Happy Year of the SNAKE!
Happy New Century,
Just 357 shopping days to Christmas.... depending upon what part of the World you are in. Time enough to make and break some resolutions. Perhaps the best way is living one day at a time, or even from moment to moment. But then what of planning? If we focus entirely on now how are achievements achieved? How are accomplishments accomplished? How are our actuals actualised - actually? This time around I'm going to dwell a little on time and a little on creation and a little on Sports psychology. And since it's been a while I'm going to use the lens of NLP.
Experience has a Structure
We are what we eat. Anyone who has over-indulged during the Christmas season will realise this. We are also what we don't eat. Babies denied adequate food grow up stunted with lower IQs. Eating is an experience. We are the totality of our experiences. But if we are what we have not eaten we are also what we have not experienced. So this means we are what we have experienced and what we have not experienced. Help!
I've just read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig and have yet to recover. I'd better start again.
We are whatever we choose to be. We are constantly choosing to be. We are constantly creating. From what we choose to be springs our actions and from what we do springs the results. So what we get, i.e. what we have comes from what we do and what we do comes from what we choose to be. Oops.. now I've fallen into the rhetoric of Conversations with God by Neil Daniel Walsh. One more time.
We create our experience. Consider that we can all experience an event differently. I can look out of the window find it is snowing and curse that I can't hang out my washing. Or I can look out of the window and cheer that I'll be able to going skiing (well I could if I could ski). Our expectations affect how we experience something. But also the way we experience our experience determines the nature and quality of the experience. For example when people with phobias are asked to imagine what they have a phobia for they invariably create a bright, powerfully intense image - they literally live the fear. But by changing how they think they can neutralise the phobia. I myself used to have an abnormal fear of cockroaches. I could barely stand to be in the same room as one. For me they were huge, black shiny and slimy - the size of rhinos. One time I was talking with a friend about them and I said "They're so big!" He was surprised. For him they were very small. Later I discovered that when I change the image, when I disassociate so I'm no longer looking out of my own eyes but watching myself up on some movie screen the abject fear is gone. I still don't like cockroaches but now I can deal with them.
Hang on a minute, I said experience but then I jumped to talking about imagination. But how is experience different from our thoughts and memories? We are what we think we are - so we'd better be careful about what we think we are.
The Map is not the Territory
Somewhere in Language Hungry by Tim Murphey there's a cartoon about juggling. I remember it being there but I can't check now because I've lent the book to someone who hasn't returned it. In the cartoon two beginners learn how to juggle. One makes positive images of himself juggling, the other sees himself as a hopeless failure. In the final panel of the cartoon both beginners have reached the same level of competence. One sees the result as success, the other as failure. When thinking about your attitude to learning which beginner are you like? I was definitely the miserable one. I always used to measure myself against the best. And since I could never measure up to the experts I inevitably used to give up. It took me a long time to realise that expertise is not static. It ebbs and flows. There is less and there is more.
Japanese adult language learners often seem to fall into the "I'm no good at this, this is hopeless, it's too difficult, I didn't want to do it anyway" category. They make mental models in which they fail to learn - and then they fail to learn. It's as if their imagination of failing to learn becomes the reality of their experience.
I always maintain with my students that learning is easy. I don't disagree with them when they tell me it's difficult, instead I concentrate on getting them to appreciate the idea that difficulties spring from a lack of 'know how'. I encourage them to reformulate - to change the idea that something is difficult into the notion that it is challenging. If the material appears difficult that means the material provides the opportunity to learn a lot. And that means a lot of progress can be made. Again it all comes back to point of view.
The six characteristics of a Positive Mental Attitude
1. Inner Motivation
2. The value of High Standards
3. Chunking Down Goals
4. Combining Present and Future Time Frames
5. Personal Involvement
6. Self to Self Comparisons
These six characteristics were put together by NLP trainer, Gary Faris sometime after he was knocked down by a truck while out running. At the time doctors told him he was lucky to be alive but that he would never walk normally again. He proved them wrong by recovering completely. He did so by using the NLP presupposition If one person can do something then anyone can. He seriously studied top athletes that had overcome life destroying injuries looking for the 'know-how For two years he was in sports rehabilitation. His dedication and attention to detail brought him back to full health. The six characteristics above were the core characteristics shared by those who fully recovered. They are worth examining.
At first sight number 2 and number 6 appear at odds. How can we have high standards if we don't compare ourselves to others? Robert Pirsig would answer that we all instinctively know what quality is. For the athletes that Gary Faris studied the high standards were internal. They knew what they were capable of and they were determined to achieve it. They had experienced peak performance and they would settle for nothing less and in many cases they were demanding more. Their goals were to be even better than before.
Comparing ourselves with others is a mental trap. One reason I abhor testing and grades is it trains children to accept the trap as having real value. Athletes undergoing sports rehabilitation know that it is futile and damaging to compare themselves with others. Instead they focus on improvement. They know where they want to be but focus on the tiny improvements over their present condition. Stretching a little further, wiggling their toes a little longer. It is their ability to take delight in and internally celebrate tiny advances that get them to the point where they can achieve the total goal. This is the process of chunking down goals and combining present and future time frames. Athletes concentrate on the details of now, focusing on the movement of the moment but by using their imaginations they experience the joy of their future success. They literally be come successful.
Inner motivation and personal involvement are the pistons that keep the engine of the moment going. Gary Faris found that it was a mistake to rely solely on the experts. This is not to deny the importance of expert knowledge and advice but he noticed that the athletes that made the greatest progress were the ones who took their own decisions. They worked at solving the problems facing them, themselves. They imagined in detail consequences to avoid and desirable goals to spur them on. They used both away from and toward motivation. They used their imagination.
New Year Resolutions are familiar to all of us. Good intentions pave the road to where? A year is good example of a goal that is too big. Often students balk at the idea of committing themselves to making changes for a whole year, and rightly so. I've found that by changing the focus and chunking down to the month level real gains can be made. I suggest that the students make a resolution to improve their English. I give them a handout with some suggestions and ask them to select at least one or make their own. At the end of the month we have a kind of debriefing in which we talk about our success or lack of it. Then we make fresh resolutions for the next month. It's interesting how students find their own level of involvement. Some choose to do nothing which I accept. Some take on far too much. I accept this as well. Part of the exercise is learning to make realistic assessments of what is possible given the time frame and level of commitment involved. Here are some sample resolutions:
My New Resolution - learn more English!
This January I'm going to....
Listen to a song in English every day/ ____ times a week.
Watch the news in English every day/ ____ times a week.
Read something in English every day/ ____ times a week.
When I have a shower, plan my day in English.
Telephone a friend and speak English on the phone ____ times a week.
Have an ‘English only’ meal ____ times a week.
Learn one new English verb every day.
Keep a diary in English.
Just the other day I discovered that the Chinese Zodiac and the Japanese Zodiac are different. Apparently there's a goat in the Chinese one which is a sheep in the Japanese zodiac. Anyway here is a crossword puzzle I made for some of students. There's only one clue. The idea is that the students write down the zodiac signs and then fit them into the crossword. This time there's no answer - you can work it out for yourself!
Last year I had a success. I learned to accept cucumber. Any of my students will tell you that cucumber is a vegetable I love to hate. When I was young I used to complain to my mother if she cut bread with a knife she'd used to cut cucumber. I could tell! Salads outside my home used to be a nightmare. Now all this has changed. I can crunch cucumber with anyone. I changed my mind. I did it by changing my internal representations of cucumber eating. I created a mind movie with an exhilarating sound track. I saw myself enjoying cucumber, I told my self it was great. I imagined doing this and brought the experience of this memory back when I ate cucumber for real. It worked. Just think what a little imagination can do for you...
What lies beyond us and what lies behind us
are tiny matters when compared to
what lies within us
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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