How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

Overcoming fear of failure is crucial for success. For many highly successful men and women who have accomplished great things in life, failure was merely a stepping stone to achieving greatness.

Men like Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison understood that failing to make the attempt is the ‘real’ failure and that doing nothing, begets nothing – least of all success.

Likewise, women like Emily Dickinson and Marie Curie did not succeed initially and had a more difficult time striving towards their aspirations.

Why then would someone have a fear of failure?

Not knowing what it really takes to succeed. One reason is that many of us are so focused on success and the appearances of it, that we forget what it really entails. We rarely think about failure as being a part of life and how many success stories have emerged from sheer failure. No one talks about how many times Abraham Lincoln failed at getting elected to office before he ended up becoming president (8); how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard before becoming a sensation in the computer world, or how Michael Jordan failed to make his high school basketball team before becoming one of the greatest basketball players ever. In these times of fast media and instant news we often see the glamorous side of success rather than the obstacles and hard work it takes to get there.

 

Having unrealistic expectations. We often expect to succeed on our first attempt at a venture and if we don’t, we think we’ve failed. How realistic is that? Just because we failed a test, got passed over for a promotion, or didn’t get a ‘yes’ asking that cute girl/guy for their phone number, does it mean we will never succeed at it? Not at all! Yet fear of rejection, or perceived failure, stops many from trying again.

The same applies in competitive sports. Athletes must learn to accept loss before they discover what it takes to win. In any sport, expecting to win from the onset is totally unrealistic. Failure is part of the process of learning how to win. Likewise, in the entertainment and music businesses. Most ‘overnight’ successes take years in the making before they achieve high levels of success.
In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly talks about the “10,000-Hour Rule”, in which he states that the key to success in any field is largely a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. As an example, he brings up that The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany alone over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time. He also points out that Bill Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when at the age of 13, he spent some 10,000 hours or more, learning programming on a high school computer that he managed to access.

Needless to say, 10,000 hours of practicing anything would include many occurrences of failure, some frustration and falling short of goals.

Perfectionism. Some of us are afraid of failure because we believe we must be perfect. If we make an attempt and then fail at it, we risk looking foolish and therefore feel somehow flawed.

Perfectionists believe everything must be done at a high level with no room for mistakes. If they can’t get something done perfectly, they’d prefer not do it at all. Unfortunately, this type of thinking deprives the perfectionist of real learning and the benefits and value gained from experience.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure

Only by overcoming fear of failure can we achieve success in life. Here are some tips on how to eliminate fear and focus on success:

    • Understand and expect that at times you will fail. Realize that you are human and humans make mistakes. Before any of us learned how to walk, we crawled. We got up, fell down, got up again and continued the process until we could walk expertly.

 

    • Don’t take failure personally. Instead, view it as a stepping stone. Make certain you learn from it and then apply what you’ve learned to future situations. Refuse to consider failing a character flaw or weakness. Doing so will only prevent you from achieving future success.

 

    • No one succeeds all of the time, probably not even most of the time.In baseball, star players fail 70% of the time. Babe Ruth’s batting average was .342 which means he struck out 66% of the time. Wayne Gretzky’s career shooting percentage in hockey was 17.57% meaning he missed 82.43 % of the time. Wayne is also famous for saying “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So it is in life. You won’t fail at anything if you don’t make the attempt. You also won’t succeed!

 

  • Remember that ‘failure’ has produced many successes. Consider how many people in history had failed before they became successful and indeed because they failed. Albert Einstein’s teacher told him to quit school because; “Einstein, you will never amount to anything!” Ludwig Von Beethoven’s music teacher said of him “as a composer, he is hopeless”. Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed.

michael jordan failure quote

    • Appreciate the benefits of failure. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” In other words, your chances of getting things right on the first try are slim to none. The more you try, or experiment, the better you’ll get at it.

 

  • Believe in yourself. Rather than giving up when things don’t work out, take it as an opportunity to build perseverance and resolve. Believe that you’ve got what it takes to work through the obstacles and difficult times. Remind yourself how many failures became successful because they wouldn’t give up. The wonderful poem Don’t Quit by Edgar Albert Guest is an inspiring illustration of that mindset.

 

The Benefits of Overcoming Failure

  • You build valuable experience and knowledge You build strength of character and focus
  • You find more ways of being creative and sharpen your problem solving skills
  • It gives you an opportunity to redefine your goals or set upon a new path, if necessary
  • You build flexibility and open mindedness
  • You increase self-confidence and self-worth
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7 Simple Steps to Develop Great Habits

We humans are creatures of habit, therefore developing good habits should be simple – right! Well, not always.

The problem is that we get very comfortable doing things the same way each and every day. We often absentmindly stick to a daily routine without considering the consequence or effectiveness of it. Why change?

Unfortunately, not all of our habits are healthy, or good. If we are in the habit of coming home after work each day and reaching for an alcoholic drink to relax instead of getting on the treadmill to let off steam, it will adversely affect our health.

Or, if, while watching television in the evening we tend to snack on chips and drink soda pop instead of munching on veggies and sipping on fruit juice, it will ultimately lead to the consequence of poor health.

If we are in the habit of smoking to relieve stress/anxiety, or over-eating, or taking our frustrations out on others, we must recognize these as habits worth changing, or eliminating. So where do we begin?

 

7 Seven Simple Steps to Develop Good Habits

1. Identify the habit. As mentioned, most of the time we are no longer conscious of our habits, good or bad, so the first thing we need do is become aware. If that cough has been getting worse, or if we become winded after walking up a few stairs, it’s likely that a bad habit (smoking, sedentary lifestyle), or a lack of a good habit (exercise) is to blame. Maybe our finances are in disarray, which means that we’ve been in the bad habit of spending more than we earn, or not practicing the good habit of maintaining a budget and sticking to it. It’s time to examine our habits!

2. Make the decision, and then the commitment, to change. Of course, this is easier said than done. How many times have we said to ourselves, “Yes, I should exercise more and eat better. Not to worry, I’ll get around to it sooner or later?” Unfortunately, procrastinating just makes it harder to change a bad habit. The longer you put off taking action, especially where health is concerned, the unhealthier you, or the situation, will get. A conscious commitment is necessary because that’s what it takes to get the wheels of motion in action.

3. Discover your triggers and obstacles. If you don’t know what your triggers are, or if you are unprepared for the inevitable obstacles, you will set yourself up for failure. In order to develop good habits, we must be aware of what our habits are. All of us, in moments of weakness and vulnerability, need support or a release for our frustrations. Reaching for alcohol, drugs, over-eating, or over-medicating is not the answer. If an unpleasant incident takes place at work, or a messy traffic altercation occurs on the way home, you have to find a healthy alternative to your usual way of dealing with it. We all have bad days, but we need not resort to unhealthy habits to alleviate the stress. Likewise, we cannot let boredom, anger, or anxiety be triggers for bad habits either. Look for healthy ways of dealing with triggers and obstacles.

4. Devise a plan. Benjamin Franklin had a great plan for overcoming his bad habits and replacing them with good ones. He developed a process whereby he listed 13 virtues he felt were important in his life and then proceeded to work on them. He focused on one virtue per week for a 13 week period. By the end of each week he felt he had mastered the bad habit so he proceeded to the next one the following week.

During this process he kept a journal of his success with the virtues. Since some of the virtues helped facilitate the acquisition of others, he put them in a particular order beginning with temperance because “it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up.”
This will work well for anyone who is trying to establish a new good habit – vigilance is indeed needed to make sure you stick with it! After temperance he worked on silence because knowledge could be best obtained “by the use of the ears than of the tongue.”

Franklin had rhyme, reason and purpose for every virtue. He figured that to develop good habits, keeping order would free him up for the things he really wanted to accomplish in life. His resolve, once it became habitual, would help him remain focused in order to implement all the other virtues. Here for the fun of it is Benjamin Franklin’s list of virtues. You can devise a similar list for yourself to help you incorporate good habits into your lifestyle.

The List of Virtues which Benjamin Franklin incorporated into his life:

  1. Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry – Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

5. Employ visualization and affirmations. Visualization and affirmations are great for integrating the new habit into your routine. While visualization is a powerful motivational tool and energizer, affirmations program the subconscious with the right mindset for establishing a new habit. Together they allow you to feel and imagine yourself carrying out the correct behaviors making it easier to adopt the new habit. Certainly developing good habits is easier when employing visualization and affirmations.

6. Enlist support from family and friends. Let people know what you’re trying to accomplish. This way they will understand if you want to pass up the desert or go for a walk instead of stopping at the pub on the way home. When your friends know you are serious about changing a bad habit into a good one, not only will they help you steer away from temptations, they will cheer you on and give you moral support. We all need support in achieving our goals!

7. Find healthy ways to reward yourself. One of the reasons we develop many bad habits in the first place is because they make us feel good, even if it’s just temporarily. The experience of feeling good is meant to soothe or placate us when we’re stressed, dejected, or just plain out of sorts. For example, you might over-eat and feel really good while doing it, but then you feel twice as bad afterwards. The same goes for smoking or drinking too much. While you’re in the act you feel relaxed and trouble free, however, afterwards you feel remorse and vow to quit – soon. So, in order to minimize falling off the wagon and slipping back into old, detrimental habits, reward yourself when you’ve done well. Treat yourself to a new book, a movie, a concert, or new exercise equipment. If you’re short on cash, visit a friend you haven’t seen for a while, go to the downtown art gallery, or enjoy a skinny latte.

The wonderful benefit of developing good habits is that after doing them repeatedly, they soon become automatic. Anything you do for a long while and consistently enough eventually becomes a habit, and once it does, you no longer have to put much effort into it. Such is the beauty  of developing good habits!

10 tips on Building Self-Confidence

“If you don’t think very highly of yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to think it of you.”

Translation – It means that we alone are responsible for building self-confidence.

We cannot depend upon, or wait for anyone else’s approval. We must see ourselves as worthy and capable of achieving anything we choose to achieve.

Ultimately, how we see ourselves is more important than how anyone else sees us. If we don’t work at loving and accepting ourselves, nothing anyone else thinks matters.

10 Tips on Building Self-Confidence

    • Acknowledge Your Uniqueness. Believe in yourself and know that you are one of a kind. In the words of Walt Whitman know:
      “That you are here–that life exists, and identity;
      That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

      There is no one else like you on this planet. No one looks like you, has the same talents, experiences, or perspective as you do. You are unique and are therefore here to make your unique contribution. If we each focus on what we bring into the world to share, there can be no comparisons, envy or regret. We are here to “contribute a verse”.

    • Give it Your Best. When you do the best you can, with the best of what you’ve got, you can’t help but feel good about yourself and that confidence comes through in everything that you do. Giving it your best makes you unafraid to take risks or step out of your comfort zone – both great confidence-builders.

 

    • Persevere. Everybody has setbacks and obstacles to contend with. Don’t let them undermine your confidence. Treat them as opportunities to strengthen your resolve and then persevere. See Article: The Power of Persistence

 

    • Overcome adversity. Overcoming adversity builds and strengthens self-confidence. The greatest songs, works of art and literary pieces have been written by those who have experienced the depths of despair, loss, and emptiness, and then overcame them. Experiencing sadness and loss, and then rising above them, gives rise to hope and triumph. It makes you stretch and become more than you were.

 

    • Accomplish something. Set goals for yourself and then push yourself to reach them. Self-confidence soars when you know you can do what you put your mind to. It makes you feel unstoppable. Likewise, achieve mastery. Mastery experiences are those for which you know you have worked hard and sustained great effort in order to achieve success.

self-confident woman

    • Separate Yourself From the Event. You are not what happens to you, nor how you believe others see you. In other words, you are not defined by what happens to you, nor are you defined by how others see you. You are who you choose to be – a person of character, dignity and self-confidence.

 

    • Confront your fears. There’s nothing that destroys self-confidence more than succumbing to fear. Everyone feels fear at various times; we’re human, however facing circumstances with courage and poise strengthens character and builds self-confidence. Put yourself out there! If you’re afraid to meet new people, attend social events, etc. – don’t stay home and fret. Doing builds confidence. Of course, you’ll feel, and probably be awkward the first few times in new situations, however, the more you do it, the better you’ll get, and therefore the better you’ll feel about yourself.

 

    • Good looks do not equal self-confidence.  Some of the most attractive people in the world are insecure and lack self-confidence. Marilyn Monroe was considered to be one of the sexiest, most beautiful people in the world, yet she lacked a positive self-image. She misguidedly allowed external factors, such as the approval of others, to determine her self worth. Good looks may help you feel good about yourself temporarily, but are by no means enough.

 

    • Take good care of yourself. When you are in fit, in good health, and make a point of looking your best, you can’t help but feel confident. This is different, of course, from comparing your looks to others. It’s about being comfortable with you. Everyone looks good when they’re in good shape, well groomed, and healthy. You can’t help but have a glow about you when you take good care of yourself

 

  • Learn how to give yourself a pep talk.  We all have our down moments, moments of doubt, confusion and uncertainty. When that happens, we must learn how to restore self-confidence. One way is to understand that everyone goes through such moments. Another is to remember past successes, visualize the desired outcome, and keep at it! Practice makes perfect.

Self-confidence is absolutely essential to achieving success in any endeavor. You acquire it by doing, learning, accomplishing, and persisting.

The Art of Conversation

How to improve your communication skills

 

The art of conversation, like any art, is a skill of elegance, nuance and creative execution.

I happen to believe that there is an art to everything we do and why not? Without flair and panache most things become drudgery. Why settle for drudgery when you can have art?

When it comes to the art of conversation we’ve all met people who seem to have the knack for it. They can talk to anybody about anything and they seem to do it with complete ease. And while it’s true that there are those who are born with the gift of gab, luckily for the rest of us, conversation skills can be developed and mastered.

In my article Good Communication Skills – Key to Any Success, I talk about the importance of being a good communicator and I give tips on how to convey ideas and information successfully. Many of the same tips hold true for developing good conversational skills. Have a look at the article for added tips which I won’t be repeating here.

 

Conversation is a form of communication; however, it is usually more spontaneous and less formal. We enter conversations for purposes of pleasant engagement in order to meet new people, to find out information and to enjoy social interactions. As far as types of conversation, they vary anywhere from intellectual conversations and information exchanges to friendly debate and witty banter.

While there is more to having good conversation skills than being a comedian, dramatic actor, or a great story teller, it is not necessary to become more gregarious, animated, or outgoing. Instead, you can develop the ability to listen attentively, ask fitting questions, and pay attention to the answers – all qualities essential to the art of conversation. With diligent practice and several good pointers, anyone can improve their conversation skills.

Tips on How to Improve Your Conversation Skills

Show interest and be curious. People who are genuinely interested in others are usually interesting themselves. Why? Because they are more open to learning about and understanding new things. Showing interest also encourages the other person to be relaxed and share information more freely. Display attentiveness by keeping good eye contact and listening actively.

If you happen to be shy and need time to warm up before you share your own views, you can ask open-ended questions or encourage the other person to elaborate on their insights. This kick-starts the conversation and before you know it you are engaged in a good conversational flow.

Ensure there is a balance of give and take. A conversation can get boring quickly if one person is doing all the talking while the other is trying to get a word in edgewise. When that happens whoever is not talking begins to tune out and there is no conversation!

There can be many reasons for a lack of give and take. Sometimes nervousness can get in the way and you ramble on without realizing it. Or, nervousness can make you freeze and you don’t know what to say next. If you find yourself freezing up, take a deep breath and do your best to focus; smile, and then reflect on what you want to say. If the other person is the rambler and you’ve tried several times to interject but haven’t been able to, then excuse yourself politely and move on.

If later on you realize that you were the rambler (heaven forbid), then at least you will have made the most important step towards improvement which is – awareness.

Determine whether your tendency to dominate a conversation is due to nervousness or self-involvement.

Either way, review the conversation in your head. Look for spots where you could have paused and allowed the other person to talk. For future conversations a good rule of thumb is after you make a point, pause for either agreement or an alternative point of view. Observe body language for cues whether to stop or continue. For example, is the person glossy-eyed and therefore bored? Are they moving towards you to speak and you just keep on talking? Are they looking elsewhere (for an escape) while you are carrying on? In a good conversation each person needs to express themselves or it is no longer a conversation but a monologue.

Be interesting and have something to say. While you don’t have to be a comedian, entertainer, or brilliant raconteur, you do need to be interesting otherwise what would you say? If you are not well informed, tend not to read much, or have very few interests, you will have very little to talk about except yourself. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear about your latest troubles, conquests, or daily routine. Yet so many dull conversationalists believe that’s what people want to hear from them. Who hasn’t been stuck with someone at a social event who blathers on about their family history, latest job interview, or the like?

conversation skillsTo avoid being that person, become knowledgeable about world events, people in the news, or what’s going on locally. Take time to keep up with the latest music, new technological discoveries, or recent best sellers. No one can know everything, so if you can enlighten someone during the course of a conversation, you’ll be a hit! By the same token, you can learn something new as well.

Of course, not all conversations are knowledge sharing gatherings or discussions of global import. Many, especially at social functions, consist of light-hearted and cheerful banter. In such cases, be aware of the tone and mood of the conversation and go with the flow. If you are not particularly good at one-liners, or much of a jokester, you can always listen, smile and enjoy the humor. Never act like you feel out of place or ill at ease.

Be relaxed, be yourself. If you are on edge, or trying to be someone you’re not, it will show and therefore doom a conversation to failure before it starts. Admittedly, if you are not relaxed it’s hard to appear as if you are. Slow down and take a deep breath. If you don’t do your best to relax, you will end up saying something silly, unintelligible, or unrelated to the conversation. Also smile warmly; it will make you appear pleasant and therefore, more approachable. Worth noting: if you are trying to hard to be something you’re not, you will come across as a fake or a wannabe.

improve conversation skillsTo start a conversation, go up to someone and introduce yourself. It is both polite and necessary to start things off smoothly. If the occasion calls for it, you can offer a handshake and then smile and make eye contact. Being friendly puts the other person at ease and opens the door for them to introduce themselves. If, for whatever reason, your attempt is not well-received and you notice the other person is cool or standoffish, bow out gracefully and move on. Do not take it as a rejection; merely consider that the person has their reasons for not reciprocating. Perhaps they are not feeling well, have had a bad day, or are not in the mood for conversation.

To improve, practice and then practice some more. The art of conversation, like any skill, takes practice. Do not expect to be adept after your first few attempts. It will take practice as well as exposure to many different social situations. A good way to get practice before you venture out to an event is with family members and people you are comfortable with. They can give you helpful and supportive feedback, which in turn, gives you something to work on. You can never have too much practice!

Quick-Tips for The Art of Conversation

  • Do not dominate a conversation or make it all about you. A monologue is not conversation.
  • Show interest and curiosity in others.
  • Strive for a balance of give and take.
  • Be an active listener by maintaining good eye contact and asking pertinent questions.
  • Train yourself to relax by using visualization, meditation, or other relaxation methods. Being relaxed is vital for good conversation.
  • Do not interrupt and cut in with your own ideas before the other person is finished speaking.
  • Maintain an open mind; everyone has a right to express themselves even if you don’t agree with what they are saying.
  • Although this is cliché, try to avoid topics such as sex, religion and politics. You would be surprised at how  many people get trapped by them and end up in verbal battle, not conversation.
  • Be prepared by staying on top of the latest news, developments and world events.
  • Be approachable by staying relaxed, smiling and maintaining a friendly attitude.

Possessing the art of conversation improves personal, social and work relationships. It gives you the opportunity to meet interesting new people and introduces you to various new topics and subject matter. With practice and application anyone can improve their conversation skills.

8 Great Tips For Improving Memory

There are many ways in which you can improve your memory and the more you work at it, the better it becomes!

Memory is the mechanism by which we are able to store, retain, and recall information. As simple as it may sound, the process is a complex one which involves many different parts of the brain and serves us in a wide variety of ways.

As with so many of our other functions, the saying “use it or lose it” applies as aptly to the brain, as with anything else. The more you exercise your brain and nurture it with a good diet and healthy habits, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information.

Before we get into how to improve your memory, it would be helpful to understand how it works.

For example here are parts of the brain used for memory:

  • The hippocampus is the primitive structure deep in the brain that plays the single largest role in processing information as memory.
  • The amygdala is an almond-shaped area near the hippocampus, which processes emotion and helps imprint memories that involve emotion.
  • he cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain), depending on what kind of processing the information involves, such as language, sensory input or problem-solving, stores most long-term memory in its different zones.

Memory also entails communication among the brain’s network of improve your memoryneurons, which are the millions of cells activated by brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Memory can be short-term or long-term. In short-term memory, your brain stores information for a few seconds or a few minutes. It is capable of holding, on average, about seven items at a time.

Long-term memory involves the type of information that requires a conscious effort to retain, and then recall. This would include studying for tests, factual data, or personal events; such as the first time you were able to ride a bike, or recalling your favorite movie.

Another type of long-term memory is procedural memory, which involves skills and routines that you perform so frequently that they don’t require conscious recall.

How to Improve Your Memory – 8 Great Tips!

1. Exercise your brain. The best way to exercise your brain is to engage in new experiences or expose it to varied sensory stimulation. When you break with routine or do something that is challenging, you create new brain pathways. An illustration of this would be writing, or dribbling a basketball with your non-dominant hand, or taking a totally different route to work. An example of sensory stimulation, would be smelling a particular fragrance while listening to a certain piece of music. To stir up brain activity in yet a different way, you can pick something usually done by rote, or on automatic pilot, and consciously change the way you go about it.
It is also a well know fact that people who engage in activities that exercise the brain, such as reading, writing, and playing card games, can delay the rapid memory decline that occurs as we age.

2. Pay attention. It is very difficult to remember something if you’ve never learned it in the first place. It takes about eight seconds of intent focus to process a piece of information through the hippocampus and direct it to the proper memory center. If you do not concentrate, get distracted easily, or are doing several things at once, your chances of retrieving specific information will be non-existent.

3. Incorporate as many senses as possible. While there are many different learning styles, such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic (touch), no matter which type you are, you can incorporate all of them in the process of trying to remember something. If you’re a visual learner you can read out loud, even recite rhythmically to remember better. If you’re an auditory learner, create a mental image or look at pictures as you read out loud. Relating information to colors, textures, smells and tastes is also very helpful.

4. Organize Information.A good way to remember new things is to make associations and connect information to what you already know. Building on what you know helps you remember new material. Also, write important things down in notebooks, calendars and post-it notes, then reorganize the information in a comprehensive way in order to retain it.

5. Review frequently and over-learn. Go over what you’ve learned the same day you learned it, and review it frequently. When you review and over-learn information, it becomes embedded in your memory and therefore, so much easier to recall. It is also much more effective than trying to cram.

6. Use Mnemonics. Mnemonics are a memory tool or technique used for remembering difficult information. They are clues of any kind that help us remember something, usually by associating it with a visual image, a sentence, or a word. For example, “30 days hath September, April, June and November” is a rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month. Another example of mnemonics would be to “chunk” information. Chunking is when you arrange a long list into smaller units or categories that are easier to remember. To remember a long number, you could chunk it into groups of 2, 3 or 4 for easier retention. You can also code and structure information by using vivid mental images. When you make the images colorful or even unusual, they are much easier to recall when you need them.

7. Practice good health habits. Exercise regularly. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders, such as diabetes and heart disease.  Poor health, of any kind, contributes to memory loss. Likewise, get plenty of sleep and eat properly. Sleep is necessary for concentration and clear thinking, while good eating habits supply the nutrients needed to nourish your brain.

8. Stay motivated and maintain a positive attitude. When you are positive about learning and experiencing new things, you automatically improve your memory. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you have a bad memory, you will actually impede your brain’s ability to remember. Maintaining a positive attitude sets up expectation of success.

By incorporating the above tips and strategies into your routine, you will be able improve your memory significantly. Not only will you learn and retain more in school and at work, you will achieve more satisfaction in your personal and business relationships.

Classics and Increasing Brain Power

Reading and learning about Classics can increase your brain power and learning capability as well as expand your cultural literacy.

brain classicsAs a big believer in each of us developing our intellectual capabilities, I recommend classical studies as a way to broaden your knowledge base.

Classics, or Classical Studies, deals with the literature, art, history, philosophy, and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Why the Classics? How could reading about classics possibly be of practical use in increasing brain power?

Of course, I’m not advocating enrolling in an intense university program in Greek and Latin, however, I do suggest you consider incorporating more classical reading in your routine.

Here’s why:

    1. Because it’s fun and entertaining and provides a basis for the enjoyment of many movies, comic book heroes and video games that contain references to classical history and mythology e.g. Troy, Gladiator, O Brother Where Art Thou (movies), Hercules, The Fantastic Four (comic book heroes), and God of War (Playstation2), to name a few.

 

    1. It feeds the imagination if you want to be a writer (or aspiring blogger). J.K. Rowling author of the Harry Potter books studied Classics and uses much classical terminology and references in her books. The first Harry Potter book has been translated into both Latin and ancient Greek.

 

    1. It enriches and broadens our understanding of western culture, history and literature giving us an appreciation for where our language and customs originated, as well as a sense of connection to the past.

 

    1. It helps us understand the human condition and ourselves. For instance, Greek mythology was then, and serves today as a study in human nature, the dynamics of the human mind, human behavior, and the forces that drive us. We learn about jealousy, love, grief, narcissism, good and evil. It’s fast tracking for Life 101.

 

    1. The skills and knowledge acquired through the study of Classics are highly transferable to other areas. For example, the ability to deal with precise details, to express yourself, problem solve, think critically and manage your life are all honed and sharpened by having studied Classics.

 

    1. So much of our medical and scientific terminology is rooted in Classics that learning about the Greeks and Romans can facilitate the study of anatomy, astronomy and physics. Many of our modern sciences have Greek names because the ancient Greeks either invented them or made significant contributions to them.

 

Becoming familiar with classical literature gives us perspective and an understanding of European and English literary genres and their evolution. The Greco-Roman influence has had such an enduring effect on every aspect of Western culture including languages, history, philosophy, literature, science, technology and art.

Interesting facts about Classics and Classical Studies:

  • The first written record of Greece and the oldest form of Greek literature is Homer’s Iliad (circa 1000- 900 B.C.)
  •  A book of maps gets its name from Atlas, the Titan who supported the heavens on his shoulders.
  •  The point of vulnerability is an Achilles’ heel, because the mythological warrior Achilles had been magically protected in all but that part of his body.
  •  Our calendar goes back to the ancient Romans and the 7-day-week was introduced by the ancient Hebrews.
  •  The statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was inspired by the statue of the Olympian Zeus by the Greek sculptor Pheidias. The designs on Lincoln’s armrests are a Roman symbol for justice and republican government.
  •  Law schools report that their top students come from math, the Classics, and literature rather than from political science, economics and legal studies as one might expect.
  •  David W. Packard of Hewlett-Packard was a former professor of Greek and Latin, and Chris Martin from the band Coldplay studied The Classics.
  • E.D. Hirsch Jr. who is well known for coining the phrase ‘cultural literacy’ and for his theories on education states that “As a consequence of the fact that we learn most easily when we attach the new to the old, people who already know a lot tend to learn new things faster and more easily than people who do not know very much.”

In other words, the more knowledge and background we have of our world and its evolution in language, history, arts and sciences, as presented in Classics, the better a foundation we have for learning new and current information.

Elements of A Productive Mindset

What is a productive mindset?

mindsetproductive mindset is one that makes the best use of your resources – your time, your energy and your efforts. It is not trying to do everything and be everything, or even doing it in the quickest way possible.

It is making the most and best of what you have while enjoying the process.

In order to make the most of who we are and what we have, there are certain qualities or characteristics that assist us in accomplishing that end.

Here are some of the elements of a productive mindset:

    • Curiosity – The willingness to seek, question, and explore new ideas and concepts. It is the willingness and desire to know and learn new things.

 

    • Desire or Motivation – Cultivate desire. Without desire or motivation there is nothing to drive us to make progress and improve. Inertia is the opposite of desire and a destroyer of progress.

 

    • Vision – To be able to visualize what you want helps you focus on it and gives you an idea of what the outcome would look like. Without that picture in your mind, it would be more difficult to strive for a goal. We’ve all read how men of ‘great vision’ have been able to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

 

    • Critical Thinking – Acquire the ability to assess a situation in an objective manner or to see it how it really is. Look at the pros and cons and be willing to make the appropriate adjustments.

 

    • Self-confidence – The faith and belief that you are fully capable and can do what you set out to. Without self-confidence and faith you cannot reach your full potential.

 

    • Persistence – Most things do not come easily. Be willing to overcome obstacles and adversity. Challenge yourself and persist in order to reach your goals. Do not let circumstances, the opinions of others, or setbacks, thwart your determination to succeed.

 

    • Positive attitude or outlook – Your attitude, be it positive or negative, can make, or break, you. Possessing a positive attitude allows for any possibility, while a negative one defeats you before you can even start.

 

    • Open-mindedness – There is nothing like an open-mind for generating new and innovative ideas. You become receptive to groundbreaking experiences when you are flexible and open-minded.

 

  • Balance – Ultimately, to function well and get the most from life, we must maintain balance. Working towards goals is important, but we must also take time to rejuvenate and recharge. Doing too much, or pushing too hard on any one thing, can lead to burnout and frustration.

By integrating the above elements into our though processes, we not only cultivate a productive mindset, we set ourselves up for reaching our goals more effectively, develop positive habits and we sharpen our minds to function at high levels.

How to Think for Yourself

ThinkingforyourselfDo you think for yourself?

In these times of fast media and ever-growing Internet we are under so many external influences that it can be difficult to know when we are thinking for ourselves.

Unless you are a discerning, very aware person, you most likely don’t even know when your thinking is not your own.

Not that all outside influence is bad or detrimental to forming your own views, but being unable to think for yourself can make you miserable at best, or a puppet of someone else’s programming, at worst.

Admittedly, we are all born into societies or cultures where the norms and customs are already established. For the most part, we have little choice but to conform to what is already in place. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, it can be confining and controlling if we accept everything blindly and never question the status quo.

Does this mean all of your ideas can be original and unlike everyone else’s?

Not at all!

Nor does it require being contrary and argumentative just to be defiant or stand out. To think for yourself means that whatever opinions you hold will be well thought out and come from a position of thorough investigation and thoughtful analysis. It means choosing to not compromise the facts for the sake of consensus or fitting in. It is not unlike critical thinking – it just encompasses a broader scope of choices and decision-making in your life.

 

As an example, how many of us feel the need to keep up with ‘the latest’? We wear clothes, listen to music and follow trends that the media tells us we should in order to be cool. Marketing companies create ads that hypnotize us into a herd mentality as we fall into debt, wear fashions that are unbecoming, and get caught up in a cycle of over-spending, over-consuming and then stressing out over it. Before we realize it, we are living lives designed for us by the powers that be and without our conscious participation.

Another trap we fall into when we don’t think for ourselves is groupthink. Groupthink, a term coined by Irving Janis in 1972, is a psychological phenomenon that takes place within a group of people who try to avoid conflict and reach agreement without critically evaluating options or alternative ideas. The problem with groupthink is that it hinders finding the best solutions, impedes creative ideas and thwarts independent thinking. Wanting to be part of the crowd can certainly have its drawbacks!

So how can you cultivate the ability to think for yourself?

Tips on how to think for yourself:

Develop a strong sense of self. Know who you are, what you want and what is best for you. Do not let others, especially marketing companies and the media, tell you how you should look, feel and act. Do what is best for you. Cultivate your own tastes and enjoy your preferences.

Be well-informed. Gather as much information about a subject as possible before forming an opinion. Build your mental resources by reading, observing, and listening for yourself. Then take time to reflect and evaluate.

Be flexible. Look for solutions and outcomes to a situation from as many perspectives as you can. Determine the pros and cons. Are there other possibilities? Whom might it harm/benefit? What are the potential consequences?

Identify possible biases. Are you being unduly influenced by your culture, upbringing or other people’s opinions? Are you being fair and open-minded? Many times we make poor decisions because we begin with the wrong premise. If we take time to evaluate and judge based upon what we observe first hand rather than what we’ve been lead to believe, we can arrive at a more appropriate and practical conclusion.

Do not buckle under pressure, fear, or guilt. Have the courage to stand up for what you really believe and have deduced yourself. If you go along with the crowd for the sake of keeping peace, avoiding confrontation, or fear of failure, you do everyone a disservice, especially yourself. You may have a brilliant idea, or maybe it happens to be the right thing to do. If no one hears about it, a healthy discussion cannot take place and all possibilities will not be considered. A good idea has the potential to evolve into a better one with input from a variety of sources.

The Benefits of thinking for yourself:

  • You develop self-confidence and trust in your abilities
  • You attain a greater sense of accomplishment
  • You expand your mind and boost your brain power
  • You gain respect from others by standing up for what you believe in and by being original
  • You are more aware and alert to what the media is trying to sell you
  • You are more open to self-improvement and alternative viewpoints
  • You are more interesting to others by expanding their thinking and options

You are NOT thinking for yourself when:

  You let others, the media, or convention sway you from doing what’s right for you.
  You buy into negative, one-dimensional stereotypes based on sex, race or culture.
✓  You do something because it has always been done that way – even if it no longer works.
  You follow old wives’ tales, superstitions or fallacies that defy common sense.
✓  You don’t take time to think things through carefully and fully.

As you may have already concluded, thinking for yourself is not easy. It requires deliberate, mindful and at times courageous application, however the personal rewards are endlessly gratifying.

In the words of John Stuart Mill: “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.”

Critical Thinking : Problem Solving

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The quote by Jean De La Bruyere: “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think,” may seem a bit radical, however, according to the premise of cognitive psychology, what you think is what you feel.

While many people believe that your feelings precede, or are independent of your thoughts, the truth is that your feelings are products of your thoughts.

This revelation can be both daunting and liberating.

Daunting because it makes us responsible for our attitudes and liberating because we have the power to choose our perspective, mood and thoughts.

When we are aware that we can choose and direct our thinking, we realize that we have the ability to better control the circumstances of our lives, improve our decision-making processes and generally live more productive lives.

This in no way suggests that we need downplay the many feelings and emotions we as humans enjoy, it’s a simply a way for us to manage and balance them with our cognitive abilities.

We are thinking critically and in a problem solving
mindset when we:

  • Rely on reason rather than emotion
  • Evaluate a broad range of viewpoints and perspectives
  • Maintain an open mind to alternative interpretations
  • Accept new evidence, explanations and findings
  • Are willing to reassess information
  • Can put aside personal prejudices and biases
  • Consider all reasonable possibilities
  • Avoid hasty judgments

Like any other skill, learning to think critically or problem-solve takes time, perseverance and practice. Knowing which steps to take and how to apply them helps us master the process.

Steps to Critical Thinking As It Relates To Problem Solving:

    1. Identify the Problem. The first task is to determine if a problem exists. Sometimes when you think this point through, you may come to the conclusion that there really isn’t a problem, just a misunderstanding. If that’s the case, fine. If not, and you determine that there is indeed a problem, you need to identify exactly what it is. According to Barry Lubetkin, a New York clinical psychologist,  how systematically someone weighs the pros and cons of a problem and how clearly the person can define and state it, is also an indication of highly developed intelligence.

 

    1. Analyze the problem, look at it from different angles. Once you’ve determined the problem, analyze it by looking at it from a variety of perspectives. Is it solvable? Is it real or perceived? Can you solve it alone or do you need help? Sometimes by looking at it from many angles you can come up with a resolution right away. You may also reveal a bias or narrow point of view that needs to be broadened

 

    1. Brainstorm and come up with a several possible solutions. Problems can be solved in many ways. Brainstorm a list of several possible solutions. Put down anything that comes to mind and then go over the list and narrow it down to the best possibilities. Having several viable options leads to obtaining the best results.

 

    1. Decide which solution fits the situation best. Go over your list of possible solutions. Different situations call for different solutions. Quite often what works in one situation, may not work in a similar one. Take time to determine what will work best for the problem at hand. One solution usually does not fit all.

 

  1. Take action. Implement your solution. Every problem has a solution; even if it is to accept the situation and move on. Instead of approaching problems and challenges as insurmountable obstacles, we can view them as opportunities to hone our critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Every problem we are able to resolve increases increases self-confidence and self-worth. Thinking critically not only helps us handle future challenges more skillfully, it also broadens our life experience and helps us gain perspective.

Critical Thinking : How to Reason

Critical thinking is the mental process of analyzing or evaluating information. ‘To reason’ is the capacity for rational thought, or to think logically.

Once you have established a solid foundation or a healthy self-concept, it is important to be able to think critically, or to reason.

Everyone thinks; however, much of our thinking is reactive, biased, uninformed and often prejudiced. More often than not, it is also haphazard and undisciplined.

Critical thinking

Why do we need to think critically?

In order to assess our role in, and the consequences of any actions we take, we must be able to evaluate and determine what is taking place in a given situation.

This requires us to organize our thinking, integrate the information at hand, distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion, and then weigh potential outcomes.

By thinking critically, instead of reacting emotionally to a problem, we employ strategies which:

  • Help us learn from an experience
  • Help prevent it from occurring again
  • Result in a reasonable, effective solution

The quality of life we experience is in direct proportion to the quality of our thinking.

Critical thinking is self-disciplined, self-monitored and problem solving thinking. It promotes open-mindedness, putting things in perspective, and a positive attitude.

When we don’t reason, or think critically, we subject ourselves to fleeting, erratic or unpredictable emotions. Of course, this does not mean we should deny or suppress our emotions, for indeed, they are a vital and significant element of who we are. Instead, we must learn how to make them work for us, not against us.

Critical thinking helps us balance our emotions, which in turn leads to good judgment and making informed, good decisions.

For the most part, critical thinking does not come naturally. It takes effort, training and practice.

As A. E. Mander wrote in his book Logic For the Millions: “Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically – without learning how, or without practicing. People with untrained minds should no more expect to think clearly and logically than people who have never learned and never practiced can expect to find themselves good carpenters, golfers, bridge players, or pianists.”

Tips On Improving Critical Thinking

  • Play strategy games, sudoku and solve crossword puzzles.
  • Reading improves focus, imagination and vocabulary which results in heightened thinking skills.
  •  Engage in healthy debates in class or with your friends. Argue both sides of an argument.
  • As Edward De Bono, the lateral thinking psychologist suggests, use the GBI technique, in which you list the good, bad and interesting points of a position.
  • Look at a problem from as many viewpoints as possible.

 

By Z. Hereford