Category Archives: Affective Learning

Feel Instructional Design

My Dear Followers of The Zen of Learning,

I invite you to go beyond knowing and using instructional design. I welcome you to Instructional Design Junction, a place where the concepts of instructional design, training, elearning, gamification, and cognitive psychology will not only be discussed from an academic viewpoint, but experienced holistically. I invite you to be the first visitors (and hopefully, inhabitants) of an exotic just-discovered planet.

Instructional Design Junction - by Shafali R. Anand and Creative Agni.
Visit the Instructional Design Junction to feel instructional design and be ready to welcome the future of learning.

Check it out, and if you like it, please click the Follow button there. If you have blog, you’ll be able to read the new posts in your Reader.

Thank you!

  • Shafali

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Stereotype – but do it the Right Way!

“Women just can’t drive!”
“Bosses are a P-i-A!”
“Artists are careless dressers.”
“Professors are absent-minded.”
“Women don’t code.”

All of the above statements have something in common. They are generalizations of characteristics for a particular group, and they may not apply to a small or large part of the group. When we make such generalizations, we stereotype. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes often cause pain – and yet, the human mind is programmed to generalize. In fact, generalization is an important part of the learning process.

I’ll be talking about Kolb’s Cycle in my Instructional Design Podcast Learning Lights, either tomorrow or the coming week, and the third stage in Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning is “Abstract Conceptualization,” which comprises making generalizations, which are tested by the learner in the fourth stage.

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to tune into the Learning Lights podcast for tomorrow’s learning module.


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The Experiment – Stanford Prison, Milgram, and The Threshold.

It happens because we have the ability to absolve ourselves by shifting the responsibility of our actions to another entity, which may be a person or an organization. We are not responsible for the atrocities that we committed in the Auschwitz concentration camp, said the German soldiers who tortured and killed their captives. We were just doing our jobs. We were just following orders.

The Milgram Obedience Experiment

Stanley Milgram conducted what came to be known as the Milgram Obedience Experiment. In this experiment, perfectly normal people like you and me were assigned the roles of the teacher or the learner. They were separated with an opaque wall, but they could speak to each other. The teacher was given the task to teach the learner some words by asking him/her questions. If the learner responded incorrectly, the teacher would give the learner and electric shock that increased by 15 volts with every incorrect answer. Actually, the learner was replaced by an actor, and he’d not receive the shock but scream nevertheless. To make a long story short, the shocking outcome of the experiment was that there were people who continued giving electrical shocks of upto “450 volts” to their “learner” even after the learner begged for mercy. Why? Because they were asked to do so!

The Stanford Prison Experiment

I was prompted to make this post, after I watched the Adrien Brody – Forest Whitakar movie, “The experiment” yesterday. This movie is based upon another, yet more gruesome experiment called the Stanford Prison Experiment. In this experiment, Philip Zimbardo a psychologist with the Stanford University got together 2 dozen students who had absolutely no criminal record/tendencies for violence, and assigned them either the role of a prisoner or of a guard. They were to stay within the prison walls for 14 days (the initial plan) but the experiment lasted only 6 days. Reason: only after a day, the role-players began to take their roles for real. The “guards” began misusing their authority while the “prisoners” either revolted or turned completely passive. The “guards” ended up torturing the prisoners – and a riot broke out.

It’s obvious that an experiment of this nature was considered immoral and unethical, and never repeated. Yet, it underlined the conclusion of the Milgram Experiment, which was that authority does make people do things that they otherwise won’t do.

The Training Connection – Authority & Obedience

More often than not, I can predict the conversation that would take place, if I were to meet an HOD or a CEO of a company, and discuss instructional design with them. I won’t take you through the entire conversation, but at some point the gentleman or the lady is bound to tell me that his/her training programs have always been such grand successes, despite knowing nothing about this mythological critter called Instructional Design.

Obviously they do. Because they are the authoritarian figure. Nobody’d dare question what they say in their training programs. We the humans are more evolved than our brethren of other species yet we haven’t completely flushed out our pack mentality. We succumb to authority all the time.

On a positive note:

Classroom trainers can use their authority to really reach their audience. They know that their authority allows them to steer the discussions and the lectures; and that their trainees don’t have an option but to accept your authority. Now you can either misuse the authority the way those “guards” in the Standford prison experiment did, or you can use it productively. The trainees are your sheep and you are the shepherd.

Do read about the two experiments. The Wikipedia links that I gave above are portals to more details on these experiments, so please explore them.


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Re-introducing Sloth and Froth!

I am not sure if I’ve ever formally introduced you to Sloth and Froth. They appear in my posts off and on. In other words, they’ve been freelancing – but now I intend to offer them a permanent position here. Thus, it becomes all the more necessary that they are introduced to you, their real audience.

Meet Sloth.

He (yes, HE) is a personification of his name. He is lazy. He is someone who’d love to have a droid doing his work for him. Sloth hates to get up in the mornings, he abhors the idea of taking a bath (even of  brushing his teeth, but he won’t tell you that,) and his daily To-do list begins with the task of finding an unsuspecting mule who’d do his work for him.

Fortunately, Sloth is very intelligent. His huge body houses an equally huge IQ…and so he’s not a complete loser, but he is absolutely NOT charismatic…and he doesn’t care. He loves to complain, and he is of the opinion that the entire world has been paid to conspire against him.

Now meet Froth.

She (yes, SHE – what did you think?) is bubbly, quite like her name. She’s full of energy. She resembles a freshly uncorked bottle of Soda. She’s extremely energetic and you’d think that she’d never tire out – but she does, because she’s also a perfectionist. She is an extreme hardworker – to the extent that she burns every extra ounce of fat off her perfect body. Froth’s charismatic; she’s attractive, and she’s very lively.

Froth is a career woman. She wants  to do well in her career and she doesn’t want to do it by cutting corners (if you know what I mean.) She is always politically correct but at the same time  she’s also quite emotional. This makes her feel stressed at times.

Following are the posts in which Sloth and Froth have featured so far. I hope you like them, because you’ll be seeing a lot more of them on this blog:)

PS: Does this post smack of Reverse-Gender-Bias?

Froth says: This isn’t gender-bias, this is how things are. Women are blah…blah…and men are blaher…bhaher!
Sloth says: Who cares? Pass me the mustard!


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Social Influence – Part 1 – Definition, Explanation, Factors/Forces!

This is a 3-post series on the nature of Social Influence and its impact in a Classroom.

As classroom trainers, we could make our training programs more effective if we could find the answers to questions such as the ones listed below:

  • Why some people become leaders and other followers?
  • Why a bully might be capable of disrupting a classroom full of adult learners?
  • Why it’s difficult to regain lost learner engagement?

There’s a long list of whys that can be answered only if we understand the concept of Social Influence.


What is Social Influence?

Before I fall into the trap of defining it in a crisp and concise way and lose your attention in the process, let me take you on a trip into your past.

  • As a teenaged girl, you wouldn’t step out of your house in something that went out of fashion two years ago.
  • As a teenaged boy, you had to be part of the cool-dude group in your college.
  • As a daughter, you had to comply with your mother’s rules about the time you got home.

These or similar experiences happened because we were “socially influenced” – by the group of girls in the college, by those uber-cool dudes you were friends with, and by your own mother!

Social influence – The Definition:

Thus Social Influence can be understood as the influence that society (social groups, friends, family, and others) exerts either deliberately or unintentionally, and which brings about changes in someone’s behavior.


Social Influence – Factors / Forces:

As it’s clear from the above definition, Social Influence has many dimensions and it factors in different forces.

Some of these forces are:

  • Charisma
  • Authority
  • Groupthink
  • Expertise
  • Emotions
  • Trends

When we as individuals come across such forces, we change our behavior.  Let us take some examples:

Charisma as a Factor:

A charismatic person (the religious guru, the motivational speaker) might be able to influence our thought process by saying those very things that we’ve been hearing all our lives but never paid heed to.

Authority as a Factor:

Similarly a person who has some kind of authority recognized by the society (a policeman, a teacher, a doctor) can make us do things that we would probably never do if we didn’t know of their authority.

Groupthink as a Factor:

Members of group often begin to accept the majority view (despite their own views being different) because they don’t want a conflict.

Reflect upon the other three factors – it isn’t difficult to see how they influence the behavior of people, all the time:)

I’ll discuss more about these forces and how they manifest themselves in a classroom in my next post. Until then, keep an eye on what’s happening around you. I am confident that you’ll find many examples of social influence strewn around you as you navigate your way through your day.


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Post-Training Stress, The Need for Perfection, and an Absence of Self-Acceptance!

If you think that I am over-stepping the boundaries of Cognitive Psychology and entering into the realm of Clinical Psychology, you are mistaken.

I am here – right where I belong. I am standing amidst trainers, content writers, and other learning professionals – I am where I belong…and yes, I am talking about Stress and Self-Acceptance.

I am talking about it because these are the realities of our lives.

A trainer who trains others to handle work-related stress experiences loads of it herself. The normal stress-busters don’t apply to her – her stress originates from something else…and unfortunately she has to face it after every training program she conducts. Her stress is repetitive, and hence a lot more damaging. It can quickly result in fissures, which can suddenly give way, rendering her completely helpless.

My focus today is the stress that every trainer experiences post-training.

Let us begin by understanding two terms:

  • Stress
  • Self-Acceptance

Stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain,”  and it manifests itself as a disorder when it begins to cause physical problems such as palpitation, perspiration, muscular tension, constipation, excessive hunger…and so on.

Self-Acceptance is “an acceptance of yourself as you are, warts and all

Now if you’ve got the two terms right, let us define our problem, determine its root-causes, and try to get rid of all the training-related stress that’s been plaguing our lives.


If you are a trainer, and if you are experiencing any of the physical symptoms listed above, you should go through this article.

Let’s first see why a trainer experiences stress!

Why Trainers experience Stress?

The trainer:

  • is uncomfortable with the act of delivering trainings and doesn’t like to interface with people.
  • doesn’t know the subject well and conducts the training in fear of not being able to deliver.
  • has a morbid fear of hecklers and while he trains he obsesses about one or more of the participants turning hecklers.
  • assumes that there are people in the group who know more than he/she does of the content, and that he’d be laughed at behind his back.
  • is a perfectionist and fears the possibility that a few/some/many of the participants might not be happy with his training.

There could be other reasons too – but then they’d probably be related to the root causes for the stress.

The Two Root Causes of Stress among Trainers:

Let us understand both these root causes:

  • the absence of Self-Acceptance and
  • the denial of diversity in the audience.

When we step into the shoes of a trainer, we aim for perfection. We want to be the best of trainers. We don’t want to go wrong. Unfortunately we aren’t God. We are humans – and as humans, we have our own set of “perceived” deficiencies. Here are some examples:
See if you can connect with any of these.

  1. Vocabulary issues (I don’t have a huge vocabulary)
  2. Posture issues (I slouch)
  3. Candidness issues (I can’t mince words)
  4. Temperament issues (I lose patience)
  5. Content issues (I don’t know the content)
  6. Personality issues (I hate being a trainer)

Though the list can go on – do you see that in this short list, the first five can be improved upon, the last can’t be (at least not with ease.)

So, you aren’t God but then what’s new?

How could Trainers Eliminate Stress from their Work-lives?

Accept your shortcomings and move forth. How about not worrying about them (the first 5) until you get past them. I slouch too – but I don’t think that it makes a difference to my training programs. I am working on my posture – some day I might have a better posture, but until then, don’t bother me. And the fact is – I don’t remember anyone having ever complained about it either. Cheer up! Nobody there is noticing those shortcomings, except you my friend!

But if you don’t like to connect with people, you might consider changing your career tracks – because your inner-self isn’t going to change in a month or maybe an year – it’d take more time…you won’t be able to keep the stress at bay for that long…so move on, dear – stress is a sadist – it kills you slowly…don’t be a trainer if you don’t like to stand there and talk. Just check out.

The second cause is simpler to understand and also to accept.

Remember that people are different. You can do your best, you can kill yourself bettering your best, but each individual is different from another – and though there would be 9 people out of 10 who would be normal and who would learn from you and appreciate your effort; the tenth might either not learn or might not want to appreciate you despite learning a lot! Don’t kill yourself for those nutcases.

And remember,
There are three kinds of learners:

  1. Who want to learn,
  2. Who are indifferent and would learn if you tried, and
  3. Who don’t want to learn!

Focus on the first two kinds – leave the third kind alone. You can’t force-feed learning. And yes – when I say leave the third kind, I say wipe them off your mind-screen! There feedback doesn’t matter – Aim to educate, train, teach, and enable 70% of your audience. If you are able to do better, consider it a bonus. Don’t aim for perfection, because perfection doesn’t exist. Remember that those who are interested in learning shouldn’t be penalized for those who aren’t.

So don’t let anyone stress you out – neither the perfectionist who sits inside you, nor the non-motivated heckler who sits outside. You are precious for people who really matter to you – save yourself for them.

Important Concepts Discussed in this Post:

  • Stress
  • Self-Acceptance
  • Perfection


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Prior Learning in Adults – A Double-edged Sword?

A double-edged sword has to be wielded with care. My experience with adult learners has taught me that the heaviest and the deadliest double-edged sword that most adult learners own is their prior learning.

The Principle of Experience in Knowles’ Andragogy suggests “he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experiences that becomes a resource for learning”. There’s nothing wrong with this principle. In fact, from the Cognitivist’s angle, this “reservoir of experiences” helps us design effective learning content. But how the adult learner chooses to use his or her prior learning, would in fact, determine whether it would facilitate or impede the acquisition of new learning.

Here’s what happened when Sloth and Froth attended a short orientation program on Organizational Behavior. The program focused on understanding the factors that motivated people.

Sloth, as you know, had spent most of his life closeted in his office-cum-bedroom, with his mom doing his bidding all the time. While thus closeted, he spent his time reading all sorts of books, and this led him to become a “reservoir of theoretical knowledge.” Obviously when the training came up, he found it rather difficult to haul himself to his car and then drive to the training venue. He reached a little late and took his seat after mumbling an indistinct apology to the trainer. The day had begun for him.

Froth, on the other hand, lived alone and preferred to spend her spare time with her friends. She liked to learn what she could apply – nothing more, nothing less. Froth cooked her own food and she maintained a tidy apartment. She had been looking forward to this training program, the entire week, and so on the morning of the training day, she was prepared. She reached the training venue a little before time, and even had an opportunity to talk to some of the other participants.

The trainer began with a quick icebreaker, which didn’t really go down well with Sloth. “Let’s not waste time,” he said into the ear of participant who sat on his right, who gave a non-committal smile.

Before the trainer could begin, Sloth had a question. He wanted to know whether the MBTI would be covered in the training. Right after the trainer had begun, something made Sloth remember something about the theory of X and Y, and so he asked, and when the trainer said that it wasn’t part of the program, Sloth offered to tell others about it. His offer was turned down politely, but the refusal continued to rankle in Sloth’s mind. He made a note of it in his mind, and waited patiently for the discussion to begin. There would be a discussion, all training programs had them – it had something to do with the adult learning theory, thought Sloth.

The response that Sloth’s query invoked in others could be called mixed. The fresh incumbents were in awe of him and felt inadequate. Those who knew Sloth knew what was to come when the discussions began.

In the discussions, Sloth tried to become the center of attention, but he quickly lost track. Though he had much to share, his contribution wasn’t relevant. Instead, it steered the participants away from the core discussion. Froth however was more interested in reviewing how what she had learned mapped or didn’t map to her prior experiences. These feelings she shared with her group-mates, who then began sharing their experiences as well. The facilitator tried to help Sloth, but his prior learning had already hardened into an attitude and it was almost impossible for him to leave his mold so soon.

You know the end of the story…don’t you?
Froth went home richer and happier. Sloth went back grumpier and dissatisfied. Froth didn’t have prior knowledge of Organizational Behavior theories – she had prior experiences though. She shared them. Sloth didn’t have prior experiences, he had prior knowledge, and the knowledge interfered with his ability to learn more. They both exhibited the same adult learning behavior – they wanted to share what they knew!

Let us review the success of the training program.

The training program was created for people who needed an orientation; it was designed for the newly minted managers. Most of the newly minted managers had profiles that matched the audience profile for the training. It was assumed (and not incorrectly) that the executives who were recently promoted to being managers would not have spent many years of their lives going through the motivational theories. For this reason, the program was successful for 14 out of 15 participants. It worked for everyone, except you-know-who. The trainer went home happy – the learners went home happy…everyone was happy except the person who knew it all – but who couldn’t use any of it!

If not wielded carefully, Prior Learning could be a dangerous weapon!

If you are a learner with tons of knowledge, do the right thing. Read the next post on this blog to discover how you could rein in your knowledge and direct it usefully.


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Establishing a Process of Change – Overcoming Learned Helplessness

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy…
Read the first post (to understand the Concept of Learned Helplessness), the second post (to identify and ascertain the existence of Learned Helplessness), and this of course, is the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness).

In the previous post we learned to recognize the issue of learned helplessness. Have you identified a symptom in your behavior? If you haven’t found even one instance of learned helplessness, I suggest you look again. All of us have our apprehensions, our doubts, our beliefs about our inabilities – and they derive their sustenance from LH (Ah – I finally broke the chains and used an abbreviation.)

So let’s be good and review our own actions and corresponding justifications more objectively. Stop for a moment; pick up a pencil and a paper (or whatever else you use for jotting down your thoughts in the e-savvy environment of today.) Don’t tell me, and don’t tell anyone else – but be honest and put down the one thing that you’d really like to change.

Before you move on, remind yourself that life is a thousand times more beautiful when you are in-charge:-)

Photo by YimHafiz
  • Apply the litmus test – Confirm the Need to Bring About a Change
  • Identify/Establish a Motivator and a Process for the Change
  • Review & Fix the Motivator & the Process
  • Repeat the Process
  • Measure Results

Apply the litmus test.

Do you suffer from a physical, objective inability to achieve your specific objective?
Yes>>>Stop. Get help/resolve the real issues impeding your progress towards your objective.
No>>>Good. The issue can be resolved then – merely by controlling your runaway thoughts. Now answer the second question.

Do you attribute the issue to external factors?
Yes>>>Read ahead, apply, and get a life.
No>>>You have a genuine issue. Talk it out with someone – get help from friends – or learn to accept the reality. (I have been suffering from a back problem for about five years now; the pain and the resulting unease aren’t the product of an external factor. So I’ve learned to accept the reality of pain, and I live accordingly.)

(Note for the Instructional Designer Audience: In Instructional Design parlance, you’ve just confirmed the need to learn (to unlearn an attitude that’s bordering on a belief.)

Identify/Establish a Motivator and a Process:

Let us now begin the process of uprooting the unhealthy belief that “you can’t” do something.
The first step that you need to take is – do a physical activity that will help weaken the LH.

Here are a couple of illustrations courtesy Sloth and Froth:
Sloth: “I can’t talk to strangers.” >> Create a situation where you need to speak to strangers. (ride a bus to an unknown place in the city and get lost.)

Froth: “I can’t lose weight.” >> Create a tangible motivation for losing weight. (Spend half your salary on buying a pretty dress (or a handsome suit) that’s one size too small. )

It is quite possible that you are an internally motivated individual and you might not need the external motivation generated by these actions – Nevertheless most of us (even the internally motivated ones) are happier when we can “see” a tangible, achievable, motivational factor.

Now decide upon the process.

Sloth: I’ll get lost in the city and speak to at least five strangers, at least once a week.
Froth: I’ll not eat chocolates on weekdays, and I’ll jog a kilometer at least four days a week.

Review & Fix the Motivator & the Process:

The next step is to analyze what worked and what didn’t. Let us continue to follow Sloth and Froth.

Sloth: “I tried getting lost in the city, but the fear of having to talk with strangers made me get down the bus.” (Corrective Action: Sloth can tell his friends and relatives, that they should “dump” him in unknown locations, without prior warning.)

Froth: “I bought the dress…I spent a whole month’s salary on it! But I still weigh 65 kgs and I can’t keep off ice-creams and chocolates!” (Correction: Froth, I advised spending half-month’s worth of salary on it and not full-month’s…any way, here’s the corrective action you may want to take. Froth can keep the dress in a place where she sees it every day. She can also try it on (I know what it feels like to put on a dress a size too small – You feel like you are reborn when you peel it off.)

So the process changes to accommodate your problems:
Sloth: I’ll ask my friends to help me get lost in the city and speak to at least five strangers, at least once a week.
Froth: I’ll wear the new dress for an hour every weekend. I’ll not eat chocolates on weekdays, and I’ll jog a kilometer at least four days a week.

Repeat the Process:

After you’ve cleaned up your process, and got your motivational factors in place; now apply the process repeatedly, and after each repetition revel in your success, however minute it may be. Remember that every learning (or unlearning – as in this case,) experience has three fundamental phases: knowledge transfer, reinforcement, and assessment. The first phase is akin the identification of the issue, determination of the motivator, and establishment of the process (of learning/unlearning). The second phase is about practicing the learning/unlearning, and the final phase is about figuring out whether the learning/unlearning was successful.

So now you need to practice through repetition of the process. To get rid of your LH you need to go through your specific process again and again – and with each repetition, you’ll feel more confident of having kicked the demon out of your system.

I still remember the day, when in my final year of graduation, I faced my demons (read: LH) of not being able to speak formally, and I spoke (about something that I’ve now completely forgotten,) in front of the entire class. A year from that day, I had got over my fears. I addressed about 200 executives and senior executives of the organization I worked for, without getting the jitters – though what I said was undiplomatic…yet, my confidence came from the knowledge that there was no external/internal reason that should inhibit my ability to speak my mind – in front of everyone!

Measure Results:

When you begin to feel confident of having exorcised your demons, put yourself to test. If you have a close confidante, design the test with him or her by your side. Let’s see what Sloth and Froth would do at this stage.

Sloth: I’ll visit all those heads of marketing; all those I’ve been avoiding like plaque, and make them a presentation to wow them.
Froth: I’ll wear the new dress to the party that my colleague is throwing.

Assessments not only confirm whether you’ve achieved what you had set out to achieve, they also help you determine the lacunae in your approach – and if they succeed, they instill you with the confidence required to bring about other positive changes in your life.

So we’ve reached the end of this trilogy of posts. I know that the only bright points in this lengthy monolog must be Sloth and Froth…but I hope you found them useful. Try working out a process of change for your own brand of LH – and see it work:-)

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy…
Read the first post (to understand the Concept of Learned Helplessness), the second post (to identify and ascertain the existence of Learned Helplessness), and this of course, is the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness).


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Learned Helplessness – Identifying and Understanding it to Eliminate Depression!

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy…
Read the first post (to understand the Concept of Learned Helplessness), and the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness). This is the second post in the series.

Understanding an attitude isn’t easy and identifying it in someone else could be simpler than identifying it in yourself. If you look at “learned helplessness,” this attitude borders on belief. You begin to “believe” that you are helpless due to external factors, and that you can’t do anything about it. “What is, is and so it will remain,” becomes your mantra – your justification for feeling helpless. This feeling then leads to depression.

Photo by P0psicle

Depression is characterized by a mental state where you feel worthless and trapped. Obviously this mental state can only reinforce your feeling of helplessness. Thus, the situation becomes really difficult. What feeds upon itself to grow, can grow endlessly.

The first step towards vanquishing the demon of depression along with its mistress, the learned helplessness; is to “understand” (very cognitively and not at all emotionally) that the feeling of helplessness is an illusion. It isn’t real, as it is not supported by a physical inability to achieve what you want. This excellent post by Lex manifests this stage of learning to recognize and understand learned helplessness.

Lex did a self-analysis and realized that the “I can’t” attitude towards improving her health could be weeded out, because there was no real (root) cause supporting it. I realize that this step may be easy for some individuals (because their locus of control is more internal – they feel that they can control the outcomes of a situation) than some others (who have an external locus of control and who feel that external factors are more potent and they have a strong bearing on the outcome of a situation.)

As you read through this post, your mind will shift gears and go into high-drive. For example, you will probably say “learned helplessness? Big deal. I already know about it – but what I feel is much deeper.” Ask yourself whether your defense isn’t a result of the phenomenon itself.

Here’s an example:
“I don’t think I can drive, I am clumsy.” However, a closer look reveals that I can’t be qualified as clumsy. I don’t break things often and only rarely smash my little toe against the open door. And nobody I know has that clean a record that I expect of myself before I begin to learn how to drive.”

Now I tell myself (and others, who might be interested,) “I know I am clumsy and don’t tell me that I am not. There are other examples of my clumsiness too. I can’t risk my life and the life of others – just so that I may drive. I am clumsy – I am one in a million (because million minus one can drive,)”...and so on and so forth.

The good news is – driving is no big deal. So I can revel in not driving without experiencing drastic consequences. But then there are certain big deals too.

Let me illustrate:

  • I can’t do Math (Science, English, Geography…you name it.)>>>Result: Poor Grades
  • I can’t cook (And I can’t understand how the best chefs in this world are men?)>>>Result: Poor Health
  • I can’t exercise (I don’t have the time.) >>>Result: Poor Health
  • I can’t find a job (People don’t want my skills.) >>>Result: Low Income
  • I can’t write (I speak well – and my job needed spoken language proficiency) >>>Result: Reduction in possible career opportunities
  • I can’t make friends (Nobody likes me.) >>>Result: Loneliness
  • I can’t do anything (Everyone hates me, I don’t have a job, I can’t quit smoking)>>>Result: A lack of interest in life and thoughts of suicide.

Review the results. They all lead to depression, and they all have their origins in “learned helplessness” or unsupported “I can’ts”

All these are big deals! They impact us, and they impact our loved ones. I recommend that you first identify the symptoms (you can see them in the “Results” of the above list – such as Poor Grades, Low Income, Loneliness and so on.) Then figure out why you aren’t taking steps to remove those symptoms. If you find yourself giving “external factors” as excuses, you are suffering from Learned Helplessness in that arena.

If you have identified the problem, you are now ready to oust it from your life. In the next post, I put forth my thoughts on how we can “unlearn” learned helplessness, and lead a happier, more fulfilling life.

Additional References:
Belief” for understanding the concept of Belief.

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy…
Read the first post (to understand the Concept of Learned Helplessness), and the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness). This is the second post in the series.


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To Blog or not to Blog – A Question Answered in the Affirmative!

An analysis of learning begins best at home, and so as the first post to The Zen of Learning blog, I’ve decided to present my own experience of learning to appreciate the power of blogs. Following are the milestones in this learning experience.

  1. To me Blogging was a new-fangled term that referred to a fad. I didn’t expect to see a lot of serious content being posted to the web-logs, nor did I expect a lot of serious people to read it. My attitude ensured that I “sub-consciously” stayed away from conducting research on the learning impact of blogs. According to Krathwohl’s taxonomy , I wasn’t even ready to “receive.” But then that was a long time ago.
  2. I clung to my belief for a long time. For many years, in fact. Until Google helped me remove my blinkers. I would google with an objective of serious reading, and most of the “good” links that resulted from my searches, were blogs! After a while, I realized that I liked reading what the bloggers were saying. My respect for blogs as a medium of value went up many notches. (Remember, I had started at the sub-zero levels so the degree of my respect still wasn’t too high.)
  3. Next, I realized that all the people who wrote content worth reading were blogging! In my mind, blogging was quickly transforming into a useful pursuit. Unfortunately, I was still not able to determine whether starting and maintaining a blog would be something that I was capable of doing, yet, I had begun to play with the idea of writing a blog.
  4. I then plunged into research. I wasn’t out to find facts and figures – I wanted to discover whether a blog could be created and maintained in a win-win manner, where the author and the reader, both feel happy and satisfied. A blog that speaks only of me would be of no use to you, and one that speaks only to you, wouldn’t help me express myself – right? When I log my thoughts for my readers, they need to serve both parties. These thoughts need to have some value for my readers and also for me.
  5. It took me about six years, but I finally converted. I decided to write The Zen of Learning, which I hope would be journey into the expanses of the human mind, that my readers and I would take together. We’d begin by digging into different learning experiences, formulating, assessing, discarding, and selecting pieces of knowledge – through observation, analysis, and reflection.

With this first blog post, I announce my victory over an attitude. I watched my progress through the different levels of affective learning as I prepared myself to receive the new attitude and then responded to it. This was followed by my willingness to value it and then put in efforts to reorganize and recreate my value complex!

I now believe that a blog is a fantastic medium to enhance the collective knowledge through a journey of the mind.


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