Category Archives: Learning

I’m familiar with gratitude diaries, giving thanks for my blessings and many other versions of this concept …and … Chade-Meng Tan has just put the icing on the cake, so to speak, in his new book Joy on Demand.

As he describes it: in every day there are tiny moments of joy. Here are just a few of mine: a pinky-orange sunrise, the feel of the sun on my back, the aroma of coffee, the feel of a warm hand in mine, the satisfaction of helping someone, the way my body moves to a well-loved tune, an internet story about people doing good in the world, the athleticism of Roger Federer, Continue reading

Why you can’t worry your way to success: What to do instead

I love Sonya Lyubomirsky and Chris Tkach’s article on Dysphoric Rumination.  It explains perfectly, in academic speak, why you can’t worry your way to success and what to do instead.  I trust I’ve done them justice in this layperson’s summary.

The worry cycle goes something like this:
You have a Problem – you are not getting a result you want.
You worry that can’t solve it.
You feel bad / stuck / depressed.
You think and worry more, which doesn’t solve the problem.  Instead it sensitises your mind to pay attention to negatives, so you remember negative instances when similar things haven’t gone well and you think negatively about what won’t work if you tried to take action.
You don’t take action, because your energy is low from all the pessimistic thinking and because you assume a low likelihood of success, so it doesn’t seem worth the effort.
The problem remains or escalates.
You feel worse.
You conclude that the problem is overwhelming and unsolvable and that you are not good enough or not skilled enough to solve the problem.
You take no action, so you can’t disprove your assumptions.
You feel helpless and hopeless and give up.

Fortunately, there are ways to intervene:
You have a Problem – you are not getting a result you want.
You worry that can’t solve it.
You feel bad / down / depressed.
You physically distract yourself by doing something enjoyable to shift your mood. When you are in a better mood, you are more likely to think of possible solutions.
You get out of your head and phone (or email) a friend who asks you ‘possibility questions’: “What if there was one small thing that you could do to get things moving in the direction you want? I wonder what that is?
You get out of your head and take a small, safe action – as an experiment – to challenge your negative assumptions and learn what works.
You reward yourself for any action you take and note your learning and insights about what might work, rather than evaluating that “nothing works”.
You break the cycle of worry and depression through action and learning and reflection, rather than reflection, reflection, reflection.  

What you can do – today:
1. If you’ve been worrying, send this blog link to a ‘friend’ as soon as you’ve finished reading. Then reward yourself for taking a positive action.
2. Phone your friend and ask them to help you. You may ask for permission to whinge for 5 minutes before they ask ‘possibility questions’.
3. Take action – ideally do something tiny today.
4. Reward yourself for taking action, no matter what the outcome.

If you haven’t got an accessible friend:
Email me and I will be your question buddy. Send an email to sharon at apassion dot com dot au  – with the phrase “Oh woe is me” in the header and one sentence to summarise your problem. I will exchange emails with you to ask the possibility question and find one tiny action you can take to get moving.

If you have a friend or work colleague who is worrying or stuck with a problem, send this article, then phone them and ask permission to help them, or let them know they can email me.

Let’s create a culture of possibility and action rather than worry and stuckness.

How to Succeed: Baby Steps and Baby Mind

baby steps

There was a popular movie in the 90’s called “What about Bob?” where the egotistical psychotherapist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, wrote a book entitled “Baby Steps”.

The title represents a brilliantly simple idea, that in order to succeed we need to take baby steps.

And importantly, we need to take those steps with ‘baby mind’.  When babies are learning to walk they aren’t thinking about themselves, only the goal.

Want this. Oops fell over.
Want this. Oops fell over.
Want this. Ahh, did it.

We continue this success pattern until we succeed in walking. And then we learn to run. Or ride a bike. Or write a book.

Somewhere along the line we learn to think about what we are doing.   And our style of thinking has a big impact on what we decide to do.

Instead of the observation “oops fell over”, we learn to make judgments about the action.

Is it good, or not good enough?

And we may pick up messages that mistakes are bad.  That only 100% is acceptable.  That smart people don’t make mistakes.

So our success pattern changes:

I want this. I think I can. Oops mistake.
I want this. I think I can. Oops another mistake.
I want this.  I don’t know if I can do it (perfectly).  Oops another mistake you dummy.
I want this. I don’t think I can. I’m not good enough.  Argghh, I give up.

For example, I embarked on a goal to write a book in the space of a year.

My first four months went like this:
I want this.  I think I can.  Oops my writing is nothing special.
I want this.  I’m not sure if I can.  Oops, I don’t think I have anything original to say.
I want this.  I don’t think  I can.  I’m not good enough…

But luckily, I am with a group of amazing women attempting the same goal. Some are making good progress, writing regularly. Others are struggling with similar thoughts to me.

So this month I delved back into the literature on what makes the difference in learning and achievement, what is the secret to success.

And I’m reminded that a lot of it is about baby steps.  Breaking the goal down into baby steps and taking action again and again. Writing as often as possible. Preferably every day. Even if it doesn’t seem good enough…yet.

I don’t necessarily like this message, but I now know that that if I write often enough I can finish my book this year.

I don’t yet know how well it will turn out, or whether it will sell.

I’m not expecting it to be on the bestseller list, but I am aiming to benefit the people who read it.

If I do so, I will be satisfied. It will be a year well spent.





Flipping Classrooms!

I love the name and the concept – flip what students learn in the classroom.    Instead of teaching them the theory in the classroom and then have them do “homework” or “back in the office work” to put the theory in practice – flip these two.

Give them the theory as texts, articles or short lectures that they can read and watch online or on their phones in their own time.  Then use the classroom time to do the hard stuff, putting the concepts into practice.

Check out the Kahn Academy and get inspired.

Satisfying learning – from concept into action

A great question from colleague Karynne Courts of Values Connection: What makes learning satisfying?

My response: “I love ideas and concepts, and its really satisfying when I can put a concept into action and see how it works.  One memorable one by Stephanie Burns was a twist on using a Timeline and your “bucket list”: Choose an age you’d like to live to, then divide your timeline from now to then into decades and spread your life goals across the decades.
I found all my goals were in the same decade – my thirties – and nothing after that.  It really freed me up to put more big goals on the  list – like completing an Ironman when I was into my forties. Or learning astronomy in my sixties. Or seeing the world switch to 100% renewable energy usage before I die!”

New Generation of Online Learning

I almost missed the online learning wave, but if this is the leading edge I want to learn how to surf!

Check out the videos sponsored by RSA Animate (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).  I especially like the Dan Pink Drive video and the Jeremy Rifkin video on the Empathic Civilisation and Paul likes the Powers of Time video and keeps asking if I have relatives from Sicily.

Also check out Andrew Park the brilliant artist (visual scribe) whose work is portrayed in the videos.

Learning ahas

Today’s session with Dr Bruce Copley and his “heartner” Barbara, was a great reminder that it only takes a little bit more effort to create a learning experience rather than be lazy and fall back on telling.  As Bruce stated, the first principle of learning is: “involve people and they will learn”.

Two things I am very keen to play with are the holoprint (pictured) and the electromagnetic ball.  For more on these “tools” visit Dr Bruce Copley’s website aaha learning Thanks also to Rob Clarke at Training Australia Magazine and Curtin Uni, for sponsoring the “teaser session”. 

Playing with learning and development

The “climate” is a bit grey in more areas than just the weather, so what better way to brighten your development program, than be a bit playful.  On a frivolous Friday, here are four games to make learning and development more fun. Try one out and see what “magic” happens.  You may have to sprinkle a little “magic fairy dust” to set the mood and cajole your participants to believe its OK to play.

Magic wand – give everyone a magic wand (easy to source from a children’s party shop), then go round the room and have each person describe what they would change in the team / organisation if they had a magic wand. You can follow this up with the Solution Focus miracle question to create even more discussion about how they would know.

Dress ups – provide mixed media materials – paper, cloth, plastic and ribbon – and ask each person to make a costume that represents their favourite hero or heroine.  Dress up, then go round the room and discuss the qualities of the hero / heroine and which of those qualities they do demonstrate / would like to  demonstrate more of.  For large groups, split into smaller groups first for making costumes and discussions.

Sparkling moments – (thanks to Svea van der Hoorn and Brief UK for this) organise the room into pairs and have each pair nominate a interviewer and a “personality”.  The interviewer asks the personality about sparkling moments from their work history when they have demonstrated excellent leadership and draws out the who, when, why, what and where of the story, especially the mental, emotional resources the person had access to.

The rules of the playground – provide a number of images of playgrounds or sporting grounds.  Work in small groups to share their examples of the rules of the playground when they were young.  Then groups draw a metaphorical playground for their company / division / team and list their understanding of the “unwritten” rules of the playground.

If you would like a copy of instructions for the Solutions Focused activities mentioned, send an email to  sharon at

Change your thinking, change your feeling

Interesting new research by Elizabeth Phelps and colleagues of New York University, shows that we can think our way out of feeling something bad, by changing the meaning of the thoughts and feelings. As the article says, this is not new research, but the measurement via neuroimaging can provide the evidence that doubters need.

Many managers and professional people suffer from negative or doubtful thoughts, e.g. I don’t know if I can do this or I’m not confident, which is usually accompanied by, or even triggered by anxious or uncomfortable feelings.

The message in the research is to choose a new thoughts about the feelings. For worry, I like something like “oh that’s my worry radar picking up some interference”. It makes me think of the noise a mobile phone makes when it changes cells.

Try your own idea for three weeks and see what happens. If you cannot think of a new thought, make a comment on this blog and we can come up with one together.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen from the Ailist for the link.

Learning Feedback – what works

Thanks to Will Thalheimer for his recently released labour of love – a comprehensive report summarising and explaining the implications of the many strands of research about learning feedback. Paul & I will enjoy reviewing our feedback activities in light of this research. Well done and thanks for your generosity Will.