Monday, 31 March 2014

Managing Merchants of Misery: - A positive approach to managing Negative People in Your Life

The world can be a horrible, cruel place – and at the same time it can be an abundant, wonderful place. These are both truths.  (Stanford University psychologist Lee Ross).

Do you know someone who is an “emotional vampire”?  You know those people who suck the life out of you with their complaints and commentary about everything that is wrong with both the world and the people in it. Merchants of Misery who peddle doom and gloom even when the sun is shining. It’s difficult to stay positive when times are tough and you are struggling with paying the rent or mortgage without also having to deal with the “glass half empty” personality types.  The obvious solution is to walk away from them, but this is easier said than done. We could always walk away from the neighbour with a bad attitude or the gossip in the local mothers group, but we can’t walk away from a spouse, parent, sibling or work colleague with a negative attitude. 

So, how does one deal with negative people who you can’t avoid? Today I want to share with you some  discerning ways of dealing with the negativity that comes your way from those you love and care about in a more positive and effective way.

Barbara Fredreickson in her book “Positivity” outlines three (3) techniques to manage needless negativity in close relationships. They are: modify the social situation, attend to it differently and change its meaning. She describes these as “social aikido”.  Aikido is Japanese martial arts described by its founder as the “art of peace”. The guiding principles of Aikido are to neutralise aggression without causing harm to yourself or your attacker.  These strategies are intended then to promote harmony and neutralise the negativity within the relationship.

 Let’s examine the three strategies in more detail.

Techniques 1 – Modify the Situation

  1. Examine your own part in the interaction 
    In attempting to modify the situation we need to have a good understanding of what part we play in the interaction. Therefore, initially you need to examine the typical situations in which you interact with the person. Then reflect on and examine your contributions to the exchange and see what surfaces.  You will need to be totally honest with yourself and really dig down if you want to know how you might contribute to the negativity that arises from the interaction.  Ask yourself if you inadvertently feed this person’s negativity, bait them with your words or actions, make assumptions about them or pigeon hole them? A good example is the interactions I have with my Aunty Anna. In the last few years she has developed some minor medical issues which have impacted on her health and general outlook.    When I see her I always brace myself in preparation for the moaning and complaining. I think “Ok. Here we go again.  She’s going to tell me all her problems and how sick she is and how bad she feels.” I then respond to anything she has to say by cutting her short to prevent a full blown whinge.  I feel the tension in my body and I mirror and feed her negativity with verbal and non-verbal body language.

    Once you have made an assessment of your own contribution to the situation you can adjust some of your responses to the person. For example,with my Aunty Anna I might be more open an prepared to listen to her problems and then express more warmth and empathy.  
  2. Set the Agenda for the interaction
    Some negative people are triggered by certain topics or situations so be proactive in choosing to engage in or discuss activities that will inspire you and your significant other.  For example, one of my friends turns into a self-victimiser whenever we talk about work. No matter what I say, she’ll keep complaining about everything in her job, which becomes quite a conversation dampener. As a one off conversation is not likely to address this entrenched type of negativity I try to change the subject to a safe topic such as music, movies or anther common interest. This refocuses the direction and energy of the interaction and helps promote more positive emotions.  
  3. Reframe the Negative Message
    The most reliable way to steer the negative person towards positivity is to manifest positivity yourself. For instance, blaming the negative person for making you feel negative is not going to help; in fact, it would be particularly ironic if you advised the negative person to “stop blaming others” if you are blaming them for bringing your mood down!

    In addition, human nature is to respond in kind.  I would highly recommend that when negativity or anger surface in your interactions you curb your tenancy to follow suit as this will only escalate the problem. I suggest you try an alternative approach, either by injecting some compassion or humour into the situation or reframing the negative message. Fredricksen also advises us to be ”open to the kernels of truth in the negative messages delivered, yet gently offer positives reframes.” She suggests it is possible to convert their “half empty” to half-full”. For example when I resigned from my job last year my mother pointed out all the negative things that could happen.  I acknowledged that it might have been a rash decision given the current economic situation but pointed out it would give me more time to spend with her.  (She had raised this as an issue for her on other occasions). Not surprisingly, research shows that relationships fare better when one partner breaks the cycle of negativity 

Technique  2 – Attend Differently

Negative people have a tendency to highlight the problems and undesirable aspects of any situation. They also seem to exaggerate any harmful consequences as a result making any predicament seem a lot worse than it might be in reality.

One way to deal with this is to purposefully attend to the other person’s positive qualities and identify what you appreciate about them. What are the person’s strengths and how do they apply them to various situations?  For instance, my husband is very good at making lists and planning.  When we are discussing the particulars of a holiday I need to focus on this as a strength instead of seeing his attention to detail as micromanaging me.  I should express my appreciation of his attention to detail. Likewise, if my husband warns me of the dire consequences of taking what I think is a healthy risk; I tell him calmly, I appreciate his concern and thank him for highlighting possible negative consequences.  

Scientific studies have documented that, in relationships, the area where you choose to focus your attention and devote your energy and words grow in strength and significance over time.  Therefore, if you concentrate on the positives you will increase positivity in your interactions with that person.

People like being around positive people, so the negative person will eventually appreciate your positive outlook and attitudes. People also like feeling positive themselves. So, as the negative person interacts with you he will like himself better and hopefully develop a more optimistic attitude.  Don't expect changes over night - think more glacial movement. 

 Technique  3 – Change Meaning

 Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.  ~Carl Jung

"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment." 
 Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck 

This technique suggests that we experiment with the meaning we give to a particular situation.  In other words,  could this person or
situation be a lesson in disguise.  If you reframe your time as a challenge you might be mindful in the way you react. Be more compassionate and less judgmental.  Recognize that the negative person usually means no harm they are just caught up in their own negativity. Recognize that he is just offering a different point of view. Don't take it personally. Sieve out the underlying message and see if there is anything you can learn from what was said.  Think what is the particular lesson I can learn from this situation.  Remember the persons negativity is not yours, but your response to it is. So be mindful of your own reactions. 

I invite you to try these strategies yourself in your interpersonal relationships that require a bit of tweaking in regards to negativity.  

If you want to know more about the science behind positivity then Positivity by Barbara L Fredrickson, Ph.D is a good place to start.  I really enjoyed the book especially the Tool Kit section. It's published in the US by Three Rivers Press (Random House), 2009.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Inspirational Quotes - Who Inspires You

 Inspirational quotes, like noxious weeds are overtaking my Facebook page. I have no idea where they are all coming from – are they self-propagating?  Social media appears to be a fertile ground in which they are sown, grown and spread, then wilt and fade away. Perhaps all my Facebook friends are inspirational quote fanatics and spend their spare time searching and posting a quote of the day , on a daily basis, for everyone else’s benefit. Don’t get me wrong, I am in favour of the effective use of “said quotes” to provide motivation and thoughtful reflection, however, I’m not sure that’s what is happening in reality. I suspect that most people are like me, guilty of forwarding one or two on to friends, but not spending too much time meditating on their applicability to their own life.  Enough apathy. Time to drill down into the nuts and bolts of the motivational quotes phenomenon and then work out how to use them effectively.

Difference Bestrewn An Affirmation and Inspirational Quote

Firstly, is there a difference between an affirmation and inspirational quotes?  Yes there appears to be a subtle difference. This is where Google comes in handy for a bit of internet research.  It wouldn't pass rigorous scientific quality control but good enough for our purposes, I think.  Now there wasn't much to find, but Squidoo  noted the following important difference between the two:

·         Quotations contain the gist of the wisdom of successful people from their real life experience. Therefore we can apply them to our situation with confidence.   Inspirational Quotes are useful when you’re trying to change something in your make-up, such as improving your confidence.  When you find yourself feeling anxious and need to get back on track you recall an inspirational quote like William Ward’s: “Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records”.
·         Affirmations work in a different way.  You use them to remind yourself what you are aiming to achieve before you get yourself into a situation. The most famous affirmation is probably the first recorded one by Emile Coue’s: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”.  You can make up your own to apply specifically to your particular situation. I'll talk about this soon in another blog.

Definition of Inspirational

Inspiration is an abstract concept or idea. It has spiritual connotations as well as practical connotations. It is some person, event, or thing that can act like a spring board to the mind, emotions, and or the body to propel us to a higher level of feelings or activity. 

A good example is in the movie “As Good As It Gets"? At one point in the movie Jack Nicholson says to female main character, "You make me want to be a better man." She inspired him - made him want to be the best he could be.
Some other definitions on the Web  include:
§  arousal of the mind to special unusual activity or creativity
§  a product of your creative thinking and work; “he had little respect for the inspirations of other artists”; “after years of work his brainchild was a tangible reality”
§  a sudden intuition as part of solving a problem
§  divine guidance: (theology) a special influence of a divinity on the minds of human beings; “they believe that the books of Scripture were written under divine guidance”
§  arousing to a particular emotion or action
Did you know that one of the top most popular questions among journalists, when interviewing celebrities is “Who or what inspired you?”  When asked this question most people lean towards naming someone famous or their parents.  Society almost pushes us to answer in this way.  We are pressured into naming someone that others can relate to.  Oprah Winfrey, Entrepreneur said she was inspired by her elementary school teacher, while 'Sex and the City' star Sarah Jessica Parker, who is considered as a fashion icon by many people, says her style is often influenced by women she spots on the streets. Andy Warhol, a famous artist,   was inspired by America’s obsession with celebrity and consumption. He is the one who said “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”  As social media explodes with quotes from the legendary leader, Nelson Mandela it's perhaps easy to forget there was a time when he was in need of a few words of wisdom himself. He found them in the musings of Shakespeare.  What about you? What or who inspires you? 

 5 Step Formula for  Effective Use

After much “Google research” I have come up with the following formula for using inspirational quotes:
1.      Focus on the aspect of yourself/behaviour you are intending to influence. For example – greater confidence, feeling happier, increased commitment to something.
2.      Search for quotes under those headings and make a list. There are quotes  for: money, success, health, loving relationships, love, self-esteem, self-confidence, smoking, weight loss, self-worth, letting go the past, bereavement and all the other issues that people need help with.
3.      Identify no less than 3  inspirational quotes connected to that specific word that are powerful enough to alter your current thought patterns the instant you scan them. Meditate on them and repeat them, silently or out loud.
4.      When you find yourself going off course recall one of the quotes from your list. Repeat it until you are able to get back on track. Repetition provides reinforcement to the subconscious mind and replaces the negative thinking.
5.       “Words call forth emotions and are universally the means by which we influence. Words can give the greatest happiness or bring utter despair!” Sigmund Freud. So choose your words wisely. The key is to speak and think on those things that you desire for yourself. This takes practice and patience. Positive words lead to positive thinking which leads to positive actions - that is the Law of Attraction in action. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

It's About Time - Time Management 101

What are you putting off? It's time to do it for Anti-Procrastination Day!

 Time keeps on ticking, ticking into the Future.

Whilst St Pat’s Day was on the 17th, I’m turning green today.  That is - Green with Envy.  Yes I am envious of all those Super Mum’s who seem to have it all together-  Work, family, leisure and pleasure. Yes, I’m envious of all those people who seem to have mastered the art of creating an extra hour in every day.  I use to be one of those people.  Worked full time, studied a degree externally full time and raised my family all at the same time. Since I started to work for myself and from home I have gradually fallen into a rut where  I find myself at the end of the day wondering where all my time has gone and why have I achieved so little.    If this rings a bell with you and you want to make better use of your time then then read on.

Time is a non- renewable resource - once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.  So it’s best to make good use of it. It’s about time I started to re-apply all those great time management skills and strategies that makes every minute count.   Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. (Wikipedia)

Starting Point
To determine our starting point and identify what we are already doing well and what needs tweaking we need to explore our current use or misuse of time. 

At Weight Watchers they suggest you keep a food diary for a week before you start your diet so that you can keep track of what is going into your mouth and when.  I recommend you doing a similar thing, but in this case tracking your use of time.  I was surprised at how much time I wasted watching reality TV shows, internet surging and Face-booking. How are you wasting time?

Activity: Break your day up into 30 minute intervals and record the activity performed.  Give each activity a rating of importance.  Also document how you were feeling at the time. (Thoughts, behavior, energy levels and actions are all interrelated.)  This will help you identify not only how you spent your time but also how productive you were.  It might also help pin point particular habits and mindsets. For example, my husband gets frustrated with technology and avoids tasks associated with computers while I dislike accounting related activities.

Below are four (4) major themes identified in the literature on time management. Under each theme I have listed a number of techniques and strategies.
Time is really the only capital any human being has, and the one thing he can't afford to waste.– American inventor Thomas Edison

Create an environment conducive to effectiveness

How much time do you waste in a day searching for something as simple as a pen or your eye glasses?  One key element to managing your time well is to create an environment conducive to effectively implementing your plans and executing your priorities.  A disorganized desk or office can be very distracting. When your work space or work life is disorganized, it can be difficult to think and plan clearly.  Here are a number of hints on preventing clutter:
  1.  Ensure there is a place for everything and everything in its place – no more misplaced eyeglasses.
  2. Have a filing system for both electronic documents and paper files
  3.  Don’t hoard.  Only keep what you intend to use.
  4.  Set yourself a deadline to read any professional magazines (2 weeks, for example) and be ruthless about throwing away old mags, journals and newsletters.
  5. Establish a routine for cleaning your home/office/desk
  6. Create systems. Divide material into red, yellow, blue and green plastic file folders. For example, anything that has to be done today (paperwork to be given to a client, bills to be mailed) go in the red folder. 
  7. Colour code various lists and calendars to minimize the time spent looking at them. 
  8. Enact the touch it once concept – That means each piece of paper, each activity, email or task should only have to be handled once. Realistically, twice if you have to delegate it to someone or if you need to file it for actioning later.
  9.  Have.. less.. stuff. has helped me realize that I needed to apply these organisational principles not just ot my office work but also to my home life. She has some great ideas.

Setting goals and Priorities

Time management strategies are often associated with the recommendation to set personal goals.  Goals should be tightly defined and clear.  I’m sure you have probably heard of SMART goals before. If not check out my blog Going for Gold on Goal Setting.  Goals are recorded and then broken down into an action plan (blog), which is further broken down into a simple task list. Individual tasks or goals are then allocated an importance rating with set deadlines established and priorities assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list or a schedule or calendar of activities. I recommend you regularly review your plans daily, weekly, monthly or on another planning period.
The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule is useful prioritization method particularly in business. Pareto was a 19h century Italian economist who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  Further research into its applicability has shown that the 80/20 rule can be applied to many areas of our life.  One such example is that 20% of your tasks produce 80% of your results. Once you have identified the key tasks that provide the greatest returns you can ensure they take priority and becomes the focus of your efforts,  If you have to delete something from your to do list ensure it is not part of the 20% that gains you the most benefit.   
Carrying out activities around those priorities
  1.  Create Routines – One of the most successful habits we can create is developing a routine. Routines help ensure that we consistently focus on our most important things; each day, each week, each month, and each year. Daily routines are easy to create, but challenging to follow. They require discipline and repetition.  The 3 components of a successful and balanced routines are:

·         Activities that relate to your personal well being eg Schedule time for exercise and meditation
·         Activities relating to business eg e- mail management, meetings
·         Activities relating to family and friends – playing a game of soccer with the kids.
Example: My husband’s morning routine which he carries out religiously every morning except Sunday is:
6am – Dressed and ready for exercise
6.30- feeds animals (cattle, horses and chickens)
6.45 – makes breakfast and brings me coffee in bed
7.00 – Shower and dress for work
7.30 – Reads mail
8.00  - goes to office
  1.  A yearly planner, a calendar and a white boardI've found that the easiest way to organize myself is a yearly planner, a calendar and a white board. All of which are displayed in the kitchen – the hub of my home.  On the yearly planner I have all the school holidays marked out, plus long week-ends and trips away.  On the monthly calendar I mark out all the days that have specific activities with a yellow marker and on the white board I document the daily schedule and appointments.  This enables all my family to know at a glance what is happening , when and where.  The kids can make notes (Horse riding with Zoe on Friday or  Grandma called) and I can jot down things as I think of them to be added to tomorrow’s to do list. In addition I keep a dairy in my handbag so I can schedule appointments while I’m out and about without creating a conflict with other entries.  I also carry a paper to do list with me everywhere, so I can make notes at any given moment. Remember the best laid plans can get waylaid so ensure some flexibility in your schedule to reduce stress and burnout.
  2.  At the start of the day spend at least 15 minutes reviewing your schedule and plan how you are going to prepare and carry out any scheduled tasks. Writing down and making mental note of the top 3 tasks to get done for the day. If you do everything will fall into place. At the end of the day take 10 minutes to tidy your desk and scan tomorrows agenda.  
Reduction of time spent on non-priorities

  1.  Whatever electronics or paper you use, make them work for YOU not the other way around.  I have two e-mail accounts – one for personal mail and the other for work purposes. This enables me to create clear boundaries in what is important at certain points of the day.  My work account is Outlook and I only check it at the start, middle and end of the day.  I bet you’ll get a whole lot more done if you decide to check it a few times per day as opposed to every time Outlook notifies you have mail.  That goes for the Blackberry too! After all, there are so many tools, and one to fit everyone – so use what works, but make it work for you!
  2.  Try putting your cell phone/mobile on silent, but within visual range when you are working on a set task. Unless the call is urgent let it go to message bank and call back at a more convenient time
  3. When you’re at work, you should be in the zone. You are fully engaged in what you are doing. With the exception of real-life emergencies, you do not break this state. You keep at it, and you keep on working. Try to work with a s few interruptions as possible.
  4.  When you’re off work, you’re in downtime . Do your best not to think about work, or to take work calls. Really try to engage in your time off – Do something that you enjoy that will recharge your batteries and re-energise yourself
  5.  Learn to say “NO” to activities that do not contribute to achieving your goals.

Times flies and we all want more of it.  So don't let it slip by catch it in your dreams and make use of every minute.  

What dreams are you bringing into daylight.. 

Remember the past is forever with use and the future is yet to come but today is what we make of it.  Have a great day. 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Power of Positive Thinking - 10 Steps

“The greater part of our happi­ness or misery depends on our disposi­tion and not on our circumstances.” –Martha Washington
 “The only thing that stands between you and your dream is the will to try and the belief that it is actually possible.” – Joel Brown
People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.Zig Ziglar

Attitude is Everything

Imagine two runners, both of equal ability, getting ready to begin a race.  One is thinking, “I’ll never win. I feel so sluggish. I can’t believe I’m even in this race. This young woman next to me looks so much faster; I bet she’s going to run right past me.” The other runner is thinking, “I feel great—light and fast! This is going to be the best race I've ever run. I’m strong, and I've been practicing for weeks. I can’t wait to get started.” Which runner do you think will perform better and why?

At the start of this year I had a dream to become the best me possible in the next 12 and imagined myself losing weight, getting into shape and being fit for life. I even followed through with an action plan.  The possibilities seemed endless.  Then – Life Got in the Way.  I sustained a foot injury which put my exercise program back on the shelf.  I found myself in a negative mind space and went back to the same old rut I’d been in for years.   Last week I looked at a creative problem solving process to assist me to get back on track and take control of the situation.  I went to the podiatrist and she recommended a change of shoes, foot massage and foot exercises to relieve the pain.  Hopefully this will provide a remedy to my physical pain. 

However this will not address the emotional road blocks I am currently facing to staying on track to achieving my health and fitness goals. I have found myself thinking and reacting to challenges in a very negative way.  I realise these thoughts influence my behaviour and actions which in turn impacts on my outcomes.  If like me you are looking for some practical solutions to that universal motivation – problem problem then please read on. 

Definition of Positive Attitude

Positive means: Confident in opinion or assertion; fully assured while “Attitude” refers to our outlook on life—a way of thinking about themselves, others, and the world.

When people behave positively, their brains create chemicals called endorphins, which enhance performance. Endorphins can increase physical energy, increase mental alertness, reduce anxiety, and improve problem solving skills. Having a positive attitude means being strong and motivated.  It means focusing on strengths and confidently moving forward. It affects our behaviour—when we have a positive attitude, we act in a way that reflects that attitude.

Positive behaviour can be developed by forming positive habits.  Here are 10 of my favourites.  
  1. Set SMARTGoals and an Action Plan.  We have already discussed the importance of these in other blogs.
  2. Create Flow – any small step towards your goal is better than none.  Start with something small and work your way up to bigger task. Just get started. Make a deal with yourself to work at a task for at least 15 minutes.  If you find after that time a lack of commitment then move on to something else.  The small successes will keep you motivated and keeping your focus away from the bigger target stops you from becoming overwhelmed and discouraged. 
  3.  Create a Priority List.  Mark the 3 highest priorities and focus on getting these done first.  Anything after that is a bonus.
  4. Foster Self-belief.  Henry Ford said “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”.  Think of yourself as successful, and have positive expectations for every­thing you do. Be your own best friend and start encouraging and believing in yourself.  Nurture your attempts with positive supportive words and actions.   Start a strengths register and add to it as you grow personally and professionally. Keep A to Do List and mark off the actions you have completed towards achieving your goal.  This will help you remember your successes. Refer back to the lists for motivation. Consider using a journal of some kind to keep track of your thoughts and actions.
  5.  View Failure as a Learning Opportunity. This is difficult to do as we have been programed to fear failure and rejection.  If we look at successful people they have a different response to the common one.  They look at failure as part of the process of learning something new and an opportunity to improve next time.  They know that to be successful at anything you have to fail many times.   Redefine failure in your mind as feedback on what you need to improve on and success will come.  Keep trying until you achieve the results you want. Call in your inner coach to help you ask the right questions to help move you get the move out of the situation. Remember you only fail when you quit trying.
  6.  Surround yourself with positive people and ideas. Seek advice and support from people experienced in your field of endeavour. They can assist you by providing encouragement and advice based on their experience.  If  don’t  personally know of anyone that fits this category then:·         read books by successful people in your chosen area
    ·         read good blogs
    ·         join a group or club
    ·         locate a video or YouTube on the subject
    ·         listen to the radio
    ·         find a goal buddy or co-dreamer to share the journey with you
    ·         Engage a coach, counsellor, trainer or other professional support person.Whatever you do, stay away from naysayers and negative people who don’t have faith in your ability to achieve your goals
  7. .Make a Vision Board – At the goal formulation state you imagined the change you were seeking in great detail.  You pictured your life as it might be.  You can create a vision board by cutting out pictures that represent the physical and emotional aspects of this imagined future reality. Whenever you are feeling negative and lack motivation you can use the positive images on the board to remind you of your goals
  8. Fake it til you make it – not feeling motivate or enthusiastic. The just pretend for a while and you’ll be surprised at how soon you will be experiencing the real emotions. Start the day with a smile and ask yourself “What am I happy/excited about in my life right now?”
  9.  Use the technique of visualization. Visualization is the tech­nique of purposefully creating a mental picture of a successful performance. Visualization improves performance because the positive picture stimulates the brain to trigger corresponding positive responses that support the mental image.  Many athletes use this technique to enhance their abilities on the field or court, by entertainers to ensure their best performances, and by successful professionals to achieve their goals. Visualization is creating a “mental movie” in which you are the star. You can find some visualisation exercises at Creative Affirmations by Danea Horn.
  10.  The technique of affirmation. Affirmative statements are positive self-reminders that help us strengthen our efforts and achieve our goals.  They are reminders of the beliefs and values we want to live our life from. It is recommended we state them in the positive and say them as often as we can. Each time you notice that you have slipped into old limiting, negative patterns of thinking, acknowledge your thoughts, and replace them with an affirmation. Affirmations are like mental commercials that encourage us to buy into positive images of ourselves. CreativeAffirmations by Danea Horn 
A positive attitude can lead to positive behaviour.
• Positive expectations, behaviours, and habits bring positive results.

Thank you for following my journey so far.  I hope you are travelling well towards your goals for 2014 and staying motivated.

From the suggestions you might like to try one or two and let me know which ones work well for you. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Creative Problem Solving - A Skill

I don't know were you are on life's journey, but I  have hit middle age and while my fitness goal for 2014 was to pound the pavement until I could jog 10 km's in 1 hour, I have found the mind is willing, but not the body. Despite all  my good intentions, my knees and feet have decided that this is not such a good idea, They have ached mercilessly following extended treadmill jogging sessions. As I've been jogging about 6 kms about 3 times a week this means numerous sleepless nights.    Decision time then. Do I ignore my bodies signals that its all too much and stick to the original exercise plan, quit altogether or remain flexible and consider other options of obtaining the same goal?  Are these the only choices available to me? How do I go about finding the best solution to this problem? My initial response was to jump in, dare I say it, feet first, and rush into possible solutions. I resisted long enough to see sense.  Now I am gathering as much information as possible about the situation. This includes visiting the podiatrist to have my feet checked, investigating my running gait/style, and shoe choice and options.  So, I am still in the problem identification mode, at the moment, but hopefully will find a solution before too much longer. I am using the following Creative Problem Solving Process to assist me in finding the best solution possible.  Have a read and see what you think.

What is problem solving?

Problem solving is a key skill, and it's one that can make a huge difference to your successful goal attainment, life and career. Note that it is not an innate ability but a skill and all skills can be learnt.  The capacity to develop creative solutions proactively and with confidence comes from having a good problem solving process. Usually, it involves several different steps or stages. These generic skills and processes contribute to the development of successful solutions for any kind of 'problem', big or small, simple and complex. For example writing an assignment or report, undertaking projects at work, or taking on something in your personal life. And might I add finding a solution to running and sore feet.  

When to use problem solving

You can problem solve anytime you experience a challenge or have a goal to achieve. You can use the problem solving model to look for solutions to concerns connected with any aspects of your life. You can take the problem solving steps by yourself, with a friend or others. Problem solving with others is often very effective because you have access to a wide variety of viewpoints and potential solutions. 

What is the creative problem solving process? 

“When you’re eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”
Step 1: State what appears to be the problem.
The real problem may not surface until facts have been gathered and analyzed. Therefore, start with what you assume to be the problem, that can later be confirmed or corrected. Tools like 5 Whys  Appreciation   and Root CauseAnalysis  can  help you ask the right questions, and work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on. Mind Tools is a great site to find all sorts of personal development information and tools .for those who want to self-coach.

Research shows that people who spend more time at the beginning working out exactly what is involved have a better chance of success. Therefore, it is worth investing time reflecting on what kind of problem it is, how it is like other problems you have encountered, and what different options there might be for approaching the task. A less successful approach is to rush in without undertaking the initial reflection and preparation leading to an ineffective solution, or getting stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences

Step 2: Gather facts, feelings and opinions.
  • What happened?
  • Where, when and how did it occur?
  •  What is its. size, scope and severity?
  •  Who and what is affected?
  •  Is it likely to happen again?
  •  Does it need to be corrected?
  •  Time and expense may require problem solvers to think through what they need, and assign priorities to the more critical elements.
Step 3: Restate the problem.
The facts help make this possible and provide supporting data. The actual problem may, or may not, be the same as stated in Step 1. Use facts and supporting data to confirm or restate your goal.

Step 4: Identify alternative solutions.

  • Generate ideas. 
  • Brainstorm and write down as many ideas as you can that might help solve the problem, no matter how silly they seem.  Some of the best solutions arise from creative thinking during brain-storming. 
  • Seek ideas about possible solutions by talking to others. The aim is to collect as many alternative solutions as possible.
  • Research the problem
  • Who has successfully managed a similar problem - How?  this could be someone you know personally or  know of through books/media.
Step 5: Evaluate  and Selecting Alternatives
Step 6:  Implement Solution
  • Who must be involved, consulted or informed?
  • What is the first step?
  •  To what extent?
  •  How, when and where?
  •  Who will the decision impact?
  •  What might go wrong?
  •  How will results be reported and verified?
  • Carry out the Plan. -     You will need to have energy and motivation to do this because implementing the solution may take some time and effort. Tools to use include To do Lists and prioritisation. 
Step 7: Review Effectiveness
  •  Was it helpful?
  •   Did you achieve what you set out to achieve?
  •  If not, how could you have done it differently? Did you achieve any progress, however small, towards your goal?
  •   What have you learned?

10 Questions to Encourage Further Exploration

As a self -coach you might like to ask yourself:
1. Who might be of help that I have not consulted yet?
2. Can I think of 4 different ways of tackling this situation? 
3. How will others benefit?
4. Am I forgetting anything?
5. What’s the wildest option I can think of for dealing with this situation?
6. What can I do better?
7. What would someone I admire do in this situation?
8. What should I add?
9. What should I eliminate?
10. What in me is standing in the way of resolving this situation?

A Word of Caution
  • focusing on solutions prematurely before the problem has been thoroughly identified, defined and discussed;
  • adopting a ‘quick fix’ approach that seeks to eliminate the problem as quickly as possible – it is better to tolerate uncertainty, ambiguity and doubt;
  • not adopting an open mind and being willing to consider new ideas;we are creatures of habit and like to do things the same way if we can.
  • not taking into account individual biases when evaluating the facts of a case; and 
  • misinterpreting others’ disagreement for dislike – different opinions are a positive consequence of the group’s diversity

Tell Me - I'd love to hear your experiences:
  1. What are the current problems you are facing in trying to achieve your goals?
  2. Do you use a problem solving process and if so what are the steps?
  3. Do you use any other tools to generate solutions?