Friday 21 June 2024

SERIES: Potentially Contrarian Ideas – 2. Some stress can benefit you, with the right mindset

We all know how bad stress is for us. It shortens our lives and makes an already short life less enjoyable. There are different kinds of stress, some better than others, but overall, reducing stress is best. For example, small bursts of acute stressors, like lifting weights during exercise, are beneficial to your muscles. On the other hand, continuous chronic stress on your muscles can lead to them becoming permanently weakened or even permanently damaged. The same is even more true for mental stress; while one might be able to handle bouts of acute stress, chronic mental stress leads to burnout and various other ailments.

Mo Gawdat and Alice Law have an interesting book about how to become “Unstressable”, in which they discuss the three L’s of managing and overcoming stress:

  • Limit exposure to stressors.
  • Listen to what our minds and bodies are saying and take corrective action.
  • Learn how to deal with it.

It is the third point, "Learn how to deal with it," that intrigues me, especially when reframed with David Yeager's work on the right stress mindset. Yeager’s research indicates that how we experience stress depends on our beliefs about its impact on our health. If we believe that stress can only have negative effects, it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, if we can reframe our belief that the stress we are feeling might lead to better outcomes, we have a better chance of benefiting from it.

For example, when I feel nervous energy before an important meeting or presentation, I can do one of two things. I can let the nervousness affect my confidence, which might cause me to fumble during the meeting. Instead, if I reframe the nervousness by acknowledging that the physiological symptoms are my body sending more blood to my brain to keep me ready, I can make the stress work for me instead of against me. This approach is more likely to help us harness stress and use it to our advantage.

This contrarian reframe is termed a “synergistic mindset intervention,” which targets both the growth mindset (the idea that intelligence can be developed) and the stress-can-be-enhancing mindset (the idea that one's physiological stress response can fuel optimal performance).

I have been experimenting with this for some time now. As a big fan of checklists to support one's life by removing guesswork, I created a checklist that I can easily access before work meetings. When I notice stress or anxiety before a meeting, I quickly scan my checklist and follow the steps.




This has been my way of introducing a synergistic mindset intervention to soften the jitters. Emerging research indicates that it's time to reframe the narrative on stress. Yes, stress is bad, and we need to reduce it. But since it is impossible to escape it, we should actively start reframing it. We need to normalize the acceptance that stress can be enhancing. 

Stress with the right mindset about its ability to enhance our abilities, can make us more anti-fragile.

References

  1. Unstressable: A Practical guide to stress free living
  2. A Synergistic mindsets intervention protects adolescents from stress
  3. How to tame stress - The Happiness Lab

Thursday 20 June 2024

How to assess signals in life?

What is a 'simple yet profound' idea? Something like "Eat healthy and exercise to stay healthy" sounds simple, but is it profound? On the other hand, there are profound quotes that are not simple, like "To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world."

But it does not end there. We need to think of other combinations. What would it look like if we created a 2x2 matrix of four quadrants? The axes would be Simple vs. Complex on one axis and Profound vs. Shallow on the other.


This leads us to a simple and profound realization - 

"When assessing signals in life, stick to the insights, enjoy the slogans, ponder the nuances, and reduce the noise."

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Agonizing about a decision is often worse than the outcome of that decision

If you find yourself second-guessing and constantly overthinking, consider that the time you spend agonizing is due to the impossibility of predicting the future. Since we cannot predict the future, the best way to progress is to act now, then reflect and adjust, rather than trying to pre-decide everything. Courage beats confidence.

Instead of waiting to make a perfect decision before acting, take a small step forward, learn, and course-correct as you go. This approach is an antidote to overthinking and becoming stuck worrying about possible future outcomes.

However, this should not be confused with imagination or visualization, which are powerful tools for channeling optimism, boosting motivation, and achieving flow states.

Secondly, if a decision takes too long to make, it might be easier to conclude that it’s not right for you. Adopt the mindset of “it’s a hell yes or a no.” However, be sure to make the criteria for saying YES broad enough. Beyond that boundary, automatically say NO. Make the decision simple and automatic. Make it clear so you don't have to spend precious energy deliberating.

For less critical decisions, I would even recommend you consider using a simple coin flip to decide which way to go. Of course, do not do this for life-or-death decisions.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Navigating the murky waters of work malaise

Many career professionals are experiencing a sense of gloom at work despite being hardworking, empowered, and eager to make progress. This issue appears to be bigger than any individual’s situation or circumstances. The following thoughts explore trends that might be contributing to this phenomenon. While solutions are unlikely to be one-size-fits-all, understanding the underlying causes can help in better preparing for and addressing these challenges.

  • The shallow workplace:

Individuals are not to blame for this feeling, nor are they alone in experiencing it. The work landscape has become particularly shallow, especially for those in middle management roles. This generation briefly experienced work as a genuine second space in life, where there was a journey, progress, and a sense of merit. Now, they see it transforming into a transactional workplace filled with constant micro-stresses and a lack of psychological safety. This trend began after the Great Recession of 2008 and accelerated with COVID-19. There is a pervasive sense of 'What is it all for?' When other compelling reasons arise (e.g., not wanting to stay away from kids, family health issues), work today simply loses its appeal. This trend could be termed as a 'worth-life crisis.' Although this is anecdotal evidence, it seems more prevalent at a certain life stage and among those who have seen significant success in their careers. Unless faced with a do-or-die situation, work can feel like a drag. Even in such situations, there is often a reluctance to fully engage in work.

  • The burden of shoulds and coulds:

Another theme is the 'burden-of-shoulds' (what is expected of us and what we tell ourselves we must do) versus the 'burden-of-coulds' (what we can do and what seems possible, with trade-offs). The problem is not one or the other; both are burdens and impose a mental tax. We struggle to choose a path and maintain mental sanity by knowing which tax we are willing to pay. This constant switching leads to depression and weariness, which could be referred to as a 'burden switching tax.' Some people have chosen the burden they will bear, and it makes them better for it.

  • Modernity induced fatigue:

The third theme is the problem with modernity itself. The paradox of choices in our hyper-abundant world conditions us to expect solutions to our problems. We want everything to be solved and believe that the solution will be personalized to our unique quirks. Life, however, is often messy and doesn’t comply with easy solvability. We are constantly going around corners, seeking an elusive, perfect solution. This constant search leads to what could be called 'solution seeking fatigue.'

Combined, these trends, along with the erosion of meaningful engagement and the pervasive sense of disconnection, contribute to the pervasive personal gloom many professionals are experiencing.

Solutions are not straightforward, as different people have different circumstances and not all will resonate with the same ideas. Here are some experiments that might help with this:

  • Creation over consumption:

We are overstimulated in our modern lives and must cut back on constant dopamine dosing. Prioritize creating something, either at work or outside, to replace consumption, even if that consumption includes activities generally considered healthy, like endlessly scrolling through educational content or obsessively following fitness trends.

  • Slowing down:

Slow down and become unrushed in our actions, decisions, and needs. Prioritize being unrushed in every action, even if it means missing out on opportunities or experiences that seem within our reach, to foster a sense of calm and deliberate purpose.

Both strategies present challenges. One requires us to create more, while the other might reduce our activities by slowing down the pace and letting go. If we get this balance right, it might eventually permeate other parts of our lives.


Monday 17 June 2024

Futures is more about sparking imagination than being correct

When it comes to thinking about the future, it is far more important to be imaginative than to be right. 

— Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1968

In 2005, as a bright-eyed ad-sales executive at The Times of India, I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in a Scenario Planning workshop about the future of media. Strategy consultants from The Henley Centre introduced us to the concept of preparing for multiple plausible futures. Although it was intended for senior staff, on the last day, there was a presentation of scenarios to the wider team. I remember feeling inspired by the structured approach to imagining the future.

After completing my MBA, I had the privilege of working with incredible futurists at Kantar, where we envisioned the futures of countries, categories, brands, and more.

Foresight allows me to indulge my interests in history, gaming, fiction, and reading, while leveraging my strength in collecting trivia in a way nothing else does. Recently, I felt the urge to rekindle my passion for futures, foresight, and storytelling about what lies ahead. Professor Jane McGonigal's IFTF course on Futures Thinking was a spark of joy that kept me intellectually stimulated and provided a way to channel some 'Urgent Optimism.'

Urgent Optimism is an impressive mission statement that captures the essence of Futures thinking. It brings together two great truths: an urgent bias for action, to start doing something. And a pervasive optimism that things will only get better with effort. Pessimism is nothing but a failure of imagination, after all.

For those interested in becoming a futurist, I encourage you to document your imagination. 

Beyond that here is a mind map of six essential intentions and processes that a futurist mindset entails: 



Sunday 16 June 2024

Travel opens up the future

The mind rejoices when the body is able to experience the new and travel adds magic

Saturday 15 June 2024

Keeping the inner critic's voice in check

To keep the inner critic's voice in check, it's essential to recognize when it's operating on high power. Here are five signs that your inner critic might be overactive:

  1. Encourages Catastrophic Thinking: The inner critic often makes you envision the worst possible outcomes.
  2. Induces Guilt: It points out past decisions where you failed, making you feel guilty.
  3. Uses Extreme Generalizations: It makes broad, sweeping statements that are rarely true.
  4. Draws a Hard Line Between Success and Failure: It sees everything in black and white, with no middle ground.
  5. Predicts the Future with Finality: It insists that the future is set in stone, often with a negative outlook.

To manage your inner critic, acknowledge these signs and counter them with more balanced and compassionate self-talk. When you feel that the inner critic is operating in high power, remember not to trust everything your mind says. Talk to yourself instead

Friday 14 June 2024

Inner joy helps elevate life's peaks

The happiness you experience when you reach the mountain top is the happiness you bring with you. 

This perspective highlights an important truth: if your mind is calm, the world around you will seem calm as well. Achievements and experiences can bring happiness, but this external joy is deeply dependent on the internal happiness we cultivate. What we feel during significant moments is a reflection of our inner state.

If you are unhappy internally, no achievement will bring you lasting happiness or even the high you were expecting in that moment.

Thursday 13 June 2024

SERIES: Potentially Contrarian Ideas – 1. Create Products and Create Markets

Most business students learn the timeless advice from Theodore Levitt about “Sell the hole, not the drill.” In his article in the Harvard Business Review in the 1960s, he urged businesses to move away from a narrow focus on their products and services and to broaden their understanding of market needs. Customers are not looking for a drill, but rather for the hole they want to create using the drill.

This concept was further elevated into an innovation management philosophy by Clayton Christensen in the famous 'Jobs-to-be-done' framework. The fundamental premise here is that customers hire products or services to help them accomplish a job. In the previous example, we hire a drill to fulfill the job of making a hole in the wall for a nail, where we want to display a picture.

This makes sense and is sound management advice. I would summarize this as "Creating Products for Markets."

But the wonderful world of ideas and technology we live in has also shown that products can create markets, generating a need that did not previously exist. This usually happens when significant technological advancements push us out of the status quo. For example, with advancements in smaller speakers and more efficient battery technology came the Sony Walkman, which created a market for portable music. There is debate over whether it met a latent demand for portable music, but we can all agree that, as recently as 50 years before the Walkman, the technology for recording and replaying audio, let alone for portable use, did not exist. So, it is fair to assume that there was very little latent demand.

Side note: I have a hypothesis, based on anecdotal evidence, that such technology-push market creation usually begins in entertainment fields where the needs are not clearly manifested.

In a recent conversation with Stanford Graduate School, Jensen Huang, the trailblazing CEO of Nvidia, made some fascinating observations that lead me to believe we are truly in an era of products creating markets. Jensen talked about how Nvidia’s early success depended on partnering with Electronic Arts, also a fledgling company at the time, to create a graphics computer that spurred demand for the computer games industry, which was very nascent. The key phrase that caught my attention is that Nvidia and Electronic Arts created a product and a market. That was their clear strategy.

Following that initial success, Nvidia’s strategy, Jensen says, has become one of creating products AND the markets for those products. I strongly believe that this slightly contrarian approach is one of the reasons for their recent wild success. While others have been following the norm of creating products for existing markets, Nvidia is creating markets AND products.

References

  1. Timeless Wisdom from Theodore Levitt: Selling Value Over Features
  2. What Does It Take to Create a Market?
  3. Jensen Huang on Creating Products and Markets
  4. Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”

 

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Cultivate burstiness

One of the traits of people pleasers is to ask incessantly for advice and try to delegate decisions. They believe that asking and following advice will absolve them of some of the blame if the decision turns out to be wrong. It is a way to protect themselves. Why is this a people-pleasing behavior? Because those who do it believe that they can keep the peace with others by doing so. It is a survival mechanism, borne out of a lack of self-confidence and putting other people’s needs ahead of their own.

One way to start breaking out of this is to cultivate ‘burstiness’.

As children, most of us naturally have this characteristic. We are curious about what could happen, and we learn through experimenting. Children don’t seek permission; they act and then learn what works and what does not.

As we grow older, we are taught to become more circumspect, which is necessary for being a functioning adult. But the systematic curbing of our ‘burstiness’ can leave some of us always wanting validation.

To reconnect with our ‘burstiness,’ we must practice making decisions by ourselves and start getting comfortable with how that feels. This way, we start taking back ownership and stop micromanaging how others view or experience us.


Tuesday 11 June 2024

Problems can be opportunities in disguise. Choose an abundance mindset

Choosing an abundance mindset over a scarcity mindset allows us to be more resilient. Pessimism is nothing but a failure of imagination. A scarcity mindset is a manifestation of pessimism that makes us closed to opportunities because we view them as problems.

Some manifestations of a scarcity mindset and how it affects our lives are as follows:

  • When we believe there is not enough for everyone, including ourselves.
  • When we think we must “be right” in any given situation.
  • When we think asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • When we feel victimized by the actions of others, sometimes even by inanimate things.
  • When we feel that nothing can help improve a situation, and it’s better to give up.

To break from a scarcity mindset and adopt an abundant mindset, we must reprogram two key aspects:

  • Our attention – what we choose to focus on
  • Our intention – what we want to feel in the moment

We must redirect our attention to celebrate what is working well, instead of obsessing over what is not. Similarly, we must reorient our intention to learn, instead of being right. All this must be done and experienced, instead of just being thought about. Abundance can be visualized as something that is flowing, instead of being stagnant. Action or movement is an inherent characteristic of abundance. 

Scarcity, on the other hand, is like an addiction. It prefers the status quo and cannot be overcome purely by thinking our way out of it.

So, how do we take small actions to help us beat the addiction to scarcity? Let us see the actions a person who wants to reprogram their attention and intention will take when confronted with situations of a scarcity mindset:

Scarcity trigger

Reprogramming Action

Abundance mindset

There is not enough for me, let alone others

Give something of value without expecting anything in return

I have more than enough, and I can share

I must be ‘right’

Ask a question with the phrase “What do I not know that can be better?”

I must learn. Being ‘right’ is limiting

I cannot ask for help because I will become weak

Offer help to someone who needs it on a related or unrelated topic.

I have something to offer others and others have something to offer me

I am being victimized by the actions or existence of…

Write down five things you are grateful for in your day. Even include a reason you are grateful to the person or actions that are victimizing you

Reaffirm the belief that there is some force in the world that is on my side

Nothing can help improve this situation. I should give up…

Do the very next task, however inconsequential it is. Then ask for help from someone, even if they think it’s a problem too.

 

Take an unimportant decision and flip a coin to decide which way to do it. Follow the coin toss, irrespective of your inclinations.

Motivation comes from action. Solutions are found when we see progress, however incremental.

Finally, a non-obvious way to reinforce abundance mindset is to celebrate one’s quirks and uniqueness. Play is critical to help elevate our energy levels, which can in turn put us in an optimistic and more open mindset. Play with those who have abundant mindsets, and you will be on a path to cure your addiction to scarcity.


Monday 10 June 2024

Energy and enthusiasm are often better than expertise alone

Show up with the right attitude to increase your chances of succeeding in any situation. Many aspects of life, such as the rules we follow in society, lie beyond our control. Some rules are straightforward, like traffic signals, while others are complex, such as tax regulations. However, you need not become a prisoner to these uncontrollable factors. You can control the attitude you bring to most situations.

If you show up with a high-energy attitude, optimism, and agency, you set yourself up for success. Although the degree of success may vary, it will likely lead to more positive outcomes.

Nietzsche referred to this idea when he said, 

"If you have a strong why, you can bear almost any how."

A strong why need not be an esoteric purpose; it can also be action oriented.

  • It can be the clear, rational optimism you hold.
  • It can be the unrushed and focused energy you bring, and
  • It can be the consistent, yet not inflexible schedule you adapt.

Your attitude is like a horse that either needs to be reined in or needs to be prodded.

It is better to have the former.



Sunday 9 June 2024

Don't try to solve every problem

Don't try to solve every problem. Make a deal with yourself to live with the challenges that arise from small issues. Accept them and be okay with it. The Stoics have a saying: "Pay the taxes of life willingly and accept them" (Ryan Holiday). This mindset is similar.

Instead of trying to eliminate all challenges, whether big or small, it might be better for our overall happiness to live with the minor challenges that small issues present. Attempting to remove every small issue can actually lead to continuous discontent.

Dan Harris, in his podcast "20% Happier," discusses the idea of not trying to solve every problem, suggesting that we can find greater peace by accepting small challenges rather than constantly fighting against them.

If we accept and live with these small challenges, rather than constantly trying to solve them, we might find ourselves happier. They cease to be problems. 

And, when only big problems remain, it's easier to focus on and address them, rather than treating everything, big or small, as a problem. This prevents our attention and capacity from being overwhelmed.

Choose which problems are worth your attention and simply accept the rest. 

Saturday 8 June 2024

Stop chasing grand designs or perfect clarity in life

Expecting grand designs or perfect clarity in life is futile. This mindset leads to problems. The root of this kind of thinking comes from misplaced expectations. The more we understand that there are no grand designs, only incremental steps, the more we free ourselves from the trap of chasing after something that is never reachable. Expecting everything to make perfect sense and fall into place is a sure way to feel miserable because life is often messy. The only time life might fall into place in some grand scheme is probably when there isn't much of it left.

Friday 7 June 2024

Being present is the antidote to burnout

"If you don’t declare a finish line, then your body will declare it for you." – Carey Nieuwhof

There are many reasons why one might experience burnout, but the biggest one, in my opinion, is living a rushed, frantic life. We often justify our stressed lives with various reasons like:

  • "This is just a busy season, and I have to get a lot done."
  • "This busyness and stress are the price I have to pay for success."
  • "If I had more time, I could get everything done."
  • "I'll borrow time from tomorrow, even if it means I don’t get to rest today."
  • "I can multitask to accomplish more in less time."

This mindset traps us in what is known as the stress spiral. It begins with overcommitting to things we don't want to do, leading to overwork, and ultimately overwhelming us when everything becomes too much to handle.

The antidote to this isn't time management. It's energy and attention management. We need to learn to be present in what we are doing. We need to recognize that being frantic and constantly switching tasks will not lead to lasting success. It may provide short-term benefits like a dopamine fix, but it is unsustainable in the long run. Soon, one will be addicted to those dopamine hits, leading to burnout.

The true antidote is the ability to be fully present in whatever you are doing.

Thursday 6 June 2024

Dominance is not casting a shadow, but shining a light

Here is an interesting observation. If you are an introvert and seek to avoid the spotlight, you might try to avoid contact. But in doing so, you might inadvertently invite attention.

Let's imagine this situation:

You walk into a meeting a few minutes late. This makes you feel awkward, so you try to slip in quietly and take a seat. You think nobody has noticed you, but in fact, others have. By either acknowledging or ignoring you, they are, in some way, putting the spotlight on you. They expect you to understand this subtly.

Instead of trying to blend in, if you make a statement like, "Hey, sorry I'm late, but here I am. What did I miss?", the onus is now on others to respond. The spotlight shifts to them instead of you.

A dominant person is one that puts the spotlight on others, not one that keeps the spotlight on oneself. 

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Setting specific implementation intentions

Setting specific implementation intentions involves clarifying the precise actions needed to achieve goals within a specified time. The specificity is not about the outcomes but rather the detailed, step-by-step actions required.

Shallow work keeps you from getting fired. Deep work gets you promoted - Cal Newport

If you are using time blocking to manage your work, well done. It is an effective method for engaging in deep work. Setting specific implementation intentions allows you to achieve the deep work you aim to do, making your time blocks actionable.

Simply having a vague block of time on the calendar can lead to overwhelm. A time block alone does not indicate what that time is for. You might end up wasting time figuring out what you are supposed to do instead of actually doing it.

Let's take an example. If you have a meeting from 10:00 to 11:00 AM today, a time block would appear on your calendar. Setting specific implementation intentions looks something like this:

Preparation (9:30 AM - 10:00 AM)

  • Review Agenda: "At 9:30 AM, I will review the meeting agenda and prepare my notes and questions."
  • Gather Materials: "At 9:45 AM, I will collect all relevant documents and reports."
  • Clarify Roles: "At 9:50 AM, I will review my role and responsibilities for the meeting to ensure I am prepared."

During the Meeting (10:00 AM - 11:00 AM)

  • Stay Focused: "At the start of the meeting, I will close unrelated tabs and mute notifications on my devices."
  • Active Participation: "During the meeting, I will listen actively and contribute my prepared points when relevant."
  • Take Notes: "I will keep a notepad or document open to jot down key takeaways and action items."
  • Clarify Next Steps: "Before the meeting ends, I will clarify any action items and responsibilities to ensure everyone is on the same page."

Follow-Up (11:00 AM - 11:30 AM)

  • Review and Organize Notes: "Immediately after the meeting, I will review my notes and organize them into actionable items."
  • Send Follow-Up Email: "Within 30 minutes of the meeting, I will draft and send a follow-up email to all participants summarizing key points and action items."
  • Update Task List: "After sending the follow-up email, I will update my task list with any new tasks and set reminders for deadlines."

By creating a granular plan like the one above, you have the right prompts necessary to focus on what will make your contribution better rather than on what needs to happen next.

I want to highlight the importance of having the necessary items on hand. A lot of time is wasted during work when trying to assemble the supporting materials needed to complete tasks. When the items required for the work are not pre-assembled and readily accessible, we end up wasting precious mental resources on that, instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Achievement of goals requires good systems.

You do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems – James Clear

You might not want to have a very detailed implementation intention as outlined above. It can be shorter and more specific to common prompts you need to remind yourself about. The details are up to you, but practicing this helps you focus and prepare. 

Happiness, after all, is practical and intentional action. The source of unhappiness is the gap between what one intends to do and what one is unable to achieve.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Avoid gratitude clutter

Gratitude is natural and emergent. If we try too hard to be grateful, it becomes an obligation rather than genuine appreciation. Just as our sense of power increases when we are joyful, we genuinely feel grateful when we meet our aspirations rather than cater to expectations.

The Minimalists have a wonderful term for this sense of obligatory gratitude: Gratitude Clutter.

Unclench your palms and stop holding on too tightly. Set your gratitude free from obligations. Set yourself free to really feel grateful.

Monday 3 June 2024

Stop listening to yourself, always. Instead try talking to yourself.

The mind often fabricates details to fill in the context and complete the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, making memory inherently imperfect. In Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert illustrates this fallacy by recounting how people frequently misremember the past, believing in reconstructed memories that never actually occurred.

Be aware that not everything you think is true.

Therefore, if you listen to everything your mind tells you, you are likely to be misled. Both intentionally and unintentionally. Intentionally because the mind is pre-disposed to be risk averse and therefore only emphasizes those facts that are likely to keep us all safe and unexposed to dangers. Unintentionally, because the mind has to retrieve faulty memory and also create parts of it to present a full picture. An in doing so, it often ends up showing us things which we are familiar with.

But why is listening to all of one’s thoughts problematic? It is because, it is here that fixed mindset and the forces of ‘Resistance’ live and thrive. By ‘Resistance’ here I am referring to the force Steven Pressfield describes in War of Art as the internal barrier that prevents individuals from pursuing their creative and meaningful work.

Instead, if you can talk to yourself like you would a friend in need, it will help you overcome problems by challenging assumptions in a supportive and trusted manner. Have a conversation with yourself. 

Consider the following questions as prompts during an inward dialogue:

First to establish evidence or the lack of it:

  • “Hey, is what you are thinking actually true?”
  • “Can you be absolutely certain it is true?”
  • “What evidence do you have for that?”
  • “What if this was not true?”

Next, address preconceptions and explore uncertainties:

  • “What are you going to think next about this?”
  • “What assumptions are you making?”

Finally, affirm your agency to handle the situation:

  • “What needs to happen if the thought is true?”
  • “If true, how have other people you know dealt with this?”
  • “If true, what have you tried in the past that might work to help resolve it for the better?”
  • “What does not change if this is true?”

Sunday 2 June 2024

Courage beats confidence

Historically, we have always associated confidence with one’s abilities and the achievement of goals. This approach suggests that if we have the skills and abilities to do something, we will gain the expertise that leads to confidence. Similarly, if we have achieved our goals, it becomes a source of confidence.

There is nothing wrong with this. Experience that comes from skills and abilities is a natural source of confidence. You can channel your learning and past experiences to ensure that you do the right things in new challenges, thereby doing them better.

Similarly, if you have had past success in achieving some goals, it is only natural to draw from that and have confidence in doing it well the next time you face it. This is true in all domains of life: work, sport, relationships, mental, emotional, and physical.

However, I find it problematic when we look at it from a learner’s perspective. This approach does not enable a growth mindset.

In today’s world, where the pace of change has accelerated, skills and abilities are constantly on the verge of becoming obsolete. The contexts of our lives have changed, making it impossible to rely solely on past achievements.

In fact, even if we think of goals as forward plans for what we want to achieve and use them to gain confidence, it does not seem to work. Goals are constantly moving and changing, and plans need to adapt as well. Linking confidence to abilities and achievements is problematic because it creates a false sense of security that can be quickly undermined by changing circumstances.

So what is better? Firstly, courage is better than confidence. Confidence is overrated. If one waits to have confidence before taking action, it is usually too late. We should go ahead and have a bias for action. Confidence is an outcome of doing and learning, rather than learning everything before doing. Try more things to gain confidence. Courage makes us do things we might not know everything about and may not yet be good at. If we only do things we are already good at, we might not do anything at all. Prefer courage over confidence.

Secondly, instead of abilities and goals, link confidence to intent and process. This is a system for gaining confidence. If you have the right intent, but not all the abilities yet, that is enough to motivate you into action. If you focus on processes and systems, instead of goals and outcomes, you are setting yourself up for learning.

Confidence comes from falling in love with the process.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Consistency leads to creativity

"Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work." - Gustave Flaubert

An uncluttered mind leads to outcomes which are more thoughtful and more original.

Most of the times. The trick is not get stuck in the minutiae.

Creativity and creation requires focus. By being disciplined in our time and in the mental models that we apply to our daily lives, we can dedicate precious mental and physical resources to the creation of the unique and the wonderful.