How Self-Motivation Can Be Easier When You Find Your True Calling

Whenever a new year starts, we often make our own new year’s resolution. But how long can you keep it? One week? One month? Six months? Entire year?

Well… You know it by heart.

You want to be healthy but you can’t resist to junk food. You want to get in shape but you are too lazy to sweat. You want to save some money but you continue to spend money on meaningless things. You want to get promoted but you don’t even want to go to work.

Are we just too weak to stay motivated?

Maybe yes. Maybe not.

You are just fulfilling the obligations or expectations imposed by others

When we talk about self-motivation, we talk about ‘self’. It is not about someone else. It is ALL ABOUT YOU. If you are just trying to fulfill the obligations or expectations imposed by others, you will never be able to stick to it. If your parents want you to earn more money and you try to follow, it’s not likely you will have the motivation to do it till the end as you barely know why you should do this.

You are not sure what you want to do

A vague and unspecific new year’s resolution always die in silence. Not having a clear goal is often the reason why we lack motivation. If you say you want to earn more money, you can’t just say it. Things don’t happen like magic. Without a clear direction, you will feel like running on an endless track. You will easily give up in the middle as you never see the sign which guides you to the finishing line.

You are not ready for a change

‘Let’s leave it for tomorrow.’ That’s the most typical line from a person who lacks motivation. Perhaps sometimes we are too optimistic, thinking that things are not that bad and everything can wait until tomorrow. You might want to lose weight for years but you might only start exercising when you find yourself dying of diabetes. People always only feel the strong need to change when they’re at the edge of a cliff.

And you can’t just let it be

Some even lack the motivation to learn to motivate themselves. But, please, don’t give up.

Self-motivation is an important skill that all of us need to master. At work, being able to motivate yourself and others makes things work better. When you encounter a massive and overwhelming task, you should be able to motivate yourself instead of procrastinating, which makes you harder to overcome inertia.

In your personal life, self-motivation is important as well. Think of the countless time when you lack motivation to go to gym or to save more. How do you feel about these? Perhaps a feeling of failure and frustration. You often feel bad. But if you can motivate yourself and achieve something, you will feel the pride and delight.

Find out what motivates you

Here, the most direct way to motivate yourself is to first find out what motivates you. It sounds straightforward but sometimes it might take a second thought to figure out your motivation.

There are two kinds of motivation: [1]

Intrinsic: To perform an action or task based on the expected or perceived satisfaction of performing the action or task. Intrinsic motivators include having fun, being interested and personal challenge.

Extrinsic: To perform an action or task in order to attain some sort of reward, including money, power and good marks or grades.

If you find your motive is extrinsic, try to immerse it into your goal. Let’s say your goal is to get in shape, try to think of what kinds of reward you can get during the journey or after you achieve your goal. For example, you might be able to turn it into your career to make money.

Scott Geller’s 4C model

Scott Geller, an Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, introduces the 4C’s of self-motivation to help people motivate themselves. They are: competence, consequences, choice, and community.

Competence

Ask yourself two questions first:

  • Do you believe you can do it?
  • Will it work?

If the answer to both question is YES, then you would feel competent and are more likely to be self-motivated.

It feels like common sense but it’s based on research about self-efficacy. If you don’t believe you can do it and you don’t believe it will work, there’s no point in doing. You can still try but in the next minute you would probably say, ‘See? I’ve told you it doesn’t work’. Then you give up. It doesn’t matter whether you can really do it. What matters is you have to believe it. That’s what keeps you going.

Consequences

Here comes another question, ask yourself:

  • Is it worth it?

From the day you were born, everything you did was because you wanted something from doing it. Babies cry as they want food while children work hard on study as they want good grades.

When you believe you are doing worthwhile work, you are more determined to do it. If you want to get in shape, you calculate the pros and cons. You might feel tired after doing workout but what you can gain might be a good shape and a good health. You compare the pros and cons to see if it’s worthwhile. Once you believe that it’s worthwhile, you would focus more on the pros instead of the cons.

Choice

When you have a sense of autonomy, you are more inspired to do the task at hand.

Think of the time when you were kids. Everyday you wake up in the morning and rush to school. How do you think about ‘going to school’? ‘I have got to go to class’? Or ‘I get to go to class’? For the former one, it’s a requirement; for the latter one, it’s a opportunity. Although most of us have successfully graduated from school, probably not many not us find motivation in school because we think we have no other options.

So, if you want to do something, do it for yourself. It is nearly impossible for you to feel motivated if that’s only a requirement for you. If you want to be healthy, don’t think it is only because your doctor tells you to do so. Instead, try to relate whatever that motivates you and say that it’s my choice to be healthy.

Community

Social support is critical. People who perceive a sense of connection with other people feel motivated and happier.

The power of a man is limited. And everyone has weaknesses. When things get tough, it’s always good to have someone to remind us and to encourage us. If you get tired and lack motivation, you need someone to remind you the reason why you start at first. Sometimes you also need someone to help you believe in yourself. And most of all, we need to learn from each other.

To know more about the psychology of self-motivation, take a look at the TED talk by Scott Geller here:

Learn from book to motivate yourself

Motivate Yourself: Get the Life You Want, Find Purpose and Achieve Fulfilment is a book written by Andro Donovan. It offers practical strategies to improve your productivity, such as how to quieten that negative inner voice that inhibits your personal growth and how to motivate those around you with productivity at the center of everything you do. The exercises introduced help you to move past your self-doubt and propel yourself into living your dream.

Reference

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How To Spot A Sociopath In Your Life

A simple definition of a sociopath is someone who has no conscience and is tremendously antisocial. Sociopaths are incapable of feelings such as fear, anxiety, stress, depression, guilt, regret, remorse, empathy, care, and love. They don’t have feelings or emotions but a high-functioning sociopath is extremely skilled at faking emotions. So some sociopaths do cry, if they want to.

How to tell if a person is a sociopath or not?

Look at the traits below:

  • Lack a sense of shame: They have no emotions or feelings. They can’t really feel remorse and guilt.
  • Constantly lie: They’re very comfortable in telling lies as they won’t have any guilty feelings. If they are caught in a lie, they’ll continue to lie to cover them. Some might even do whatever they can to make you, or even themselves, to believe in the lies.
  • Calm in any circumstances: Unable to feel fear and anxiety, sociopaths are good at staying calm in any circumstances.
  • Charming and generous just at first: They know exactly what other people want. So at first they often seem to be really nice. They greet you with a charming smile and ask the appropriate questions. But the fact is, they have no interest in you at all.
  • Manipulative: They love to be in control of every situation. So they only look for weak people and avoid strong people as weak ones are easier to control. Once sociopaths target at a prey, they’ll dominate over every part of the person’s life.
  • Have a huge ego: Sociopaths tend to have a delusion that they are the greatest people in the world. They tend to be narcissistic and much more interested in talking about themselves instead of listening to others.
  • Unable to take criticism: Owing to their huge ego, sociopaths can’t take criticism. It doesn’t mean they would be very angry when they receive criticism, as they have no emotion. What it truly means is that they are indifferent to any criticism. And they might also blame others and shift their responsibility.
  • Have very few real friends: Sociopaths often have difficulties in making friends, or in any relationships. They seldom truly connect with people. This goes for family members too. That’s why they seldom talk about their family.
  • Isolate you from others: To be the centre of your world, they would try to isolate you and ask you to stop hanging out with your friends.
  • Secretive: They don’t connect with people as they don’t even mind. So they seldom explain why they do things in such ways.
  • Have low tolerance for boredom: Sociopaths have a strong need for stimulation. They require constant stimulation and quickly get bored. Any kinds of stimulation might be what they desire, such as physical punishment and gambling.
  • Poor in behavioral controls: They have a hard time predicting people’s reactions and understanding their feelings. As a result they badly affect people around them without even noticing it.
  • Express shallow emotions: Sociopaths have no emotion but this doesn’t mean they don’t express emotions. They can fake it. So the emotions they expressed are usually shallow.
  • Authoritarian: Sociopaths have a huge ego and that’s why they see themselves as a necessary authority and will be in favor of totalitarian rule.
  • Paranoid: Sociopaths often lack trust in people. They doubt what people say and what people do. They tend to be antisocial.
  • Cruel to animals: They might show this in their early childhood like pulling off the wings from flies.

Up to this you might think…Am I a sociopath too? I have some of the traits! Note that having sociopath tendencies is different from being a full-blown sociopath.

Sociopathic tendencies VS full-blown sociopath

Some people only have the sociopathic tendencies but they’re not full-blown sociopaths. Those who have the sociopathic tendencies only exhibit sociopathic behaviors and attitudes sometimes. While a full-blown sociopath never possesses genuine respect for others.

To explain in another way, having sociopathic tendencies means to have an outburst once in a while. Afterall we’re human and we have emotions. On the contrary, a full-blown sociopath would make use of every opportunity to exploit others for his own gain and they may explode any time. [1]

How to deal with a sociopath?

Sometimes we have no choice but to cope with a sociopath like he’s your coworker and you have to talk to him every day. So what to do?

Don’t reveal too much information about yourself

Sociopaths are often charming at first and look like they want to know more about you. But that’s not the case. All they want to do is to find someone who is weak and then they can manipulate you to achieve their goals. Never reveal personal information about you or your friends and family or difficulties you’re having. These are the best materials for them to gain dominance over you. Instead, keep conversations with sociopaths to neutral subjects like television and news. They will gradually lose interest and walk away from you.

Don’t give them more than 3 chances

Sociopaths are good at lying. They can absolutely tell a lie to cover whatever bad move they have done. But don’t give them more than 3 chances. If they lie to you once or twice, they can be forgiven as it might be a misunderstanding or a mistake. But when it comes to the third time, you should better cut your loss and run. Don’t let them have any chance to do more harm to you.

Don’t try to take them down

It is dangerous to be an enemy of a sociopath. Their calculating nature always grant them whatever they want. Instead of trying to take them down, try to come up with a win-win agreement. Propose as many win-win scenarios as you can. Get them on your side.

Research shows that sociopaths make up about 4% of the general population. [2] Hope that you won’t meet too many in your life!

Reference

[1] Love fraud: Sociopathic tendencies or full-blown sociopath?
[2] Psychologia: Infographic: Psychopath Vs. Sociopath

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How To Set The Right Direction For You Life And Do What You Want Most

You’ve heard this so many times. In inspirational quotes and In self-help books that “goal setting is the first step to success”. Even your favorite vlogger on YouTube talks about it. It’s everywhere. You don’t doubt it’s true, and you want to finally set a goal and get your life sorted out. But there’s a tiny problem here: you have no idea how to do it.

Let’s take a look at what goal setting means:

Goal setting is the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing measurable [expectations] and timeframes.[1]

What’s most important about setting a goal is achieving it. It should be a plan of action to get to somewhere you want to be. Which is to say, not only do you have to know what you want, but also consider the time and effort you will have to invest in your goal.

Having the right goal is important to being successful in life. But perhaps “successful” sounds a little vague. Here are several benefits of goal setting explained.

By setting goals, you get a clear life direction and get closer to what you want.

A goal is like a destination you want to reach. It tells you which direction to go, so you don’t get lost or run around in circles. Goals are a necessary tool of life planning.

Your true potentials will be unlocked.

Not only does progress motivate you to keep going, but also makes you start believing in yourself more. You’ll know more about your abilities, and discover your unknown potentials. You’ll see yourself achieve what you didn’t think you could.

You’ll learn that your life is the totality of the choices you make along the way. With each step you take towards you goal, you’re writing a new page in your big book of life.[2]

You will be able to focus on what matters, and not be distracted by what doesn’t.

Knowing which direction to go makes all the difference. A clear goal tells you to avoid wasting time on the sidetracks. It helps you better manage the limited time and energy you have.

Goals guide you in the long run and motivate you in the short run.

A goal sets you on track in the long run., helping you to lead a meaningful life. Setting a goal requires you to think about yourself, and helps you realize what you truly want in life. Goal setting is personal, it is your choice. You have the power to control your own life, and you are free to give whatever meaning to it, whatever you want. Knowing you are in control makes you happier.[3]

In the short run, it helps you decide what steps to take towards it. Taking the right steps brings you improvement, as well as the sense of achievement you need to stay motivated.

Now that you know how how awesome it is to set goals, it’s time to learn the basics.

There’re some basic rules to follow if you want to set the right goal.

Here’re the 3 rules of goal setting:[4]

1. Know your priorities

Your goals should be about what the most important things to you. Ask yourself: among all the things I could do in life, what do I care about most? What are the high priorities? Then, decide on just a small number of things to work on (one at a time, if you prefer). Having goals that matter to you is the key to staying motivated day in and day out. You’re pushed to actually achieve it, because you’re doing it not for anyone else, but for yourself.

Again, focusing your time and energy on just a few things—the important ones—makes you more likely to achieve your goals. Distractions are never helpful and will only drain you.

2. Set SMART goals

A helpful tool to evaluate your goal is to see if it fulfils the SMART criteria:[5]

  • Specific — A clear and specific idea of what you want to achieve. A simple trick to set a goal is to start with a verb.
  • Measurable — Be specific with how much or how many about your goal.
  • Achievable — Look at the skills you have or you lack. Make a plan of the exact things you’ll have to do to reach your goal.
  • Realistic — Think about the resources available to you and be realistic about the effort you’re willing to put it.
  • Time-bound — Set a time limit to keep you motivated. It can be a daily, weekly, or monthly target.

These 5 letters help you set the right goal for your situation, and help you achieve it effectively.

3. Make an action plan of baby steps

You can never underestimate the importance of motivation, especially if you have a big goal or a long term goal. Things can look intimidating in the beginning, and you may be too scared to start working towards your goal. This is why you need an action plan to motivate you.

First, you want to work out all the steps you have to take in order to reach your goal. Next, you have to break down each step into smaller actions that are manageable to you. This makes it easier for you to accomplish your goal, and lets you know how much progress you’re making — progress is motivation.

For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks, you can list out the concrete steps you have to take in the coming semester:

  • eat only vegetables and white meat
  • hit the gym every other day for an hour
  • go running every morning for an hour

Then, break down each item into smaller tasks:

  • eat only vegetables and white meat: have my meal plan and meals ready over the weekend, choose salads over burgers when dinning out etc.
  • …and so on

Learn from these examples and put the rules to practice.

Over the years, you may have to set goals for different aspects of your life. Here are some examples showing you how to make them good.

Example i) Career: I want to improve my time management at work.

  • Specific: I want to keep up with the daily schedule and meet deadlines. I should make a to-do list every day, and tick everything off by the end of the work day.
  • Measurable: I want to be able to leave work on time every day.
  • Achievable: I can learn to prioritize my tasks and estimate the time needed for each task.
  • Realistic: Taking 10 minutes in the morning to plan my workday is reasonable. It will remind me to keep up with progress during the day.
  • Time-bound: I want to achieve this within 1 month.
  • Action Plan: Take 10 minutes every day to make a to-do list, learn productivity tips from online articles, review progress and planning strategy every week.

Example ii) Finances: I want to spend less on unnecessary items and start saving more money.

  • Specific: I’ve been spending nearly all of my salary each month. I want to save up US$3000 to travel to Europe.
  • Measurable: I will save 20% of my salary each month.
  • Achievable: I can write a grocery list before I go shopping. I can also draw up a budget plan for my weekly expenses, so I have a good idea of how much money I can spend on different things.
  • Realistic: Planning ahead helps me resist the temptations when I go to the shops. Saving 20% per month is not that hard, since I’ve been buying so many things I don’t need.
  • Time-bound: I will reach my goal of US$3000 in 10 months.
  • Action Plan: Compare grocery prices online, write shopping lists, eat out less often and cook for myself more.

Example iii) Family: I want to spend more time with my family.

  • Specific: I will chat with my family more often, and spend weekends with them instead of at the office.
  • Measurable: I will have dinner at home and chat with my family on weekdays, and go out with them at least once a week.
  • Achievable: I can leave work on time instead of working overtime, so I can arrive home by dinnertime. Also, my office hours actually don’t include weekends, so I can stay with my family at weekends.
  • Realistic: I am able to finish work on time. I just have to work more efficiently.
  • Time-bound: I will keep doing this for at least a year, starting next week.
  • Action Plan: Plan family weekend activities before hand.

Example iv) Hobbies: I want to take up playing the piano again.

  • Specific: I want to learn to play the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
  • Measurable: I will practice for 90 minutes each day, 5 days a week.
  • Achievable: I took piano lessons when I was young and was pretty good at playing classical music. This piece should be manageable to me.
  • Realistic: I work on weekdays from 9 to 5. I have enough free time to fit in the practice sessions.
  • Time-bound: I want to be able to play the sonata smoothly within 1 month.
  • Action Plan: Break down the music and practice in small chunks, focus on sections where I struggle, watch YouTube videos to learn different interpretations.

Example v) Self-improvement: I want to be a better listener.

  • Specific: I want to listen to my family and friends when they talk to me instead of just focusing on my own thoughts.
  • Measurable: I can see if I’m able to recall what they have said to me after chatting with them.
  • Achievable: I can pay attention to what people have to say before I give my own opinions when I chat with them. I can learn to be patient.
  • Realistic: My family and friends matter to me, so I should pay more attention to them. Also, listening to them when they talk shows that I care.
  • Time-bound: I will practice listening in the coming 3 weeks.
  • Action Plan: Read online about communication and listening skills, have the word “listen” written on my palm to remind me to listen when chatting with family and friends.

Example vi) Health and Fitness: I want to eat more fruits.

  • Specific (and Measurable): My goal is to eat 2 servings of fruit every day.
  • Achievable: I can buy my favorite fruits in bulk and take 2 pieces to work with me every day. At weekends, I can go to the market and see what’s in season.
  • Realistic: Incorporating more fruit into my diet isn’t difficult. Also, getting enough micronutrients is essential to my health.
  • Time-bound: I want to stick to my goal for at least 3 months, so that it becomes a habit.
  • Action Plan: Write down fruits at the top of my grocery list, try new varieties of fruit.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

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Clever Tricks To Have A Conversation That Never Ends

I don’t know what to say…

We all understand what it feels like to be tongue-tied. We’ve all had that experience. Perhaps it was a friend who got too excited about The Game of Thrones—a show that’s got so viral but which you’ve never watched a second of. Or it could be a co-worker who kept talking about his recent trip to Berlin, and you just couldn’t think of anything interesting to say because you’ve never even been to Europe before.

You may feel bad about yourself. But the good news is: the solution to this is simple.

You don’t have to say something great

The truth is, on any given day, we have so many conversations with so many different people about so many different things, most people don’t even remember what they’ve said![1] What’s more, a lot of the conversations aren’t supposed to be meaningful in the first place. Which is why it’s okay to not know what to say, because, most likely, it doesn’t matter what you say, or if you say anything at all. The other person will probably forget it soon enough.

So, why do we talk so much if our conversations aren’t important? The reason is that we like to feel connected with one another, and chatting with people helps us understand each other. The purpose of having a conversation is, purely and simply, to keep the conversation going. You really don’t have to trouble yourself to come up with interesting or clever responses.

For example, if your friend keeps bothering you with his favorite TV show, but you have absolutely no idea what to say about it, just say that you like to watch TV too but aren’t following the show he’s talking about (and maybe mention your own favorite show). You’re not trying to write a critique of TV shows, so it doesn’t matter if you have any insightful comments to contribute. Be comfortable chattering about nothing, and be happy that you’re spending time with a friend!

Associate with other topics

Another trick is to associate.[2] Look to the current conversation for inspiration, and talk about something else instead. It can be something that you find interesting or know about, but it doesn’t have to be related to what you’ve been talking about. Use your imagination. Digress. And move on.

For instance, if your co-worker is sharing his travel experience in Berlin and you don’t know how to respond, try talking about something vaguely related. You can say something like: Berlin does sound amazing! I heard you can’t go to Berlin and not eat currywurst. But, hmm, it’s just sausage to me. By the way, do you know about that cool new hotdog stand right around the corner? …

Show your interest and ask for more

You can also try letting the other person do the talking. For instance, when someone talks to you about Gothic architecture but you know nothing about it, try replying with an enthusiastic ‘Interesting!’.[3] Ask for further details using open-ended questions,[4] e.g. What do you think about the Physics Building at our university then? It looks pretty old-school to me, but I’m not sure how it compares to the Gothic style of the Cologne Cathedral…

This not only shows that you respect the other person, but also that you’re enjoying chatting with them. People will usually be happy that you’re interested in what they’re saying, and will want to share more with you. Remember, you goal here is just to keep the conversation going.

Don’t be afraid to reveal some of your stories

But if you really struggle with all of the above and end up in awkward silence, don’t panic: you can always share a little something about yourself.[5] You don’t have to worry about being judged or anything. As long as you don’t dig too deep or brag about yourself too much, people are usually willing to listen to you and are interested in what you say. Sharing some detail about yourself makes the other person feel that you trust them, and will make the conversation more pleasant for the both of you.

For example, open up about your pet, or the last time you cooked, or anything random. Then perhaps say one more detail about it, e.g. what colour is your pet fish, how much time it took you to chop all the vegetables, etc. Who knows, maybe they can relate to that, and will share with you their stories too!

Reference

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Having Excellent Problem Solving Skills Can Make You More Successful, These Are Steps You Should Follow

Have you noticed that some of the problems you are experiencing either in interpersonal relationships or work, seem to be recurring?

For example, a person who has had some unpleasant arguments with their co-workers in the past, can expect to go through similar struggles moving forward, no matter if they are in a completely different work environment. And the underlying theme of different arguments is the same – that person has a problem to establish a functional communication with their co-workers.

This is just one example, but many of us tend to repeat the problems and some of us eventually start feeling hopeless, thinking it is just our flawed character and there is nothing we could do about it.

Actually, the reason certain problems keep repeating is because we are not using an efficient problem solving technique. Luckily, we can become better problem solvers and therefore, lessen the number of problems we face.

Your life can be seriously affected if you have poor problem solving ability

Whether we’re happy or successful are largely determined by our problem solving ability. If you just leave problems being unsolved, you may suffer in the following ways:

  • There are countless complicated and ambiguous problems in interpersonal interaction. If we’re not efficient problem solvers, we can hardly clear misunderstanding in communication and get close with people around us.
  • Workplace is where we learn how to tackle different kinds of unexpected problems. If we don’t keep looking for new solutions, our work performance will worsen and we will easily feel frustrated when problems pile up.
  • It is common for us to attribute poor mental health to unpleasant personal experience or genetic factors. But the inability to tackle problems in life can harm our mental health. According to a 1983 study, scientists found that people with weaker ability to deal with interpersonal issues are more prone to depression.[1]

So what are the causes of poor problem solving?

Problem solving is just like other skills we need to master in life. To be good at it, we need to practice it with the right approach. Unfortunately, many of us may not realize the common mistakes we make when solving problems. Here are some examples:

Mistaking symptoms for the real causes of problems

Most of us tend to spend a lot of energy to deal with the symptoms of problems without realizing the real causes. To identify the root causes of a problem, we need to challenge the first conclusion that pops up in our mind and keep asking the right questions until we can see beyond the phenomenon of the problem.

Looking for quick fixes instead of the most effective solutions

It is our tendency to look for quick fixes of problems. This leads us to believe in our intuitive without looking into the causal relationship behind the problem. And that’s why we seldom get to the core of problems and adopts the ineffective solutions.

Relying too much on our knowledge

Finally, we become ineffective problem solvers because of our over-reliance on our knowledge. It is a common misconception that the more we know, the more capable we are to tackle problems. But the fact is mere knowledge doesn’t enable us to become effective problem solvers. What we also need is logical thinking skills, the ability to think critically and creativity.

How to be better at problem solving

In order to become better problem solvers, we need to follow these 4 steps whenever we deal with any problem in life:

1. Defining the real problem

The first and most important step is to identify the root cause of the problem. One of the most effective approach is 5 whys invented by Sakichi Toyoda in the 1930s.[2] Totaya suggests that by asking “why” for 5 times can help us better identify the core problem.

For example, your problem might be that your business website is not getting enough traffic.

  1. Why is the traffic declining? Content on the website is not engaging to readers.
  2. Why is our content not engaging to readers? Our content doesn’t fit readers’ needs and interests.
  3. Why can’t our content fit readers’ needs and interests? We don’t have much understanding of our readers.
  4. Why don’t we have much understanding of our readers? We haven’t conducted any research in this area.
  5. Why haven’t we conducted any research to understand our readers? We have no resources for research.

The solution – allocating more resources on the research to understand our readers.

Please note that we only apply vertical thinking to delve deep in one possible problem, which is unattractive content in this case. If you think there is another possible reason for declining traffic, you should do another set of 5 whys. By doing this, we can train up our logical thinking skills and so what we see from a problem does not stay at the superficial level.

2. Generating alternatives

After we define the root problem, it is time to find possible solutions. Here’s where we can use the lateral instead of learned, vertical thinking.[3] That means, rather than spending all of our energy and time on transforming one initial idea into a perfect solution, we should rather think of at least ten possible ones and write them down first.

By doing so, we won’t draw the conclusion too early or limit our choice to the first few ideas that pop up in our minds, Instead, we postpone our decision making and make use of our creativity to generate potentially better options. Although it takes us more time in this stage, we’re more likely to come up with better solutions later on.

3. Evaluating and selecting alternatives

After generating possible solutions, it is time to select the best one. To make sure we make the right decision, we should list the pros and cons of each option and then compare them on the basis of cost and benefit. In this way, you are more able to make rational choice instead of being deceived by your unreliable biased judgement.

4. Implementing solutions

Although you have gone through 3 stages and take many factors into consideration to pick the best solution, you shouldn’t have the false hope that you solution is going to to be perfect. But it’d be good to implement your solution first and then keep evaluating its effectiveness and make adjustments afterwards. Then you have a clearer direction in mind of how to tackle your problem strategically.

Recommended Reading Materials

By now, you are equipped with the efficient problem solving techniques. But if you want to learn more to further improve your problem solving skills, here are two great books you can read for more insights:

Thinking, Fast and Slow

This book gives a magnificent insight into two types of thinking going on in our brains, and what conditions each. By giving us background to our behavior, the book helps us become better at understanding our programmed ways of dealing with problems so that we can hopefully find a more effective, unbiased ones.

Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People

It is a practical, illustrated guide that teaches us critical thinking and resourcefulness in problem solving.

Reference

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You May Find You Don’t Really Understand Yourself Well After Playing This

Johari Window is a psychological model that helps us to understand more about ourselves and hence to improve ourselves more effectively. “Johari” is a combination of the first names of the two psychologists Joe and Harry.

It is also referred to as a “disclosure/feedback model of self awareness”. Originally it was developed for studying group relations. Later it has been found that this model can actually benefit every individuals like their work and also relationships.

Open Area (Quadrant 1)

This area contains things you know about yourself that are visible to others as well.

Blind area (Quadrant 2)

Things in this area represent what others think or know about you, but you yourself don’t realize.

Hidden area (Quadrant 3)

Things in this area are only known to you but not others. It may be that you’re keeping them private and hiding them from others.

Unknown area (Quadrant 4)

This area is for things that are either about you that no one is aware of, or that are not applicable to you.

Do the exercise to see how your Johari Window is like

First choose the adjectives that you think describe yourself well from the list below:

Then ask your loved ones to choose adjectives they think suit you.

If you find any common adjectives both you and your friends chose, put them into the grid “Open Area”. For what you chose but your loved ones didn’t, put them into “Hidden Area”. For what your loved ones chose but you didn’t, put them into “Blind Area”.

If the results is like the below one where the Open Area is the largest one and the Blind Area is so small, congratulations!

But if it’s the opposite which means the blind area or the hidden area is much larger than the open area, alert!

When the blind area is significantly larger than the other ones, it means feedback is seldom taken or seldom taken seriously. That’s why you don’t know a lot about what people around you know.

When the hidden area is larger, it means you reveal too much about yourself, including the dark sides and your strengths.

The ultimate goal: Enlarge open area

When the open area is large enough, your self-awareness is high and people know you well too.

For individuals, this makes us know more about our strength and weaknesses which can boost our personal growth.

As a team, when the group’s open area is large, which implies the presence of open communication, overall productivity is improved too.

So how to enlarge it? Psychologists suggest that the size of open area largely depends on our self-esteem and also our communication skills. When we have high self-esteem we would dare to disclose more about ourselves. When we acquire active listening skills, we would learn more from people’s feedback.

For more detailed guide to improve these aspects, refer to:

Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

The Skill That Most People Don’t Have: Active Listening

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Why Successful People Will Never Neglect A Backup Plan

A contingency plan doesn’t sound like what you would discuss with friends over cake and coffee, but it’s an essential part of any actual plans you make. You may need one (or more) for your business, school project, or even a family vacation. The biggest problem with making a contingency plan is that people often aren’t sure about what to include in it. Here is a handy guide for you to make a comprehensive one.

What is a contingency plan?

A contingency plan is a set of actions that you will take when something unexpected happens. Think of it as a backup plan, or a Plan B. It should have instructions that you can follow when your original plan doesn’t work out due to changes in the situation.

A contingency plan prepares you to deal with any future troubles you may encounter, and gives you some sort of escape route out of any accident.[1]

What happens if you don’t have a contingency plan?

If something goes wrong with your Plan A unexpectedly, or if accidents force you to change your current plan, chances are you will panic. Especially if you’re not well prepared to deal with contingencies, you probably can’t think straight enough to come up with the solution you need at that moment. You won’t know what to do.

What’s worse, until you’re able to get the situation under control, business can’t go back to normal. You’ll have to fix the trouble and make new plans.

What if the contingency plan is a bad one?

Don’t think making a contingency plan is a simple task. A contingency plan should be comprehensive, which requires lots of careful consideration. Otherwise, it is not helpful.

For instance, you may be prepared for the wrong kinds of accidents. And when your plan doesn’t work out as expected, you won’t be organized enough to handle the crisis. That is, you’ll panic.

How can a contingency plan benefit you?

For instance, a contingency plan allows you to deal with accidents quickly and effectively.[2] In a business scenario, it can even help you save time and cost in repairing the situation.

Also, a contingency plan helps minimize the negative consequences or losses caused by the unexpected event. It guides you to start dealing with the situation as soon as something goes wrong and keeps you safe.

After all, having a contingency plan ready is reassuring, because you won’t have to worry about making new plans in a rush.

You may think that accidents are unlikely. You may think that your Plan A is perfect. However, you should keep in mind that the future is uncertain until it becomes the present, and that we as human beings can’t control 100% of what happens. You don’t want to regret not having a contingency plan when it’s too late!

So how should you write a good contingency plan?

There are basically 5 steps to writing a contingency plan:[3]

We’ll now go through them one by one:

1. Identify

As a contingency plan has to do with what’s unexpected, you have to first try and predict the risks:[4]

  • What could possibly go wrong?
  • How likely it would go wrong?
  • What’s the impact and consequences of the contingency?
  • What should be your reaction or solution?
  • How can you prepare for it in advance?

2. Prioritize

Using what you’ve written down in Step 1, rank your risks by their possible impact and likelihood. The more likely the risk will happen and the more serious the impact will be, the higher it should rank.

You have to decide how much weighting to put on each risk according to your situation.

3. Plan

The next step is to actually write your contingency plan. Keeping in mind the resources available to you, design solutions to the risks you want to cover in the plan. Be realistic about your needs: perhaps some issues have to be dealt with before some others, or perhaps you have to take actions within a certain time frame, etc.

It is also important to give clear and simple instructions, so that you won’t forget what you’ve written months later, or that someone will misunderstand them.[5]

4. Execute

If your contingency plan involves other people, say, your colleagues or your family members, talk it through with them. Let them know what they’re supposed to do when certain things happen.[6] Prepare them.

Then, if your plan includes actions to prepare for future accidents, execute them. This can help you lower the risks.

5. Review

Changes happen all the time. For your contingency plan to be practical, you should review it and make adjustments regularly. Evaluate the items in your plan. Over time, some risks may become more or less likely, or may bring about different outcomes. Learn your situation well, and update your solutions accordingly.

If your plan is about large-scale risks such as natural disasters or server failures, conducting drills is very helpful to identifying any weaknesses of the plan, as well as making sure the people involved will be prepared to act according to the plan when they have to.

Here are some concrete examples to put things into perspective:

Example 1: Contingency plan for an outdoor exhibition

  • Potential risk: Rain
  • Who will be affected: Exhibitors, visitors, organizers and crew members
  • Action 1: Secure exhibit items
    • Who will take action: On-site crew members
    • Preparation: Rain-proof covers for exhibitors’ stalls, email exhibitors with weather forecasts 3 days in advance
  • Action 2: Lead visitors to sheltered areas
    • Who will take action: On-site crew members, security guards
    • Preparation: Mark designated areas as no-parking areas, waterproof jackets for crew

Example 2: Contingency plan for delivering a speech to a big group of audience (co-workers)

  • Potential risk: The projector or the computer doesn’t work
  • Who will be affected: Me
  • Action: Write outline and key points on whiteboard as I speak
    • Who will take action: Me
    • Preparation: Notes in hard copy, 3 colored markers, printed handouts

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

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