Our stories of home, growing-up, relationships and work help us understand what has shaped us into who we are and key memories, thoughts, feelings, and aspirations help understand the emotions, thoughts and actions that drive us.

Isolating and examining each thought, feeling, sensation or action can help gain control of how each effects the other, provide clarity on cause and effect and relieve anxiety or confusion. This helps us gain confidence when dealing with challenged or making choices.

Not everyone wants to explore the past to understand WHY in order to identify strategies for WHAT and HOW to develop. For those that value introspection using psychodynamic coaching may be the right approach.

The benefit of better self understanding, dispassionate observation and thoughtful reflection is better control of our feelings, thoughts and actions to help us respond rather than react and provide better outcomes for ourselves and others.

For more information about approaches to coaching and what may be best for you get in touch.


How we think affects how we behave and faulty thinking (eg mind reading or fortune telling) and wrong assumptions (eg perfectionism or all-or-nothing) or unhelpful beliefs (eg blame, guilt or feeling an imposter) can have an adverse effect.

Cognitive coaching offers a variety of structured models to analyse the difference between who we ARE and what we DO. For example failing a driving test means I need to improve my skills not that I am a bad person!

Coaching helps the move from Performance Inhibiting Thinking (PIT) to Performance Enhancement Thinking (PET) typically using frameworks like SPACE, CLARITY, ABCDEF as practical step-by-step means to think, try and learn better approaches.

The THINKING + DOING approach is future orientated and goal focused, easily adapted and applied in many scenarios including self-coaching and teams.


SPACE = Social, Physical/Psychological, Actions, Cognition, Emotion
CLARITY = Context, Life Event, Actions, Reactions, Images and Identify, Thoughts, Your future choice
ABCDEF = Activity (event), Belief, Consequence, Dispute (change belief), Effective new response, Future focus


Solution Focused coaching focuses on the current actions and future goals rather than the past.

Knowing the problem does not necessarily help us fix the problem. For example: If you crashed your car fixating on when, how and why you crashed is not helpful whereas a more positive approach may be: What are the many different ways we can travel to work?

The focus is therefore more practical than theory and more about what works than what does not. Usually the client is the expert and the coach role is facilitation (to ask rather than tell) using models like PEEP, and MAPS

The aim is co-ownership of the process with the goal set by the client and measured with questions like: What does success look like? And On a scale of 1 to 10 how are we doing? The emphasis is on the client to experiment to see what is practical and works.

Sometimes this is achieved by an insightful question: If A is bad and B is good, describe the difference and what actions and resources would achieve that change?

This approach can be used for skills, performance and development. The aim is self directed learning with each session ending with the question: Do we need to meet again or do you feel like you have done what you needed to do?


PEEP = Preferred outcome, Exceptions (when is this not a problem), Existing resources, Progress so far
MAPS = Multiple options, Asking how (action) not why (philosophical), Problems into possibilities, SMART steps
SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound

PDCA = Plan,Do,Check, Act
DMAIC = Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control
GROW = Goal, Reality, Options, Will


Do you ever feel you just want to talk? To be heard? To have someone listen? To express our ideas, thoughts and feelings and clarify your goals.

The person centered approach puts the client in charge and the coach listens with empathy and understanding. Occasionally they may seek clarification but the focus is on active listening rather than asking and never telling. The client decides the discussion and the direction. This may at times appear like counseling rather than coaching.

This is part of the Self Determination Theory: That people will grow like acorns into oaks provided they have the right nurture and care. They do not need to be fixed, they just need to be supported with empathy and regard. The emphasis is not WHAT happens but HOW it happens. Typically the coach echoes the clients inner voice and helps them hear, understand and make sense of their own thoughts.

The coach role is to support, not to direct, tell or advise. It is not about fixing or healing it is about therapeutic, empathetic and supportive listening.

Consultant Mentor Coach

Adapt Consulting Company
Consult CoCreate Deliver
@AdaptCCompany +447797762051



Humble Inquiry The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling EDGAR H. SCHEIN


How can we do better? The answer is simple, but its implementation is not. We would have to do three things: 1) do less telling 2) learn to do more asking in the particular form of Humble Inquiry and 3) do a better job of listening and acknowledging. Talking and listening have received enormous attention via hundreds of books on communication. But the social art of asking a question has been strangely neglected.


Telling puts the other person down. It implies that the other person does not already know what I am telling and that the other person ought to know it. On the other hand, asking temporarily empowers the other person in the conversation and temporarily makes me vulnerable.


Trust builds on my end because I have made myself vulnerable, and the other person has not taken advantage of me nor ignored me. Trust builds on the other persons end because I have shown an interest in and paid attention to what I have been told. A conversation that builds a trusting relationship is, therefore, an interactive process in which each party invests and gets something of value in return.


We also live in a structured society in which building relationships is not as important as task accomplishment, in which it is appropriate and expected that the subordinate does more asking than telling, while the boss does more telling that asking. Having to ask is a sign of weakness or ignorance, so we avoid it as much as possible.

Humble Inquiry is the skill and the art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.


Asking for examples is not only one of the most powerful ways of showing curiosity, interest, and concern, but alsoand even more importantit clarifies general statements. A timely open question is sometimes all that is needed to start effective problem solving.

When the choice is between you or me, look for a way to explore us, the relationship itself. Ask an open question to get information that you need (a question that is not answerable with just a yes or no).


Humble Inquiry is not a checklist to follow or a set of prewritten questionsit is behavior that comes out of respect, genuine curiosity, and the desire to improve the quality of the conversation by stimulating greater openness and the sharing of task-relevant information.


1) Humble Inquiry

I do not want to lead the other person or put him or her into a position of having to give a socially acceptable response. I want to inquire in the way that will best discover what is really on the other persons mind. I want others to feel that I accept them, am interested in them, and am genuinely curious. Humble Inquiry does not influence either the content of what the other person has to say, nor the form in which it is said.

2) Diagnostic inquiry

What differentiates this form of inquiry is that it influences the others mental process. How did (do) you feel about that? (Feelings) Why did that happen? (Motives). What have you tried so far? (Actions) As innocent and supportive as these questions might seem, they take control of the situation and force others to think about something that they may not have considered and may not want to consider.

3) Confrontational inquiry

The essence of confrontational inquiry is that you now insert your own ideas but in the form of a question. When we talk about rhetorical questions or leading questions, we are acknowledging that the question is really a form of telling. You are tacitly giving advice, and this often arouses resistance in others and makes it harder to build relationships with them because they have to explain or defend.

4) Process-oriented inquiry

An option that is always on the table is to shift the conversational focus onto the conversation itself. I can humbly ask some version of What is happening? ( Are we OK? Did I offend you?) to explore what might be wrong and how it might be fixed. The power of this kind of inquiry is that it focuses on the relationship.


The most common example of this in the United States is that we claim to value teamwork and talk about it all the time, but the artifactsour promotional systems and rewards systemsare entirely individualistic. We espouse equality of opportunity and freedom, but the artifactspoorer education, little opportunity, and various forms of discrimination for ghetto minoritiessuggest that there are other assumptions having to do with pragmatism and rugged individualism that operate all the time and really determine our behavior.


Many cultures are individualistic, competitive, optimistic, and pragmatic. We believe that the basic unit of society is the individual, whose rights have to be protected at all costs. We are entrepreneurial and admire individual accomplishment. We thrive on competition. Optimism and pragmatism show up in the way we are oriented toward the short term and in our dislike of long-range planning. We do not like to fix things and improve them while they are still working. We prefer to run things until they break because we believe we can then fix them or replace them.

Most important of all, we value task accomplishment over relationship building and either are not aware of this cultural bias or, worse, dont care and dont want to be bothered with it.

We tout and admire teamwork and the winning team (espoused values), but we dont for a minute believe that the team could have done it without the individual star, who usually receives much greater pay


We still live in a culture of what Stephen Potter so eloquently described in the 1950s as gamesmanship and one-upmanship.To be an effective gamesman or lifeman, Potter notes, one must know how to win without actually cheating or practice the art of getting away with it without being an absolute plonk. In pre-election debates we only care who won and often base that decision not on who did the best analysis of the issues but who looked most presidential in front of the cameras and who turned the best phrase or made the most clever put-down.

The world is becoming more technologically complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse, which makes the building of relationships more and more necessary to get things accomplished and, at the same time, more difficult. Relationships are the key to good communication good communication is the key to successful task accomplishment and Humble Inquiry, based on Here-and-now Humility, is the key to good relationships.


We know intuitively and from experience that we work better in a complex interdependent task with someone we know and trust, but we are not prepared to spend the effort, time, and money to ensure that such relationships are built. We value such relationships when they are built as part of the work itself, as in military operations where soldiers form intense personal relationships with their buddies. We admire the loyalty to each other and the heroism that is displayed on behalf of someone with whom one has a relationship, but when we see such deep relationships in a business organization, we consider it unusual. And programs for team building are often the first things cut in the budget when cost issues arise.


What comes out of our mouth and our overall demeanor in the conversation is deeply dependent on what is going on inside our head. We cannot be appropriately humble if we misread or misjudge the situation we are in and what is appropriate in that situation. We must become aware that our minds are capable of producing biases, perceptual distortions, and inappropriate impulses. To be effective in Humble Inquiry, we must make an effort to learn what these biases and distortions are. To begin this learning, we need a simplifying model of processes that are, in fact, extremely complex because our nervous system simultaneously gathers data, processes data, proactively manages what data to gather, and decides how to react. What we see and hear and how we react to things are partly driven by our needs and expectations. Though these processes occur at the same time, it is useful to distinguish them and treat them as a cycle. That is, we observe (O), we react emotionally to what we have observed (R), we analyze, process, and make judgments based on our observations and feelings (J), and we behave overtly in order to make something happenwe intervene (I). Humble Inquiry is one category of such an intervention.

The problem....

We see and hear more or less what we expect or anticipate based on prior experience, or, more importantly, on what we hope to achieve. Our wants and needs distort to an unknown degree what we perceive. We block out a great deal of information that is potentially available if it does not fit our needs, expectations, preconceptions, and prejudgments.

Perhaps the clearest examples of this are the defense mechanisms denial and projection. Denial is refusing to see certain categories of information as they apply to us, and projection is seeing in others what is actually operating in us.


In our task-oriented impatient culture of Do and Tell, the most important thing to learn is how to reflect. We wont know when it is essential to be humble and when it is appropriate to tell unless we get better at assessing the nature of the situation we are in, what the present state of our relationships with others is, and, most important, what is going on in our own head and heart. One way to learn to reflect is to apply Humble Inquiry to ourselves. Before leaping into action, we can ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do? What am I thinking and feeling and wanting?

If the task is to be accomplished effectively and safely, it will be especially important to answer these questions: On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent on me? With whom do I need to build a relationship in order to improve communication?




William Bridges wrote about his life and value changing experiences, developing a transition model, when he retired from work. In short, the model identifies three stages people go through as they gradually enter and accept the new organisational landscape. The model mainly focuses on psychological change during the transitions between each stage.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book talked about the stages of grief. This has been recognised by many as equally applying to our reaction to change.

Denial The first reaction is denial.
Anger : When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue
Bargaining : The third stage involves the hope that the individual can avoid the situation
Depression : I'm so sad, why bother with anything?
Acceptance : It's going to be okay. I can't fight it I may as well prepare for it.

Viktor Frankl argued that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (meaning)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

Julian B. Rotter in 1954, came up with the concept of a Locus of control: The degree to which people believe that they, as opposed to external forces (beyond their influence), have control over the outcome of events in their lives

Stephen Karpman suggested in the Drama Triangle that we get to choose a role.

The Victim: The Victim's stance is Poor me!
The Rescuer: The rescuer's line is Let me help you.
The Persecutor: (in this case Coronavirus, or Government or Conspiracy)


Many people are valued for what they do rather than who they are. This is partly western culture and as much about how we valued ourselves as how society or employers value us. Under these circumstances being sent home with not enough to do may impact our sense of self-worth. The uncertainty, plus lack of control may create anxiety.

A lack of tasks or content in our day may create boredom or distress which we can resolve by filling with activity which may be constructive (hobbies or chores around the home) or destructive (excessive drinking, eating or social media). Being jobless (or simply without enough work to do) may make us feel useless and thus meaningless leading to depression, aggression or addiction.

A remedy may be to change your mindset from being without work to being on holiday. With a new angle of perception, we may find better pastimes to pass the time. Or to change our role within the existing context from Victim to Rescuer and take part in any of the voluntary on-line or off-line efforts to help people.

Frankl argued that we cannot simply be happy, any more than we can snap out of being depressed. The challenge instead is to find meaning, a reason to be happy: A cause (or a person) to serve.

My view is that it is better to be the captain of your ship rather than the crew of someone else and therefore better to pursue meaningful tasks to your own ends of none are forthcoming from your boss, spouse, family or community.


Take control and set-up some habits and routines for yourself. You dont have to be good at it to enjoy it and you will enjoy it once you get good at it. The real secret is not so much the habits (which should be positive) but the fact that you are taking charge of them.

As noted by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross you will go through periods of frustration and doubt but these are just sign-posts on the journey and not the destination. Remember it is you who is in control and decides what role to play.


William Bridges transition model

Elisabeth Kbler-Ross stages of grief

Viktor Frankl

Drama Triangle

Locus of Control



Below are some observations from Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness by S.J. Scott, plus some observations from my own life.


To quote Jeff Olson, from his book The Slight Edge: The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people do things that seem to make no difference at all in the act of doing them, and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.


Keystone habits are a powerful concept that Charles Duhigg discussed in this book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Simply put, a keystone habit can have a positive impact on multiple areas of your lifeeven if youre not intentionally trying to improve them.

A common example that people use is a thirty-minute daily exercise routine. Lets say you start running to lose a few pounds. As you get fitter, you subconsciously start to avoid fatty and sugary foods, so your weight dramatically decreases. This improves your self-esteem, which creates a positive change in both your relationships and your career (because you now feel confident enough to ask for a raise). On the surface, all you did was exercise for thirty minutes every day, but the addition of this single habit caused a chain reaction of positive results.


The goal here is to chip away at a simple but time-consuming project in five-to fifteen-minute daily increments. You can do this with many of the larger tasks on your to-do list:

Decluttering your home Packing for a move
Organizing your paperwork
Studying for an exam
Completing a time-consuming homework assignment
Reading a difficult book

I use elephant habits all the time whenever Im faced with something unpleasant. Rather than building it up in my mind as a horrific ordeal, I overcome inertia by scheduling a five-to ten-minute daily block where I can chip away at the project.

It always surprises me that some people do tasks as late as possible and then leave no time to address problems. An early start need not make the task any longer, you get success sooner, and you have time at the end to address problems.


In the book Willpower, authors Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney described a concept known as ego depletion, which is a persons diminished capacity to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Simply put, our willpower is like a muscle. It weakens throughout the day because of constant use.

Baumeister and his colleagues have tested ego depletion in a variety of scenarios. One was called the radish experiment. Here, they brought three groups of people into a room and offered a selection of food (before working on a puzzle): pieces of chocolate, warm cookies, and radishes. One group could eat anything they wanted. Another group could only eat the radishes. The final group wasnt given any food options. After that, each group was moved into a separate room, where they had to work on a challenging puzzle. The groups that didnt previously exert willpower (i.e., they ate whatever they wanted or werent given a food option) worked on the puzzle for an average of twenty minutes. The group that had to exert willpower and resist the tasty treats worked on the puzzle for an average of eight minutes.

Similar experiments and resulted are noted in Danny Kahneman system 1 and system 2 in te book Thinking Fast And Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacationeach of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

More generally, System 1 uses association and metaphor to produce a quick and dirty draft of reality, which System 2 draws on to arrive at explicit beliefs and reasoned choices. System 1 proposes, System 2 disposes. So System 2 would seem to be the boss, right? In principle, yes. But System 2, in addition to being more deliberate and rational, is also lazy. And it tires easily. (The vogue term for this is ego depletion.) Too often, instead of slowing things down and analyzing them, System 2 is content to accept the easy but unreliable story about the world that System 1 feeds to it. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, Kahneman writes, the automatic System 1 is the hero of this book. System 2 is especially quiescent, it seems, when your mood is a happy one.

This is why Im most productive in the morning, before the distractions that sap my time and energy.


In the book The Compound Effect, author Darren Hardy explains it best with a simple formula: Small, Smart Choices Consistency Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE To demonstrate this concept, let me give you five examples of how simple actions can help you in any area of your life.

As a Commonwealth Games Triathlete and World Championship Rower I know my successes were more to do with routine than talent or heroic effort.When asked about lessons from the Commonwealth Games or World Champs Rowing Ive always offered the following quotes

Quote1 >> 80% of life is just turning up Woody Allen

I just turn up, to every training session, to every lesson, to every meeting. It's amazing what your learn, who you meet and how you improve by just turning up.

Quote2 >> Do exactly what is says on the tin Ronseal

Life often is just doing the obvious: eat, sleep, drink, think. Every weight loss programme. Every training regime. Every qualification is simply a matter of do this, then that, then the other. Everything is obvious in the world of google. The challenge is doing it.

Quote3 >> If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it, And which is more youll be a man, my son!
By Rudyard Kipling

We all have the same 24 hours, how do you use yours?


Thinking Fast And Slow



I often use the phase: Are you the captain of your ship or the crew of someone elses.


All credit to Positive Neil for the observations below, although they are my interpretation of based on my recollection of what he said and my own experience.

Quote: Anger is not a cloud that you want into. It is a thought that creates action and experience. You can choose that thought. The ability to choose, to control, is medication.

This is a great quote and links directly to the Ladder of Inference How to Avoid Jumping to Conclusions (link below) and how we can choose how to infer and respond to people and events.

It also says something about the locus of control: the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control.

I liked these practical tips

Step 1>> Dont start worrying about the stress on your mind until you have sorted out the foundations like: Have you drunk enough water had enough sleep ate the right foods done some exercise etc.

This is good advice because if you are already physically stressed then it seems unlikely or impossible that you are in a good position to start dealing with mental stress. I highly recommend The Organized Mind, Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Levitin, Daniel J. , if you want to understand the neuroscience of this.

Step 2>> Find the time, some time for just you. It may be at dawn, lunchtime, dusk, when caught in a queue or a traffic jam, but find some time to check-in with yourself.

As a former athlete with a full-time job I am used to being up at 5am, in the pool by 6:30am and at my desk by 8:45am. In Jersey in particular there is no commute like London and there is no reason not to carve out the start, middle and end of the day to do something more productive. We all get 24 hours. How do you use yours.

I am always amazed by people who have no time, but do have a smart-phone, TV, and lots of distractions which take time but dont give growth.

Step 3>> Have routine tasks and get these done so that your chores are done and you are free to think about important things rather than urgent things.

I believe routine habits are essential. There is a lot of trash said about motivation. You dont wake at 5am every day because you are motivated, you do it because it is part of a habit, routine or regime that is geared towards your goal. You may start with motivation, but you keep going with habit!

Step 4>> Meditate. If you have done all the above you are in a good state to be mindful, reflective, meditative.

I know from Glenda Rivoallen PhD Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs, that I cannot blank my head, empty my thoughts, or erase my feelings. By I can direct my focus. I can think about how my arms, legs, lungs feel as I swim, bike or run. I can study a rock-face and think about the best route to climb. I can feel the breeze on my face or the water that laps around my feet. So this is my version of mindfulness.

The key thing is that for those moments I am not thinking about someone, something, somewhere that I need to be, do, see.

Step 5>> Relationships. Make time to spend time with the right and important people.

As an athlete or entrepreneur success is heavily linked to being selfish and single minded. Without doubt the scales may be heavily tipped against relationships or friendships. However try to do enough to keep these alive. Dont loose touch. Even a phone call, coffee, email, skype is enough to maintain the correction if not nurture the relationship.

Clearly it would be better to have strong relationships that bring joy, happiness and support and these are worth investing and cultivating but it would be nave to suggest that this is easy for everyone.

Step 6>> Life. Get all the above more or less right, an repeat each day, for the rest of your life making tiny improvements each day.

When asked about lessons from the Commonwealth Games or World Champs Rowing Ive always offered the following quotes

Quote1 >> 80% of life is just turning up Woody Allen

I just turn up, to every training session, to every lesson, to every meeting. It's amazing what your learn, who you meet and how you improve by just turning up.

Quote2 >> Do exactly what is says on the tin Ronseal

Life often is just doing the obvious: eat, sleep, drink, think. Every weight loss programme. Every training regime. Every qualification is simply a matter of do this, then that, then the other. Everything is obvious in the world of google. The challenge is doing it.

Quote3 >> If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it, Andwhich is moreyoull be a Man, my son! By Rudyard Kipling

We all have the same 24 hours, how do you use yours?


Positive Neil


In this posting I will discuss the use of different perspectives, even sitting in a different chair, may open up more choices for better outcomes.


Having one option is no choice, having two is a dilemma, only once you have three or more might you feel you have real choice. Although too much choice may be paralysing.


Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.

Schwartz (The Paradox of Choice, 2004) describes that a consumer's strategy for most good decisions will involve these steps:

Step 1) Figure out your goal or goals. The process of goal-setting and decision making begins with the question: What do I want? When faced with the choice to pick a restaurant, a CD, or a movie, one makes their choice based upon how one would expect the experience to make them feel, expected utility. Once they have experienced that particular restaurant, CD or movie, their choice will be based upon a remembered utility. To say that you know what you want, therefore, means that these utilities align. Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended.

Step 2) Evaluate the importance of each goal. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have researched how people make decisions and found a variety of rules of thumb that often lead us astray. Most people give substantial weight to anecdotal evidence, perhaps so much so that it cancels out expert evidence. The researchers called it the availability heuristic describing how we assume that the more available some piece of information is to memory, the more frequently we must have encountered it in the past. Salience will influence the weight we give any particular piece of information.

Step 3) Array the options. Kahneman and Tversky found that personal psychological accounts will produce the effect of framing the choice and determining what options are considered as subjects to factor. For example, an evening at a concert could be just one entry in a much larger account, of say a meeting a potential mate account. Or it could be part of a more general account such as ways to spend a Friday night. Just how much an evening at a concert is worth will depend on which account it is a part of.

Step 4) Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goals. People often talk about how creative accountants can make a corporate balance sheet look as good or bad as they want it to look. In many ways Schwartz views most people as creative accountants when it comes to keeping their own psychological balance sheet.

Step 5) Pick the winning option. Schwartz argues that options are already attached to choices being considered. When the options are not already attached, they are not part of the endowment and choosing them is perceived as a gain. Economist Richard Thaler provides a helpful term sunk costs.

Step 6) Modify goals. Schwartz points out that later, one uses the consequences of their choice to modify their goals, the importance assigned to them, and the way future possibilities are evaluated.


Schwartz discusses the significance of common research methods that utilize a happiness scale. He sides with the opinion of psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane, who independently conclude that the current abundance of choice often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness. Schwartz draws particular attention to Lane's assertion that Americans are paying for increased affluence and freedom with a substantial decrease in the quality and quantity of community. What was once given by family, neighborhood and workplace now must be achieved and actively cultivated on an individual basis. The social fabric is no longer a birthright but has become a series of deliberated and demanding choices. Schwartz also discusses happiness with specific products. For example, he cites a study by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford University who found that when participants were faced with a smaller rather than larger array of jam, they were actually more satisfied with their tasting.

Choice therefore appear to have something to do with control having enough options to feel this is choice but not so many as to overwhelm


If you are in a rut because of circumstances, education, culture upbringing etc., you may feel on autopilot or trapped into a journey based on other peoples decisions: rather like a car in a rut or a tram on rails. To actually change direction requires effort (to overcome the rut) or re-engineering (to switch rails and direction)

This is where it is important to be able pause, think, re-evaluate and take action either to make a concerted effort (to break out of the rut) or engineer a switch (to take a different path).

That switch may be based on new perspective (realising a new direction) and new habits (getting used to that path)

If you are at crossroads your choices may be simpler since there is nothing that you have to overcome to take that path it is a simple option with no burden associated with it. Route A or Route B are equally open to you.

The object therefore should be to arrive at our choices without the emotional constraints or self-imposed obligations that pulls us in a direction (Route B) that undermines the freedom to a new direction (Route A)


A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

What sort of people live in the next town? asked the stranger.

What were the people like where you've come from? replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels.

Is that so? replied the old farmer. Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. What sort of people live in the next town? he asked.

What were the people like where you've come from? replied the farmer once again.

They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them.

Fear not, said the farmer. You'll find the same sort in the next town.

Source: Personal recollection, Idaho, about 1950.


In the previous story we can see that people judge others and find in them the characteristics of their judgement, whether good or bad. That judgement comes from within and we need to change that perspective to change how we find the world.

Below I will examine three ways of doing this


This is about reliving an experience three times with great intensity and a good break between each and then reflecting upon the event. In order to be dispassionate about the event it is best described as if it is a story or a movie and the person is the author or director.

The first involves experiencing the memory but only from a visual perspective. Only talking about what is seen and recalling every visual image of that. This is not just about reciting what happened but really observing and describing so that you are totally immersed in the situation. Then taking a break.

The second involves experiencing the memory but only from a auditory perspective. Only talking about what is heard and recalling every sound of that. Again in minute detail. Then taking a break.

The third involves experiencing the memory but only from a kinaesthetic perspective. Only talking about what is felt and recalling every sensation of that. With reference to every part of your body and how it felt then and how it feels now. Then taking a break.

Generally what happens is that the facts of visual perspective and auditory perspective somehow put into context the feelings of the kinaesthetic perspective and people will feel that actually on reflection the feelings were not proportionate to what happened and actually they feel much more in control in retrospect and less troubles by the experience in the future.

An important caveat is that whilst this does work in many circumstances severe trauma of the PTSD type may result not in reflection but a flashback, so this is possibly not good in cases of real trauma.


A similar approach is also involves reliving an experience three times with great intensity and a good break between each and then reflecting upon the event. This time it involves an element of role pay sitting in the chair of, or standing in the shoes of [1] yourself [2] the other person [3] an bystander or unconnected observer.

Again, as before, the movement from one position (a chair) to another literally separates the perspectives and helps you adopt the persona and feeling of each person as they observe, hear and feel what is happening from each chair.

Chair [1] yourself
Relive the experience with what you observe, hear and feel using I sentences: I feel, I hear, I see, I smell

Chair [2] the other person
Role play the experience with of what they did and said using I , he, she or they sentences: I feel, I hear, I see, I smell but also he or she in response to Chair 1 and what they are doing and saying. As you do this you may feel an appreciation for what the person in Chair 2 may be feeling and how they would react.

Chair [3] a bystander or unconnected observer
Role play the experience as an onlooker using I , he, she or they sentences and observing the words, tone and body language between the people in Chair 1 and Chair 2

As before what happens is that the role play helps understanding from different perspective and helps identify the points where control may be lost or gained, where communication succeeds or fails and with this better understanding the person will feel much more in control in retrospect and less troubles by the experience in the future.


Step 1
Think of anything that is bothering you, worrying you, or making you feel sad or fearful. Pick the worst thing you are going through now.

Step 2
As you keep thinking about it, let yourself detect where you feel it in your body. Some people have felt it in their chest, arms, stomach, throat, between their breasts (females), or at the top of their stomach (men store it here a lot). Become aware of where it enters your body.

Step 3
Notice which direction this feeling is moving. It has to move feelings move all the time. For example, I want you to think about being nervous. When a person is nervous, they normally say I have butterflies in my tummy.

Step 4
By now you should be thinking of it, feeling it and know the direction in which it is moving. Now I want you to look at what it is you are seeing in your minds eye. Is it a still picture or a movie? Go to (a) if its a picture and go to (b) if its a movie

(a) If its a picture, place a black border around the edge and move it away from you in your minds eye, shrinking it down to the size of a postcard. Then move it away from you again until its the size of a postage stamp. Then when it is as small as you can make it, take a deep breath and blow it away until you cant see it anymore.

At the very same time as you are doing this, I want you to place your hands on the area of your body where the feelings are. Then push the feelings in your body in the opposite direction. So, for example, if you discovered the feelings were in your lower stomach moving up, you would use your hands to move the feelings downward. As you blow the picture away you should also find you have moved the feeling from your body.

(b) If you see a movie playing, pick the worst part of the movie and freeze it. Now you have a picture and can continue with the technique by following the instructions given above in (a).

Step 5
Test the results of your work. Try to think again about THE SAME THING that was worrying you and see and feel for yourself how remarkably different the experience is now.

No other technique has ever gotten close to removing negative emotions as fast as this one and I give it to you with love and blessing for an amazing life. Never let your body trick you anymore you make the thoughts that create the feelingsand now you can change your feelings about anything in your life.


Schwartz (The Paradox of Choice, 2004)

The Two Travelers And The Farmer

Dissolving Negative Emotions


This is a series of coaching blogs that eventually will become a book. By blogging each item I hope to share each element in easy to read bite size chunks, maybe invite some people to subscribe to see the next posting and hopefully encourage some comments, feedback and suggestions which will improve the content for the blog and eventually the book. All comments and feedback are therefore welcome.


In this posting I will discuss the best of intentions and how behaviour needs to be understood from the perspective experience (of the past) and motivation (for the future)

We can because consciously by thoughtful decision, or unconsciously through learned habit (getting dressed or driving to work) or unconsciously through instinct (the fight, flight, freeze or fear response to crisis)


The fight-flight-freeze response is your bodys natural reaction to danger. Its a type of stress response that helps you react to perceived threats, like an oncoming car or growling dog.

The response instantly causes hormonal and physiological changes. These changes allow you to act quickly so you can protect yourself. Its a survival instinct that our ancient ancestors developed many years ago.

Specifically, fight-or-flight is an active defence response where you fight or flee. Your heart rate gets faster, which increases oxygen flow to your major muscles. Your pain perception drops, and your hearing sharpens. These changes help you act appropriately and rapidly.

Freezing is fight-or-flight on hold, where you further prepare to protect yourself. Its also called reactive immobility or attentive immobility. It involves similar physiological changes, but instead, you stay completely still and get ready for the next move.

Fight-flight-freeze isnt a conscious decision. Its an automatic reaction, so you cant control it

The fight-flight-freeze response can show up in many life situations, including:

slamming on the brakes when the car in front of you suddenly stops
encountering a growling dog while walking outside
jumping out of the way of an oncoming vehicle
getting spooked by someone jumping out of a room
feeling unsafe while walking down a street


In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional (The fight-flight-freeze response) System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.

We do not however need to think through every experience as if it were our first-time getting dresses, driving or performing other routines. We can move from thoughtful learning to routine and habit which whilst not driven by fight-flight-freeze response nonetheless does by-pass the deliberative and more logical thinking.

This has some advantages: we can do things on auto-pilot and some dis advantages, we may not be giving our full attention to a situation or perhaps become overconfident and, for example, crash the car.

The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.


The four stages of competence, also known as the four stages of learning, is a model based on the premise that before a learning experience begins, learners are unaware of what or how much they know (unconscious incompetence), and as they learn, they move through four psychological states until they reach a stage of unconscious competence.

By understanding the model, trainers can better identify learning needs and develop learning objectives based on where their target audience is in the four stages related to a given topic.

1. Unconscious Incompetence
In unconscious incompetence, the learner isnt aware that a skill or knowledge gap exists.

2. Conscious Incompetence
In conscious incompetence, the learner is aware of a skill or knowledge gap and understands the importance of acquiring the new skill. Its in this stage that learning can begin.

3. Conscious Competence
In conscious competence, the learner knows how to use the skill or perform the task, but doing so requires practice, conscious thought and hard work.

4. Unconscious Competence
In unconscious competence, the individual has enough experience with the skill that he or she can perform it so easily they do it unconsciously.

This model helps us understand the emotional state of people. For example, a learner in unconscious incompetence will respond differently to training than a learner in conscious incompetence. If someone doesnt know theres a problem, he or she is less likely to engage in the solution. On the other hand, if someone is in conscious competence, he or she may just need additional practice rather than training.


We may have different experiences in life with each role that we play: As a son or daughter, as a partner or lover as a parent or grandparent we accumulate different experiences and have different levels of expertise.

A senior manager with significant skills and experience, confidence and expertise may be at a complete loss when they become a parent for the first time. A strong athlete with a tough mindset may be floored by an illness.

The roles we create and fulfil and the experiences we accumulate and the habits we follow may not always best serve us in different context. In these circumstances our response although appropriate in one context is not in another and although well intended may not have the desired effect or outcome.

These role may exist as different parts of us all at the same time. Just as you can be a son, father and spouse all at the same time, you may well be a responsible boss, playful child, supportive parent and possibly many other roles. Some of these roles may be in conflict with each-other.

All these people need to get along within us like a happy family. The difference between functional and dysfunctional families are

Good boundaries does each person have their own space which is recognised and respected
Accepted roles does each person have an accepted role and does this fit with everyone elses roles and expectations
Good communication is each person able to communicate and feel valued and understood

We need to achieve these within the family unit but also within the inner-family of roles we have for ourselves. It is important that we can be childlike, adult and parental and move freely between these roles at the appropriate time.

To loose our inner child would be to loose some of the innocence and wonder we have for the world. But to let that inner child select our response or make critical decisions to complex problems may not be the right thing to do. The result, though well intended, may not be the best for the situation and have a bad impact and outcome.


We can see that the roles we play, the experiences we have, the instincts and learned habits will all have an impact on our behaviours.


Situation: An unexpected phone call when we are tired
Intention: Get rid of the caller
Behaviour: Rude and abrupt on the phone

Situation: Feeling lonely or unloved or unworthy
Intention: Avoid rejection or a failed relationship
Behaviour: Cautious and defensive, ironically undermining a good relationship

Situation: Feeling anxious or threatened
Intention: Be defensive to repel attack
Behaviour: Aggressive, ironically making others uncomfortable and unagreeable


To overcome the dysfunctional situation, intention behaviour patterns above we need to engage System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical thinking and re-frame the situation based on the present moment rather than the thoughts and fears that are in our head.

Reframing is when an undesirable behaviour or trait is conferred a positive intention. Alternatives to satisfy the positive intent are found, followed by negotiations with (parts of) self to resolve conflict, check for ecology and to implement the new behaviour. Reframing can also be used to describe changing the context or representation of a problem.

The content or meaning of a situation is determined by what you choose to focus on. An electrical power failure can be viewed as disruptive, a major disaster given all you have to get done. Or it can be viewed as an opportunity to spend some intimate time with your spouse or to have fun with your children finding innovative ways to manage the situation.

Context framing is giving another meaning to a statement by changing the context you first found it in. You literally take the problem to another place where it doesnt mean the same thing anymore. A context reframe leaves the meaning of the behaviour the same and shows how the meaning will appear different when placed somewhere else.

A: I am too pushy.B: Content reframe: How can you use that on yourself to get more done in the day and not worry about anyone else! B: Context reframe: Compared to who, Hitler?

One word reframes

Spontaneous -> Unpredictable
Funny -> Childish
Confident -> Arrogant
Imaginative -> Undisciplined
Generous -> Spendthrift
Outgoing -> Exhibitionist

Reframing is about having a conversation with yourself and choosing a different response based on a new perspective or chosen perception.


Sometimes things are best seen as a spectator from the crowd rather than a player on the pitch. You get a broader view of the situation, context and options. But it is actually the person on the pitch that has the control, makes the decisions and achieves the outcome.

We need to be on the pitch and in the crowd and switch between those two positions or roles sufficient for one to be able to help the other.

A similar analogy would be between a movie director and movie actor. Both are essential to the outcome for the scene, with the former giving directions to the latter and the actor offering feedback in a conversation that seeks to make the scene the best it can possibly be.

All this needs to happen in our head, and if it is not instinctive or practiced we need to plan ahead or slow down in order for the essential conversations to be had between Director and Actor (or Spectator and Player)

Here are the elements

Understanding The Scene
What is happening? What is the context?

The Actor / Player
This is my situation, how I see it, how I feel it, how I hear it.

The Director / Spectator
This is how I perceive it from my perspective at a distance

The Discussion
What is the intended outcome? What needs to happen or change to make that possible?

The Options
The Director/Spectator may come up with a number of options for the Actor / Player to try and the Actor / Player may identify which of these will be easiest and most authentic to themselves.

The Behaviour
The Actor / Player then performs with the benefit of more options and perspectives than if they had not paused for thought.

It may seem implausible to go thought that type of internal dialogue or appraisal, but is this rehash, reappraisal, reflection is actually part of what we do when we sleep, day-dream or meditate.

It takes real skill to do this in the present or in the moment and something that may be more easily be achieved with practice and rehearsal. Nonetheless if we understand intentions and can be resourceful about choices we can behaviour in a way that achieves the desired result and outcome without unintended consequences.


fight-flight-freeze response

The Four Stages of Competence


Context framing


This is a series of coaching blogs that eventually will become a book. By blogging each item I hope to share each element in easy to read bite size chunks, maybe invite some people to subscribe to see the next posting and hopefully encourage some comments, feedback and suggestions which will improve the content for the blog and eventually the book. All comments and feedback are therefore welcome.