RSS

Tag Archives: motivation

Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Application in Training & Content Development (3 of 3)

Following are the two posts that precede this post.

  1. Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Why People play down the Achievements of Others?
  2. Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Stability & Controllability

This is the third and final post in this series. Through this post, let us discuss some applications of the Attribution Theory.

Recall how Sloth and Froth applied different causes to their own and other’s successes and failures. What we saw was something that we’ve all experienced intuitively – the primal human tendency to improve ones appearance. An interesting application of Attribution theory, which popped into my head just now, can be seen in the behavior of a young woman viewing a picture of another woman (someone that her spouse or sweetheart may have found attractive.) The reasons that this woman would attribute to the “success” (read: attractiveness) of the woman in picture would probably read as:

“A play of lights. Those photographers can make anyone look beautiful! And I wonder why you don’t see those spots on her face that I saw when the camera did a close-up in…what was that show – Oh…Koffee with Karan, I suppose. And that figure?! Hasn’t anyone heard of Photoshop! She’s got curves?! Hah!”

And upon viewing her own photograph…
“The photographer didn’t know his work! Look at the way he messed up the lighting! I don’t have those three rumbling chins – no way! And my skin is actually many shades lighter. What’s that spot on my cheek? Must be a speck on the camera lens!”

Funny…but true! And we all know that it is true:-)

What’s Lacey’s Viewpoint?

The question is how can we use this reality to make learning more effective?

Here are a few tips.

1. Empathize. Feel what your Audience Feels!
2. Appreciate the Cultural Angle of Attribution
3. Ascribe Failure to Unstable and Controllable Causes
4. Ascribe Success to Internal and Controllable Causes

Empathize. Feel what your Audience Feels!

Remember that the audience attempts to view his/her success or failure in the best possible light. This of course means that for everything that happens during a learning experience, the audience’s mind is busy determining causes. By the time, you get around to explaining something, the audience has already booked a cause for it. So, Never tell the audience that his or her failure was due to an internal factor. (In all probability, the audience has already pinned the blame of failure on to something else, such as you, or the study material, the methodology, or even a visiting aunt.) If you differ, your explanation will be met with a cognitive dissonance.

Appreciate the Cultural Angle of Attribution

Always review a learning issue within the context of the culture. For instance, as Indians, we make external attributions for a person’s undesirable actions more often than the westerners. This is so because as a society we are driven by external obligations, humility, and the demands of our social/familial roles.

Thus, if a person is caught taking bribe, a westerner would probably be more disposed towards attributing the action to that person’s trait of dishonesty, while we would most probably blame it on the system.

Here’s another example.
My personal experience of dealing with the topic of plagiarism in a training program taught me that this topic has to be handled very carefully, else it would hit a wall of resistance. Discussing plagiarism as a malady to be remedied results in more productive discussions that discussing it as an act of dishonesty (which results in drawn swords.)

Ascribe Failure to Unstable and Controllable Causes

This is an old one, and I am sure that you are already a master at doing this. Ascribe failures to unstable and controllable caused (for example, if a learner fails to perform according to expectations, ascribe it to “lack of directed effort” (something that can be controlled, and which isn’t stable – are you wondering whether all that is internal and unstable can be controlled? Reflect.) Don’t ascribe it to “lack of aptitude for science.”)

If you think that a learner has developed the tendency to ascribe failures to external, stable, uncontrollable factors, gear up to steer this learner away from this defeatist attitude.

Ascribe Success to Internal and Controllable Causes

In societies such as ours, we grow up ascribing our successes to the hand of fate. When I was growing up, before and after my exams (until the results were declared,) I’d pray and hope that somehow my prayers would improve my results. Thankfully, my prayers were never answered and I learned to ascribe success to “internal and controllable” causes. I shudder to think what kind of person I would’ve become had I turned “lucky.”

We should attempt to help the learner view his/her successes as a result of her internal, stable, and controllable factors (such as the output of concentrated effort,) instead of external, unstable, and uncontrollable factors, such as luck.

I believe that such positive attributions can go a long way in bolstering the confidence of our children who would find themselves in control of their destiny instead of being controlled by it.


Photo by mikebaird

Of course, Attribution Theory has many other applications, and I don’t think that I can cover all of them, but I do feel that a conscious effort to keep the three parameters of Attribution Theory in mind could help all kinds of learning professionals – the trainers, the teachers, and the instructional designers. It could help us reach out to our audience, empathize with them, and become a positive influence in their lives.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Stability & Controllability (2 of 3)

The previous post introduced us to the Attribution Theory and Self-Serving Bias. It also illustrated the first of the three attribution factors, the locus of control. In this post, we will discuss the two remaining factors – stability and controllability.

Let’s revert to the self-propping reflections of Sloth and Froth.

Sloth: Froth got promoted because her boss (a male in this case,) is completely smitten by her. I wasn’t promoted because my earlier boss, who was reasonable and sweet, got transferred; and now I’ve got to work under this insufferable hag! Her boss and my boss – they are here to stay! I can’t change a thing! She’ll continue to be promoted; I’ll continue to slog!

Froth: I got promoted because I am smart and intelligent. It’s my hard work on that project that led to this promotion. Sloth? He didn’t get promoted because he’s a sloth-ball. He’s an incorrigible procrastinator! I got promoted because I put in that effort – Sloth missed it because he doesn’t want to work hard!

So, Sloth attributes his failure and Froth’s success to “external”, “stable”, and “uncontrollable” causes. Froth on the other hand attributes Sloth’s failure and her success to “internal”, “unstable”, and “controllable” causes.

Thus, both Sloth and Froth are trying to cast the other person in the worst possible light. (Sloth says, she succeeded because everything was conducive for her, Froth says, Sloth failed because he didn’t work hard, which he could’ve…and so it’s too bad!)

The point to note here is that each one of us attributes causes in a similar way…though the degree might vary. Knowing this can help the trainers and the content writers in anticipating their learner’s responses. If you’ve been a moderator of a discussion, you’d know how you could raise a firewall between yourself and the participant by saying those two fatally poisonous words, “You are wrong!” Remember, that the audience thinks that he or she is much better than the average person on accomplishing everything (except whatever the audience has learned to feel helpless about – read, the Learned Helplessness posts.)

Let us sum it up.

Attribution theory says that humans attempt to attribute the reasons behind an event in a manner that they are able to cast themselves in the best light. They do this by evaluating the event on three factors, which are:

  • Locus (Whether internal or external)
  • Stability (Whether stable or unstable)
  • Controllability (Whether controllable or uncontrollable)

These three factors are “perceived” to establish a self-serving bias.

Important Note: There’s also a cultural dimension to self-serving bias. Despite the rapid westernization, the Eastern Cultures (India included) inhibit self-serving bias.

In the third and final post on this topic, we will discuss the Training and Content Creation implications of the Attribution theory, and of self-serving bias.

(Read the first post in this series here.)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Why People play down the Achievements of Others? (1 of 3)

The reason behind this incredible human tendency to belittle the achievements of others can be explained through Weiner’s Attribution Theory. This set of posts shall discuss the three factors (locus of control, stability, and controllability) that influence the way we attribute reasons to everything.

This post shall introduce the first factor, “locus of control” and help us build a real-life connect for this theory. The next post shall introduce the other two factors, and the final post will help you review how you can spice up your trainings and content through the application of this theory and the concepts related to it.

So, put on your protective gear…we are ready to take the plunge!

Photo by Lukjonis

Let’s begin by meeting Sloth and Froth. It’s evening now, and we find them at their homes (different ones of course – I hope I didn’t give you any reason to believe that they were related!) Today, the promotions were announced…Sloth wasn’t promoted (no surprise – thanks to constructivism) and Froth was (of course!)

Here’s what they tell themselves:

Sloth:
Froth got promoted because her boss (a male in this case,) is completely smitten by her.
I wasn’t promoted because my earlier boss, who was reasonable and sweet, got transferred; and now I’ve got to work under this insufferable hag!


Froth:
I got promoted because I am smart and intelligent. It’s my hard work on that project that led to this promotion.
Sloth? He didn’t get promoted because he’s a sloth-ball. He’s a lazy procrastinator, who wouldn’t raise his hand to wipe his nose, hoping that the tissue would fly out of the box and land on his nose.

What do you think? Is their behavior normal? Would you (and I) behave similarly? There’s a good chance that we would…because Attribution theory applies to all of us!
Here’s a quick analysis:

Sloth “attributes” his failure (to get promoted) to “external factors” (replacement of the sweet boss with the bitter pill.) He also “attributes” Froth’s success (in being promoted) to “external factors” (the boss being smitten by her.)
Froth “attributes” her success to “internal factors” (smartness, intelligence, and hard work) and Sloth’s failure too to “internal factors” (being a sloth-ball, and an inveterate procrastinator.)


Thus, for our successes and others’ failures, we do an internal attribution (thus, the locus is internal,) and for our failures and others’ successes, we do an external attribution (with an external locus.)

Internal Attribution (also called “dispositional attribution”) >>> Internal Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located within me.
External Attribution (also called “situational attribution”) >>> External Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located outside me.


According to the Attribution theory, the locus of control is one of the three factors that are instrumental in attributions. I hope Sloth and Froth have helped you understand what this factor “locus of control” means.

To simplify matters, we attempt to take all the credit for our successes, and none for our failures; while we try to strip others of the credit for their successes (crediting external factors instead) and credit them with the burden of their failures. This tendency is also known as a “self-serving bias.”

Remember – to shorten a line without erasing, you need to draw a bigger line parallel to it. Fortunately all of our reality exists in our perception, and so as civilized humans – we attempt “improve” our goodness by casting ourselves in better and others in poorer light! So often, without improving our actual skills, we can “perceive” ourselves as bigger, better, stronger, more intelligent than the next person – through an intuitive self-serving bias!

In the next post, we will discuss the two other factors (stability and controllability) that explain the human behavior’s pull-‘em-down-to-hoist-me-up tendency!

The reason behind this incredible human tendency to belittle the achievements of others can be explained through Weiner’s Attribution Theory. This set of posts shall discuss the three factors (locus of control, stability, and controllability) that influence the way we attribute reasons to everything.

This post shall introduce the first factor, “locus of control” and help us build a real-life connect for this theory. The next post shall introduce the other two factors, and the final post will help you review how you can spice up your trainings and content through the application of this theory and the concepts related to it.

So, put on your protective gear…we are ready to take the plunge!
Let’s begin by meeting Sloth and Froth. It’s evening now, and we find them at their homes (different ones of course – I hope I didn’t give you any reason to believe that they were related!) Today, the promotions were announced…Sloth wasn’t promoted (no surprise – thanks to constructivism) and Froth was (of course!)
Here’s what they tell themselves:
Sloth:
Froth got promoted because her boss (a male in this case,) is completely smitten by her.
I wasn’t promoted because my earlier boss, who was reasonable and sweet, got transferred; and now I’ve got to work under this insufferable hag!
Froth:
I got promoted because I am smart and intelligent. It’s my hard work on that project that led to this promotion.
Sloth? He didn’t get promoted because he’s a sloth-ball. He’s a lazy procrastinator, who wouldn’t raise his hand to wipe his nose, hoping that the tissue would fly out of the box and land on his nose.
What do you think? Is their behavior normal? Would you (and I) behave similarly? There’s a good chance that we would…because Attribution theory applies to all of us!
Here’s a quick analysis:
Sloth “attributes” his failure (to get promoted) to “external factors” (replacement of the sweet boss with the bitter pill.) He also “attributes” Froth’s success (in being promoted) to “external factors” (the boss being smitten by her.)
Froth “attributes” her success to “internal factors” (smartness, intelligence, and hard work) and Sloth’s failure too to “internal factors” (being a sloth-ball, and an inveterate procrastinator.)
Thus, for our successes and others’ failures, we do an internal attribution (thus, the locus is internal,) and for our failures and others’ successes, we do an external attribution (with an external locus.)
Internal Attribution (also called “dispositional attribution”) >>> Internal Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located within me.
External Attribution (also called “situational attribution”) >>> External Locus >>> The factors causing “this” are located outside me.
According to the Attribution theory, the locus of control is one of the three factors that are instrumental in attributions. I hope Sloth and Froth have helped you understand what this factor “locus of control” means. To simplify matters, we attempt to take all the credit for our successes, and none for our failures; while we try to strip others of the credit for their successes (crediting external factors instead) and credit them with the burden of their failures. This tendency is also known as a “self-serving bias.”
Remember – to shorten a line without erasing, you need to draw a bigger line parallel to it. Fortunately all of our reality exists in our perception, and so as civilized humans – we attempt “improve” our goodness by casting ourselves in better and others in poorer light! So often, without improving our actual skills, we can “perceive” ourselves as bigger, better, stronger, more intelligent than the next person – through an intuitive self-serving bias!
In the next post, we will discuss the two other factors (stability and controllability) that explain the human behavior’s pull-‘em-down-to-hoist-me-up tendency!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Shaky Grounds of Learner Motivation – Motivating the Learner in Corporate Trainings!

Underneath every learning action is an inner desire to improve one’s abilities. Right? Wrong.

Here’s a situation.
Anita’s boss, who supervises 9 others in her team, reflected upon the productivity and quality data for her team, and decided that the team needed to be trained for their core competencies. So Anita too was sent for a training that would help her do her job better. Anita, however, felt that she didn’t need the training program, what she really needed was a transfer… her project manager’s.

Anita didn’t believe that the training program could help her – in fact, she didn’t believe that there was a need for her to take the program. Her action of attending the training program didn’t stem from any “inner desire” to improve her abilities. Anita would probably put on her mental blinkers the moment she enters the training hall and keep them on until she leaves.

Anita represents the stark truth of corporate training environments, where instead of the participant paying for the training program, his/her organization pays for it. Unfortunately, corporate trainings and even open training program that have an organizational sponsorship component are extremely common, and in fact account for most of the big budget training projects!

Here are three important tips for making these participants more amenable to your training programs.

  1. Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals.
  2. Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.
  3. Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

In other words, figure out who the robin is and what she wants!


Photo by Foxypar4

1. Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals:

People are different from one-another and they like to be perceived as individuals. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Carnegie says that for each of us the sweetest sound in this world is the sound of our own name. This also holds true for the training programs that we conduct, for we generally find ourselves training humans – the species that has the highest degree of self-concept. But I recommend that you don’t stop at memorizing names. Instead, devote the first ten minutes of your training programs, determining what differentiates one participant from another.

I know, it’s easy to preach but difficult to practice – and I too am guilty of ignoring this tenet in some of my training programs – but I make a very sincere effort. Include eye contact, inclusive gestures, and use your learning about their personalities.

All this will help transform your unwilling participant into a willing audience – Expect the degree of this transformation to be inversely proportional to the participant’s unwillingness and directly proportional your perspicacity.

2. Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.

My experience tells me that you can learn a lot about your audience’s personality and their attitude towards the training program through some pre-training initiative. I believe that a good trainer should spend the time immediately before the training, preparing himself – not by going through the training content, but by reviewing the individual profiles of the training participants.

Sending out the audience information sheet for the participants to complete and email to me, is the most important preparation activity that I do, “before” conducting any corporate training program (of course, I expect the group’s average motivation quotient to be sitting at the nadir, in the case of corporate trainings – and so I treat them with utmost caution.) For these formats I set open-ended non-obtrusive questions that are extremely instructive and help me design/re-design the structure, and even the delivery of my programs. I will write more about setting these formats…one day! (Sigh!)

Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

This is cool – but tough…and somewhat risky. You need to figure it out how it could help you connect with your participants – especially in a corporate training environment, where instead of the participant, the participant’s organization is your client! The client organization’s primary interest would be that you map all the learning outcomes (stated as well as unstated) to the organization’s goals. However, this focus on organizational goal mapping may reduce your audience’s appetite for learning even further.

Remember, as the Training Guru Robert Pike points out in his hook-them-up and reel-them-in style, the adult learner (and if you ask me – any other kind of learner as well,) is interested in What’s-in-it-for-me (or WIIFM, a term that adorns the vocabulary of every trainer under the Sun.)

I was once addressing a group of highly intelligent engineer trainers who were working with a Public Sector Organization. All my audience were between 40 and 55, with their kids all grown up, and with their lives settled on the borders of boredom. Most of my audience thought that writing for the web was a new-fangled absolutely non-serious kind of pursuit – and I needed to take them through web 2.0! So, I did what I just asked you to do. I established a personal goal for them. I started by telling them about blogging and what it could mean to individuals like them.

I spoke of its use in expressing themselves for:

  • Post-retirement part-time options such as training and consulting.
  • Personal satisfaction and possible growth options in terms of using their own brand-equity (developed through their blogs) for representing their organization

My extremely intelligent and smart adult audience interpreted it in their own ways – I had thrown light on the possibilities, they connected the rest of the lecture with their personal goals. Obviously, that session went through with most energy. Everyone wanted to know more – there were discussions, there was laughter, and at the end of it all, there was a satisfied audience. All in the session that had been scaring me the most.

So, to sum it up:

Make your trainings successful by:
· Addressing the Individuals in the Group
· Sketching the profiles of your participants, before the training.
· Helping participants map the content to their personal goals.

Until Tuesday then:)

Motivation, learner motivation, motivating the training participants, motivation in corporate trainings, methods of motivating the trainees, WIIFM, what is in it for me, robert pike, robert w. pike, train the trainer, dale carnegie, how to win friends and influence people, audience psychographics, entry behavior, audience analysis, adult audience

Underneath every learning action is an inner desire to improve one’s abilities. Right? Wrong.

Here’s a situation.

Anita’s boss, who supervises 9 others in her team, reflected upon the productivity and quality data for her team, and decided that the team needed to be trained for their core competencies. So Anita too was sent for a training that would help her do her job better. Anita, however, felt that she didn’t need the training program, what she really needed was a transfer… her project manager’s.

Anita didn’t believe that the training program could help her – in fact, she didn’t believe that there was a need for her to take the program. Her action of attending the training program didn’t stem from any “inner desire” to improve her abilities. Anita would probably put on her mental blinkers the moment she enters the training hall and keep them on until she leaves.

Anita represents the stark truth of corporate training environments, where instead of the participant paying for the training program, his/her organization pays for it. Unfortunately, corporate trainings and even open training program that have an organizational sponsorship component are extremely common, and in fact account for most of the big budget training projects!

Here are three important tips for making these participants more amenable to your training programs.

1. Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals.

2. Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.

3. Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

In other words, figure out who the robin is and what she wants!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/foxypar4/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Carnegie

Acknowledge their Presence as Individuals:

People are different from one-another and they like to be perceived as individuals. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Carnegie says that for each of us the sweetest sound in this world is the sound of our own name. This also holds true for the training programs that we conduct, for we generally find ourselves training humans – the species that has the highest degree of self-concept. But I recommend that you don’t stop at memorizing names. Instead, devote the first ten minutes of your training programs, determining what differentiates one participant from another. I know, it’s easy to preach but difficult to practice – and I too am guilty of ignoring this tenet in some of my training programs – but I make a very sincere effort. Include eye contact, inclusive gestures, and use your learning about their personalities.

All this will help transform your unwilling participant into a willing audience – Expect the degree of this transformation to be inversely proportional to the participant’s unwillingness and directly proportional your perspicacity.

Receive information on your Audience’s Psychographics and Entry Behavior in advance of the training program.

My experience tells me that you can learn a lot about your audience’s personality and their attitude towards the training program through some pre-training initiative. I believe that a good trainer should spend the time immediately before the training, preparing himself – not by going through the training content, but by reviewing the individual profiles of the training participants.

Sending out the audience information sheet for the participants to complete and email to me, is the most important preparation activity that I do, “before” conducting any corporate training program (of course, I expect the group’s average motivation quotient to be sitting at the nadir, in the case of corporate trainings – and so I treat them with utmost caution.) For these formats I set open-ended non-obtrusive questions that are extremely instructive and help me design/re-design the structure, and even the delivery of my programs. I will write more about setting these formats…one day! (Sigh!)

Design your program to establish help the participants map the content to their personal goals.

This is cool – but tough…and somewhat risky. You need to figure it out how it could help you connect with your participants – especially in a corporate training environment, where instead of the participant, the participant’s organization is your client! The client organization’s primary interest would be that you map all the learning outcomes (stated as well as unstated) to the organization’s goals. However, this focus on organizational goal mapping may reduce your audience’s appetite for learning even further.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Pike_(Bob_Pike)

Remember, as the Training Guru Robert Pike points out in his hook-them-up and reel-them-in style, the adult learner (and if you ask me – any other kind of learner as well,) is interested in What’s-in-it-for-me (or WIIFM, a term that adorns the vocabulary of every trainer under the Sun.)

I was once addressing a group of highly intelligent engineer trainers who were working with a Public Sector Organization. All my audience were between 40 and 55, with their kids all grown up, and with their lives settled on the borders of boredom. Most of my audience thought that writing for the web was a new-fangled absolutely non-serious kind of pursuit – and I needed to take them through web 2.0! So, I did what I just asked you to do. I established a personal goal for them. I started by telling them about blogging and what it could mean to individuals like them.

I spoke of its use in expressing themselves for:

· Post-retirement part-time options such as training and consulting.

· Personal satisfaction and possible growth options in terms of using their own brand-equity (developed through their blogs) for representing their organization

My extremely intelligent and smart adult audience interpreted it in their own ways – I had thrown light on the possibilities, they connected the rest of the lecture with their personal goals. Obviously, that session went through with most energy. Everyone wanted to know more – there were discussions, there was laughter, and at the end of it all, there was a satisfied audience. All in the session that had been scaring me the most.

So, to sum it up:

Make your trainings successful by:

· Addressing the Individuals in the Group

· Sketching the profiles of your participants, before the training.

· Helping participants map the content to their personal goals.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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).

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,