If it doesn’t work, stop doing it. If it works, do it more

We are well aware, of course, that if something doesn’t work, we should stop doing it – although that knowledge doesn’t necessarily prevent quite a few people from pressing on regardless with tactics that just don’t deliver the required results. Part of the problems is the power of habit (particularly when such habits have become ingrained in the culture and become part of the expected norms of the workplace concerned. So often people get into an established way of working that they feel comfortable with and stick with it, whether or not it actually works. Much of the time they don’t even know whether or not it is working. So embedded are they in this standardised way of working that they do not take time out to gauge whether what they are doing is making a positive difference. In some cases it may actually be making the situation worse.

I have spoken to many groups of people (on training courses, at conferences or in consultancy projects) about the importance of evaluating our efforts. I have highlighted the dangers of pressing on regardless, without having a clear picture of whether what we are doing is actually helping us to move forward. Huge amounts of time, effort, energy and scarce resources can be wasted through working practices that have not been evaluated. This is not only inefficient, but can also have an adverse effect in terms of morale. Ineffective practices are unlikely to generate much job satisfaction or opportunities for creativity and learning, so unquestioned habitual practices are bad news all round.

However, there are two common responses I have encountered and have had to deal with when raising the issue of evaluating working practices. The first is the ’We don’t have time’ response. I am then faced with the challenge of trying to get across – tactfully and constructively – the message: So, you have got time to waste on ineffective and inefficient practices that undermine morale and block progress, but you haven’t got time to look at whether what you are doing is actually worth doing? It’s a question of using time to save time.

The second common response goes along the lines of: ‘We don’t have the expertise to evaluate our work’. This displays a confusion between formal, research-type evaluation carried out by experts (an activity that can have an important role to play in many circumstances) and day-to-day evaluation processes. What evaluation boils down to is being clear and focused about: (i) what you are trying to achieve; and (ii) whether or not you are achieving it. Often the problem lies with either: (i) a failure to establish in the first place what was to be achieved (that is, the goal-setting phase has been omitted from the work process); or (ii) objectives have been developed that are too vague, making it difficult to establish whether or not they have been achieved.

Evaluating our work efforts is not rocket science, and it gets easier with practice. The key, as I have already suggested, is clarity – particularly clarity of focus. Habit and unquestioned cultural norms tend to act as a fog, serving as a barrier to clarity and generating a lack of focus. Consequently, we need to understand evaluation as part of reflective practice – being prepared to think about (and think through) what we are doing and not just rely on habit and routine to get us through the day.

By making evaluation a part of our working lives, we are in a strong position to know what doesn’t work, so that we can stop doing it, and appreciate what does work, so that we can do more of it.

Be lucky

I’ve never given any credence to the idea that you ‘make your own luck’, as if chance in life can be ruled out in some way. But there is a very real sense in which we can affect the luck we have. We can’t stop chance occurrences from happening, but there is much we can do about how such matters affect us.

The Ancient Greeks spoke of the constant tension in life between Cosmos (order) and Chaos (disorder). Many things happen along straightforward lines. They are regular, predictable and orderly – natural processes, for example. But that is only half the story. There are also things that happen at random, in unpredictable, disorderly ways. For a long time there was a scientific orthodoxy that assumed that everything in the universe followed predictable patterns. Those things that appeared to be random were following patterns that science was yet to discover and understand. As Einstein famously said: God does not play dice with the Universe. However, quantum science, as it has come to be known, is now challenging that orthodoxy and helping us to understand that there are indeed random elements in the Universe – chance is real and not just an illusion that scientists have yet to dispel.

So, if we have to accept that we are all subject to chance, how can we make sure that we can ‘be lucky’? Well, it all depends on our reaction to chance events, how we respond to them. So, we can’t stop certain things from happening, but we can control what we do about them. We can be negative and defeatist and just moan about some untoward event that has happened. Or, we can cast off any such cynicism and look closely at what we can do positively about the situation we are in. It comes down to something I have discussed with many, many groups of people over the years (on training courses, at conferences, when being a guest speaker at a university and so on): when we encounter a situation we are not happy with we have two main choices: on the one hand we can spend our time complaining about has happened and bemoaning our fate, thereby contributing to low morale (hence making a bad situation worse). Or, on the other hand, we can pull together and support one another in doing the best we can in difficult circumstances (and thereby make a contribution to boosting morale, rather than lowering it).

So, we don’t make our own luck if by that we mean we can prevent or counteract all chance happenings – that simply isn’t realistic. There are so many things that will happen that we can neither control nor influence. However, we can ‘be lucky’ by making the most of the opportunities chance throws up for us – capitalising on the positives, making the best of the negatives – rather than allowing ourselves to be trapped in a vicious circle of disempowering negativity.

Luck and chance are about opportunities. Chance happenings will close off certain opportunities, but will open the door to certain others. If we see luck as something we just have to learn to live with, we will be missing the opportunities that are presented by chance events, whether those events are positive or negative, welcome or unwelcome. It’s what we do with them that counts.

Don’t procrastinate

Why put off until tomorrow what you can put off to the day after?, as the old joke goes. But the price we pay for procrastination is no laughing matter. We have known for a long time that one of the key elements that contributes to stress is not having a sense of control. The more out of control we feel, the more stressed we are likely to get, and that can then have all sorts of detrimental effects.

A common reason for procrastinating in the first place is anxiety – for example, putting things off that we don’t feel comfortable or confident about doing (the things we do feel comfortable and confident about are likely to be the things we do first). So, what can easily happen is that our anxiety leads to procrastination, procrastination reduces our sense of control, which creates stress, and that, in turn, increases our anxiety. So, a vicious circle has been established. And, as is so often the case with vicious circles, once they start they can be really difficult to get out of.

Now consider the alternative. We plan our work, we establish our priorities and work our way methodically through them, so that anything that gets left until tomorrow is the least important (not what we feel least comfortable or confident about – which may well be very important stuff). As a result of this, we are likely to have a greater sense of control and therefore feel less stressed, which should then make us feel less anxious. We will then have fewer things that we feel uncomfortable and unconfident about – so it is good news all round! What we have done is take a vicious circle (negative and destructive and a significant source of problems) and developed it into a virtuous circle (positive and constructive and a significant source of confidence and motivation).

I have had the opportunity to speak to a large number of groups of people about this, on training courses, for example. A common response is words to the effect of: ‘That sounds a good plan, I will try to do that’, to which I would normally reply: ‘Why are you saying you will try to do this? Why aren’t you saying that you will do this? It’s 100% within your control’. The ensuing discussion gets them thinking about what they need to do to make the changes in approach. It helps them to realise that saying that they will ‘try’ cedes a degree of control – so they are already falling foul of the problem they are trying to solve.

Of course, the irony here is that the ‘I will try’ approach can easily become a form of procrastination in itself. That is, they go away from the course with the intention of giving it a go, but they soon get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of their normal workplace routines, and before long, the idea has disappeared, left for ‘another day’.

 

So, if you are going to get the benefit of this more positive and effective approach, you need to grasp the nettle and make it happen. If you don’t, you are back onto the slippery slope of procrastination. It’s in your own hands. Take control and make it happen or let the control slip from your hands. Empower yourself or disempower yourself: the choice is yours.

Count your blessings

Consumerist messages are all around us: buy, spend, consume. Underpinning these is the powerful message that success in life is defined by your spending power. But it’s more than that; there is a strong message too that we should be constantly striving for more: spending more, which means earning more, constantly wanting more. We should never be satisfied with what we have got, because that will mean we will desire less and therefore spend less.

This sort of materialism is problematic at a number of levels. In particular, it has the unfortunate effect of making it less likely that people will count their blessings and appreciate what they already have. This can be at a simple, straightforward level. For example, wanting to buy that new item of clothing may mean that great clothes you already have gather dust in the wardrobe. But, it can also apply at a broader level, in the sense that we can lose sight of the positives of our lives. Positive can easily come to be defined as whatever is new, shiny and exciting – all quite superficial compared to what is really important in our lives.

When we add to this the fact that news media tend to focus largely on negative stories – wars, terrorist incidents, disasters, crimes and so on – we can see that there is another strong cultural message that detracts from the positives in our lives. The negativity fed to us daily reinforces the message that happiness is to be found in materialist consumption – spending money! So it takes us back to the idea that what is important is what we buy. We may joke about ‘retail therapy’, but there is a very serious message about being part of a culture that defines satisfaction in consumerist terms. This is ironic when you consider that consumerism, by its very nature, breeds dissatisfaction. When you have bought the latest desired item, there is always another one to entice you into spending further.

Wealth tends to be defined in financial terms these days, again reflecting the consumerist materialism that is all around us. But, originally, the term ‘wealth’ was much broader. Wealth is what makes you rich, but how riches are defined can be much wider than just your bank balance or stocks and shares. What makes us rich is much more than money, spending power or possessions.

An important concept here is that of ‘social capital’. This refers to the benefits we get from social connections and relationships, the ‘people’ resources we can draw upon. And, regardless of material wealth, people differ enormously in terms of the social capital they have access to. Some people who devote much of their time and energy to material gain can lose out in social capital terms – they are too busy ploughing their own financial furrow to gain the benefits of wider human connections. By contrast, some people who have very little materially may be very wealthy because of the riches they have in their life associated with people and relationships, not money and possessions.

There is also ‘cultural capital’ to consider. The benefits of education and a thirst for learning, the pleasures of the arts and music and other cultural ‘riches’ can be of far more value than being able to afford the latest shiny object or being able to show off our material wealth.

So, when it comes to counting your blessings, to working out how ‘rich’ you are, don’t forget to include your social and cultural capital, as these can generally do far more for your well-being than straightforward material rewards.

Set positive goals

A lot of what has been written about goal setting is simplistic and misleading, as if to suggest that if you set goals, somehow your life will be transformed. But, despite this hype, there is much value in setting goals for yourself. This is because it gives you a sense of purpose, something to strive towards and, as such, can be an important source of motivation.

However, the goals you choose have to be meaningful and realistic. Meaningful goals relate to things that matter to us, things that are important to us in our lives. Goals that are linked to other people’s ideas about what our goals should be or what direction we should be taking our lives in are unlikely to be strong sources of motivation. And, of course, they need to be realistic, otherwise we are simply setting ourselves up to fail. But we also need to recognise that there are two aspects to being realistic: nature and scope. By nature I mean the type of goal you are setting. For example, you may set yourself the goal of achieving a particular promotion, but that may be unrealistic because you cannot control the decision-making process about who gets the promotion. You can influence it by doing an extremely good job, impressing at interview and so on, but you cannot control it. However brilliant and well suited to the job you are – there is always the possibility that there is another candidate who is even more brilliant or even better suited to the job (or at least someone who appears so to the panel). So, getting the promotion may well be a worthwhile and valid aspiration, it’s not really suitable as a goal.

By the scope of a goal, I mean how realistic the goal is in terms of terms of the extent you can reach. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, being unrealistic about how much you can lose or how quickly you can lose it will not be helpful. Again, it is a matter of setting yourself up to fail.

So, to be an effective source of motivation, goals need to be both meaningful and realistic. But there is one other things they need to be if you are to get then most benefit from them: they need to be positive. This is because framing goals (and other things, for that matter) in negative terms is likely to lead you into a negative mode of thinking. Like the ‘rubbernecking’ that goes on when a road accident has occurred (and which can lead to further accidents) – we can easily get drawn to negativity. Consider too what happens if you are instructed not to think about pink elephants: what is it you think about? So, when it comes to goal setting, negativity is very much to be avoided.

Positive versions are very much to be preferred:

 Negative goals                                                                  Positive goals

To lose weight                                                                   To eat more healthily and to exercise more

Not to lose my temper so easily                                    To learn to keep calm at all times

To be less defensive                                                       To try to learn from criticism

Of course, in reality, you would need to be more specific than this – the more specific the goal, the easier it is to work out whether or not you are meeting it or how close you are getting. It can be helpful to divide goals into overall aims (to eat more healthily) and specific goals (eat more vegetables).

So, are you clear about your goals? Are they meaningful and realistic? And are they framed in positive terms? Then, you’re all set to go!

Don’t confuse motion with action

How busy someone is and how productive they are can be two very different things. Being busy can become a vicious circle. We can get so busy and have so many plates to keep spinning that we don’t actually manage to make much headway; we achieve relatively little. We can then become demoralised because we feel we aren’t getting anywhere. When morale goes down energy levels go down too. Less energy makes us less productive. Being less productive means we feel we have to do more, so we become busier, but not necessarily more productive.

If we are not careful it can lead into a vicious circle of stress too. If our energy levels are low, but we have a lot to do, we can feel overwhelmed. We can then feel that we have little control over our work and that’s what opens the door to stress.

So, what can be done about this? Well, the first thing we need to do is to stop and think (good old reflective practice). Pressing on regardless and not trying to get to grips with the challenges we face is not likely to help at all. We then need to work out what it is that we are trying to achieve, what our various goals are. We then need to weigh up the various activities that we get engaged in and categorise them in terms of how useful they are when it comes to achieving whatever it is we need to get done. We can use the traffic lights approach for this:

RED These are things that are just not getting us anywhere. Perhaps we are involved in these out of habit or tradition, a powerful force in any organisation (many unproductive meetings, for example) or may have evolved without any plan or specific direction. This type of dead time is more common in organisational life than most people realise. The more worn out people are, the more this happens, so an important step forward is to cut out from your schedule those things that don’t actually get you moving in the direction you need to go in.

AMBER These are activities that may help you move forward or may not, depending on a number of factors. Some of these you will need to let go of, but others may well be worth retaining. Working out which is which can be difficult and may need a lot of thought. Sometimes it can be helpful to discuss these in supervision or with a mentor if you get chance, as an independent view of the situation can often be helpful.

GREEN These are the things that are positive and productive; they help you move forward. Make sure you hold on to these and, if you can, do more of them. Ironically too many RED or AMBER activities can often mean that the positive activities get squeezed out. For example, I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they get too busy to think and largely do their work on automatic pilot – they have lost sight of how dangerous it is to be doing their job without thinking about what they are doing. They are also not realising that if they did more thinking (planning, analysing, reviewing and learning), they might be more effective and less likely to get drawn into the RED or AMBER zones.

This approach won’t work for everyone, but it can make a big difference. It can help to make sure that all the effort you put into your work is worthwhile and helps you to get somewhere (or decide on a difference tack if it is not getting you anywhere).  The more pressurised the work setting the more valuable – and necessary – this approach can be,

Be assertive

Assertiveness is a widely misunderstood term. Many people use it to mean being stroppy or difficult, unaware that this is a significant distortion of the philosophy underpinning the idea of assertiveness. For example, on training courses I have been running I have many times come across comments to the effect of: ‘If I were assertive, I would be disciplined’ or ‘If I were assertive people would give me a really hard time’.

To a certain extent I can understand where the confusion stems from. Part of the idea of assertiveness is the recognition that you need to stand up for your rights and not let people exploit you. But standing up for your rights by being combative or aggressive is certainly not what assertiveness is about – quite the opposite in fact.

Being assertive is about attempting to negotiate win-win outcomes. It involves having the interpersonal skills to move forward without pushing people into a corner, while also not allowing them to push you into a corner. Some people develop these skills in growing up, it is part of their upbringing. Other people develop them through training and/or professional experience in the field. Yet others go through their life without ever learning these skills, and can lose out significantly because of that.

Some people oversimplify assertiveness by assuming that it is just a matter of compromise, of ‘meeting in the middle’. Compromise is certainly one potentially useful assertiveness technique, but it is just one amongst many. Another important one is what is known as ‘principled negotiation’. This differs from the traditional idea of ‘positional negotiation’ where the parties involved adopt their own negotiating position and try to coerce the other party into accepting it or at least moving towards it (pay negotiations have traditionally taken this form). Principled negotiation, by contrast, is a process whereby those involved identify their differences and explore possible ways of achieving an outcome that everyone is happy with (or is at least prepared to accept). This can often be done without generating any unnecessary tension or bad feeling (as opposed to positional negotiation which has a tendency to generate a lot of tension and ill feeling).

So, the philosophy of assertiveness is certainly not about getting into trouble, being disciplined or getting a hard time. Who would want to discipline someone who has the skills to create solutions that re acceptable to everybody concerned? That’s more likely to lead to promotion than to disciplinary proceedings!

However, there are two important caveats to be aware of. First, it is possible to get yourself into trouble if you misunderstand assertiveness and think of it simply as insisting on having your own way and possibly doing that in a combative, hostile or unprofessional way. Sadly, quite a few people have told me of situations where they ‘stood up for themselves’, but they did it in such a way as to alienate other people. They have lost sight of the fact that it is all about trying to get your needs met, but without preventing other people from getting their needs met, where possible. In more straightforward terms; don’t let other people do the dirty on you, but make sure you don’t do the dirty on them either.

Second, we have to recognise that some people will not play ball. No matter how skilled you are they will hold on to their position, their territory and may even resent your efforts to move forward constructively. Assertiveness is very useful, but as with all tools or techniques, it has its limitations. However, even when assertiveness doesn’t work, it has one very significant advantage: it helps you to identify people who may be ruthless and unprepared to give an inch. Knowing who those people are can help you to make sure that you are, as far as possible, safe from them. If you are unaware of the dangers they pose you can find yourself in a vulnerable position and unprepared.

So, assertiveness is not a magic answer, but it is a very important tool that can be highly effective most of the time, warn you of dangers on those occasions when it is not effective, while also helping to boost your confidence and your credibility in your interactions with others.

Think!

There are two ‘sides’ to our brain and nervous system. One deals with routine matters that we don’t have to think about – the things we just do, like walking and breathing. Then there is the part of our brain and nervous system that deals with the things we do consciously. Most of the time we rely on the former and only call on the latter when we need to. That is, much of what we do is carried out with little or no conscious thought – and that’s a mixed blessing.

On the positive side, it means that there is much we can get done with minimal effort, leaving us to focus our mind on other things. On the negative side, it means that there is a danger that we may do things on ‘automatic pilot’ that really do need our full attention. In a general sense, just think about how many road traffic accidents are caused by people not concentrating, by drivers not having their mind fully on driving safely. And in a professional sense, we need to be careful that we are not doing important things in a routinised, unthinking way.

This brings us to an important part of reflective practice, namely the ability to stand back from a situation and clarify what is happening, what we are doing, what we need to be doing, what pitfalls we need to be aware of, and so on – what is often called ‘reflection-in-action’. This involves switching from the side of the brain and nervous system that deals with automatic, unthinking actions to the other side, the side that deals with conscious thought. It involves becoming more alert (more ‘mindful’, to use the currently popular terminology), more tuned in to our surroundings and our circumstances.

Unfortunately, being called upon to focus in more consciously in this way can make some people feel anxious. In my experience this is often because of negative experiences in the education system where they have been criticised (or even mocked) for their efforts to think things through. For other people, because they are busy, they can make the mistake of assuming that they are too busy to think; they feel under pressure to just ‘get on with it’, as if thinking is a waste of time. Some organisations can cause problems too, because many have a culture that discourages thinking. Thinking is sees as ‘down time’, something you do instead of working, rather than an essential part of effective professional practice. Of course, some thinking can be a waste of time if it is unfocused, ill informed or misdirected.

What is also important to recognise is that, although thinking is something we can all do to at least a basic level, it is possible to develop our skills to a more advanced level. For example, there are analytical skills that involve, among other things, being able to recognise significant patterns and interconnections in a given situation. The good news is that it is possible to develop those skills over time, to become more effective thinkers. A key element of this is practice. That is, the more we think, plan and analyse (that is, the more reflective we are), the more skilful we will become over time. By contrast, the more intellectually lazy we are (that is, the more we shy away from thinking), the more we are denying ourselves the opportunity to improve our thinking skills.

Some people will warn of the danger of thinking too much, of ‘overthinking’, but generally that is more to do with anxiety than thinking, and that is a different kettle of fish altogether. Then there will also be the people who complain thinking is no substitute for doing – just thinking about something does not produce results. But I don’t think anyone is really advocating thinking instead of doing; it’s more a case of thinking to help doing, to try and make sure that what we do is safe, appropriate and effective.

Know your blind spots

No one has 360-degree vision. When we are focusing on something, everything else is out of focus, so there will be many important things that are there, right by us, but we don’t see them. That is fine most of the time, but on occasions it can be really problematic if we don’t make ourselves aware of those blind spots. How often have you felt like kicking yourself because, after the event, you have realised that you missed something significant and really wished you hadn’t?

What is boils down to is that perception is an active process. Our senses don’t just simply alert us to what is around us in a direct way, with us passively receiving the sense data. What actually happens is that our senses are constantly filtering out much of what is presented to them. Much will depend on purpose. What is it we are doing? What are we trying to achieve? Answers to those questions and others will shape what is highlighted by our senses and what is filtered out. For example, imagine a painter and decorator entering a room to prepare for carrying out work there. What they notice will be linked to what they need to know in terms of the materials needed, any particular complications or whatever else a painter and decorator needs to know. Now imagine that a health and safety inspector subsequently enters the same room. They are likely to pay no attention at all to how many rolls of wallpaper would be needed or whether the doorframes would need to be sanded down. But what they are likely to notice is that loose electrical socket in the corner that could be highly dangerous or the pile of boxes in the other corner that is so high and so badly stacked that it is only a matter of time before someone brushes against it and gets seriously injured. They went in to the same room, but saw different things and came away with different conclusions, and therefore will no doubt behave differently as a consequence.

What we notice (and don’t notice) therefore depends largely on what we are doing and why we are doing it. But that is not the only factor. Much can also depend on habit and taken-for-granted assumptions. For example, if we are used to trusting someone and have never had cause to question their loyalty to us, we may not notice the way they are exploiting or undermining us. Habit is a powerful force, and generally a very helpful one, but it does have its downside – it can blind us to important issues or potential dangers

So, what is the magic answer? How do we become more tuned in to these blind spots that can stop us moving forward positively at times (because we didn’t spot the opportunities) or put is in danger (because we didn’t spot the hazards)? Of course, there aren’t any magic answers, but there are things we can do. Let’s go back to the two sets of issues we have already looked at. First of all, the purpose of your activity – being clear about what your purpose is can help to keep you focused and that is a good thing, of course. But what you can also do is to think about how a situation might go wrong or how opportunities may be missed. This involves being sensitive to your surroundings – focusing carefully on what is important, but not doing that to the exclusion of all else. For example, a parent focusing on their career to enable their children to have a good standard of living may focus narrowly on work issues and not spend enough time with their children – thereby providing well for them financially, but perhaps not so well emotionally. The challenge, then, is to be holistic: focus narrowly when you need to, but also take a broader look at the situation too.

Second, in terms of habits and assumptions, this is where self-awareness comes in. If you review for yourself what your habits and assumptions are in certain situations, you will find yourself in a stronger position to avoid blind spots – you will be more tuned in to the potential issues to be missed because you allowed yourself to get stuck in tramlines, rather than go where your spirit takes you more creatively.

 

Know your triggers

We all have certain things that get under our skin, things that are likely to get us annoyed, irritated or distressed. These are known as ‘triggers’. Some triggers are shared by a wide range of people (if not by everybody) – for example, losing face or being humiliated. But there are also triggers that are specific to each individual. For example, what gets me really riled may have little or no effect on you, and vice versa. It depends on a number of factors, not least past experiences, future aspirations and, of course, our values. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Our past experiences can be significant in so far as they can leave us sensitive about certain issues , feeling vulnerable about one or more things that have proven painful or problematic for us – a ‘once bitten twice shy’ scenario. That is, the past has taught us to be wary of certain situations. Sometimes we will be only too aware of precisely what it is that is triggering a strong response in us, we may have a vivid memory of what has hurt us in the past. But at other times, the connection may not be so clear; we may have a strong reaction, but not be able to pinpoint what the trigger was. That can leave us feeling confused and perhaps insecure (and potentially leave others around us feeling confused and insecure too).

Our aspirations have an important part to play too. For example, if we are hoping to achieve something important in the future (let’s call it x), and something happens that blocks our path to x (or threatens to do so), this may again serve as a trigger to provoke a strong emotional reaction in us. So, it’s important to understand that our triggers can be linked to the past or the future. In some circumstances there may be elements of both.

Our values also have an important part to play. Our values are, by definition, what we value, those things that are important to us. Events or circumstances that offend or unsettle our values in some way can serve as a very powerful trigger. For example, if a major part of our value system revolves around a commitment to fairness and we encounter a situation where someone is being treated unfairly, it is highly likely that it will trigger a strong response, such as anger.

Of course, triggers can set in motion positive processes too – provoking satisfaction, joy and so on. But when we add together triggers from our past experience, our future aspirations and our ever-present values, we can see that these are important influences on our behaviour, our emotional responses and our interactions with others. It is for this reason that getting to know what our triggers are can be a very wise move. Having a degree of self-awareness about these can help us to anticipate difficulties, prepare for potentially challenging situations and feel more confident because of our greater sense of control.

What we shouldn’t do, though, is focus too closely on those triggers and risk obsessing about them. That’s the difference between being self-aware (which is a good thing) and being self-conscious (which is not so good). We have to be balanced about it, of course.

Once we have a good grasp of our own triggers we will then find ourselves in a stronger position to tune in to the triggers of other people – and that applies in our private, personal lives as well as in our working lives. The more skilful we become at these matters, the more effective we can be in various aspects of our lives.

 

 

 

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