Practise challenging #feelings.How? 


“Hang on a minute!”

Feelings are real but feelings aren’t #facts. Seek evidence to challengewhat may well be negative, automatic assumptions.

What are your assumptions?

“The #perspective on an issue is distorted when so close to it. It looks much bigger than it really is. #Step away and the issue now looks smaller. You can now see other things around you more easily too. ” S Long


Have a look at your #Safety #Behaviours (avoidance tactics). Which one is #challengeable to start to #break it?
Design a plan of action. Test it and see what happens!


















Figure above – The cognitive behavioural model of social anxiety devised by Clark and Wells 1995.  This version was adapted from Butler 1999.


You have a #choice in life. You always do. You can #accept the things that happen and move on or don’t accept and remain stuck. Accept doesn’t mean agree with.

Screenshot 2014-11-21 09.52.56

Francis of Assisi

Fighting the #feelings is futile. #Accept them; #remain there; let them #fade. They will if you don’t fight them.


Author unknown

How do you feel your #life is #today? How might you view it even #better #tomorrow?


No one can concentrate on more than one thing at the same time. Doing and concentrating on are not the same thing. – S Long

At the time of writing, this was one of my most recent tweets. Assuming that you’re still reading this and not throwing social networked, rotten fruit and vegetables at me with loud boos of disbelief and heresy, let me further explain my point.

Firstly, I didn’t say: do more than one thing at the same time. The crucial word is concentrate. Everyone does more than one thing at the same time. Reading this post, you are breathing (that’s two things already), your heart’s beating, you’re constantly monitoring the world around you and within you are millions of other procedures, all occurring without your mental effort.

That’s the point: they occur unconsciously; they need no mental effort on behalf of the brain and that’s just the way the brain likes it. Given the opportunity, your brain would gladly make everything that it does need no mental effort. Automatic responses expend little energy. The brain is, in essence, lazy.

Thus, doing more than one thing is essential for life. However, doing more than one thing at a time and concentrating on more than one thing at a time are entirely different things. In Brain Rules, John Medina makes it perfectly clear: you can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time. You undergo a constant switching from one concentrating task to another and it takes in the region of a 10th of a second to make the switch. Ask any 100 metre athlete whether a 10th of a second makes any difference and I suspect that they will reply: It makes all the difference since for the world’s élite sprinters that’s in the region of 1 metre travelled. Click here for a very informative article on the exploits of sprinters, in particular Bolt.

To return to my point, neither men, nor women, have the ability to concentrate-multi-task; it is simply neurologically impossible. The switching process is so long in some contexts such as driving a car while talking on a mobile phone or putting on your make up that the increase in accident potential is significant. In the home or the office, the switching delay might mean a very unproductive day. Perhaps, worst of all in terms of learning, a constant switching means a lack of concentration on anything. That will probably result in very little learning retention.

What to do
1. Stop kidding yourself that you can concentrate on more than one thing; you can’t; ever
2. Whatever you’re singly concentrating on repeat its learning, as soon as possible. Returning to Medina’s book again: you must repeat to remember if you ever hope to keep this information in working (formerly, short-term) memory and ultimately in long-term memory
3. A lot can happen in a 10th of a second; a lot will be missed too if you’re trying to concentrate on more than one thing. So, stop kidding yourself that you can concentrate on more than one thing; you can’t; ever. See, repeat to remember!

You know you want it.

Well, that’s the slogan, strap line and hook that advertisers would have you believe. Why do they say this? It appeals to the emotional part of the brain. The emotional part of the brain works on three principal aspects beginning with ‘S’. They are:

  • Sex
  • Status
  • Safety

All three are powerful drives that the emotional brain wants satisfying to a greater or less extent in all of our lives. In this case, the advertisers are appealing to a form of safety within us: how will I survive without [whatever it is we are craving to have]?

Self-control has long fascinated psychologists and coaches alike. They might report that they often hear the words: I just couldn’t resist!, in the clients that they see. I would argue that, to a large extent, the clients are correct in their inability to resist the want. The emotional brain is five times more powerful than the other part of the brain called the thinking brain. Simply put, left unmanaged, if the emotional brain wants it, it will get it.

The key words in the previous sentence though are these: left unmanaged. We all have a responsibility to manage our wants and desires and that is where the thinking part of the brain has such a crucial role to play. How can we learn to manage those wants? We can use the 10 Minute Rule.

The 10 Minute Rule
The next time you want something use the 10 minute rule. Resist the temptation to have or do whatever it is for 10 minutes. That will take effort to do. Good; it should.

In those 10 minutes try these strategies to help resist the urge:

  • Distract yourself by going and doing something else rewarding, especially if that is doing something for others
  • Hide the treat (if that’s what it was that you desired) or hide from view what it is. How might you do that? You could:
    • Walk away (feelings and emotions are highly location-specific so walking away may well break the emotional want)
    • Go somewhere where, even if you wanted to, you couldn’t have whatever the desire was e.g. if it’s smoking that you crave, go a non-smoking area when you would normally smoke

These distracting strategies and many others besides help to strengthen self-control (think of self-control like muscle that gets stronger the more that we exercise it) and help to cut the craving.

If, in the end, you do have the thing you crave, enjoy it, forgive yourself (feeling guilt is generally very unhelpful) and then commit to strengthen your self-control to resist the craving next time. The fact that you resisted the craving for 10 minutes helped strengthen your self-control.


For some of us it’s not the doing that’s the thing to resist but the lack of doing that we need to resist. In other words it’s procrastination that dominates our lives. The 10 Minute Rule is actually highly flexible and can be used here too. This time, do something for 10 minutes. If, after 10 minutes, you want to stop, then stop. Enjoy what you’ve done, forgive yourself for stopping and commit to another 10 minutes of activity as soon as possible. Perhaps, even write down when you will start again and put it in clear sight, rather than out of sight. Seeing the reminder can act as a powerful stimulus to continue with the reminder.

Interestingly, you might also find that you want to carry on with the task that you’ve started. There are powerful forces in our mind that like getting things done. For some of us though it can be that just the thought of starting, or indeed where to start, that is holding us from starting. The point is: start somewhere, anywhere. Sometimes, this is all it takes to break that hold.

To help, try this strategy. Break down the task into small chunks. Commit to starting on just one of those chunks for 10 minutes. Ignore the others. Steady will win the race. So, if that’s a house in chaos (the task), start with one small area such as a desk, table, sink or a very small room (each one of those areas is a chunk). Tidy that chunk for 10 minutes and then reward yourself. Next, choose another small area (chunk) and tidy that for 10 minutes but make sure that the previous area stays tidy too (you will need to find time for that but it won’t take much time at all because it’s already pretty tidy). Reward yourself at the end. Repeat this process with other areas, always keeping the previous areas tidy, as you start on a new area. Notice what happens, as you go along. Not just the house getting more tidy but how you feel and think too about it.

The 10 Minute Rule is a very powerful tool for overcoming procrastination, developing self-control and helping to keep up a degree of order and control. See what happens when you use this rule for yourselves. Let me know too. I’d love to hear what happens.

People are more alike than they are different.

It’s pretty much universally accepted wisdom that that different people are either visual learners, audible learners or kinaesthetic learners.

Let’s get straight to the point before further exploring this belief. As far as science can determine, there are not different categories of learners. Did that surprise you? It did somewhat surprise me but on studying the research and reading around the subject I changed my belief and agree that there are not different categories of learners. There are, however, different styles of learning.

Styles and abilities

First and foremost, it’s important to differentiate between style and ability. They are not the same thing. Here, perceived wisdom is correct. Style and substance are different. One person may have a certain style but that is no measure of their ability. Let me illustrate the point from the world of cricket. Kevin Pietersen and Jonathon Trott are two England cricketers. They differ in style considerably, with the former hitting many a flamboyant shot and often batting in a cavalier way and the latter batting steadily and, at times, very slowly. But batting style and speed is no measure of batting ability and it would be wrong to ascribe style to ability. In the end it’s about getting the runs on the board for the team, not how you actually score the runs, that matters. We may have a preference to watch the style of one player (especially if we’ve paid to watch the match) but their ability is unconnected.

In the context of learning, students and adults alike do have different styles of learning. We can use student’s strengths in one area to help address weaknesses in other areas. For example, someone good at language might use those skills in understanding a science concept, especially if the way that information was presented to us is unfamiliar or difficult to comprehend. There may be a poor match between how we learn best and how the information has been presented to us and so small changes in how it’s presented by the presenter or teacher might make all the difference to our learning.

If that is the case with learning it follows that matching presentation skills to particular learning styles would maximise learning in the student. That would mean a lot of hard work for the teacher or presenter but, it would be worth it if the rewards of maximised learning were to materialise as a result. So, is it worth it? Would individualised learning presentations maximise individualised learning?

I return to where I started and reiterate: people are more alike than they are different.

Some facts about memory that cognitive scientists have worked out:

Our memory system can store both what things look like as well as how they sound and feel. We use visual image representations when we visually represent something in our mind. For example: What is the shape of the Sydney Opera House or How many rooms in your house have a table-top lamp? We create the visual representation in our minds to answer the question and may even go on a trail, mapping the lights in the case of the second example, to answer the question. There are lots of overlaps in the brain with what you see in your mind and how you actually see in the first place so it’s not surprising people associate visual memory with visual learning.

You can also store images as sounds. For example: Who has a deeper voice? A male news reader you heard in the past few days or your last or present boss? You will likely try to recall people’s voices and compare them for who has the deeper voice. How we hear in our mind and how we actually hear are closely associated in the brain so once again the supposition that memory is learning is made. Further, we differ in terms of how well we can store visual and auditory memories. Some people are better at doing this than others. But that’s where it stops because we don’t store all of our memories as either sights or sounds. We also store memories in terms of what they mean to us. And we’re very good at it too. This is key since it is often said that memory is the residual of meaning. In other words: meaning has a life of its own outside of visual and auditory memories and often plants the greatest impact on us. We might forget what something looked like and how it sounded. But we tend to remember what it meant to us. What something meant to us is generally the most memorable of all. 

Returning to the theory that students learn best when presentation matches their preferred learning style. If the theory is correct then we should be able to easily test the theory by devising experiments where the groups are given presentations that match, as well as contrasted with, their preferred learning category. A simple assessment of their learning achieved would bear out that visual learners make higher scores when the information is delivered visually and not so well when it is presented orally such as only through discussion. The reverse would apply to auditory learners.

Here’s an example of just such a test.

Student A: visual learner
Student B: auditory learner

The activity:
Two different means of presenting unfamiliar words are given to student A and Student B.
Presentation method 1: the unfamiliar words in context are only spoken and discussed
Presentation method 2. the unfamiliar words in context are only displayed in a presentation

What does the outcomes of this test and other research tell us?

Dozens of studies have not supported the theory that student A would find presentation method 2 more effective to aiding their learning and student 1 would find presentation 1 more effective to aiding their learning. In fact, it doesn’t make a significant difference how the presentation methods are delivered. The extent of the learning achieved, irrespective of the student concerned and the learning styles employed, remain constant. People may well have a preferred learning style but there is no preferred learning category. In other words, I might have a preferred visual style but there’s no scientific proof that I’m a visual learner.

Cognitive psychology in particular does not hold that visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners exist. One such researcher, Frank Coffield wrote his findings in:
A Systematic and Critical Review of Learning Styles

From January 2002 to January 2003
Project Leader(s): Frank Coffield
Staff: Kathryn Ecclestone, Elaine Hall and David Moseley

and this is what he concluded from his research:

“None of the models we reviewed passed all of the ‘good test’ criteria of reliability and validity, with the result that one cannot use a learning styles instrument and be sure that all the items are measuring what they intend to measure, that the results will be the same if the test is taken again or that the results can predict how someone might approach a learning experience in the future.”

Common sense, though, holds that Student A would do better with visually presented information and Student B would do better with discussion and oral presentations. So how is it that student A, who prefers visual information, didn’t do any better or worse when the information was presented visually and visa versa for student B?

The problem is that this isn’t what’s being tested. It’s actually meaning that is being tested and, as we said earlier, meaning is a completely different memory. In education, if not in life, we need to remember what something means and not what it looks like or sounds like. Effective learning happens when we move from the concrete to the abstract. I might see that Antarctica looks very wide when represented on a 2D map but I need to understand that 2D maps mis-proportion landmasses and actually Antarctica stretches around to meet the other end so it’s nothing like as large as it implies on the 2D map. Knowing where Antarctica is, is a visual skill and is concrete. Knowing the effective size of Antarctica and how maps distort landmass and what that might mean for navigation purposes is abstract and, as such, has a very different meaning. Unfortunately, administered tests can’t help but measure meaning derived from visual or auditory memory: not just visual and auditory meaning. There is no way of knowing whether meaning has affected the visual and auditory memory. To date, this problem hasn’t yet been solved. May be it never will.

So, if it is wrong, or at least can’t yet be proved to be right, why does it seem so right?

Statistically, about 90% of teachers believe it’s true and I believe that the same can be said for the public. How is it that this is the case? For the following three reasons:
1. It’s become commonly accepted wisdom. It doesn’t matter if it’s scientifically verifiable. Wisdom says it is so it must be true
2. Something quite similar to the theory actually is true. We do differ in our visual, auditory and kinaesthetic memories.
3. Confirmation bias.

To take each point in turn:

  1. Just because we say it is doesn’t mean that it is the case even if most people believe it. If we went on that statement then the world is flat and the Sun goes around the Earth. ‘Facts’ are not as we interpret them. They are what we reliably and consistently confirm based upon our understanding. Of course facts do change but only when consistently produced results validate the new set of facts
  2. We can have very good visual memories but, for the reasons explained earlier associated with meaning, that doesn’t mean that we are visual learners. That link remains the Holy Grail, if it even exists at all
  3. We have many biases such as the negativity bias and choice blindness. Here is another one: confirmation bias. We are biased towards evidence that supports what we already believe to be the case. Just because a visual demonstration helps a ‘visual learner’ doesn’t mean that proves he is a visual learner. It might just be a good example that was used to help their learning. The example might be so encapsulated with meaning that made the difference in understanding. Or it might just have been one further example that helped consolidate the meaning. Any or more examples might have made the difference to understanding. What would have happened if the last example was an auditory example? Would we have discounted it? Scientists must be very careful of not merely confirming what they think anyway. It’s remarkably difficult to do.

So, there we are! It’s proved beyond reasonable doubt. There’s no such thing as a visual learner. Or auditory and kinaesthetic learner for that matter. If only it were that simple to change our thinking. Commonly accepted wisdom is very difficult to dismiss. We are naturally very good at making connections, drawing conclusions that might not be the case; and, we’re inherently biased! And since when is it that just because science says it’s not, or is, the case do we all suddenly accept it and let go of our previous thinking?

People are more alike (in the ways that they learn) than they are different (in the ways that they learn) but it might take a long time for this statement to move from cognitive scientific understanding to commonly accepted wisdom.


Some of the concepts explored in this post have been based upon Daniel Willingham’s book: Why Students Don’t Like School. An article found after this post was written might prove useful to the reader in terms of further reading.

Image courtesy of "Rest Time" by Michelle Meiklejohn /

Image courtesy of “Rest Time” by Michelle Meiklejohn /

I have my new reading glasses. Typing on smart devices in the recent past has been fine but it’s amazing how, when I lift up the glasses I’m now wearing to see how things used to look, the text is blurry and really quite difficult to make out. Looking through my glasses, the text is razor-sharp, crystal clear, nice!

Loss of near sight focus is one of those things that generally deteriorates, as we get older. It’s the gradual deterioration that is worthy of mention. Humans are actually very adaptable. People often comment that they don’t like change; I suspect what they mean is significant change for them. Gradual change is much more acceptable and we adapt to it with little conscious thought. We are very habit-driven. The brain likes habits because it then requires very little response on its behalf to enact activities. Gradual changes largely go unnoticed. and what happens is that, over time, all those small changes add up to be a significant change over all. To repeat, only when I put on my glasses for the first time to write this blog post, did I realise how much my near sight vision had deteriorated over the years.

Habits are things that we are carrying around that have crept up and we’ve not realised. What might have started as a simple response has now become a routine, embedded response triggered by what the event in front of us means to us. And that’s also the point. It’s what it means to us for the same event may well have an entirely different meaning to another person.

So, what can we do to break a habit?

The first stage to breaking the habit loop, as Charles Duhigg writes in his fabulous book: The Power of Habit, is to recognise that we are doing it in the first place. We need to be much more aware of what is happening in our lives. And that takes effort on our behalf because our brain is essentially “a lazy piece of meat”. – Gregory Berns, from his book, Iconoclast.

Sometimes, those habits are reinforced because we don’t want to let go of things not helpful to us. We need to ‘Cut the Rope’ to those habit cues. If we ‘cut the rope’ to those cues, we break the ties to the habit routine that we carry out. Yes, this can be done. There are countless stories in books and on the Internet of habits broken. The common thread was that the will power ‘muscles’ were strengthened through determined practice and persistence leading to a change in routine and a loss of the undesired habit.

You see, I can see clearly now, the blur has gone. I could have chosen to hold on to how things were. After all, it was fine. I could see. Why change? Actually, things had changed and they weren’t serving me well but holding me back.

How we see things will dictate what we do about them. How do you see things in your life? Are you holding on when you would be better served letting go? What ‘ropes’ can you cut today to help free yourself from undesired habits?

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