Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Laughing Baby

This is what I'd like to do with my tax return, and this is how I'd respond if I did.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Dear Lovely Reader

Thank you for visiting my blog!  Just a reminder that I only infrequently update this blog these days.  The blogs I use mainly are:

Headstuck!  Career Change Blog:

And Working with ACT for organisational leaders, HR managers, trainers and coaches:

Look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Being with Sadness

I went home yesterday to visit my old Grandfather, 92, who now lives in a home, much to his disgust. He was grumpy because he felt he’d been locked in there against his will. He was surrounded by old women, many of them even grumpier, so we went outside for a cup of tea.

It was cold outside and windy. For some reason, we got onto talking about the gloomiest of subjects. We both felt low. We talked about how he missed his daughter, Rowena, who died before I was born. It felt uncomfortable and sad.

It was sad. I felt like crying.

Some years ago I would have taken this discomfort as a sign to run away. I may have cracked a joke, or left a bit earlier, or hurriedly changed subjects.

But this time I sighed and stopped and just sat there. In the middle of the day, sitting with my Grandfather, sharing time, sharing life, a perfect moment. I gave up the struggle, and shared what was.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Naomi Shahib Nye, “Kindness”

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Certainty Bias

A fantastic interview with neurologist Robert Burton highlights the mind’s Certainty Bias.

The mind evolved to help us make sense of the world around us, because without that understanding it’s pretty hard to know how to act.  Not many of our ancestors had time to make a list of pros and cons before making important decisions.

But in today’s context the mind’s pull for certainty has different consequences.  The mind likes nice, uncomplicated beliefs which can help us make sense of a situation.  Yet these beliefs often leave us trapped by our own perceptions:

“I must get this right”.
For important events and decisions, our mind will tell us how important it is to get this right.  Yet the mind will be far slower to identify what ‘right’ is.  The unspoken assumption is that right is perfect.  Perfection is hard to achieve… so procrastination ensues.

“I need to know the likely outcome / if I can cope before I start”
The mind likes to dictate terms and the terms are – no movement towards a new project unless certainty is guaranteed!  The trouble is this often stops us from taking action on the things we value most.  Result: the mind’s goal will be achieved…by doing nothing.

“I need to have all my things around me / complete silence / the right people to work effectively”
The trouble is we rarely get the ‘right’ environment.  Deep down we know this and that we need to start right now – even if it is with the wrong pen.
“If I was good at doing this it would be easier / life is about enjoyment”
The great happiness myth!  The problem is life isn’t meant to be enjoyable in the sense that we should enjoy each moment.  Our most fulfilling moments weren’t preceded by feeling good – far more often they were preceded by the most dreadful doubt and fear.  Our intolerance of ambiguity keeps us stuck – which eventually makes us miserable.

So what can we do about it?
As Burton acknowledges, the most important thing with such thoughts is to recognise them.  After all, you do not need “the right result” so much as you are having the thought that you need it.  Even recognising this as just a thought – not reality – is effective.

Once you’ve noticed your thoughts, bring your attention back to your behaviour.  The mind often leaves behaviour unspecified, because perfection is more certain than an imperfect first step.  This makes purpose hard to find.

So try to counteract this by getting specific about what it is you will do:
  • I’d love to get the right result – so I will make a list of what that result looks like in practice.
  •  I’d love to know more about the outcome I can expect – and the most important things I need to know are what the client really wants and why they want it.
  • I don’t want to fail – and the main risk to failure is that I don’t revise properly.  Therefore, I will make a revision plan.
  • I want better working conditions – so I will make a specific list of improvements I could make,  starting right here and now.
  • I want to enjoy myself – but I am willing to experience uncertainty now in order to make progress towards my goals.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Sad Post

A friend of mine, Rupa Patel, died this week from meningitis. She was 24.

I feel utterly wretched about this. Will you forgive me, blog readers, for writing about it?

Rupa was a lovely, sunny, kind person with so much enthusiasm for life. Everyone trots out these cliches but in Rupa's case they really were true.

After we graduated, Rupa asked me to review her CV which I gladly did.  Frankly, it didn't read well. Nothing like the real Rupa, who was so fun and vivacious and natural. It was full of management speak, trying to sound professional, trying to sound as though she was someone else. The thing is, Rupa didn’t need to be anyone else.

In one hilarious example, Rupe wrote this under Interests and Activities:
In my spare time I like solving brainteasers, and other mentally stimulating word and numerical problems.

To which I wrote:
Do you really? Is that true? I am not sure how I feel about this. It sounds a bit weird!

I still to this day cannot imagine Rupa solving brainteasers, she was FAR more likely to be chatting animatedly with someone about psychology or the latest gossip in the pub, but there you are.

After the CV was finished I wrote this:
Overall, I think you should think about your core strengths. What are they? What are you really interested in? What are you like as a person? Your strengths – the real Rupa – are the things I would be really interested in as an employer. They are the reasons why I would employ you. So they should be the theme of the CV.
To help you, here are some of your strengths I have observed: bright, conscientiousness, funny (ha ha not weird), friendly, great teamworker, responsible, organised (very), fun to work with, willing to learn, highly capable, interested in psychology, ambitious, presentable and reliable (you’re always the first to respond to my e-mails), enthusiastic, intelligent. THIS STUFF DOESN’T COME OUT IN THIS CV.

Of course, Rupa didn’t need my advice really and she soon landed an excellent job. But there is something in what I wrote that consoles me a little bit. I hope she believed me when I said these things. I hope she felt good when she read them. And I hope she felt some confidence as she went out into the brave new world knowing that the people she met really did think she was amazing.

And at least I said them... So often I don’t.

Rupa, you will be missed terribly and my heart goes out to your family and friends.

Everyone at Bloom Psychology and The Career Psychologist will remember you, and we will do our best to honour you in the work we do.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Rat Race

"A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings.
Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.
This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high".
Jimmy Reid 1932 - 2010