October 25, 2014

Flow and mindfulness

Automatic negative thoughts about yourself can hinder your performance and well-being.  Here, I describe two ways to protect yourself against them: flow and mindfulness-meditation.

Researchers Michael Robinson and Maya Tamir (2011) compared two types of brain activity: task-focused and self-focused. These two states of mind inhibit each other: when one of them becomes more active, the other becomes less active. The authors wrote that a task-focus is associated with positive affect, mental health, and productivity while a self-focused processing mode is associated with negative affect, psychopathology, and lesser task success.

October 22, 2014

Rethinking Positive Thinking by Gabriele Oettingen

In a new book, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, Gabriele Oettingen of NYU summarizes twenty years of research she has done together with her collaborators. This research has focused on the functions and effects of positive fantasies and of a technique called mental contrasting.

Progress-focused summarizing

Progress-focused professionals often summarize what their conversation partners have said. The summary is spoken in what is sometimes called a tentative tone. This means that the tone is not firm and assertive but it is as if there is a little question mark at the end of each sentence. This makes it easier for the conversation partner to feel free to make any corrections, if needed, to the summary.

October 17, 2014

Practicing together via the circle technique

As a reader of this blog you will probably have heard about the circle technique. I have often described how simple it is and how broadly applicable. For example, you can use it in individual coaching, self-coaching, and team coaching. But you can also use it in training courses. In our training courses, we use the circle technique to let participants work together in a very focused way on improving their skills and knowledge. We do this exercise in three steps. It works as follows.

Strengthening your prefrontal cortex

In his book The Marshmallow Test, Walther Mischel describes how the capability of children and adults to exercise self-control has a big impact on their lives. Individuals who are capable of delaying gratification and resist temptations are better capable of focusing on achieving long-term goals. They fare better in many ways than individuals who are less able to exercise self-control. Two brain systems play an important role in succumbing to or resisting temptations.

October 11, 2014

The 10-minute rule

Brain scientist John Medina wrote the bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (2008). The book described 12 rules which we can use to organize our work and life in ways that fit the way our brains work. A rule which interested me and which I remember clearly (I read the book in 2008) is rule 4: "We don't pay attention to boring things" en in particular one aspect of that rule which is the 10-minute rule.

October 8, 2014

Having to explain helps learning

Have you ever experienced that explaining things to others can be a learning experience for yourself, too? That is a bit paradoxical, isn't it? Our basic idea is that the person to whom the material is explained is the person who is supposed to learn from the process. But if you consider the situation more closely it is not so strange after all that the person who does the explaining also learns.

October 2, 2014

The Marshmallow Test by Walther Mischel

Walther Mischel is a 84 year old professor at Columbia University. He is the author of a fascinating new book called The Marshmallow test. Mischel became known at the end of the 1960s, mainly through his publications about two topics. The first topic was the degree to which situations influence human behavior. He did research which showed that the idea that people have stable personality traits which cause us to behave consistently over many situations is largely a myth. Instead, he demonstrated, we tend to behave quite differently in different contexts. Thus, characteristics of situations have a significant influence on how we behave.

The second topic was self-control. Together with colleagues he did much research into the causes and consequences of self-control, in particular with regard to how children manage to delay gratification. The series of experiments which these researchers did have become know under the popular name of the Marshmallow test, hence the book title.

October 1, 2014

Walking to improve relationships

Recently I wrote about the creativity enhancing effect of walking. In that article I referred to research which showed that walking (especially outdoors) makes it easier to generate ideas. I also mentioned that this effect continues for a while when you site down after your walk. This week I spoke about this with a client and she told me that she had used walking to improve her relationship with one of her team members. When I asked her how walking had helped her to do that she said that walking had been helpful because while walking you are moving and you don't have to look at each other all the time.