4 Phases of Learning. Do you know what they are?

The Four Phases of Learning

By Dr. Tony Alessandra

“The longest journey on earth begins with a single step.” (Anonymous)

 

Can you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? Before you learned how, you were in the “ignorance” stage.  You did not know how to drive the car and you didn’t even know why you didn’t know how to drive it.

When you first went out with an instructor to learn how to drive you arrived at the second phase:  knowledge.  You still couldn’t drive, but because of your new knowledge of the automobile and its parts, you were consciously aware of why you couldn’t.  This is the phase where most seminars leave people.

 

With some practice and guidance, you were able to become competent in driving the car through recognition of what you had to do. However, you had to be consciously aware of what you were doing with all of the mechanical aspects of the car as well as with your body. This third phase is the hardest stage, the one in which your people may want to give up–the “practice” stage.  People experience stress when they implement new behaviors, especially when they initially perform them imperfectly.  They’ll want to revert to the old, more comfortable behaviors, even if those behaviors are less effective.  It’s all right for them to make mistakes at this phase.  In fact, it’s necessary so they improve through practice. Training programs that include role-playing and in-the-field coaching work best at this phase of learning.

Returning to our car analogy, think of the last time that you drove. Were you consciously aware of all of the actions that we mentioned above? Of course not! Most of us, after driving awhile, progress to a level of “habitual performance.”  This is the level where we can do something well and don’t have to think about the steps.  They come “naturally” because they’ve been so well practiced that they’ve shifted to automatic pilot. This final stage is when practice results in assimilation and habit.

This four phased model for learning–ignorance, knowledge, practice and habit–is the recipe for success in learning any new behavior and having it stick.

 

Gifted? Genius? What’s the difference?

Giftedness versus Genius

 

I’d like to spend a moment looking at this distinction– because it’s basic to how many people see themselves and evaluate their capabilities. But just for a moment, let’s assume that giftedness and genius really are the same thing. In that case, a person who jumps very quickly through the hoops of elementary school should continue jumping for all the years to come. But very often this isn’t what happens.

Do you know if you are gifted?

You see, our perception of giftedness and genius has often depended to some extent on the age of the person we’re considering. Sooner means smarter, in other words. The sooner a child learns to read, or learns to play the piano, or learns to do long division, the more genius-like that child is perceived to be.

There are a couple of things wrong with that perception. First, a number of the world’s all time great geniuses were at first thought to be anything but gifted.

Secondly, it’s by no means the rule that prodigious children turn out to be genius adults. To some extent, this may be because of the extra stresses that are placed on obvious prodigies. A lot is expected of them, and burnout is a frequent consequence. But it’s also possible that many seemingly gifted children aren’t really gifted — or, rather, they’re no more gifted than the boys and girls around them. The fact is, childhood is simply a time when there’s a lot of emphasis on measurement — and it’s also a time when things are pretty easy to measure. Standardized tests are a staple of American education, as they have been for almost fifty years. There are all kinds of instruments for measuring a child’s achievement levels, as well as their innate capacity to reason and to learn. And sometimes there’s a dramatic difference between those two measures. When that difference exists, the concept of the “underachieving child” comes into play. It’s the definition of a child who has unusual potential which is not showing itself in equally unusual achievement.

But at some point, we stop measuring people in the same way. If we kept it up, we would see some things that are obvious to the casual observer, but are rarely documented by the kind of standardized tests that we’re constantly giving to children. Even as casual observers, we see that other often people catch up to the gifteds and the prodigious. The child, who finished his math workbook before everyone else even started, did something impressive — but sooner or later everybody else finished their math workbooks too. Sooner or later, everybody learned to read and to spell. I might mention, in fact, that a huge and very profitable industry has grown up around the idea of giftedness in children, but there’s no such profit motive in the grown up world. Sure, we know there are highly talented adults who don’t access all of their capabilities. Or who don’t get the recognition they deserve. We know that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, and that Emily Dickinson only published three poems in her lifetime. Still, there is no readily accepted concept of “underachieving gifted adult”….

We all are the sum of our choices, or are we?

Which is a pity, since I can almost guarantee that that’s exactly what you are. I can virtually assure you that you’re a latent genius…and once you understand what genius really means, I’m certain that you’ll come to agree with me.

The word genius happens to have a very rich heritage. Today we talk about people being geniuses, but in the past people had a genius. Instead of something that you were, genius was something that you possessed, or, that possessed you. For the Romans, the word genius referred to a guardian spirit that protected people throughout the journey of their lives. Every individual was born with a unique genius that looked after them, helped them out of difficulties, and inspired them at crucial moments. At someone’s birthday, the Romans celebrated the birthday of the genius as well as the person. They celebrated the mysterious power with the person as well as the physical human being.

Do you know someone who has been told they are gifted or a genius? What impact has that label been on their lives? Do you think we try and stick our children into certain “boxes” and ask them to be something they may not be?

Let us know what you think in the comment section of this blog. Your thoughts and experiences may serve to help others!

 

Do birthdays bring more knowledge or just another mark of time?

 

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

 

Genius-Are YOU one? You might be amazed at the answer!

What is Genius?

Paul MacCready is a writer and inventor who has carefully studied genius and the ways people understand that concept. MacCready has evolved several categories of what genius seems to mean, and these can be useful starting point for defining what genius really is.

Genius-Just what does it mean and who has the potential?

In the first category is what Paul MacCready calls the “everyone agrees” geniuses. These people are the great icons of civilization, including Einstein, Leonardo daVinci, Shakespeare, and Michelangelo. Is there anybody who believes Einstein wasn’t a genius? I don’t think so — so this category is for the geniuses who are elected by unanimous consent. These are many of the same people who were mentioned in my own informal research. We’ll have much more to say about them in this session and throughout the program. In fact, most of our models for the various genius categories will be drawn from this group.

MacReady’s second category is the officially designated geniuses. These are the people who have won Nobel Prizes or other highly respected awards. Whether or not we understand what they’ve accomplished, we think of them as geniuses based on their recognition by people who are supposed to know one when they see one.

Do you have to say it to be it?

A third category includes people who haven’t yet gained national or international prominence, but who have done something so remarkable that they seem to be in a different realm from ordinary mortals. Some of these are the prodigy young people I mentioned earlier in this session — students who have won national science contests or gotten perfect scores on standardized tests. Often they’re not the best in the day to day conduct of school or business, but they have some special gift that eventually reveals itself. Quite often, these people are underachievers who struggle with shyness and low self-esteem. Their surprising success is surprising only because they’ve deliberately tried to stay in the background.

I think you can see how each of these three categories seems quite legitimate — but it’s the fourth one that’s really most important for this program. And you may be surprised to learn that the fourth category questions or even completely refutes the other three. Because the fourth category includes everybody. It’s based on the idea that we all have the potential for achievements that are wrongly considered possible for only a few. And there’s plenty of evidence for this. After all, the physical and mental challenges of learning to walk and talk are more difficult than anything we face later in life — yet the vast majority of human beings meet these challenges successfully.

True, it’s been argued that these primary skills are hardwired into our genetic makeup. But there are many things that the genetic argument can’t account for. In the 17th and 18th centuries, for example, it was simply expected that every member of the educated class would be able to read and speak several different languages, write poetry, play a musical instrument, and know much of the Bible by heart. Furthermore, all these skills were performed at a very high level and at very early ages. In other words, thousands of people routinely displayed abilities that today would be considered truly amazing — and perhaps even evidence of genius. But in those days what we call genius was just the fulfillment of society’s expectations.

When we speak of everybody being a genius in this sense, it doesn’t mean everyone has to get 800s on their SATs or have an IQ of 150 or above. It doesn’t mean everybody can play the violin or create beautiful oil paintings. Those are other ways of looking at the concept of genius. But right now, let’s go back to the origin of the word itself. A researcher by the name of Thomas Armstrong has done some excellent work on this. He points out that the word genius is closely related to the word genesis. It comes from Greek and Latin words meaning “beget,” “be born,” or ” come into being.” It’s also related to the word genial, meaning “festive” or “jovial.” In the Middle East, the term has been linked to the word jinni, or genie, the magical power that lay dormant and hidden in Aladdin’s lamp until a secret method released it.

Combining all these roots leads to a very powerful and beautiful definition of genius. It means “giving birth to your joy.” In this sense, genius is a word for an individual’s hidden potential. It also includes the process of discovering that potential and transforming it into action. But the first step is belief. The first step is certainty that you have greater capabilities than you thought. Not only do you have those capabilities — you also have a responsibility to develop them and put them to use.

What do YOU think genius is? Let’s start a discussion in the comments to this blog!

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

Communicate Effectively Through Your Wardrobe

Make your wardrobe work for you

Often we acquire our clothes haphazardly—a sale item or an impulse buy here, a Christmas gift there—without much thought as to how they fit our image, or even if they match each other. In fact, you’ve probably seen folks who’ve expanded their wardrobe only to hobble themselves by wearing a plaid shirt with a striped tie, or to go overboard with jewelry that clatters and clangs when they walk. In other words, unless you know how to put it all together, you can improve your wardrobe but still project a poor image and not be able to communicate effectively who you are. So make sure your colors, patterns, and accessories are complementary, not clashing.

Do you communicate who you are by the way you dress?

Most of us have at least one or two outfits that make us feel especially good when we’re wearing them. We tend to save those for special occasions. But why not try to increase that number to three, four, or more such outfits and, thus, try to make a particularly good impression every day? Communicate who you are!

If you’re vague about what you look best in, consult a friend or co-worker whose taste you admire, or go to a wardrobe consultant. They often spot things that you’d look good in but probably wouldn’t consider trying on.

A wardrobe consultant may sound like a costly luxury. But many times their advice is free if you buy clothes from them, and some will even shop for you at an hourly rate, which can save a lot of time. Combine that time savings with greater selection and the likelihood of a superb fit, and it all may add up to a terrific value.

Communicate effectively by dressing for success and you will stand out!

THE PLATINUM RULE-WHAT IS IT AND HOW DOES IT APPLY TO YOU?

The Platinum Rule

We have all heard of the Golden Rule-and many people aspire to live by it. The Golden Rule is not a panacea. Think about it: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule implies the basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way that you would like to be treated. The alternative to the Golden Rule is the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Ah hah! What a difference. The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. The focus of relationships shifts from “this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing” to “let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.”

A Modern Model for Chemistry

The goal of The Platinum Rule is personal chemistry and productive relationships. You do not have to change your personality. You do not have to roll over and submit to others. You simply have to understand what drives people and recognize your options for dealing with them. The Platinum Rule divides behavioral preferences into four basic styles: The Director, Socializer, Relater, and Thinker. Everyone possesses the qualities of each style to various degrees and everyone has a dominant style. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus only on dominant styles.

Directors

Directors are driven by two governing needs: to control and achieve. Directors are goal-oriented go-getters who are most comfortable when they are in charge of people and situations. They want to accomplish many things-now-so they focus on no- nonsense approaches to bottom-line results. Directors seek expedience and are not afraid to bend the rules. They figure it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Directors accept challenges, take authority, and plunge headfirst into solving problems. They are fast-paced, task-oriented, and work quickly and impressively by themselves, which means they become annoyed with delays. Directors are driven and dominating, which can make them stubborn, impatient, and insensitive to others. Directors are so focused that they forget to take the time to smell the roses.

Socializers

The Socializer’s primary strengths are enthusiasm, charm, persuasiveness, and warmth. They are friendly and enthusiastic and like to be where the action is. They thrive on the admiration, acknowledgment, and compliments. They are idea-people who excel at getting others excited about their vision. They are eternal optimists with an abundance of charisma; qualities that help them influence people and build alliances to accomplish their goals. Socializers care less about winning or losing than how they look while playing the game. As wonderful as Socializers may sound, they do have their weaknesses: impatience, an aversion to being alone, and a short attention span—they become bored easily. Socializers are risk-takers who base many of their decisions on intuition, which is not inherently bad. When given only a little data, however, Socializers tend to make sweeping generalizations. Some of them are, therefore, exaggerators. Socializers are not inclined to do their homework or check out information. They are more likely to assume someone else will do it.
Thinkers

Thinkers are analytical, persistent, systematic people who enjoy problem solving. Thinkers are detail-oriented, which makes them more concerned with content than style. Thinkers are task- oriented people who enjoy perfecting processes and working toward tangible results. They’re always in control of their emotions and may become uncomfortable around people who very out-going, e.g., Socializers. Thinkers have high expectations of themselves and others, which can make them over-critical. Their tendency toward perfectionism–taken to an extreme–can cause “paralysis by over- analysis.” Thinkers are slow and deliberate decision-makers. They do research, make comparisons, determine risks, calculate margins of error, and then take action. Thinkers become irritated by surprises and glitches, hence their cautious decision-making. Thinkers are also skeptical, so they like to see promises in writing.

Relaters

Relaters are warm and nurturing individuals. They are the most people-oriented of the four styles. Relaters are excellent listeners, devoted friends, and loyal employees. Their relaxed disposition makes them approachable and warm. They develop strong networks of people who are willing to be mutually supportive and reliable. Relaters are excellent team players. Relaters are risk-averse. In fact, Relaters may tolerate unpleasant environments rather than risk change. They like the status quo and become distressed when disruptions are severe. When faced with change, they think it through, plan, and accept it into their world. Relaters–more than the other types–strive to maintain personal composure, stability, and balance. In the office, Relaters are courteous, friendly, and willing to share responsibilities. They are good planners, persistent workers, and good with follow-through. Relaters go along with other seven when they do not agree because they do not want to rock the boat. Relaters are slow decision-makers for several reasons: 1) their need for security; 2) their need to avoid risk; 3) their desire to include others in the decision-making process.

The Platinum Rule provides powerful life-skills that will serve you well in all your relationships: business, friends, family, spouse, and children.

Find out how The Platinum Rule can work for you!

 

Interruptions-How good are you are dealing with them?

Learn to manage interruptions

Managers are especially torn by trying to be both accessible and productive. They want to be modern, sensitive bosses who will hear out customer complaints and employee problems—but they also have planning to do, projects to complete, paperwork to handle, goals to meet, and higher-ups to satisfy.

Here are some techniques for striking a balance:

•           The telephone, Alec Mackenzie suggests, is one of the biggest time wasters. He gives several strategies for dealing with interrupting phone calls, such as call screening, voice mail, and the like. But perhaps the simplest solution is to put a three-minute egg timer on your desk. When the sand runs out, you know to call a halt diplomatically to all but the most critical of calls.

•           An open-door policy is fine, but it can destroy your efficiency if taken too far. Roger Dawson, in 13 Secrets of Power Performance, offers numerous ways to lessen drop-in visitors. One, arrange your office so you aren’t readily visible and thus a target for people passing by with time on their hands. Another, set a block of time—usually early in the workday or near the end—when employees do a lot of socializing, and make that your official “closed-door” period when you can hole up and not feel guilty.

•           Go to lunch at an odd hour, say 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Not only, Dawson believes, will you get a better table and service at the restaurant, you’ll be working when everyone else is out to lunch. Thus, your productivity will soar

 

Dr. Tony wants to know how you cope with interruptions. Comment on this blog and let us know your way of dealing with them.

BIG TASKS MADE SMALLER-YOU CAN WORK IT OUT!

MAKING BIG TASKS SMALLER
A great trick for reaching your goals is knowing how to break large tasks into smaller ones. Or, as is sometimes said, you can eat an elephant, but only by taking one bite at a time.

I use the word chunking to describe this process. For instance, when I landed a contract to write my first book, Non-Manipulative Selling, I had six months to write it. On my “To Do” list every day of those six months was: Write book.

Six months went by, no book. The publisher gave me another three months. For three more months Write book appeared daily on my “To Do” list. Still no book. Finally, the publisher gave me a final three months, or else I’d lose the contract.

Fortunately, Karl Albrecht, author of Service America, gave me the concept of “chunking.” He asked me how many pages I had to write. Answer: 180. How many days to write it? Answer: 90. So he told me that every day my “To Do” list should contain this note: Write 2 pages of book. I must write two pages. If I got on a roll, I could write four or five. But the next day, I still had to write a minimum of two. By following his advice, I finished the book in thirty days!

A final technique for managing your goals comes from Dr. John Lee, author, speaker, and time-management expert. He says when a new task pops up, or an old one resurfaces, apply one of the four D’s: Drop it , Delegate it , Delay it , or Do it . Consciously choosing one of those strategies every time you face a task will keep things progressing smoothly.

HOW DO YOU PREVENT OR RECOVER FROM BURNOUT?

                You CAN do it! The BEST ways to BEAT BURNOUT!

It s not easy. It requires an intense commitment on your part to change your behavior for the better, and the healthier. It will require the same devotion and willpower as quitting smoking or going on a diet. However, don t try too hard. You may burn out by trying too hard to get better.
The following activities can help prevent you from becoming a burnout victim. They can also aid you in recovering from a burnout you already are experiencing. In following these guidelines, do not try to change too many of your behaviors at once. That will result in a quick case of frustration and a reversion back to your comfortable old behaviors. Attempt one new behavioral change at a time. Do not try an additional new behavior until you have comfortably mastered the previous one. In this way, your new healthy behaviors will last.
1. Limit the number of hours you work. The classic burnout victims work excessively long hours—6 or 7 days per week. Even when they’re home or out socializing, they can’t stop thinking and talking business. They wear themselves down physically and mentally.
Make a firm commitment to cut your daily workload down by one hour per week, each and every week until you re down to 8‑9 hours per day, five days per week. Don t say that’s impossible. It certainly is if you learn how to manage your time better.
2. Set goals—write them down. Most burnout victims work so hard and so long because they get bogged down in too many trivial tasks. Very often the really important jobs, the ones with a high payoff never get done. This lack of task perspective is very often the direct result of not having clearly defined goals in writing.
By knowing what is truly important to you in your life, and by having clearly written goals and action plans, you are better able to differentiate the high payoff tasks from the low payoff tasks. Then, if you spend most or all of your time doing your high priority tasks, you’ll probably accomplish twice as much in half the time.
3. Learn to say “No!” Burnout victims have a difficult time telling people they are not able to do another task. They feel it shatters their omnipotent image. Ironically, taking on too much puts so much pressure on the burnout victims that the overall quality of their work decreases and their superman image suffers anyway. When you feel you have more than enough to keep you busy, politely refuse to take on more.
4. Learn to Delegate. One of the major problems afflicting burnout victims is their inability and unwillingness to delegate tasks to others. They must resist the tendency to do things themselves. Train others, especially your secretary or assistant, to do your routine and low priority tasks. Also delegate the right to make mistakes. That’s how others learn. Give them their space to do things on their own. You should be spending your time on planning and completing your high‑priority tasks.
5. Exercise. One of the most effective ways to relieve tension and stress is through exercise. It not only helps you avoid a burnout episode, it also helps you circumvent many other physical ailments. Workaholics and super achievers complain that they do not have the time to exercise. On the contrary, taking time out of a busy schedule to exercise usually makes you feel less fatigued while you’re working and actually increases your level of awareness and productivity on the job. Force yourself to get at least 200 minutes of physical activity per week spread out over at least five separate days.
6. Break your routines. Don’t follow too rigid a schedule. Too much structure gets you into a rut. In the field of nutrition, the experts recommend rotational dieting. That simply means not eating the same foods all the time and adding variety and flexibility to your eating habits. The same advice holds true for your daily and weekly work schedule. Purposely go out of your way to do some things differently, to do some new things, and to do them at different times.
7. Try to relax. Kick back every so often during each day. Let your mind wander, not thinking about anything in particular, and especially not about business. These are necessary recharge breaks. Take long hot baths at home to relieve tension. You will find that this is an ideal way to relax both your mind and body.
8. Eat lunch AWAY from the office. This is an excellent way to accomplish many of the above suggestions. Walking to and from the restaurant or the park is an excellent source of exercise. Eating lunch outside or in the park is an Ideal way to relax and cleanse your mind. Leaving the office for meals breaks the routine of being in the office all day.
9. Take vacations. Most burnout victims rarely take vacations. They have too much work to do. Even when their spouse forces them to go on a vacation, they load one suitcase with books, reading materials, and work. If the vacation consists of more than three days in the same location, burnout victims start climbing the walls. They’re on a withdrawal from work.
If you react in the above manner, take a series of three‑day vacations throughout the year and discipline yourself not to bring any work with you. Vacation to relax, not simply to work in another environment.
10. Spend more time with your family. I realize not everyone is married nor has a family. Those that do should schedule their family members into their appointment book and respect the entry as they would any other business appointment. Eat at least one meal per day with your family. Try to keep business calls to a minimum at your home. Spend one evening and one‑half day per week doing something with your family as a group (TV watching doesn’t count!). Get to really know the people who are very important to you in your life.
11. Take time for yourself. Get away by yourself intermittently. Spend some time alone getting to know yourself. Meditate. Relax. Read light, enjoyable material. Pursue a hobby that has absolutely nothing to do with your line of work, but is relaxing and enjoyable. Treat yourself—you deserve it.
12. Don’t take life too seriously. Believe it or not, you’re not indispensable. Not to the world. Not to your country. Not even to your company. Everything will go on with or without you. Let up on yourself and others. Yes, you do make a contribution—maybe even a major one. But don’t overestimate your own value and worth. Do what you do and do it well. But, don’t kill yourself in the process, because then you’re of no value to the people and causes for which you were working. Take care of yourself and enjoy all aspects of your life—not just work. Everyone will be the better for it, especially you.

TIME-Are you managing it well?

Effective and Efficient Time Management
Time is nature’s greatest “force.” Nothing can stop it; nothing can alter it. Unlike the wind, it cannot be felt. Unlike the sun, it cannot be seen. Yet, of all nature’s forces, time has the most profound effect on us.
Time remains constant, but our perception of it changes. When we focus on it, it slows down. When we turn our backs on it, it speeds up. Our illusion makes us think it is something tangible. We arrange it, divide it up, and give some to our friends. Sometimes we feel it is precious, at other times we waste it. We give it the power to heal when we say, “Time heals all wounds.” It can also kill, as when we live stressful lives because we “never have enough time.” On a day‑to‑day basis, nothing is defined and redefined in our minds as much as time. It’s a wonder we can still recognize it!
Herein lies our power. Because things are as we perceive them, we can choose to see time as a manageable commodity and live our lives according to that assumption. This is one of the secrets of successful people ‑ they work at shaping those things that others think are uncontrollable.
EFFICIENT VS. EFFECTIVE
In discussing time management, some people argue, “What we need to be is more efficient with our time!” Other people claim, “Let’s not worry so much about efficiency, let’s be more effective!”
Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness means doing the right things. Working efficiently is doing things with the least amount of wasted effort. Efficiency gets you from point A to point B via a straight line. Inefficiency goes in circles. Effectiveness means doing the things that yield results.
Many people, when learning about time management, ask the question, “Which should I work on first, efficiency or effectiveness?”  In theory and practice, the best answer is to improve your effectiveness first. It’s much better to aim your sights at the result than to worry about the process. Too often we get bogged down in the means and lose sight of the end.

My Way or the Highway-Is Your Thinking Too Rigid?

                                                                                                        Rigidity

Rigidity can be described as holding the attitude: My way or the highway. It can also be disguised in such sayings as: “That’s just the way it is,” or “Those are the rules, mam,” or “That’ll never work.” Do those kinds of sayings ever come from your mouth? Those statements are indicative of a kind of mental paralysis. No new information is being allowed in.
Rigidity can be cloaked in a variety of ways that appear attractive, on the surface. You may value the fact that you’re a high achiever, a perfectionist, and a take-charge or no-nonsense person. And you should take pride in your accomplishments. But an inflexible, rigid attitude can get in the way of even greater accomplishments and a larger sphere of influence. Maybe you pride yourself on being cautious; you don’t like to leap before you look carefully. That’s fine except when your caution turns into an aversion to taking any risks at all.
Maybe you believe that you know the best way to get from Point A to Point B, or the best way to make a chili barbecue, or the best way to solve the recycling problems in your community. Everyone wants you on their committee – except when it turns out that “the best way” is the only way you know how to do that particular thing, and you’re not willing to learn anything new about it.
One of the things we can say with certainty about life is that everything changes. It’s a task for all of us to keep figuring out where we need to hold the line on what we know and where we need to let go of the rigidity that keeps us from learning new things.
The fact is that at least since the beginning of the decade, there’s been a greater emphasis on the value of collaboration, cooperation and interdependent networks of people. Who would have ever thought that archrivals IBM and Apple Computer would ever collaborate? But they have! Remember the hi-tech commercials during the Super Bowls in the mid 1980’s? Everyone watched to see what new outrageous ad Apple had come up with to sling at IBM. They weren’t rivals, they were enemies. Then they began to see the value of collaboration. At least to the point of being able to work on joint projects.
More and more companies are seeing the value of breaking up departments that used to compete against each other. Instead they’re putting people into teams with shared leadership and a mandate to cooperate with each other. As those companies move from a hierarchical structure to one that’s team-based you hear the same lament over and over: “Some of the people who’ve been around here for a while can’t seem to make the transition. They’re too “set in their ways,” they have too much of the old “command and control” style in their veins.”
If you suspect that you may have an underlying layer of rigidity in your personality that prevents you from being flexible where flexibility would be an asset, here are some tips. First and foremost, concentrate on listening to what others have to say. Not just passive listening, that is, hearing the words. But learn what’s known as “active listening” where you do more than simply pay attention. Active listening means you suspend your judgments about what the other person is saying while you listen. Active listening means that you are so clear about what the other person is saying that you could paraphrase it back to them in a way they would agree that’s what they said.
Being willing to listen without making judgments takes work. You can tell you’re NOT doing it when little thoughts like “that’s crazy,” or “she doesn’t know what she’s talking about” pop up in your head as you listen. But if you’re able to achieve the ability to listen first, and then decide how you feel about something, much more information and new insight will filter into your brain. That’s because the rigid guard at the door of your mind has been asked to take a break.
Another way to combat rigidity is to admit a mistake when you’ve made one. That’s so easy to say, and so hard to do! Start by admitting it to yourself. “Darn it, I made a mistake!” That’s the first step. Some rigid people can’t even do that much. The next step is to say it out loud to someone who’s affected by that mistake. “Sorry, but it looks like I’ve made a mistake here.”
And one more tip: remember that in many things, the process is as important as the goal. HOW you arrive at a result in a work project or on a community committee or in your family affects everyone involved. And the process has a direct impact on the success of the next undertaking. Your ability to be flexible, to let go of rigid expectations, to allow for disagreements, are all measures of your maturity in those situations.