How Are We Different?

Following on from my last post where I showed how similar we are in the way we process information and that our thoughts are so similar, there are some variations that make each of us different to each other and can make us believe that we all think differently.

Let's look at some of the major differences;

Gender - Evolutionary, men have learned to suppress most emotions, with the exception of joy/happiness. If they showed fear for example, men were killed by their enemy or by wild animals. Men have taught ourselves to compartmentalise emotions, speak mainly from their logic brain, and to suppress emotions with bravado and humour.

Women on the other hand have always, quite rightly, shown emotion; they had no evolutionary need to suppress emotions, they have always expressed how they feel, they speak from both the logic and the emotional part of their brain, and they openly talk about any concerns they may have.

Age - The older the person, the longer the sentence is a reasonable guide with generations. Technology has greatly influenced the way in which younger people communicate - say it in a photo rather than with words. The way each of the generations react when angry is also different; Traditionalists go quiet, Baby-Boomers express anger by raising their voice, Gen-X's also yell but quickly move on, Gen-Y's express how they feel in two words, the second word being "you" or "off", while Gen-Z's use just one word, "Whatever" and walk away.

Culture - Culture is introduced from when we are born and has a strong influence on how we behave, our acts, not on how we think. Culture is more about social norms. Our culture can also have a major impact on our values, what we consider important us and how we behave in various situations.

Personality - This is the main factor that confuses us into believing that we all 'think' differently. Our personality is formed in early childhood and is a combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Personality is how each of us view the world. Two major factors influence our personality - what we inherited from our parents (genetics) and the world around us (our circumstances). Nature and nurture. Twins will have different personalities despite having the same parents and what seems like the same environment. However, many studies have shown that we may not treat our children exactly the same, unconsciously of course, which can impact strongly on personality. Then there is their friends, their schooling, their music......

How often have you sat in a meeting or coaching session and thought of a question to ask but were afraid to ask it and then someone else asked the same question and everyone in the room said, "I was going to ask that", or "Yeah". And you then wished you had asked the question first. Resonating with you?

The majority of us, psychological and medical variations aside, all think the same way. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we all talked about what we are thinking?

Let's talk!

Change Can Be Frustrating, It Needn't Be.

Sometimes we struggle after having decided to make a change in our life, and oftentimes we give up without really knowing that we have given up until we realise that we are back into our old patterns of behaviour. Additionally, when we're trying to make a change in our life, or perhaps to achieve a goal, we become frustrated that things aren't happening fast enough.

Research is overwhelming, and I don't think we needed research to confirm this, life is getting faster and faster. Life is also getting more complicated for some and as a result of that, more frustrating if you are unable to keep up with these advances.

The result, we seem to be angrier and sadder than we have ever been in our lives because of frustration. Or are we?

Those who have been around for a while, baby boomers or older, will know that we aren't actually angrier than we've ever been before. We have always been angry. It's just that these days we are unafraid of verbalising our frustrations whereas previously we tended to keep it to ourselves.

Because the rest of our life is moving faster and faster through technological advances, we expect the same fast result when it comes to our personal endeavours.

Advances in technology, in particular those that have been made in the field of medicine, is fantastic. Science is now able to tell us a lot more about how our brains process information, how we can influence our behaviour though our thoughts, and how we can make improvements in our lives.

For example, we know that it takes longer than 21 days to change a habit. It is actually 60 to 80 days depending on how ingrained the habit is that you want to change. We also know that when it comes to achieving goals, we shouldn't write down more than five. One is more than enough to make a real impact on our life.

Here's a quick guide on changing habits and setting goals, both of which go together. If you want to achieve a goal you have to change something that you are currently doing. Most often, you are needing to change a lifetime habit;

  1. Identify the one thing you want to change that will make the biggest impact on your life.
  2. Look at all of the factors that are currently contributing to that area of your life you want to change.
  3. Now choose just two of those factors that will give you the fastest improvement with the least amount of effort. Choosing more than two and you will soon find yourself being overwhelmed and giving up.
  4. Identify the way in which you can introduce those two factors into your life with the greatest of ease and without causing frustration.
  5. Mark the date that you start on a calendar, then count out 80 days and place another mark. That is the day that you no longer have to concentrate on introducing the two factors, they will be ingrained into your brain.

You can then repeat the process for the next change in your life. And then again, and then again, and then again. By taking smaller steps we can achieve larger goals, it is about embedding patterns of behaviour.

If you find yourself falling back into old habits, don't beat yourself up about it, know that that is just part of the process. 50% of who we are is hereditary, it comes from our parents, it's in our DNA if you like. The other 50% is you and what you have done in your life. Therefore, you are able to change at least half of your behaviour because it's yours, it's you.

There is no quick fix when it comes to breaking habits or making changes in our life. The sooner that we realise this, the easier it is to accept which reduces the frustration that often comes with trying to change a habit or achieve a goal. Don't get frustrated, get determined, you got this.

Let's talk!

Is It Just Me?

The more that I interact with others, the more that I present to audiences, the more questions that I am asked, the more research that I carry out, the more studies that I read, the more and more that I realise that we are all so similar.

Yes, there are gender difference, ethnicity differences, generational differences, personality differences, social differences, the list goes on. However, we are all so similar in our thoughts that we can focus on generalisations to help ourselves. And, isn't that what research is, for the majority?

Here's a list of things that you may have thought you were alone in your thinking, and ways to help overcome them;

  1. I am not good/strong enough - Imposter syndrome, you are good enough, you can always do better, that's why you are where you are today.
  2. I need to wait until - Your brain likes to run in patterns of behaviour, habits. There is no waiting, start today, right now, this instant.
  3. He/she is successful because of... - They are successful because they took a risk, they were committed, they worked hard, they had passion, they drove themselves to succeed. You can do the same if you behave the same way.
  4. I wish I could laugh/cry/yell more - You can, but why do you need to? These are simply emotions and emotions are nothing more than information pertaining to a particular situation. Data in a computer as it is often described.
  5. When I get this done I can relax - You will never finish, there's always something else to do, there's another job to do. So, relax in the knowledge that you are working towards being a better person, helping others, and contributing to society.
  6. The person I talk to inside my head is much younger than I am - Yes, we all have a much younger person as our inner guide. Acknowledge him/her, just don't let him/her hold you back. It is an immature you who is afraid to move forward in case you make a mistake.
  7. I am getting old - Reflection comes with age, as does wisdom. Focus on the present, make the most of the time you have, resist the aging process, embrace that the fact that you are currently alive.
  8. Life is passing me by way too fast - It's not, physics tells us this. You are busy, which is a good thing, you simply aren't focussing on the here and now. Bring yourself back to the moment and stop that continuous self-talk.
  9. I wish I had/hadn't - Guilt and regret are designed to remind you of risks/danger and to add to your pile of learning. Instead, reflect on the good that you have done and add to your pile of good things.
  10. Why can't I be like everyone else - You are, in so many ways. There's about 10% difference in all of us, the circumstances into which we were born. The rest is so similar it will reassure you that you are not alone.

How many of these 10 items did you think that you were alone in? At least two I suggest. Socialisation is the key to most things in life, talking with others. Imagine if you told someone what you were thinking, in a nice way of course.

Our brains are hard-wired to socialise. Let's talk!

Should I Be Afraid Or Embarrassed?

No and no! Asking for help when you need it, sharing a story when things seem insurmountable, apologising when you make a mistake. Each of these things are in our nature, hard-wired into our brains, part of our common traits.

There is no doubt that people have become increasingly isolated with the advent of social media, the very thing designed to bring us closer together. The missing part of social media is of course, face-to-face conversations.

Messaging back and forth may work on occasion, talking with someone on a phone is okay, video calls are second best, talking in person is the ultimate method when communicating with others.

'Moderate' users of social media use the service sparingly across the day. 'Regular' users tend to use social media first thing in the morning, maybe during a break, and then last thing in the evening. 'Heavy' users are on social media for a large portion of their day. Research tells us moderate use is the best for us - we enjoy it more, it doesn't dominate our life, we have increased contentment, and we don't become isolated.

The three most important things that you can do for your wellbeing are; socialisation, exercise, and sleep. Get these three simple things right and our lives tend to become more balanced.

Using social media can be a part of the socialisation process, yet an unintended consequence is that, the more we use it the less likely we are to talk with actual people. From that comes increased reluctance to ask for help when we need it most, stemming from fear and/or embarrassment.

There is no shame in falling over, there is no shame in making mistakes, there is no shame in not achieving what you set out to do. The shame is actually not feeling we are able to ask, share, or apologise.

Never ever be afraid to ask for help, never ever be afraid to share your story, never ever be afraid to apologise. Most importantly, never ever be afraid or embarrassed to talk, no matter what the reason.

When we converse with others in person, we are participating in a centuries-old practice - sharing, caring, helping, listening, telling, laughing - the very things that make us who we are as humans.

Let's talk!

Overcoming Complacency

Noel Burch introduced a model in the 1970s outlining the stages of competency. In it he describes the stages of learning that all of us go through when we start a new role;

  • Unconsciously incompetent - we aren't very good in our role and don't know it therefore aren't alert to risk.
  • Consciously incompetent - we are aware that we aren't very good at our role therefore are guarded to risk.
  • Consciously competent - we are familiar with the role, reasonably good at it, therefore are guarded to risk.
  • Unconsciously competent - we are so good at our role we are doing it without much thought therefore aren't alert to risk.

Accidents and mistakes tend to happen at stages one and four, it is the unconscious state where danger lies. Furthermore, at stage four we become complacent and our mind wanders off onto other things. It is also where our unconscious bias creeps in, things appear to us to be a certain way when they are not.

We have spoken previously about the difference between a routine and ritual, a routine is where we go about our day in an unthinking fashion whereas in a ritual we are doing the very same things and fully alert.

Science tells us that our brains are working harder than they've ever done so before. Baby boomers have between 50 to 70,000 thoughts a day, generation-X have over 90,000 thoughts. We are now overthinking and over worrying way too much. We need to take back control of our wandering mind.

There is a simple technique to remain alert across your entire day, it is used frequently by the military when out on patrol for days and weeks on end. Every so often they stop, look around, and focus on likely areas of risk and danger. They may even say inside their heads "What's different, what's changed, where's the danger?"

Additionally, after they have rested, soldiers refocus their attention by determining what they are going to achieve for the next period and how they going to achieve it. The greatest risk in the workplace is becoming complacent after a break. Those who follow the game of cricket will know that there is a high likelihood of a batter going out immediately following a break.

By employing two simple techniques; 1) Remaining alert - being consciously competent and 2) Refocusing - looking ahead to what you want to achieve following a break, we will reduce overthinking, over worrying, and control our unnecessary thoughts. We will also reduce the risk of harm to ourselves or to others.

Two further techniques you may want to consider adding to your day;

  1. Start your day the way you want it to go - if you are running late and rushing into work, have you noticed how you tend to run all day and never seem to catch up? Set your alarm clock 15 minutes ahead of when you think you should rise in the morning to allow for contingencies so that you won't be running late for work.
  2. Plan and end your day with a briefing/debrief - when you arrive at work, plan out as much as possible what you want to achieve in your day. At the end of your day look back and see what you achieved and ask yourself "What went well, what could I have done better?"

Employing simple techniques helps us to remain alert, aware of danger, makes our day seemed to go much faster and assists us to achieve more. Mindfulness, who would have thought?

Let's talk!