychology, as she wanted to get really clear about the role that effort made in achievement.

In her book she mentions that Darwin considered that the factors which make up achievement are hard work and enthusiasm, and that they were fundamentally of greater value than intellectual ability.

But she discovered from surveys conducted in America over many years, that, although many people state, and seem to believe, that hard work was more significant a characteristic than intelligence, in fact they actually believed the opposite.

People who were ‘naturally gifted’ were rated more highly than people who were very hard workers. She therefore considered that: “We have an ambivalence towards talent and effort”.

When people rate talent so highly, this means that other factors are considered much less valuable. And this further means that other abilities, including grit, are not valued (or are downgraded).

Angela Duckworth gives examples of the value of grit in two case studies, and I will summarise the example she gives of the progress of Scott Kaufman. Kaufman is a psychologist who now has three degrees and plays the cello for fun.

When he was young he was considered to be a slow learner. He suffered a lot from ear infections and this affected his ability to process information. He was put into special education classes (because of assumed low ability to learn) at school, and had to repeat third grade.

After a nerve-wracking interview with a school psychologist, who gave him lots of tests, he performed badly and was sent to a special education school for children with learning disabilities.

scott-calloutWhen he was fourteen one of the specialist teachers decided to ask Scott why he wasn’t in a more demanding class.

Scott told Angela Duckworth that up until that time, he’d always assumed that because he wasn’t talented, there wouldn’t be much that he could do with his life.

The fact that he met a teacher who believed in his potential was a huge revelation for Scott. At that time he found himself wondering, ”Who am I? Am I a learning disabled kid with no real future? Or maybe something else?”

So what he did then was to try to find the answer to those questions! He enrolled on as many demanding school activities as he could. He joined the choir, and the school musical, and the Latin class. He wasn’t the top in everything, but he learned in the classes.

What Scott learned”, said Angela Duckworth, “was that he wasn’t hopeless.”

As Scott’s grandfather had been a cellist in the Philadelphia orchestra for 50 years, he asked his grandfather if he would give him cello lessons. Scott started practising for 8 or 9 hours a day, not just because he really liked playing, but because:

“I was so driven to just show someone, anyone, that I was intellectually capable of anything. At this point I didn’t care what it was”. (Page 32)

He was so good on the cello that he managed to get a place in the High School orchestra. He then increased his practice even more, and by the end of his second year, he was the second-best cellist in the orchestra; and awards from the Music Department were given to him regularly.

Scott’s classwork marks improved and his enthusiasm and curiosity about new subjects expanded. But he was dogged by his low IQ scores from childhood.

grit-quote2This restriction continued until the day came when he decided to apply to the Carnegie Mellon University. He was fascinated by the concept of IQ and he wanted to study intelligence, so he applied for a cognitive science course.

In spite of the fact that he had very high grades for his work, and lots of achievements from his extracurricular activities, he was rejected. It was apparent to Scott that it had been the results from his SAT scores that had kept him from being offered a place.

However, he was very determined. “I had grit”, he said. “….I’m going to find a way to study what I want to study”. He applied for the Carnegie Mellon Opera programme of study. This was because they didn’t look very hard at SAT scores and focussed on musical aptitude and expression.

So in Scott’s first year he took a psychology course as an elective, and then added psychology as a minor. Then he transferred his major from Opera to Psychology. And then he graduated at the end of the degree course with a high scholastic distinction, in psychology!

Scott Kaufman then went on to earn several more degrees, and to work in an American university as a psychologist. Angela Duckworth shows empathy towards Scott for the following reason:

“Like Scott, I took an IQ test early in my schooling and was deemed insufficiently bright to benefit from gifted and talented classes. For whatever reason – maybe a teacher asked that I be retested – I was evaluated again the following year, and I made the cut. I guess you could say I was borderline gifted.”

She considers that  focussing on the amount of talent an individual has, is a distraction from something of equal value and she considers that “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”

Image resultShe quotes Nietzsche’s views on why societies place talent over the hard work ethic.

“Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.”

He wanted people to think of very high achievers as crafts(people).  He wrote this:

“Do not talk about giftedness, (or) inborn talents! One can name great (people) of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became geniuses…they all acquired the seriousness of the efficient crafts(person)  who first learns to construct the parts properly before they venture to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole”.

So what can we take away from Angela Duckworth’s investigation into the concept of ‘grit’? She concludes the book by explaining that you can grow your own grit – and she considers that there are two ways of doing it:

She suggests that you yourself can decide which interest you are going to put your precious time and energy into, link up your work with a wider purpose that benefits others, and learn the value of hope, when situations look bleak.

You can also give yourself daily challenges to develop your skill levels. She describes this as “Growing your grit from the inside out”.

mozarts-dadBut you can also grow your grit level “From the outside in”. This is done by having support from parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors and friends. They can make a great difference. Where would Mozart have been without his musical father?  And where would Bill Gates be without a wealthy lawyer father, and – from 1968 onwards, as an 8th grader – unlimited access to a computer terminal at his private school?  (So grit is very important, but so also is external support, and ‘door openers’ [or people who ‘allow you in’]).

Conclusion

How does knowing about the Grit Scale help us? It means that there is solid research that shows that talent can only take us so far. And there are things that are more important than talent as determinants of success.

With a great start in life, having supportive and encouraging parents, for example, we can develop our natural talents to a high level. But at some point, unless we develop gritty behaviours, we will not develop our talents fully.

The really good news is that if we practice these ‘Gritty behaviours’ shown on Angela’s scale, then we’ll  reap the rewards in terms of completing the courses of study we undertake; and achieving the necessary qualifications; so that we can create solid careers for ourselves.

Or, we can create a richer and more satisfying life for ourselves if we follow our interests with passion and perseverance, whether we earn a wage for it, or not.

Finally, in Angela Duckworth’s book, she describes the findings from journalist Hester Lacey’s interviews with very creative people. Each of them was asked, “What was your greatest disappointment?”

The responses she received to this question were almost always identical:

“Well – I don’t really think in terms of disappointment. I tend to think that everything that happens is something I can learn from. I tend to think, ‘Well, okay. That didn’t go so well, but I guess I will just carry on’.”

A pretty gritty response!

I strongly recommend Angela Duckworth’s TED talk,

 

and her book, which has lots more interesting things in it (including a generously-shared account by Angela of her own use of grit when a tutor for her degree course advised her to drop the cognitive psychology course she was studying because they didn’t think she was capable of passing it)!

But this is the longest blog I’ve written, and I didn’t want to include any more, as it would be straining your grit muscles too far.

In fact, if you’ve got this far – well done for sticking with my review! And if you do the grit test, it will give you valuable self-knowledge. If you share what you’ve learned about grit and the grit test with someone in your family or a good friend of yours, who may be struggling with a challenge they are facing at the moment, it can really be very helpful for them. The scale shows clearly how you can develop your grit muscles.

Best of luck! Hang in there!

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

 

References:

Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance. By Angela Duckworth (2016), London, Vermillion.

Outliers – The Story of Success. By Malcolm Gladwell (2008), London, Allen Lane.

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How can having a coach help anyone?

Blog Post No. 37

20th July 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: How can having a coach help anyone?

Introduction

          “If I am through learning, I am through”. John Wooden

Callout 1In this blog I want to explain why consulting a coach can be real value for money.

It’s not dead obvious how a coach can help you, and many people think that coaches are only for footballers, rugby players, tennis players and other sports-people, business people – but not for ordinary people.

But why not?

Ordinary people face massive challenges which are just as crucial, if not more so, than the challenges faced by people who are preparing for the Olympics!

Ordinary people (and extraordinary non-athletes!) face great challenges as they work to provide for themselves and their loved ones

Here are some of the massive challenges people face in ordinary life, as they try to create a decent life for themselves and their families:

# Many thousands of people are having to deal with information overload at work and the demands of unrealistic unsympathetic managers; and the insidious, Dickensian “zero hours” contracts; whilst trying to create a stable and loving home for growing children.

# Employees have the stress of constant change in computer systems and keeping up to date with new technologies, whilst holding onto a demanding job.

# Many people are involved in handling the demands of young and teenage children and partners, and managing the inevitable work-life conflicts constructively.

Journey-work# Thousands of people are unemployed or living on a pension with a limited number of ways of creating a decent life for themselves.

# If you are a young adult, you can be faced with seemingly inescapable peer group pressures, both online and in the surrounding culture, whilst trying to succeed in your studies or in finding a half-decent job for yourself.

# There are many people in this country who are handling the disruption and suffering which is involved in having to leave their country of origin and their families, because their lives were at risk, coming to a new culture.

They are living with the uncertainty of unemployment, poor or absent accommodation and identity status – and also are having to deal with the prejudices and lack of empathy of the host culture.

There are many other pressures people face, heroically, day in and day out, and these can be much more demanding, emotionally and psychologically, than those challenges faced by sportsmen and women.

So why don’t ordinary people have coaches, just like millions of athletes, sportspeople and business people and politicians do?

Collecting-childrenMostly they don’t have coaches because they have never been properly informed about what a coach can do for them. And certainly the media has no interest whatsoever in getting the message across – there’s no money in it for them.

Instead, there are vast industries persuading people that they can feel better and be happier if they drink alcohol, eat sugary foods and special meals, get new clothes, have new haircuts, cosmetic surgery, mobile phones, gadgets, exotic holidays, new cars – the list is endless.January-sales

So what can a coach do? How do they compete with all the goodies which are on sale to distract people from their worries?

What a coach can provide for you

“All coaching is, is taking a player where they can’t take themselves”.

Bill McCartney

Here is a partial and brief list of what a coach could do for you:

Callout 21…They give you very strong support and validation. They mirror you as you really are, and not as you view yourself. Inevitably, we see ourselves through eyes clouded with the distorting mirror of our families and culture. But good, well informed coaches, because of their research and understanding of the human brain, know your full capabilities and know how your full potential can be realised – though not overnight. It takes time – but with their help you can start to see, understand, dismantle and overcome some of the barriers which restrict you, both internally and/or externally.

“There is no such thing as a self-made person. You will reach your goals only with the help of others”. George Shinn

2. Your coach is on your team, 100%, and is a strong and consistent ally; and together, you can create a better and more meaningful life for yourself, as they help you to achieve your valued goals.

Struggling on your own is what most people do, but with the support of a coach you can speed up the process of shaping your life.*

3. Please remember: you can’t buy – (from the shops and the side-shows of this culture) – greater confidence, emotional fulfilment (or the satisfaction that comes from finding your passion and knowing how you can create a meaningful career for yourself). Don’t be fooled by the glossy adverts!

Being-listened-toBut with a good coach (or a counsellor or therapist) – whose reputation you can find out about – you can work together and have a safe setting in which you create a customised life plan for yourself. (Be careful who you go to, as there are good and bad coaches out there!)

If you decide to change your life or develop specific skills e.g. relationship, academic, self-expression skills, etc., this can be very hard, but a good coach can provide you with invaluable feedback – constructive and honest but encouraging and motivating information about your progress.

Tool-box4. Finally the good coach (or counsellor or therapist) has a tool-box full of useful models and techniques that you can learn from, use and carry with you for the rest of your life. They also know how difficult it can be to change habits and they know the specific ways that habit formation can take place.

Not bad, for the cost of an evening in the pub!

Conclusion

Ivan-lendlGood coaches make a great difference to people’s lives!

Can you imagine Andy Murray winning at Wimbledon 2016, without the invaluable support of his respected coach, Ivan Lendl? Murray wanted to achieve his goal, and knew that he couldn’t achieve it on his own.

I’ll finish with a couple of great quotes:

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them”.

Dennis Waitley

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MurrayDo you need help to change some aspect of your life?

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“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Are you engaging in any change experiments at the moment?

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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