December 25, 2014

The world keeps making progress

The new radio advertisement of UNICEF in my country says: "The world is on fire. But children did not light it." I believe that UNICEF is a great organization but I dislike that they use the phrase "the world is on fire".

There is, of course, much suffering in the world and there are gruesome things going on. It seems like the daily news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, and crime. But if the daily news is the only thing you depend on, the world always looks like a powder keg. And while I think it is useful and necessary for the news to pay attention to the horrors of the world, there is another way of looking at reality which is also important.

December 11, 2014

Two concerns about mindfulness meditation

Let me start off by stating that mindfulness and mindfulness meditation deserve our attention. There is a great deal of empirical evidence that shows that mindfulness and mindfulness meditation can be beneficial in multiple ways (read this and this for more information). Having said that I'd now like to express two concerns.

8 Principles in progress-focused change

Progress-focused principles and techniques are not only useful in individual conversations and team facilitation processes but also in facilitating organizational change. Here are a few principles I propose for organizational change.
  1. Share decision making / work as participatively as possible: change is acceptable when people feel that they can (at least partly) influence or even determine what the change is and how it is shaped. 

December 9, 2014

The negative effects of needs thwarting

Self-determination theory shows that people have basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These basic needs are universal (people of every culture have them) and present throughout life. In this article Maarten Vansteenkiste and Richard Ryan say that the satisfaction of these basic needs is related to well-being and resilience. The frustration of these needs evokes feelings of ill-being and creates behavioral and psychological problems. The figure below (which I have very slightly adapted based on the text) summarizes the negative effects of the basic needs not being satisfied:

Growth mindset and accepting responsibility

People with a growth mindset find it easier to accept responsibility for what they have done wrong. Because of this they have a better chance of reconciling with their victims.
Who Accepts Responsibility for Their Transgressions?Schumann & Dweck (2014)
Abstract: After committing an offense, transgressors can optimize their chances of reconciling with the victim by accepting responsibility. However, transgressors may be motivated to avoid admitting fault because it can feel threatening to accept blame for harmful behavior. Who, then, is likely to accept responsibility for a transgression? We examined how implicit theories of personality—whether people see personality as malleable (incremental theory) or fixed (entity theory)—influence transgressors’ likelihood of accepting responsibility.

December 8, 2014

The benefits of reframing for delaying

Recently, I wrote about Walter Mischel's new book The Marshmallow Test. In the book Mischel describes his experiments which show that children who were more able to delay gratification in the face of temptations, on average had more successful and happier lives than children who were worse a delay gratification. Rather than necessarily exercising great willpower, these children tended to apply several mental techniques such as distracting themselves and reframing the situation. Now, there is a study demonstrating the benefits of reframing for delaying:

December 7, 2014

Brain activity and (non-)self-determined behavior

Recently, I have mentioned some fMRI studies investigating which brain areas are involved in self-determined (autonomously motivated) and non-self-determined (forced, non-volitional) behavior. In this post I'll try to summarize these findings in a pictures of the brain. First I'll summarize the findings in words.

Woogul Lee and his colleagues (Lee, 2011; Lee & Reeve, 2012Lee et al., 2013) investigated the differences in brain activation for behaviors which were self-determined based on intrinsic motivation and non-self-determined behaviors based on extrinsic motivation (such as rewards). They found that the anterior insular cortex (AIC) was more active during the self-determined (intrinsically motivated) behaviors. The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the angular gyrus were more active during non-self-determined (extrinsically motivated) behaviors. The ventral striatum was more active while doing interesting tasks.

December 5, 2014

Each session can be the last

The realization that each session can be the last, and that both clients and coaches can decide to stop, often works well, both for coaches and clients. 

In progress-focused coaching we work with the old (solution-focused) principle that each coaching session can be the last. This means that, after each conversation, clients can decide whether they find it useful to have another conversation. One reason for stopping could be that clients found the conversation not so useful. Sometimes this happens but not so often. More often the reason is that clients found the conversation so useful that they feel that, for the time being, they can proceed on their own and don't need further help. Of course, if, later, it turns out they do need further help, a new appointment can be made.

December 4, 2014

Self-determination theory and the brain

On this site, I've mentioned self-determination theory often. Many studies have shown that being able to make choices which are based on your interests and values has many benefits for people. In nearly all these studies questionnaires and behavior observations were used but also more objective measures such as performance measures. There have been relatively few neuroscientific studies into the effects of making self-determined choices. This type of research is now coming off the ground. This enables us to gain insight into which brain areas and mechanisms play major roles in autonomous functioning.

December 3, 2014

Silver lining theories increase performance

A new paper suggests that believing that negative personal characteristic tend to be associated with positive sides benefits one's performance. Here is the abstract of that paper.
Holding a silver lining theory: When negative attributes heighten performance - Alexandra Wesnouskya, Gabriele Oettingen, Peter Gollwitzer (2014) 
Abstract: Holding a lay theory that a negative personal attribute is associated with a positive attribute (i.e., a silver lining theory), may increase effortful performance in the domain of the positive attribute.

December 2, 2014

Mindfulness, work engagement, and affect

Being mindfully aware and engaged at work? The role of affect regulative processes for the relationship between daily levels of mindfulness and work engagement

Franziska Depenbrock (2014), Maastricht University Master thesis

Abstract: The present study investigated the relationship between mindfulness, defined as a state of receptive attentiveness to and awareness of the current moment, and employees’ engagement at work. Furthermore, the role of affect regulative processes for this relationship was explored: First, positive affect was examined as a mediator between mindfulness and work engagement. Second, mindfulness was examined as a buffer against the detrimental effects of negative affect and negative affective events on work engagement. Seventy-six employees reconstructed their activities and experiences at work episodically on a workday (57% female, M age = 40 years). Results partially confirmed the hypotheses.

December 1, 2014

The line opens in the conversation

Last week in our progress-focused training course the theme of the day was 'dealing effectively with resistance and conflicts'. Throughout that day participants got the opportunity to practice, try out new approaches and techniques, and get help and feedback. We started the day, as we usually do, with a getting-into-it exercise.  We asked participants to form couples and to tell each other about a situation in which they had been satisfied with the way they had dealt with a situation in which there had been resistance or some sort of dispute. We invited them to talk about this for 15 minutes and to also reflect on what had worked in these situations.

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