Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to Have Hope

Hope is the elixir that rejuvenates our personal development program. So often we fall flat in our self development efforts. Failure discourages and we are loath to get up and keep trying. Setting hard and fast goals and rules also makes personal development an unduly discomforting chore-not fun at all.

The environment in which we grew up, and our current situation also is hardly encouraging. This is the reality for most people. How many of your partners, parents, or friends keep on encouraging you after a fall? You are lucky if you have such a support system. For the vast majority of us, the reality is other wise-we become the butt of sarcastic jokes. People already consider us a nutcase for being personal development fans, and one cannot blame them if they take delight in our slips and falls. The reason is obvious: our efforts at transformation are forcing them to face themselves, posing the need for their own change before them.

In these circumstances, we will do well to have an internal support and encouragement system that comforts and gives us hope during our falls. Falls are bound to happen in our journey towards becoming better beings. This internal support system works like a gyroscope mechanism that stabilises itself when upset. Or it is like the magnetic needle that turns around and points back at North, however much it is disturbed.

I have found the following affirmation of immense help in this regard:
                                       Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.

I had been trying to get up earlier in the morning and the results were none too encouraging. Affirmations and a daily review diary were the main tools. I used to get depressed and discouraged each time I woke up late.

When I started using the above affirmation by Emily Coue, I noticed changes, even though they were in very small amounts. I am finding myself gradually waking up earlier. Some days I may slip back, but I don't beat myself up; instead I keep repeating the above affirmation. It is best to repeat it just before going to bed at night. It removes the sinking feeling of a failure and replaces it with hope.

I guess the subconscious rewards us for the trust that we place in it. It makes personal transformation easier and enjoyable.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Need for Focus in Online Writing

Many aspiring writers aim for diverse fields, hoping to make a success in every field. While it is OK to have many goals, online success boils down to this:
  • You are always selling to a market.
  • A market is a group of people with a specific need. You are addressing that need.
  • Your success depends on how well you address this need.
  • One of the best ways to do this is to focus on just one market in a blog /site.
Now imagine you have promoted your site/ blog/ writing in one particular market. That is a promise to the reader and he/she follows the link and visits your online window. If you have stuck to your promise and addressed just that market, your visitor will be satisfied.

But imagine if you sidetracked a bit and decided to do something on a whim: For instance you are maintaining a  personal development blog and have promoted it as such. One day you find something funny (a picture or an article idea) and you like it so much that you decide to post it.

The visitor will be confused when he sees this post on your blog, as he was expecting personal development tips. He is not likely to return.

Thus focusing on your selected niche in a particular site/blog is important for drawing in targeted traffic and for maintaining it.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Overcome Fear of Failure

Have you a large number of ideas in the attic of your mind, but which you have never tried to implement? Have you the seeds of a novel in your mind, but are too anxious to try it out? Have you wanted to perform on stage, but are too apprehensive of how it will be received? These are examples of the fear of failure paralyzing potential creativity.

It has often been said that the average person uses hardly 10% of the potential of his or her brain. What prevents them from exploring the unused 90%? It is the fear of failure, also the fear of ridicule, of falling short of expectations. Isn't it a pity that so much of human talent goes to waste, just because of an irrational fear? If you overcome fear of failure, you can scale unimaginable heights in your career and your personal life.

How to know if I have a fear of failure?

Despite the facts above, the astonishing fact is that few people are even aware that they may be suffering from this fear in their psyche. This is an even more tragic situation: we don't even realize we have a hidden adversary, sabotaging our every attempt at self-actualization, of attaining our chosen goals. I'll tell you how I suffered below, but here is a quick method to find out if you have a fear of failure. If you find yourself tending to avoid certain tasks or situations, then it is likely that you are experiencing anxiety about the results of the situation. Anxiety is a visible form of latent fear.The fear itself could be rooted in traumatic experiences associated with similar situations in our past (childhood).

At school, I was a student with a good level of comprehension and curiosity and earned top grades till entering University. The fact was that I was egged on in studies by my parents. However, when I entered a professional engineering course, my grades plummeted. Eventhough I stood third (in that college) in the entrance exam for the course, at the end of the four-year course I was in the ignominious list of the non-performers, with a long backlog of failed subjects. It was a huge fall from grace for one who had scored cent percent in Mathematics during Pre-University.

Whenever I sat down to study or write a paper, I would become uncomfortable and get up. I would sit for hours staring at a page on Civil Engineering Structural Analysis, going over the sentences again and again, trying to grasp their meaning. This stemmed from the mistaken notion that one should always understand 100% of what one was reading. This is a recipe for failure because it is a perfectionist belief. The level of comprehension varies, depending on individuals, their mental and emotional states, health, and other factors. Most students gain an understanding of their subjects by repeated attempts. The first reading may yield apparently zero understanding, but it will improve with each repetition. When you are familiar with the basic concepts of a subject, this process will automatically speed up.

After ten minutes or so of attempting to comprehend a subject, I used to feel very uncomfortable. I had to  get up and dash off to watch a movie or binge on food. There was only one theater that showed English movies in the town nearby. I forgot my worries and phobias in the hot, stuffy hall, in the din of whizzing bullets and Jackie Chan's Kung fu stunts. It took many years for me to realise that I was experiencing deep anxiety, and was just running away from it.

The cause of  this anxiety dated back to my childhood days when I was forced to study at the threat of the rod. Added to it were the trauma of abuses and threats for studying, the tragedy of not being able to join my friends while they played, and the beatings on the exam eve. Sometimes my knuckles would have swollen to the size of cricket balls from beatings. All this stemmed from my mother's desire to make me into an engineer or a doctor. These were the only 'worthwhile' professions, in her point of view.

Fear of failure leads to stagnation
Granted, a major part of this fear of failure is contributed by factors beyond our control-child hood situations, circumstances at school and college, and ridicule from peers. Society seems hard wired to say 'No' to every new idea or concept. Ask thought leaders in a company and they will tell you of the tremendous resistance to change they face from the workforce, each time they try to bring in some innovation. Well, here it is fear of failure combined with the fear of change.

Sometimes, abundantly skilled artists and inventors fail miserably because they wouldn't, couldn't try out new ideas for fear of failure. Even when they had the confidence to try out new concepts, society adopted the most critical approach. Consider the case of Charles Franklin Kettering when he presented the electric self-starter for automobiles in 1911. This device made driving safer and much more convenient. But a prominent member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers reacted in this way: This man has profaned every fundamental law of Electrical Engineering...

No wonder we are so apprehensive of trying out creative, unconventional concepts. This fear of failure, of change seems ingrained in human society.

Overcoming the fear

So how do we break free of its strangle hold and venture out into the unexplored frontiers of our true potential?

There are several approaches:
  • Short-circuit the 'fear' response-control the Amygdala-the portion of the brain that triggers the flight response. Take things a ridiculously small bit at a time. Dr.Robert Maurer describes this process in his book  One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way One small step can change your life.  He has effectively used this to bring transformation in people apprehensive of change.
  • Techniques for silencing the chattering critic inside the brain. This includes techniques like:
  • Positive self-talk by hammering positive statements about yourself into your mind, so that it finally overrides the negative self-talk.
  • Writing daily affirmations that state an ideal image of you, with all positive qualities. You can also write affirmations stating an ideal outcome of a situation.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Save Yourself from Online Frauds

"How to Publish Your Book and Get Rich Quick" Screamed this title (or a similar one) at me from a successful writer's webpage. I had checked out her page for some tips on writing, she has a writing experience of more than 20 years. It was there that I saw this ad and her own write up for this book.

The title was intriguing and tempting enough (but the phrase Get Rich Quick should have warned me). I clicked on the link to Amazon, almost decided to buy, being at a low point. However, once inside, I tried to have an inside sample view of the book. There was none. The price was $18.95. There were three reviews, two of which were scathing and blasted the book, accusing the author of poor language, and unrefined content. One review was highly praising of the book, but my suspicions had already been roused.

Getting into Google land, I did a search on the author and found there were hardly any reviews on his books on the net. The book was available on Google books, and there also no sample view was available.

Further research revealed that the author had published only five books so far! This was tragic, considering that he had an arsenal of tricks to make money quick. Aha, Tricks- there was it again-the book offered tricks to skyrocket you to publishing success. That sealed it. There was no need for any tricks.

But the larger question here is, is it OK for authors of repute to promote such products?
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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dealing with Non-stop Talkers

Have you ever been caught up in a dialogue which in effect turned out to be a monologue? In your eagerness to practice the techniques of empathetic listening, you realize you have just walked into a non-stop one-way conversation bog. Did you feel like fleeing as the monologue flits across various topics of no consequence to you? Worse, the speaker asks you for an opinion, and before you get to express it, resumes the tirade.

This is especially trying when you are hard pressed for time, with a long list of things to do. Searching long for the answer, I found different people handled this in different ways. See the list below. some of the methods can appear rude and you have to consider your relationship with the person before applying them.
For instance, if it is somebody who is close to you like immediate family or your spouse, you need to be very careful and considerate. If it is your boss or colleague, again you have to exercise caution.

Non-stop talkers usually chatter off without considering the effect they are making on the listeners. You might be squirming to escape, but he/she fails to notice your discomfort.

An intelligent conversation is irrelevant here because the non-stop talker does not wait for your response, but is on a never ending monologue.

So here are the methods of escape:

  1. Get yourself relaxed. Counting your breaths is a simple way to do this. When you are relaxed, calmly look the chattering talker in the eye, in the spot between the eyes. Do not show any expression and do not force it into a staring contest. If you can maintain your steady gaze for some time, the person will slow down, and eventually stop. Be careful that he/she doesn't take it for aggression or romance. Break your gaze when you feel uncomfortable. Also, the person is likely to get unsettled after a few minutes of silent gazing. Then smile sincerely, excuse yourself and exit the scene (Before he starts on the next barrage, encouraged by your smile). You might need to practice gazing expressionless using a mirror.
  2. Mentally offer an affirmation of good will towards them: "I respect you. You need to be listened to, but first you need to listen to yourself"
  3. Listen for sometime, then excuse yourself saying you have some work to do.
  4. If the person is in deep mental agony or has a problem, of course you need to give your ears. Just take care it does not become a pattern. Everybody has to solve their own problems.
  5. Do not tell them about their talking problem unless you are confident of dealing with unexpected reactions.
  6. You cannot try the gazing technique on everybody. If the person concerned is your boss, you'd better keep your distance discretely.
The reason people talk non-stop is a chronic need for attention and validation.
Minty Mcnair gives some valuable tips on this issue here:Keys for Relating to Non-Stop Talkers.
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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Model Toddlers to Improve Your Learning Skills

If you have ever watched a child learning to walk, you have observed the principles of success in learning any new skill, for an entire lifetime. You probably do not need any more fancy training in learning skills. However, alas, we acquire a lot of unwanted training that hinders our successful learning.

The broad stages that a toddler learning to walk goes through are the following:
  • The child who had remained lying until now, observes elders standing, and instinctively, tries to imitate.
  • It first learns to stand up, by holding onto a wall or some other support.
  • After having learnt how to stand, it tries to imitate elders walking.
  • Takes a step, falls down.
  • Picks herself up, and attempts again.
  • The mid step, where she has to shift weight from one leg to the other-this is the tricky part. She does not know if she will fall down. She falls many times in the mid-step. Nevertheless, everybody tells her she can do it. Nobody ever discouraged a child learning to walk.
  • After falling down many times, she understands that if she transfers the weight to the other leg fast enough, she will not fall. When she has this confidence, she has learnt to walk. Now all that remains is practice, practice, improve the learnt skill.

Why learning becomes boring and hard later on

Later, while learning other skills like Math, Vocabulary, Drawing etc., the child goes through the same process-trying, failing, trying,...However this time, there are people with her who want her to learn as fast as possible, to save their time. They do not have the patience to let her learn through failing and having fun in trying. When the child fails a number of times, the elder may start saying comments like: Looks like you are having problems with this. This seems to be hard for you, why don’t you try harder?

Worse comments: You stupid! Can’t you do something as simple as this? What’s in your head? Is it made of clay? 
Finally: You'll never make it! Idiot!

Unfortunately, parents and teachers have also their ego to defend, so they need to prove that their verdict was correct-the child cannot learn well!

The blow has been struck. It stays with us throughout life, making a terror out of learning. This bad training gives us the queasy, unpleasant feeling and the anxiety when things go wrong while we attempt something new.

Then we start our own self-talk, which reinforces the old negative talk given by others: I seem to get nothing right! I am messing things up again! Oh what an idiot I am! 

This ensures failure.

How learning any new activity can be fun

Suppose the child in the above example had nobody telling him negative comments while learning and failing. He would make many attempts while learning Mathematics and other subjects fail many times in his attempts, but eventually he would get it right.

Because you have been given negative feedback countless times, and because you have started telling yourself the same negative things about you, the only way to reach success is to learn and say positive things about you:
I am a good learner! I can do it if I keep trying!
Learning is fun!
Failing is good, it helps me learn better.
I can fail as many times as I need, each time I learn something new!

The toddler who is learning to walk is the best possible inspiration for learners and students of all ages, the world over.

How many times, and how long do I have to repeat positive self-talk?

As long as you stop saying the negative things about yourself. I have chosen to continue indefinitely, for negative programming is not easy to remove permanently.

However, it is easy to find out when it has become effective: when you habitually start saying positive self-talk, your performance improves in every aspect of your life: not just learning or studying but in social life, relationships, finance, all spheres. For this, you need to learn and repeat self-talk which covers all areas: Self-esteem, Being organized, Taking responsibility, etc.

What to say when you talk to yourself  is a primary text in the science of self-talk. Dr.Shad Helmstetter is the author of this book which has sold millions of copies in more than 64 countries. It is available on Amazon. Once I bought this book, I got the gist of the self-improvement system and how to sustain it: it all depends on my thoughts.


You might want to check out this post also: Having fun in learning skills
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