Home Lifestyles Advice SEPTEMBER 2003 BRAINSTORM



The year is racing by, so this might be a good time to make a few "Old Year's Resolutions"– deciding what you'd like to achieve in this last quarter of the year. Also, please have a look at the item below about the Create Your Future workshop in early November, as this will be the last chance to participate for quite a while. And now here are some items to stimulate your brain:
Wearing someone else's shoes
In a recent issue of Fast Company, Seth Godin rues the fact that so many things just don't work very well. One reason, he says, is that the people who make them forget to look at the world through the eyes of the user: "They forget to try to open the CD cases they're sealing shut with plastic. They forget to try to use their Web site or navigate the voice mail that they're designing. They don't look at the form that they're creating to consider that once the computer knows a zip code, the user shouldn't have to type in a city and state."
Probably we could all come up with another dozen examples, but are we sure we are blameless ourselves?
Action: Take some time to consider the ways that what you do is experienced by your customers, clients, boss, and/or colleagues. To really get the full impact of this, find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. Relax, close your eyes and visualise these interactions as though through the eyes and ears of the other person (therefore, you see and hear yourself doing whatever you do). You also can use this to review your interactions with your spouse or partner, children or friends. You may be surprised by what you find!
Especially for perfectionists
Here's a little item making the rounds on the Internet (exactly as written): Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. amzanig huh?"
I'm not endorsing being careless about typos (in fact, I despair when I see how few people these days know that difference between its and it's, and between principle and principal, for example), but maybe for the perfectionists among us, this might be a good reminder that the most important thing is communicating and the content of your message.
Action: If you find yourself being too much of a perfectionist, consider how much time you're spending on the core task, and how much on perfecting it. 80/20 is a good ratio.
Be your own coach
Most of us have tasks we're avoiding because they're no fun, or they scare us in some way, or they're tedious. If you find that you keep moving an item from today's to-do list to tomorrow's, you've just identified such a task! A subscriber has sent a good suggestion for handling such tasks, or for doing something when your spirits and low and you lack energy. Her technique is to coach herself through it step by tiny step.
For example, if you're avoiding making a telephone call, you would say to yourself (out loud, if possible) "Look up the number." When you've done that, you say "Jot down the key point you need to make or the key question you need to ask." Then "Now dial the number…"
Action: Identify one task you've been avoiding. Coach yourself through it. If there are people around and you don't want to say the steps out loud, write them down and check each one off as you do it. At first you may feel silly micro-managing simple tasks. But give it a try; it's better than continuing to put them off!
Is what you read affecting you?
A study reported in the Journal of Gerontology found that elderly people who read a pessimistic account of memory and aging scored 20 to 30 percent worse on a memory test shortly afterward than those who read an upbeat article about growing older. Undoubtedly what we read also affects our emotions — certainly I find reading all the bad news in the daily newspaper tends to leave me a bit more depressed than when I started.
At the same time, so much of what we read is about negative events over which we have no control or influence (and a feeling of having no control is one of the major elements of stress).
Action: Here's an experiment to try. As you scan your usual newspaper, ask yourself whether you will benefit in any way by reading each article. For example, while my sympathies are with the victims of a terrible earthquake, do I wish to read about it in detail?
When you do read about something that upsets or frustrates you, consider taking action. If you read about a natural disaster somewhere else in the world, send a small donation to the Red Cross. If you read about an infuriating government policy, send a letter of protest to the relevant politician. If you read an article about the plight of the homeless in your area, consider giving a donation of time or money to a local shelter.
Brief commercial: The last Create Your Future workshop for some time will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 8-9, in central London. This is a great opportunity to take some time out to look at where you are in all aspects of your life and find out exactly how to get from there to where you want to be. For more information, please e-mail Sheridan for details. If you sign up by the end of September, you will get the early-bird rate.
The power of keeping a journal
Maybe you used to keep a diary when you were younger but don't have the time nowadays. It might be worth considering starting up again. A study reported in the book "Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Your Emotions" asked one group of unemployed people to write their job-seeking plans in a journal, and another group to write their deepest thoughts about job loss.
After eight months, the latter group was twice as successful in finding jobs. (Other studies have shown that women undergoing treatment for breast cancer also benefitted from keeping a journal of their emotions.)
Action: If you are undergoing any major challenges in your life (or even if you're not), consider keeping a daily journal in which you record your feelings and thoughts. If you're worried that someone else might read them, you can type them on your computer and then erase them again — getting the feelings out is the important bit.
A final thought, this time from George Bernard Shaw: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." 'Til next time, Jurgen
P.S. — We always welcome feedback and suggestions. The contact for all communications is Brainstorm. Also, have a look at the Brainstorm Web site.

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