Monday, June 28, 2010

Just Dance. Don't Think.

Darcy Kistler, retiring from the New York City ballet tells of Balanchine’s early message to her. Just dance. Don’t think. Kistler adds, “He knew people better than anybody. He probably thought that I was an overthinker. Maybe he didn’t want me to get in my own way.”  (NYTimes, Arts, 6/27/2010)

The quote follows along with last week’s post; another great example of strategic allocation of attention.

Sometimes it’s best to not pay attention to what we are thinking. Why? Because our self-talk, even if it’s instructional or positive rather than negative, can interfere with the flow of our instincts, movement and action. Being ”in the zone” is a form of detachment; a state of mind where we are focused in the moment, mostly in our right brain, paying no attention to what’s going on in our left brain. We allocate attention to now, rather than to our thoughts about past, present, future, evaluation, information, or instruction.

 For example, rather than thinking as I start to write this post, “Does this article make sense? I wonder if anyone else is interested in strategic allocation of attention. Maybe this is boring,” I just write without thought at the moment, in the same way tennis player Rafael Nadal just serves without thinking. He thought before the game started and he will think later after the game is over, but during the game Nadal, like many other successful athletes, are only "now" in their head. Later I will go back, and move into instructional mode and action. “ Stick to one concept Judy.” “The post needs more white space.” “Add some links.”
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Less is More — At Least in Terms of Attention to Negative Self-Talk

The negative self-talk of most women who "overthink" focuses on relationships and appearance.

• "I'm sure Joan's mad at me. I gave her way too much advice. You'd think I'd learn."
• "This wrinkle looks like a canyon on my forehead. It makes me look ten years older."

And that's just the beginning. Negative self-talkers often take one seed thought and grow it into a tenacious vine, which sends out aggressive tendrils that grab on to other thoughts and produce bigger, expanded negative messages.

• "Joan will probably tell everybody what I did. Then they'll all be annoyed, if they aren't already. Maybe that's why I wasn't told about the coffee at Andrea's last week."
• "Actually, my skin looks gray and kind of dry and blah. So does my hair. And that double chin doesn't help either. I'm a wreck."

Once you're aware of your negative inner voice (demon, devil, critic, vampire), it's best to get rid of it as fast as you can. Rather than rewarding the undesirable NST behavior, by spending attention on it, focus your attention elsewhere — anywhere that will keep your neurons far removed from their self-criticism connections.

The new and desirable behavior can be any form of distraction that works for you; a work or house project, a book, TV, writing, painting, singing, walking, listening to music, playing solitaire on your iPhone, talking to friends about fun stuff. Whether the reallocation of attention works for 11 minutes or 2 minutes, it stunts the growth of NST, allows a pause in the action, produces a time slot for you to remember what you already know:

  •  NST won't help you feel good or perform well. It won't help improve relationships or appearance.
  •   The only useful purpose served by NST is to move you to problem solving thinking, when the situation is something over which you have control.

The less attention you pay to the negative self-talk, the more quickly it will fold, fade, and fail.
The more attention you spend on the negative self-talk, the faster it will bloom and send out runners.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If Positive Thinking Isn’t the Antidote to Negative Thinking, What Is?

But First — A Quiz!

Identify which of the following statements or questions are examples of negative thoughts, positive thoughts, or some other kind of thinking. Answers below.*

1.    What’s wrong with me?
2.    Get a grip, girl!
3.    Just keep breathing.
4.    My dreams will come true.
5.    I can’t handle this.
6.    He must think I’m an idiot.
7.    Next time, I’ll be assertive.
8.    I’m a lovable person.
9.    I can attract love that will solve my problems.
10.    I’m going to avoid this discussion now.

Some of these examples of self-talk are based on judgments, neither with concrete evidence, whether they are negative or positive. The negative self-talk lowers self-esteem, decreases future performance, and keeps women stuck in a rut. The positive self-talk may boost self-esteem momentarily by increasing hope that the good stuff will happen, but it also keeps people stuck in wishing, hoping, believing, without taking solid steps towards a goal.

“Some other kind of thinking”, which I refer to above, is what I call realistic thinking: it is instructional, rather than judgmental. It is neutral, rather than overly positive or overly negative. It moves you forward.
Here’s an example:

Negative self-talk:  “I’ll never be an A tennis player. I just don’t have what it takes.”
Positive self-talk:    “I can do it. Yes I can. Next year I’ll be the club A tennis champion.”
Realistic self-talk:    “I’m going to get coaching on my backhand to strengthen my game."
It can be tricky. What is your take on realistic thinking?

*Answers: N, R, R, P, N, N, R, P, P, R.


When positive thinking is used as an antidote to negative thinking, when they coexist, the negative thinking wins out most of the time. If there's no negative self-talk that you're trying to counter, then positive thinking won't hurt you. Realistic thinking never hurts! It may not give you a quick high. It won't give you a bummer low. But it will move you to choices, decisions, actions to solve problems.
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Is Women's Lateral Thinking Illogical? What Do You Think?

OOPS! I promised last week that I’d blog this week about women and parallel thinking. Soon after, I realized the term that Dorner (author of The Logic of Failure) had used was lateral thinking. Then I realized I know nothing about either topic, but that didn’t discourage me. I ‘m hoping some intelligent readers out there know more than I do and can contribute some enlightened comments.

I have to say that reading the following information, from a web site discussing Edward de Bono’s theory and books and putting it together with Dorner’s opinion that women’s lateral think may well be better for the new world than men’s parallel thinking, I’m wondering if this is a strange back-handed compliment —  particularly the first definition about “illogical”.

 Here’s the definition from Edward de Bono’s authorized web site.

“Lateral Thinking is:
    seeking to solve problems by apparently illogical means
    a process and willingness to look at things in a different way
    a relatively new type of thinking that complements analytical and critical thinking not part of our mainstream education - yet
    a fast, effective tool used to help individuals, companies and teams solve tough problems and create new ideas, new products, new processes and new services.
    a term that is used interchangeably with creativity"

Yes, I am perhaps a more defensive woman than many, but because we often think differently than men doesn’t mean our thinking is illogical. It’s just different.  Because men generally are invested in the status quo, or, their historical ways of thinking, women’s way of thinking can be perceived by them as “less than". I have to say I find that seriously bothersome.

Then again, when I think of the techniques that I suggest for getting rid of negative thinking, such as detachment, there's a certain counter-intuitive, maybe illogical thinking that's in effect after all. H-m-m-m.

 What do you think?
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