Manage your inhibitions

I have always had my doubts about the psychological notions of introversion and extroversion, as if we can simply pigeonhole people into one category or the other. Sociology teaches us that people will generally behave differently in different circumstances. Someone who may appear quite introverted and uncomfortable at a party, may come across as very extroverted when performing on stage for their local amateur dramatic society. Likewise, someone who is the life and soul of the party may be very ...

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Do something you don’t want to do

At the end of my first year at university, my tutor said to me: ‘Neil, you have a lot of strengths, but the trouble is that you are always playing to them’. He went on to explain that what he meant was that I was well aware of what I was good at and what I was not so good at, and I always headed straight for what I knew I could do well and steered clear of anything I ...

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Connect with people and places that matter to you

I have been involved in studying (and tackling) stress for decades. A number of things have stood out for me from my activity in this area. One important one is that there is a danger that, when pressures start to mount, people have a tendency to stop doing things that normally help them cope and keep pressures within manageable limits (and thereby avoid stress). Ironically, this then has the effect of making stress more likely: just as pressures are mounting, ...

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Get perspective – Look up at the stars

These days so many people seem to lead very busy, pressurised lives. One of the results of that can be a narrow focus on the last mistake, the next deadline and so on. It can so easily become the case that all we see is the pressure and the potential problems. This can especially be the case when work pressures combine with pressures at home (and, indeed, they can reinforce each other).

One of the dangers in situations like this is ...

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Be clear about your goals

When I undertook my management training many years ago we were taught the importance of a ‘strategic’ approach, which meant at all times being clear about what we were trying to achieve – that is, what our strategic goals are. Our strategy, then, is the plan for achieving these goals, hence the term ‘strategic’. At that point I had been a practising social worker for a number of years and, to me, having clarity about what we were trying to ...

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Pick yourself up!

The idea that you should get straight back on the bike as soon as you have fallen off is not a new one and is not without its usefulness. Things that we associate with pain and fear have a nasty habit of weighing heavily on our minds and thereby stopping us from getting on with our lives. The longer we leave it before getting back on that bike, literally or metaphorically, the harder it becomes to do so. This is ...

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There’s no such thing as willpower

To hear people talk about willpower you would think it was some mystical power that we all have to varying degrees. Those with a lot of will power are able to do difficult things like give up smoking or lose weight, while – or so it would seem – those with a low level of willpower are doomed to continue smoking or continue to be overweight. The reality is not so simple.

As human beings we are complex creatures, and part ...

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Take control

Having little or no sense of control is a key factor in stress. People who are under immense pressure will often not get stressed while they have some degree of control over those pressures. At the same time, some people can face fairly modest levels of pressure, but be highly stressed because they have little sense of control over the circumstances they are in. Control, or our sense of control, will often be the difference between being stressed and not. ...

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Think laterally

It is Edward de Bono’s name that is most closely associated with the notion of lateral thinking, although the basic idea behind it (the importance of thinking creatively and not getting stuck in tramlines) long predates his work. What de Bono did was to put the ideas across clearly and effectively.

In our day-to-day lives we generally rely on established ways of thinking and behaving. Life would be intolerable if, at every step of the way, we had to think consciously ...

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Turn weaknesses into strengths

Many years ago, a trusted mentor said to me: ‘Neil, you have a lot of strengths, and you keep playing to them. How will you develop new strengths if you are constantly focusing on what you are already good at?’.  He went on to explain that what I was doing was very common, but it was also a very common way of standing in the way of my own development. What he encouraged me to do was to be clear ...

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