Monday, September 30, 2013

Why Winning is So Hard

If you don’t think so, just ask the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, who got spanked by my Broncos in this season’s NFL opener.

Of course, they didn’t plan to lose that game. In fact, they had every intention of winning. But sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

And if you think it’s hard to win in sports, it’s even harder to win in business.

The playing field isn’t nearly as level, and competitors don’t have to give the ball back once they score. In either arena, however, winning often depends a lot more on what we do (or don’t do) rather than the other team’s actions.

Football teams enjoy one major advantage over corporations because they have a built-in definition of winning. They know, with absolute clarity, that in order to win they must have more points on the board than the other team when the clock runs out.

In business, we don’t often take the time to define winning with anything approaching that level of clarity. And when we do, obstacles still arise that cause us to lose our focus on winning. For example: 

Thought Bubbles

If you ask me, thought bubbles - our internal attitudes, beliefs and assumptions about how the world works - constitute the biggest detriment to winning. Few things will cause us to take our eye off the ball like these kinds of internal messages:

• This plan will magically happen now that we wrote it down.
• I know we said this project wasn’t important any more, but I’ll keep working on it a little longer … just in case.
• I know I should communicate more about how we will win, but I just don’t have the time.
• If I keep running fast enough, things will work out and we’ll get there.

Failure to adjust

I constantly talk about the need to pause for a moment and assess whether what we’re doing to reach our destination still makes sense.

Football teams have a built-in pause, called halftime, where coaches and players get a chance to regroup, assess what’s working and what isn’t, and make adjustments. They even get quick pauses (timeouts) during the game to do the same thing in emergency situations.

In business, we have to create our own halftimes to regroup and reassess. It wasn’t too long ago that we could ride out a strategic plan for one, three or even five years without any major changes.

These days, if you’re not checking in with your plan at least once a quarter, you may be giving your team the ball on its own one-yard line with no time-outs and less than a minute to go. 


It never ceases to amaze me how many seasoned business leaders expect their plans to unfold without any fumbles, interceptions or blocked punts. Here again, football has a major advantage. Throughout the game, performance feedback is instantaneous and ongoing.

You know exactly how many yards you gained or lost at the end of each play. The score is constantly updated. And when the final whistle blows, everyone knows who won and who lost.

In business, not so much. Sometimes we don’t get real feedback on cost reduction efforts, new sales initiatives or market share gains for weeks or even months.

Which makes it a lot easier to deny, disbelieve and rationalize away the data when in finally arrives (we can thank our brains for that one!). All of which contributes to the fantasy that our plan will pull through if we just wish hard enough or run faster in place than we already are.

I’m not suggesting that we totally scrap the plan at the first minor stumble. But to win in today’s hyper-fast markets, we have to be willing to learn (and unlearn) along the way.

We need to develop the skill of strategic agility - moving fast with focus and flexibility while keeping our eye on the goal line. Most important, we need to adjust our plan and strategy as necessary as we move forward.

To help achieve these goals, I recommend a process called “breakthrough modeling.” In this technique, you get clear on the destination and then set different levels of interim goals for getting there, making it easier to adjust the plan as circumstances dictate.

Stay tuned next week for a discussion on this valuable technique. In the meantime, go Broncos!

Call to action: Define what winning looks like for your organization. Then make sure everyone knows it.

Why Do Nuns Outlive the Rest of Us? Six Tips for Healthy Aging

Nuns on beach. Photo by Michael Foley.
At Cherai Beach, India (Michael Foley / Flickr)
by , Yes! magazine:

Catholic nuns have a conspicuous presence in the American imagination.

They're depicted as kindhearted innocents like Sally Fields' plucky heroine in The Flying Nun, and, on the other end of the spectrum, as the ruler-wielding, knuckle-smacking villains of many Catholic schoolchildren's early years.

While these stereotypes may tell us more about how celibacy, morality, and religion play out in the collective American imagination than they do about nuns themselves, there is something else that makes these women stand out from the rest of the American population: their remarkable track record of aging successfully.

American Catholic nuns experience greater physical and emotional well-being at the end of life than other women and are 27 percent more likely to live into their seventies.

During the past five years, I have spent 11 months living in a Catholic convent as an anthropologist, researching how the nuns' social and linguistic practices affect their experiences in old age.

During this time, I recorded their prayers, interviewed them about their relationships, and followed them as they cared for each other in ways both big and small.

My work is part of a growing body of research conducted during the past two decades that has begun to uncover why nuns enjoy such healthy aging. Here are six things that I learned from them:

1. Keep moving

Nuns are on their feet all the time. During the day, the ones I worked with are often teaching or nursing, and in the mornings and evenings they usually visit their peers in the infirmary or volunteer at a local food bank.

Researchers who study aging agree that keeping active is part of the solution. For example, David Snowdon was the director of "the Nun Study" - a research project conducted by the National Institute on Aging beginning in 1986 - which focused on a group of 678 American Catholic nuns.

One of his key findings was that regular exercise is one of the best things a person can do to age well. In his 2001 book Aging with Grace, Snowdon writes that the key is to find a type of exercise you enjoy, even just walking, and do it regularly.

2. Practice positive emotions

The nuns regularly communicate a deep sense of love to each other and to themselves through their prayers and conversations. They describe experiencing Jesus as a constant, loving companion.

One nun told me that she experiences the feeling of being embraced in a huge hug whenever she passes a crucifix (which, in a convent, happens quite often).

Basic emotions  can have a big impact on well-being, and it's remarkable how much we can shape them through practice.

Research has found that emotions like happiness, anger, fear, and sadness affect heart rate, blood pressure, immune response, and even digestion (for details, see this article by psychologist Wallace Friesen). Habitual anger, hostility, and depression have been found to be risk factors for heart disease.

Nuns enjoy the benefits of positive emotions because their daily prayers lead them to feel love, joy, and compassion. Buddhist monks who practice loving-kindness meditation show similar health benefits.

Whether by spiritual or secular means, we know that a similar practice will positively affect health and well-being on both emotional and physical levels.

3. Have a purpose and work for it

Sister Francis was a 95-year-old nun who lived in the infirmary and could no longer walk more than a couple steps. When I asked her how she passed her days, she said, "I visit the infirm."

Indeed, every afternoon, she wheeled into the rooms of nuns even more frail than herself to keep them company and pray with them.

As retirement approaches, we may often think that freedom from the responsibilities of work will bring happiness. But this is often not the case. After retirement, it's the people who have a sense of purpose, commitment, and a way to be needed who tend to be the happiest and healthiest.

At any stage of life, it's important to continue to contribute to the world and ask yourself how you can be helpful to others.

4. Maintain community

The nuns are in constant contact with their peers. They know who is ill or well or having a hard week, and they always have someone to turn to when they are in need.

One of the key findings in my work is the importance of having a group of people with whom to interact, and who feel responsible for each other.

"I had no trouble adjusting when I retired," said a sister who had worked for decades as a teacher in another state. "I've known these people for 67 years, you know, so it's not like I'm coming into a nursing home of strangers. These are friends."

The nuns are lucky enough to retire among people they've known for decades. The impact of this experience on well-being emphasizes the importance of cultivating a community of friends and neighbors.

5. It's never too early to face death

The nuns begin planning their own funerals as soon as they retire and in some cases even before that. A sister in her 80s told me that planning her own funeral made her less fearful.  

"Death is simply the step over the line, it's a passing on," she told me. "Right now in my life I feel comfortable with that. And I think planning the funeral solidified that. It's made me less fearful."

For many of us, it can feel morbid at best or terrifying at worst to face our own mortality. We often don't think or talk about death until we're in the midst of it. But many nuns find that it can be a helpful process.

As they plan their funerals, they also think about how they'd like the end of their lives to unfold. A nun can specify whether she'd like to die surrounded by people in prayer, or whether she'd like the room to be quiet - perhaps with one sister holding her hand and speaking to her.

This practice, along with the nuns' belief in an afterlife, helps the nuns become comfortable with death. Planning the end of our lives long before it happens can help us face our own mortality more peacefully, and prevent financial and emotional burdens on surviving family members.

6. Let go of attachments

When the nuns enter the convent as novices, they give up a number of privileges most of us enjoy: They can no longer choose where and with whom they live, and, in the early days, even their clothes and their names are chosen for them.

While they told me that these transitions can and did cause pain or sadness at first, over their lifetimes they became skilled at giving things up. When the nuns approach old age and move to the infirmary or to the assisted-living wing of the convent, they do so with much less strife than lay people.

In order to learn to let go of the things we must give up in old age, such as our homes and jobs, it can help to practice parting with the things we are attached to now.

Catholic nuns live unique lives, and their celibacy and isolation from the secular world may make them seem austere or strange to the rest of us.

But the remarkable pattern of longevity, joy, and peace they experience in their final years offers insight into how we can all increase our health and happiness at the end of life.

The good news is that you don't have to live in a convent to do the things that keep these nuns healthy and happy. By staying active, cultivating caring relationships, and finding ways to talk bravely about death and dying, we can all benefit from what nuns know about healthy aging.

Anna I. Corwin wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Anna is completing her Ph.D. in anthropology at UCLA and specializes in aging, well-being, and social interaction.

Why Stepping Away From Your Work-Desk Will Make Your Life More Fulfilled

working remotelyby Kritika Seksaria, 21st Century News:

The age old tradition of plonking yourself on a wheely chair and staring into documents or computer screens at an office-desk is now rapidly dying.

According to the Regus Global Economic Indicator, more than a third of Australians have ditched their traditional office space and are now spending over half their working week outside the office.

64 per cent of Australian business leaders now manage staff who work away from the office at least some of the time they’re on the clock.

Motivational speaker and CEO/Founder of 21st Century Education Jamie Mcintyre predicted this trend many years ago in his book “Time Rich“. He has also been teaching this to his seminar attendees as a strategy to be able to work from home for several years.

This controversial trend has been a debatable subject when it comes to work/office culture. However, it is evident now that flexibility can actually contribute to productivity rather than hinder it.

Of course, a lot depends on the individual and their ability to multi-task, concentrate and create a successful work-life balance, but if executed properly, an increasing number of people believe that it enriches one’s lifestyle.

A common misconception is that such an arrangement is suitable primarily for new parents and it is likely that the trend gained traction initially that way. But it is also worth considering the intrinsic motivation behind getting a job, working hard and making money.

We do all these things not just to provide for ourselves but ultimately enjoy a comfortable life. There is no point to earning a six-figure salary or millions of dollars if you are primarily holed up in your office.

People often handle such arrangements depending at the stage of their career. For entry-level and graduate employees it is beneficial to spend time in the office and get a feel of the work culture.

A lot can be learned from senior managers and colleagues with more experience. It helps in networking and receiving valuable guidance as well.

However, as you settle into your job or business, having flexible office hours can come in handy. Even now there are innumerable myths associated with this trend.

People believe that working remotely can risk communication, brainstorming or efficient coordination. But with the advent of technology it doesn’t have to be that way.

Tablets and smartphones have revolutionised the way we communicate. As McIntyre mentions in his book, it is called embracing the mobile lifestyle.

At the end of the day sitting in an office for 8 hours every day, indulging in office gossip and getting distracted with unnecessary chit-chat can often be a waste of time and a hindrance to productivity.

But to ensure that you are not one of the employees who risks their future due to the ‘out of sight, out of mind syndrome’, it is best to show up at least a couple of days a week or a few hours a day.

As mentioned already, people at different stages of their career and life take advantage of flexibility in their own way.

For instance, I work from home very early in the morning, then take a few hours to cook, go to the gym or run errands. By the time I am in the office it is midday. However, I know that my routine is helping me stay healthy and fit, which in turn makes me work better.

Currently, one of my colleagues is working remotely from Thailand during a 3-week vacation. His work station is the poolside and I don’t have the slightest doubt that he is enjoying the work-life balance and achieving his KPIs.

As people move into higher levels of management or entrepreneurship, certainly the pressure is more, but it also becomes easier to step away from the office-desk

Tim Ferriss has explained in several seminars and interviews that for entrepreneurs and managers, the key is delegation and that involves hiring the right staff and developing a reliable team.

This does not mean that you are disconnected from the business; it simply means that you don’t have to micromanage every aspect of it.

Ferriss has also said that entrepreneurs who travel and take breaks from time to time actually develop their business better because of the exposure and experiences gained from going to different places and meeting new people.

As we can see, Australia is slowly starting to adapt to this trend. Only the next decade will tell us how this system will revolutionise the work-place and work culture.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why Happiness is Your Secret to Productivity

Smiley head happy
Smiley head happy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Jason W. Womack,

How are happiness and productivity related? If you want to improve productivity, look no further than your mindset.

Marcus Aurelius reminds us: "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking."

People who enjoy what they do are far more productive than those who do not have passion for their work.

Have you ever been so engrossed in what you are doing that when you look up, you discover hours have passed in what seems like minutes?

Such joyful immersion is key to productivity. Denis Waitley reminds us, "Happy people plan actions, they don't plan results."

A common trait shared by successful people is an awareness of the "thought-trails" in their lives. Much like a physical trail cut through a meadow after years of use, thought-trails can actually force you to continue thinking the way you've always thought.

How you think is often more important than that you think, or even what you think.

The characteristic separating the good from the great, the highly successful from the folks who are just getting along, is their ability to think about themselves as successful even while on the journey to greatness - however "greatness" is defined for you.

An important skill is to think without acting: To plan. What do you want to be known for? What do you want to do? What is possible? Change begins with what you tell yourself and others. Change your outlook and you change what is possible.

Listen to what you are saying. Are you speaking in positives? "We've come through worse than this before so I know we'll be fine in the end." Or negatives? "Sure the sun is shining now, but the forecast calls for more rain by the weekend."

Here is a 15 minute exercise to determine how you are thinking now so you know what is working, and what might need updating. Respond honestly to the following prompts:

Life is …
Money is …
Coaches are people who …
Goals are …
Work is …
Organized people are …

How you respond gives you a window into how you see the world. Below are responses I've received from others who have done this exercise:

Life is good / Life is hard
Money is what I use to create opportunity / Money is the root of all evil
Coaches are for people who are moving / Coaches are for people who have money
Goals are necessary to achieve more / Goals are nice, but I am always busy enough
Work is what I do to express myself / Work is never over
Organized people are productive / Organized people are anal-retentive

Do you have a perspective on a certain aspect of your life that might be worth changing? Improvement doesn't mean something is wrong to begin with. It indicates a move toward something new and possibly better.

I love what Benjamin Disraeli said: "Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action."

Jason W. Womack

Jason W. Womack is founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012). The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
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Success - What I Know for Sure

Whitney Young, three-quarter length portrait, ...
Whitney Young (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Daisy Saunders

Have you ever wondered why some people fail at everything while others seem to have the Midas touch: everything they touch turns to gold?

How many times have you pondered the key to success?

If you stood on a busy street corner and asked the average person the key to success, you will more often than not hear: hard work or luck.

Regarding hard work, think on this: How many hard working people do you know? Like most of us, many.

Yet, these hard working people struggle from day-to-day to make ends meet.

On some level, we all know that while hard work is important, it's only part of the success equation. I can unequivocally say that hard work alone has never brought success.

And, when it comes to "luck", I don't believe in lucky breaks. You make your own luck by being prepared and by recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities when and if they show up.

Or, you create your own opportunity. Whitney Young, social reformer and civil rights leader, said it best: "It is better to be prepared for an opportunity that never comes than to be unprepared when one does come."

What, then, is the key? While I don't believe there is a specific key, here are five truths about success that ... I know for sure.

Know what it looks like

To achieve success, you must have a clear idea of what it looks like. If you don't know what it looks like, it's difficult to achieve or to even know when you have reached it. Success is personal. It means different things to different people. For some, success is money, power, prominence, or importance. For others, it's excellence, meaningful relationships, peace of mind, or meeting specific goals. Only you can describe what your success looks like.

Have a clear intention

Marva Collins, an American educator, once said, "Success doesn't come to you - you go to it." This statement tells me that success starts with an intention. You must "intend" to be successful. You must make a deliberate and conscious effort to be successful and have a hunger and desire to have more, be more, and do more.

Envision the possibilities

See it, picture it, and imagine it. And, keep the picture in your mind's eye - no matter the circumstances or what your own mind or others may say. When negative messages enter into your consciousness, simply respond by saying, "thank you for sharing". And, continue to see the possibilities.

Commit to lifelong learning

The more you know, the more you grow. Become addicted to learning. Keep your mind and your heart open to learning new things - big things and small things. At the end of each day, ask yourself, what did I learn today?

Take action

Success is available to all who want it, believe they deserve it, and are willing to take some definite actions. You must make a conscious effort every day to do something (no matter how small) to move toward your ultimate goal.

Success isn't a rare gift given only to a few. It's a gift that's within everyone's capacity to achieve. Success isn't an accident, it's a choice!

Daisy Saunders is an inspirational trainer/speaker, facilitator, career/life coach, and author, specializing in issues impacting the lifestyles of older Americans.

Visit her website at for free downloads of articles and resources on job search strategies for older Americans, personal growth, and wellness; and to follow her blog on aging gracefully.

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Gentle Exercise is Enough to Keep Your Brain Fit and Healthy

EspaƱol: Hata yoga
Hatha yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Michelle McDonnell, University of South Australia

Once upon a time we thought the brain was incapable of changing - if it was broken, it couldn’t be fixed.

But that idea has been challenged in the last few decades with research suggesting that the brain is quite changeable or plastic.

In fact, we are discovering that the human brain has remarkable capacity for change.

It can make new connections between nerve cells, enabling us to learn and remember complex information.

And it can undergo a massive reorganisation when damaged.

Young children who have half of their brain removed, due to severe epilepsy, manage to move and walk again. People with a slow-growing brain tumour may not show any symptoms for years, as nerve cells around the mass adapt and compensate for the lesion.

And for those with brain injury, the inherent capacity for change within the brain, which is known as neuroplasticity, is the dominant mechanism for recovering function.

Researchers around the world are investing huge resources to discover how we can harness and improve neuroplasticity in the adult brain.

Many hope non-invasive brain stimulation may hold the key to promoting neuroplasticity, either by increasing the activity in the damaged areas of the brain or somehow correcting imbalances that exist between its different regions.

Non-invasive brain stimulation uses either electrical or magnetic currents to painlessly stimulate the brain, probing the connections between nerve cells to understand more about how these connections can be altered.

Preliminary studies of these techniques show promise, but to date, larger trials show that the effects of this type of therapy are not as efficacious as intensive rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy.

In a recent study, my colleagues and I took a different approach by looking at an intervention that acts across the whole brain, rather than at specific circuits. Our approach wasn’t high tech and didn’t have unwanted side effects - it was aerobic exercise.

Using non-invasive magnetic brain stimulation (transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS) to investigate the effect of exercise on the motor areas of the brain, we tested whether low- or moderate-intensity exercise would promote neuroplasticity in the brains of healthy young adults.

We found that 30 minutes of low-intensity cycling on a stationary bike, compared to 15 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling or sitting (our control), encouraged short-term rewiring and neuroplasticity in the brain.

Interestingly, this effect was seen in the region of the brain that controls hand muscles, even though cycling only involved the legs. We observed the change after a single 30-minute session of aerobic exercise.

While it hasn’t been demonstrated with aerobic exercise before, such an immediate effect of exercise on the brain is not unique.

We know running improves learning, and a number of other studies have shown that aerobic exercise is good for a variety of cognitive tasks, such as cognitive flexibility and executive function.

The exact mechanism for exercise encouraging neuroplasticity is unknown, but it’s likely to involve several key chemicals in the blood and in the brain.

In our study, we measured levels of two of these chemicals in the bloodstream, and found that the stress hormone cortisol increased with the moderate-intensity, but not with low-intensity, exercise.

Cortisol actually inhibits plasticity, suggesting that exercise at lower intensities may be better at promoting neuroplasticity.

The second chemical measured was brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is widely touted as having a key role in neuroplasticity.

But we found BDNF did not increase in the blood stream, and we can’t yet determine whether exercise increased levels of it in the brain, as has been shown in animal studies.

So, what does all this mean for you?

Well, it shows that, for most of us, gentle aerobic exercise is good for our brain - keeping it sharp, alert and ready for action. We know that people who are regularly physically active have greater potential for neuroplasticity.

But for people with brain injury, gentle exercise may make the difference between walking again or being dependent on a wheelchair for the rest of your life.

Michelle McDonnell has received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Brain Foundation of Australia, the National Stroke Foundation and the Heart Foundation.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Three Quick Fixes for the Wandering Mind

by Daniel Goleman, Linked In:

It happens to all of us: you’re working away on something you’ve got to get done, and suddenly you realize that for quite some time you’ve been lost in a reverie about something else entirely.  

You don’t know when your mind went off track, nor how long you’ve been meandering down this one. Our minds wander, on average 50 percent of the time. The exact rate varies enormously.

When Harvard researchers had 2,250 people report what they were doing and what they were thinking about at random points throughout their day, the doing-thinking gaps ranged widely.

But the biggest gap was during work: mind-wandering is epidemic on the job. But we can take steps that will help us stay on task more of the time when we need to.

1. Manage your temptations

Many of the distractors that pull us away from what we’re working on are digital: tweets, emails, and the like. There are several apps that can wall off those temptations to wander off. Chrome has two free apps that do this: Nanny for Google blocks off websites you might be tempted to visit, for whatever length of time you decide; StayFocusd limits the amount of time (also set by you) you can spend in your inbox, on Facebook, or wherever else you might be seduced away.

2. Monitor your mind and take second thoughts

Noticing where your mind has gone - checking your twitter feed instead of working on that report - gives you the chance for a second thought: “my mind has wandered off again.” That very thought disengages your brain from where it has wandered and activates brain circuits that can help your attention get unstuck and return to the work at hand.

3. Practice a daily mindfulness session

This mental exercise can be as simple as watching your breath, noticing when your mind has wandered off, letting go of the wandering thought and bringing it back to your breath again. These movements of the mind are like a mental workout, the equivalent of repetitions in lifting free weights: every rep strengthens the muscle a bit more. In mindfulness what gets stronger are the brain’s circuits for noticing when your mind has wandered, letting go, and returning to your chosen focus. And that’s just what we need to stay with during that one important task we’re working on.
Daniel Goleman’s upcoming book FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and CD Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence are now available for pre-order (publication date is October 8).

His more recent books are The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights and Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence – Selected Writings (More Than Sound).

Leadership: A Master Class is Goleman’s first-ever comprehensive video series that examines the best practices of top-performing executives.
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What Is Emotional Baggage?

Emotional Baggage, Secret Garden Party 2008
Drop off your emotional baggage (chrisjohnbeckett)
by John Sleeper

What is emotional baggage? To put it simply, it consists of all the little (and big) things that happen to upset us every day.

It is not just the chewing out we received from our boss this morning, although that certainly is a piece of emotional baggage.

It is not just the argument we had with our spouse over breakfast, although that certainly is a piece of emotional baggage.

It is not just the dent in the rear fender we got when someone backed into us at the parking lot, although that certainly is a piece of emotional baggage.

Emotional baggage also includes the little things like spilling our coffee when we sat down at the table. Or, sleeping through the alarm and being late for work. Or, misplacing our glasses and not having them available when we needed them.

Only the bad stuff is considered by me to be baggage. All the good things like getting a hug (unless this upsets you) or getting a call from someone to wish you a happy birthday, is not baggage.

Why are such things important? Because, throughout the day all these little and not so little things pile up and we carry them around with us (baggage) and cannot fully relax and unwind at the end of the day.

So, we end up taking our baggage to bed with us and cannot sleep soundly and therefore cannot get a fresh start the next day.

Additionally, the baggage we pick up the next day adds to the load we are already carrying causing more emotional problems the consequences of which cause that pain in the neck or back or arm. You know the one I am referring to, the one we cannot figure out where it came from.

What can we do about this seemingly unending problem? There is a simple technique for unloading this emotional baggage that I normally give my clients to do as a self-help exercise especially if they are prone to carry such around with them.

1 - At the end of every day before going to bed find a place where you can be alone and won't be interrupted, the bathroom is usually a good spot if you live with others unless you have children then it is catch as catch can since there is no place safe from them.
2 - Think back on your day starting at the beginning. Find every little (and big) thing that upset you that day, one at a time.
3 - For each of these emotional upsets say out loud (you don't have to yell unless it makes you feel better - you can just whisper) these words:

  • "This is something that happened and is in the past.
  • It cannot be changed.
  • I do not need to carry the burden of this with me.
  • I am releasing it and I forgive the person (or myself) for the happening.
  • (Wave your hand as though shooing a fly away from your face and say) "Go away and bother me no more."

Small and large emotional traumas that happen every day need to be dealt with so they do not cause us stress, tension, anxiety, confusion, etc. later when our conscious mind cannot recall them but that nagging little voice in the subconscious won't let them go.

There are also things that have happened in the past which you may be able to recall if you try.

And so, for the first few times you take this break at bedtime to unload, additionally try thinking back as far as you can beginning with your childhood and release those emotional upsets that still hold a place in your conscious memory (i.e. - when your favorite doll got broken or you got a spanking or you had a fight with your brother).

Each time you do this exercise it is a good idea to check back like this because after finding and releasing things from childhood other smaller issues may show up later after the bigger issues are released. You want to remove as many as possible.

Warning: There will be other things that you won't be able to remember that still stay with you and cause problems. These stem from such areas as genetics, societal consciousness and yes, even past lives whether you believe in such or not.

These things can only be found by someone who is trained and experienced in detecting and correcting these types of problems. Many of the chronic problems we suffer from have this as a root cause like: allergies, colds, flu, COPD and etc.

The problems caused by emotional baggage are NEVER the same for any two people no matter if the outward symptoms are the same or not. This is why conventional western therapies do not work.

You could spend years with counselors and psychologists talking about your problems and not get the results that I, or someone like me, can produce in just minutes.

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VIDEO: The Science of Happiness - An Experiment in Gratitude

by SoulPancake

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Personal Development Tips: Three Ways To Change Your Life Dramatically

Smiling Pam
Smiling Pam (Photo credit: Theen ...)
by Michael J. Simpson

Everyone should be open to receiving some personal development tips once in a while.

Even if you are already successful in whatever you are doing, there is always a way you can improve yourself.

Investing in yourself is the best ever investment you can make in life. You will never go wrong there.

Personal Development Tips - Think Positively

Let me start off by encouraging you to start thinking positive thoughts. People who are pessimistic in life tend to think negatively and as a result that affects their outlook in life as well as the way they do their work.

Have you ever wondered how people can do their work excellently, be it in their workplaces or schools? If you study them closely, I can almost guarantee you that they are not very pessimistic people.

In fact, I can bet that they are pretty happy people who are optimistic about life and they seldom entertain negative thoughts. Start by thinking positive thoughts today. You will never know how far this small action will take you.

Personal Development Tips - Smile More

Once you are used to thinking positively, you will notice that you start to see life differently. You may even begin to smile a lot more. When you smile, other people will see you differently. They may be more open to approach you or talk to you.

The funny thing is that a smile can also change the way you see other people. You may be able to better understand the people you work with as they become more open to share their life stories with you.

It may be hard to smile especially if something bad just happened, but I still encourage you to think positively and smile. The more you think positively, the easier it will be to put on a genuine smile.

Personal Development Tips - Be Open To Change

There is only one constant in life and that is change. You need to be open to change if you want to progress in life. Sometimes, it may be difficult to embrace change because you are so used to your current circumstances.

However, you need to remember that very often, change is important, and it may actually improve the circumstances around you. Let me put it this way. A baby may be drinking milk at one point in his life, but he cannot keep being fed with milk for the rest of his life. He has to move on to solid food.

I hope you have learnt something new from these personal development tips. Do remember these points which I have mentioned today.

If you enjoyed reading these personal development tips, I recommend that you visit It is your number one resource for free personal development tips on positive thinking, success principles, getting out of your comfort zone, and much more!

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Are You Like the Emperor Without Clothes?

Cover of "The Emperor's New Clothes"
The Emperor's New Clothes
by Joseph Dabon

Have you read Hans Christian Andersen's book, The Emperor's New Clothes?

It's an old fairy tale of an emperor who loves clothes and paraded them.

If you haven't, or years have buried it deep in your memory, I urge you to be a good sport and read it again. It provides a good lesson in self awareness.

To a certain extent, there is a bit of that emperor in us. We hold on to thoughts and beliefs worthy of kings.

Most of us keep these false self images low while others flaunt them. Whether covert or overt, we don't take kindly to people who tell us otherwise.

Our reactions can range from a cold shoulder, a menacing look, to outright rebuttal which could lose us a friend or sour a relationship. We consider our self-image like a piece of property, enclosed in a fence with signs all around saying, "Trespassers are Not Allowed."

One of the hardest things for adults to accept is to be told by that mirror, mirror on the wall that "You are not as good as you think you are."

Ironically in Mr. Andersen's story, the innocence of the child opened the eyes of the entire village of their emperor's nakedness.

How nice it is to look into ourselves with the innocent eyes of a child. But that child in us is long gone and adults don't like to look childish. So how are we, as adults, to improve our self awareness?

Self-help tips to improve your self awareness

"To say 'I love you,' one must know first how to say the 'I'" - Ayn Rand.

You can improve your self awareness through books. The Internet is full of them. But real change can only happen when you divert your attention from what is out there and look into yourself. Focus inward, not outward.

Ask yourself, "Who am I, really?" Then start making a list of what makes you.

1. Your strong and weak points

Nobody is watching you; nobody is looking over your shoulders. So do this as honestly as possible. Remember you are trying to find out who you really are. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself. Start from the strongest to the weakest. In the secrecy of your bedroom, you can go naked. Don't be modest or shy. Just be you. Do not overvalue nor undervalue yourself. You are trying to find out where you are good at and where you need some fixing.

2. Your good and bad habits

We all have habits. Though some are good but the word is usually given a bad connotation. Write them all down. Segregate them later as to their purposefulness. Keep them if they help your self awareness and change them if they don't. Blaming yourself if something goes wrong or overly praising yourself if they go well, are examples of habits that need fixing.

3. Things you like and dislike

Consider your current situation. The things you like or dislike are dynamic. They change over time. I used to dislike tomatoes and onions. Now I take them regularly with my meals. Only think of what matters now. Then put in reasons for your like or dislike. This can be revealing. Are your reasons based on health or a simple bias based on past experience? Do you like them because your friends are into it, or is it because it makes you feel good? Are the things you like doing eating up much of your productive time or are they helping you accomplish more?

4. Your motivation

Are you motivated from things other people have or do, or from you most inner desires? Ayn Rand said, "A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." As simple as it is, it is a good gauge of your self awareness.

5. Your core values

These are beliefs and convictions that guide and direct your behavior and support your purpose and vision. Your core values define who you are.

Caution: Are they really yours, coming from deep within you or you just a mimic from a friend or a person you admire?

In our celebrity-driven society, people are prone in keeping to themselves what belongs to others. They are public property anyway, we argue. Honesty in our present day society is so rare that anyone possessing it is viewed weird or a relic of the past. Close yourself off from the outside world when listing down your core values. Don't worry if some of them seem alien to your circle of friends. You are trying to find you, not them.

6. Know what is important to you

Like the things you like and dislike, this will change at any given moment. What is important to you now may no longer be as important tomorrow. Relating this kind of "importance" with your self awareness will be like shooting at a moving target. To find out what is of utmost importance to you right now, go over each item above, 1 to 5, and ask, "Is this important to me now?"

A lot of the things that make up our self-image are things we picked up from the past. Their relevance may have diminished or increased through the years. Knowing which is important so you can address those that are keeping you from improving your self awareness.

In the Emperor's New Clothes story, the emperor ultimately knew that he was wearing nothing. But he kept up with the pretense that he was clothed.

You can easily fall into the same predicament if you don't have someone to tell you how close or far off you are. Call it a sounding board or a confidant. Having someone to tell you how you are doing is not weakness. It is strength. Knowing who or what you are from somebody else's eyes requires strength, it requires trust.

And the moment you openly and willingly trust someone to tell you who you really are, the better off you are in knowing who you really are.

Joseph Dabon

I am a retired engineer who has taken up writing to share with the world my experience in personal improvement during my long years in the corporate world. I am currently writing a book, Chase Your Dreams, and blogging. Visit my site at and join me in this exciting journey of searching for that success formula that resides in each one of us.

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With Fall's Arrival It's Time to Make Changes

Time for a Change (album)
Time for a Change (Wikipedia)
by Dr Bruce Johnson

Fall has officially arrived and for many people they are beginning to notice seasonal changes.

It is natural to feel a sense of reflection with any new season and now is the time to leverage these feelings to make changes in your life or career.

But it will take more than reflective thoughts to create lasting change, you will also need to formulate definitive plans so that you are taking proactive action rather than simply reacting to your environment.

If you want to produce changes this fall, personally or professionally, now is the time to begin with a focused mindset towards new results.

Moving and Change

This week I moved and it was during a time when fall temperatures are starting to arrive. For me, the new surroundings created a fresh start during a season of change. This moved entailed changing established routines, behaviors, and habits.

Initially it was somewhat disorienting because we rely upon those daily subconscious patterns so that we don't have to purposely think about everything we are doing or need to accomplish. But it was more than a change in physical surroundings that prompted reflection.

I experienced a mindset of renewal as if I was beginning a new journey. Somehow I now view the world slightly different and as a result I have experienced fresh inspiration.

Becoming Intentional

The question then becomes how does a person create that type of intentional change in their mindset without actually altering their physical location?

It would require shaking up your routine in some way perhaps by starting a new project, taking a class even if it is not for a specific degree program, or purposely changing your habits in some manner.

Most people safely guard their ingrained habits and daily routines, preventing action to alter those permanently in any way.

This is why most information read in magazines or heard in motivational seminars is rarely retained for more than a few days. There must be intentional action taken from the information received, connecting with it in a manner that produces change.

Action is Required

To begin changes this fall you need action plan. You have to start with an intention that you are going to do something different and then map out a course of action over a period of time so that you are continuously working on changing existing habits and routines.

For example, if you work from a home office you could rearrange your furniture, clean off your desk, and establish a new method for being productive in this office.

The purpose is to approach your life or your career from a different perspective in some manner so that you can be intentional with your plan for change.

Finding a Spark

As you read through this article it may spark an idea or something that you are now curious about and that is how you begin to make change.

Take that idea and be inspired to do something new or different. Take out a piece of paper or open a Word document and begin to make notes.

Consider what this new result would look like or feel like, and then evaluate what strengths you could rely upon to begin the process.

The next step you want to take is to plan out a specific amount of time that will allow you to create new habits and routines over time as you make progress towards your goals.

Challenge and Success

The primary challenge for making lasting change is often the mindset we hold as we start the process. If you believe that you do not have enough strengths, there are too many weaknesses, or that the process is becoming cumbersome it may be easy to abandon those plans.

But if you learn to endure and discover what you are capable of doing when you put your mind to it you will likely look forward to what will be accomplished this fall.

Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning and throughout his entire career he has been involved in many forms of adult education; including teaching, training, human resource development, career coaching, and life coaching.

Dr. J has completed a master's in Business Administration and a PhD in the field of adult education, with an emphasis in adult learning within an online classroom environment.

Presently Dr. J works as an online instructor, faculty developmental workshop facilitator, faculty mentor, and professional writer. Dr. J's first eBook, APPRECIATIVE ANDRAGOGY: TAKING the Distance Out of Distance Learning, is available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Learn more by visiting

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Monday, September 23, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Science and Philosophy of Friendship: Lessons from Aristotle on the Art of Connecting

by , Brain Pickings:

"Friends hold a mirror up to each other; through that mirror they can see each other in ways that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is this mirroring that helps them improve themselves as persons.”

“A principal fruit of friendship,” Francis Bacon wrote in his timeless meditation on the subject, “is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce.”

For Thoreau, friendship was one of life’s great rewards.

But in today’s cultural landscape of muddled relationships scattered across various platforms for connecting, amidst constant debates about whether our Facebook “friendships” are making us more or less happy, it pays to consider what friendship actually is.

That’s precisely what CUNY philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci explores in Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (public library), which also gave us this provocative read on the science of what we call “intuition.”

Philosophers and cognitive scientists agree that friendship is an essential ingredient of human happiness.

But beyond the dry academic definitions - like, say, “voluntary interdependence between two persons over time, which is intended to facilitate socio-emotional goals of the participants, and may involve varying types and degrees of companionship, intimacy, affection and mutual assistance” - lies a body of compelling research that sheds light on how, precisely, friendship augments happiness.

Pigliucci writes:
Happiness is influenced, as one might expect, by all of the “big five” personality traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. … As research conducted by Meliksah Demir and Lesley Weitekamp also clearly shows, however, friendship augments happiness above and beyond the basic effect of personality.
The way friendship enhances well-being, it turns out, has nothing to do with quantity and everything to do with quality - researchers confirm that it isn’t the number of friends (or, in the case of Facebook, “friends”) we have, but the nature of those relationships:
In particular, what makes for a good happiness-enhancing friendship is the degree of companionship (when you do things together with your friends) and of self-validation (when your friends reassure you that you are a good, worthy individual).
This is where Aristotle comes in: He recognized three types of love - agape, eros, and philia - which endure as an insightful model for illuminating the nature of our relationships. Pigliucci describes the taxonomy:
Agape is a broad kind of love, the kind that religious people feel that God has for us, or that a secular person may have for humanity at large. Eros, naturally, is more concerned with the type of love we have for sexual partners, though the Greeks meant it more broadly than we do. Philia is the type of love that concerns us here because it includes the sort of feelings we have for friends, family, and even business partners.
But this poses the obvious question of what separates love, or eros (itself a complex phenomenon nearly impossible to define, despite history’s ample attempts) from friendship, or philia - a conundrum young E. B. White and James Thurber famously considered and Sartre ultimately failed at resolving.

Pigliucci explains:
The obvious answer is that typically (though certainly not necessarily) you have sex with your eros partner but not with your philia friends. More subtly, however, philosophers have pointed out that love is an evaluative attitude, while friendship is a relational one. It makes perfect sense that you could be in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate your feeling, but it is incoherent to say that one has a nonreciprocal friendship.
Aristotle further classified friendships into three distinct categories: of pleasure, of utility, and of virtue:
In friendships of pleasure, you and another person are friends because of the direct pleasure your friendship brings - for instance, you like and befriend people who are good conversationalists, or with whom you can go to concerts, and so on. Friendships of utility are those in which you gain a tangible benefit, either economic or political, from the relationship. Exploitation of other people is not necessarily implied by the idea of utility friendships - first, because the advantage can be reciprocal, and second, because a business or political relation doesn’t preclude having genuine feelings of affection for each other. For Aristotle, however, the highest kind of friendship was one of virtue: you are friends with someone because of the kind of person he is, that is, because of his virtues (understood in the ancient Greek sense of virtue ethics [and] not in the much more narrow modern sense, which is largely derived from the influence of Christianity).
But what it really boils down to is that friendship affords us a more dimensional way of looking at ourselves and at the world, thus enhancing our understanding of the meaning of life. Once again, Pigliucci takes us back to Aristotle:
Aristotle’s opinion was that friends hold a mirror up to each other; through that mirror they can see each other in ways that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is this (reciprocal) mirroring that helps them improve themselves as persons. Friends, then, share a similar concept of eudaimonia [Greek for “having a good demon,” often translated as “happiness”] and help each other achieve it. So it is not just that friends are instrumentally good because they enrich our lives, but that they are an integral part of what it means to live the good life, according to Aristotle and other ancient Greek philosophers (like Epicurus). Of course, another reason to value the idea of friendship is its social dimension. In the words of philosopher Elizabeth Telfer, friendship provides “a degree and kind of consideration for others’ welfare which cannot exist outside
Answers for Aristotle is excellent in its entirety. Complement it with some heartening famous friendships, like those between Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, Ursula Nordstrom and Maurice Sendak, and Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.

Are You Ready To Take the "Learn One New Thing a Day" Challenge?

English: Level/Time of competence when learnin...
Level/Time of competence when learning (Wikipedia)
by Tony Calabrese

The month of September is associated with the beginning of a new school year.

Recently I was reading an article that indicated those that are having the greatest success in current job searches, or just keeping their careers fresh and on track were those who are continual learners.

While learning is often associated with a school type of setting, I've learned in the last several years that there is no reason each and every one of us cannot learn something new every day. We just must keep our mind open to the learning opportunities.

Are you the type that believes you know what is going to happen before it even takes place? If you build your life on the assumption that just because something happened a certain way several times before it will again occur the same way, you are closing yourself off from a learning opportunity.

What if the outcome is different? Have you paid attention enough to learn the details why? Have you just dismissed the result as a fluke occurrence? Or have you let a learning opportunity slip away?

We all have our views on the events that happen in our life around us. Is the only viewpoint the one you see from your own interpretation? Are you open to the viewpoints of others? Are you willing to listen to why they may view the same thing you are seeing and experiencing differently than do you?

Being closed to other ways of looking at things as we have seen over the last several years, leads to a lack of progress in moving forward, walls of resistance between people and often anger, conflict and frustration.

However it also is another way we lose an opportunity to learn about what is happening in the world around us.

Yes, life gets frustrating. It can often appear that we have a great deal of resistance stacked against us.

And, many times it appears that the way things were for us, when we were comfortable, seemed to know the rules and how to play the game of life are not going to go back to the way we remember things to be.

However, we do have power over the messages we choose to take in, evaluate and process. We don't have to agree with them all.

In fact, we may not choose to agree with many of them. However, we can choose to learn what works for us, what doesn't work for us and how based on who we are how to move forward in an ever challenging world.

So, as another school year starts for our children and our students studying in college (whether they be young adults or more mature adults), I challenge each and every one of you to open your mind to learning something new every day.

It does not have to be a topic you are learning through a course of study. It does not even have to be something you read in a book, newspaper or online.

It can be as simple as opening your senses to the world around you, and increasing your awareness of some part of that world you had either not noticed before or fully taken in.

Are you ready to take the "learning challenge?"

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Ego and Success: Are They Strange Bedfellows

English: visual representation of the Freud's ...
Freud's id, ego and super-ego (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Joseph Dabon

Since I posted Success is Ego given Substance, I've been reading a lot of articles about the connection between ego and success.

So far, things are more confusing than when I started.

In fact, I am beginning to see the wisdom of the saying, "too much learning is a dangerous thing."

But my big ego wouldn't easily let go of an idea. And when I am stumped, unable to proceed because of some hitches, I always go back to basics. Here they are:

Ego is our self-image, not our real self.
Success is a favorable or desired outcome of an endeavor.

Are ego and success strange bedfellows, then? The answer is both Yes and No. Yes if the real self is dominated by the ego. No, if the ego doesn't get in the way of your real self where your range of possibilities, creativity, intentions and power reside.

They are not strange bedfellows if you can make your ego work for your real self, not the other way around. But you must know your real self first.

What is real or true self?

"You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making" - Stephen Richards.

Your real or true is that central inner force, common to all human beings, but different in each, which is your deep source of growth, or power.

It is your natural self, devoid of any preconceived ideas or pretentions of who are. It comes upon you when you act naturally and spontaneously of the world around you. It's kind of welcoming an unexpected visit of a very close friend.

Moving from your ego self to your real or true self requires some effort but necessary if you wish to live in the real world, not in a dreamland.

It is kind of like kicking an alcohol or drug problem - it requires toughness and resolve; of throwing away old ideas and concepts of yourself and start embracing self-awareness.

What is self-awareness?

It is the clear perception of who you are; your personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs and emotions. It allows you to understand others, what they think of you and your attitudes and responses towards them.

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to understanding of ourselves" - C.G. Jung.

It can also be very deceiving. Our brain can be very tricky. It bombards us with thoughts, ideas and images of ourselves that we can mistake for self awareness.

I met two guys who would swear on their mothers' graves that God talked to them. Maybe God did or maybe I am just a hopeless skeptic. An experience of that kind involves a very heightened level of self awareness. Call it discernment, if you may. That requires a visit another day.

Why is self-awareness important?

Self awareness allows you to make changes in your thoughts and interpretations occupying your mind. It is one of the attributes of emotional intelligence - an important ingredient in achieving success.

Your self-awareness allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you; allows you to see and control your emotions, behavior, and personality so you can make changes if you want.

It is the first step in creating what you want by helping you focus your attention, your emotions, reactions, personality and behavior on where you want to go and do in life.

In closing, your ego creates the images which your real self make real, breeds dreams which your real self turns into successes.

Joseph Dabon

I am a retired engineer who has taken up writing to share with the world my experience in personal improvement during my long years in the corporate world. I am currently writing a book, Chase Your Dreams, and blogging.

Visit my site at and join me in this exciting journey of searching for that success formula that resides in each one of us.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brainstorming is not Very Creative

Brainstorming is great fun, good for team building and a self-esteem builder. However, it does fail in one rather important way. It is not very good at providing you with creative ideas. It is even worse if you want a highly creative idea to implement.

I have criticised brainstorming in the past, but I have yet to compile my anti-brainstorming thoughts into a single article. Until now!

The first thing we need to do here is to clarify what I mean by brainstorming. The word has two meanings. The first is as a generic term for generating ideas. This is how it is most widely used.

But within creativity circles, brainstorming is a specific process devised by Alex Osborn, an advertising chap, in the 1940s. He later wrote about brainstorming in several books on creativity that he wrote.

He also teamed up with Sidney Parnes to develop a most sophisticated creativity approach known as creative problem solving (CPS), which has been institutionalised and revered at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College.

Surprisingly, when you consider that creativity is all about trying out new ideas and embracing change, brainstorming has remained largely unchanged since Mr. Osborn invented it based on a series of assumptions that he made while running his ad agency!

This is even more surprising when you consider that these assumptions have largely been proven wrong over the years.

Nevertheless, a large number of creativity experts cling to brainstorming as an unchangeable technique that must be followed simply because it has been been around for so many years!

Three Intrinsic Flaws

Brainstorming has three serious flaws that prevent it from being very effective as an idea generation method: people shouting out ideas is less creative than people writing ideas individually; reserving judgement and prohibiting criticism reduces creativity; and decision makers tend to choose moderately creative ideas over highly creative ideas.

The first is easily resolved. The second two are fatal. All three of these flaws have been found and tested through clinical research by individuals and groups that have nothing to gain by finding flaw with brainstorming. Let’s look at the research.

The Group Thing Does Not Quite Work

In 1958, a team at Yale University was one of the first to test brainstorming. They put together several groups to generate ideas.

Half of the groups followed Osborn’s method and collaborated to generate ideas. The other half were nominal groups in which each member simply wrote down ideas without interacting with others in the group.

What Yale University found was that the nominal groups consistently had more ideas and more creative ideas than the brainstorming group. Each group followed the same rules and focused on the same problem statement. The only difference was whether they worked as a group or as individuals.

Subsequent tests have confirmed this. Fortunately, however, for the brainstorm facilitator, it is not a difficult problem to get around. For instance, you can have people write down ideas individually for a period before putting them in a group to combine ideas and generate more.

Criticism Enhances Creativity

The fundamental rule of brainstorming, of course, is that there is to be no criticism of ideas. Criticising ideas will hurt people’s feelings and inhibit them, preventing them from sharing creative ideas.

This assumption sounds really good. But it is also flawed. Some researchers at University of California, Berkeley set up some brainstorming teams in three sets.

One set was given no instructions. The second set was given traditional brainstorming instructions and specifically told not to criticise ideas during idea generation. The third set was given brainstorming instructions with difference. This set was specifically encouraged to criticise ideas during the idea generation phase.

Most of the teams in the set given traditional brainstorming instructions moderately outperformed the teams in the set given no instructions. But the teams specifically told to criticise ideas came up with the best results by far!

This bit of research apalls most brainstorm facilitators and lovers of CPS because it breaks a fundamental rule of brainstorming and, indeed, CPS: criticism is not allowed during ideation. Any hint of criticism will cause participants to clam up, become inhibited and stop sharing ideas.

But, as the Berkeley research has show, this is not the case. Criticism actually enhances to level of creativity (note to brainstorm facilitators: if you doubt this, I have a suggestion, give it a try and see what happens if you encourage people to criticise ideas during ideation).

Frankly, I am not surprised by the results. When I think about my artistic collaborations, the idea generation process was never like traditional brainstorming. It was an argumentative debated.

Ideas were criticised, discussed in detail and thrown away if they were not good enough. Seemingly silly ideas, once defended became core ideas to the project.

I have also discussed this with scientists working on cutting edge research. Their response has been the same. When collaborating on creative projects, criticism, debate and discussion is the norm.

People Do Not Like Creative Ideas

Because the aim of brainstorming is to produce a large number of ideas, the result of any brainstorm will be a long list of ideas that someone needs to sort through in order to identify which idea or idea to take forward. Brainstorming does not address this. CPS is vague.

In practice, there may be a vote for best ideas. In any event, ideas are often organised in some fashion and presented to a manager who must make a decision.

Surely, you might think, in this era of innovation and creativity in which bosses extoll the importance of creative thinking and necessity of innovation, managers will normally select the most creative idea. After all, the most creative idea has the greatest potential to become a major innovation.

But the truth is, in spite of what they say, people do not like creative ideas very much. Indeed, research at the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated that people are biased against creative ideas.

Indeed, given a choice of ideas to implement, most people will select relatively conventional ideas over more creative ideas. This is doubly true if evaluation criteria are vague (such as “choose the best idea”).

Indeed, in my own experience of brainstorming (as a facilitator and participant), people will always generate “buzzword ideas” - these are ideas that incorporate the buzzwords, or popular jargon being used in the organisation in question.

Moreover, these buzzword ideas are often chosen as the best ideas. I suspect that astute managers realise this and use brainstorms as tools to legitimise going forward with a particular conventional idea, rather than as a means of coming up with new ideas.

In fact, I’ve found that a lot of brainstorms result in a long list of ideas and no further action. However, this is not so much an intrinsic flaw in brainstorming as lack of planning on the part of the person organising the brainstorm.

So What?

In spite of the criticism of brainstorming and CPA, many creativity facilitators continue to use it, prefering to criticise the criticism rather than explore alternative approaches. And many such facilitators manage to overcome some of the weaknesses of brainstorming.

However, I liken this to a battered, 20 year old sports car with 200,000 KM on the odometer. A good mechanic can keep the car working well enough to drive it. But such a car will never perform as well as a new sports car incorporating new technology.

That said, it is important to understand that although brainstorming is not an effective means of generating truly creative ideas, it does have benefits. It is a great team building exercise.

It’s marvellous for positive reinforcement (where else in today’s busy workplace can you be guaranteed not to be criticised for a few hours?). And it is good for making people feel they are being innovative.

After all, a brainstorm is only judged by how many ideas were generated, not by the quality or eventual implementation of ideas.


There are a handful of alternatives to brainstorming - though many of them are only slight modifications on brainstorming, introducing gimmick or two.

Moreover, many alternatives retain the flaws of brainstorming, in particular they prohibit the criticism, debate and discussion of ideas; and they aim to generate a large number of ideas rather than highly creative ideas.

Hence it is all too likely that conventional ideas will be chosen over unconventional ideas. Or worse, no ideas will be chosen at all!

There is also anticonventional thinking (ACT) - a method I have developed, over the past couple of years, in response to the criticisms of brainstorming and CPS.

I believe it is the most radical alternative, which is odd. Because when I have demonstrated it, people tell me it is very easy. It is. It’s the way artists, writers and scientists tend to develop ideas they need to implement. I’ve simply formalised the process. You can learn more about ACT here.