February 26, 2015

Looking wiser at your situation by taking some distance

By looking at your problems from a distance, by taking a third person perspective, you may come to wiser judgments.

A powerful tool for making progress in many situations in the perspective-change technique. This tool enables you to look at your situation from a third person perspective. In progress-focused coaching we use this principle by asking perspective-change questions. An example of such a question is: "How would other people notice your situation will have improved?" In this article I describe evidence for the motivating effect of visualizing such a third person perspective. In this article I describe how you can use perspective changes to prepare for difficult conversations. A new publication demonstrates that it is easier to come to wise judgments when taking a third person perspective.

February 23, 2015

Mindfulness-meditation reduces stress

Mindfulness meditation (MM) leads to many health benefits. It now begins to become apparent that this is mainly due to a reduced stress experience. 

Previously I wrote about the emerging research into the health benefits of MM. That MM has health benefits has become clear from overview studies like this one and this one. There is also research which shows that MM leads to structural (anatomic) changes in the brain, such as this study (thickening of the right insula and somatosensoric cortex), this study (forming of gyri), this study (higher density of grey matter in the hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, de temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum), this study (looser connections between the dmPFC and the insula and amygdala). Also, there is research which shows that MM reduces blood pressure and the experience of stress. Taken together, studies such as these suggest that MM causes all sorts of good things to happen but there is no clear overarching theory about how MM triggers these positive effects.

February 22, 2015

The combination of critical thinking and hope

Hope without critical thinking leads to naïveté and critical thinking without hope leads to cynicism. To survive, we need both.

An  interesting new article by Maria Popova (photo) contains some valuable insights. One phrase which struck me was: "The assumptions people make about the motives of others always reveal a great deal more about the assumers than the assumed-about." Another one which I like is: "But evil only prevails when we mistake it for the norm."

February 20, 2015

Let's be a drop in the waves

When we hear about the various tensions and problems in the world we may feel fearful and powerless. Is our freedom in serious danger due to religion-inspired terrorism? Could an upswing of the radical right throw us back to the time of world war II? Is there a serious threat of large-scale war because of the Ukraine conflict? Will global warming bring serious deterioration to people and environment? Does commercialization of medical practice lead to a situation in which we can no longer trust doctors?

February 19, 2015

7 Dimensions of mindset

Are you a teacher or a parent inspired by Carol Dweck's growth mindset? In that case, you may be looking for a way to help children to develop their mindset. An interesting way to do this is by a simple tool called the Mindset Works Effective Effort Rubric. This is a table which, by use of 7 dimensions of mindset, shows the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. What you can do is to sit down with kids and look at the matrix and ask them how they are currently dealing with each of these dimensions.

February 16, 2015

Moving Parkinson's symptoms away?

Several times, I have mentioned the benefits of walking (see here, here, and here). In my review of Erik Scherder's book Laat je hersenen niet zitten I summarized the benefits of walking as he describes them. Daily moderately intensive physical activity, for at least half an hour, not only contributes to a better physical health but also to keeping your brain healthy. It helps to improve cognitive functioning and delays and often decreases brain related diseases. Scherder quotes research which shows that the benefits of physical activity have mainly been demonstrated for people who have not yet been affected by brain disorders and diseases. For people who do already have these kinds of problems there is much less evidence, in some cases because little relevant research has been done, in other cases because the findings of studies which have been done are varied and inconclusive.

February 14, 2015

Resetting during the conversation

Have you ever experienced, as a coach or consultant, that you were in a conversation with a client and felt that the conversation wasn't going too well? I guess we all have experienced that. Perhaps the conversation wasn't going too well because your own contribution in the conversation was not the best, for example because your questions were not so relevant or your way of responding to what the other person has said was not adequate. Or maybe you were not satisfied with the conversation because your conversation partner did not seem to find the conversation useful or pleasant. You may get such an impression when they frown or seem to have some resistance. Wouldn't you like to be able to reset the conversation in such situations? Well, you can. Here is a simple way in which you can do that.

February 8, 2015

How we can age vitally

The knowledge about how we can age vitally grows. Of course, this is not completely under our control but we can increase its chance. 

In my book Progressiegericht werken I conjecture that we can make meaningful progress into old age. I think that we can do a number of things which can increase the chance of ageing vitally. In other words, that we can keep a relatively clear and sharp mind, that we can stay relatively physically fit, and the we can keep enjoying ourselves and stay motivated. If my conjecture turns out to be right that will be very nice. Then, we will not only have been able to add 10 years, on average to our lives, over the last 50 years. We also will be ale to use these years well and live relatively happily.

February 6, 2015

Helping managers to be clear

Sometimes team leaders, or managers, or whatever you want to call them, are not so clear in what they expect from people working in their team. Sometimes they hope that an external coach or trainer can take over and provide this clarity for them. That usually does not work. 

Leaders don't always find it easy to be clear about their expectations of employees. This may be due to the fact that they don't want to be authoritarian or to the fact that, in the past, they may have had some negative reactions from employees when they tried to be clear about their expectations. As a coach I once got a request from a manager to coach one of his team members. I asked what his goal was for the coaching and he responded in what I thought were vague terms. I do not remember precisely what he said -it was nearly 15 years ago- but I got the impression that the coaching was entirely intended to be for the benefit of the team member and that the manager did not have any specific expectations of the coaching himself.

February 5, 2015

Attribution and a growth mindset

We can often easily influence how other people interpret their failing. By doing this we may make it easier for them to persist. 

In psychology we have discovered that people continuously search for explanations for what happens in their lives. This process, which is called attribution, often happens unconsciously. When people think that causes of what happened and of their own behaviors lie outside of themselves, we speak of external attribution. When they think causes lie within themselves we speak of internal attribution. How people attribute influences both how they view themselves and they choices they make and, because of that, how they will develop.

February 2, 2015

Neuroplasticity and healing

New findings about neuroplasticity are not only generally important for each of us but also for healing of brain diseases. 

The discovery of how great the plasticity of the human brain is is important and useful for everyone. We all have the capacity to keep developing our brains and this capacity remains into old age. Why this important for everybody is because what we do and how we live continuously influences how our brains stay vital and keep developing. Some ways of living can increase our chances of developing brain diseases and problems while other ways of living decrease these chances. As I wrote in this review of Erik Scherder's book, Laat je hersenen niet zitten, physical activity and cognitive challenge contribute to keeping your brain vital and healthy. The combination of these two activities promotes, among other things, the growth of new neurons, the survival of these new neurons, and the development of new connections between neurons.

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