Loss aversion – could it explain why we put up with bad situations?

When you consider making significant changes in your life such as changing your job or leaving a relationship, you may well experience a level of anxiety. 

Sometimes this feeling is strong enough to keep you in that bad relationship, that mediocre job, and it’s very important to understand what is happening in order to give yourself the best opportunity to overcome this potentially paralysing behaviour.

Cognitive psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his partner Amos Tversky first identified that the pleasure of gaining and the pain of losing were experienced differently back in 1979 even when the gain and loss was the same $5.

Further tests have shown that we experience roughly twice as much pain in losing as we experience pleasure in gaining. Exactly why this is so isn’t known for sure, but it could be related to the different parts of the brain that experience gains and losses.

Why do we experience more pain than pleasure?

Losses occur in the amygdala, which performs a primary role in processing of emotional responses such as fear and anxiety. These emotional responses kept our ancestors safe, and natural selection ensured those with strong survival traits passed these on to their children; and those children who had strong survival behaviours passed them on until after thousands of generations most of us have extremely strong survival instincts, even though we now live in a far safer world without the dangers that our brains are hard-wired to respond to.

What our brains respond to in the modern day are perceived threats to our well-being and self-esteem.  For example, at work many people resist speaking out against the ideas of a senior, because our primitive brain sees the situation as one of danger, and we enter a fight/flight or freeze state. This state diverts energy and resources away from our intellectual brain and towards our physical bodies resulting in us sometimes acting as cavemen, either attacking others, running away or freezing in the moment.

Do you find you are able to think of a more suitable response later on and wonder why we didn’t respond more appropriately in the moment? The reason is that in the moment you didn’t have the capacity to think coherently. When the danger passes, your intellectual capacity returns to normal and that’s when you think of that brilliant retort!

If you are considering leaving a relationship, you may be able to intellectually understand that by completing your unsatisfactory current relationship you are opening up the possibility for a better relationship. At the same time your emotional response kicks in and fear and anxiety follow. You can dwell on everything you stand to lose, and this can blind you to the opportunities beyond.

In fact, this process can impact on any changes you look to make and is one of the key reasons why coaching is such an effective form of support when you are looking to make changes.

How can coaching help?

What happens in a good coaching relationship is that an environment is created in which you feel safe. So safe that considering change doesn’t trigger the negative emotional states that have held you back in the past.

In this safe space you are able to access your full intellectual capacity, so that you become clear on your purpose and your goals. Your innate creativity comes through to discover solutions to challenges, and your commitment is engaged so that you can take the actions that lead to results.

It’s both the environment we live in and our humanness that stops us achieving all we could be, and it's our humanness that allows us to be all that we can be when we place it in the right environment.

If you are in a situation that you wish to change, reach out to a professional who can support you find your unique solutions and create the life you deserve.

The Curse of Busyness

If you don’t have time to read this, you may have the most to gain by doing so…

For busyness is a blight on our lives. It gets in the way of us operating at our best. The rate of progress in the world is increasing rapidly, so that we need to improve just to stay still.  If you are not going forward, you are going backwards relative to others.

I appreciate that you have a lot on your plate, an ever-increasing to-do list, demands on your time from all quarters and people demanding an immediate response irrespective of the real urgency of the situation.

This can lead to a feeling of being dragged in different directions, or of being a puppet whose strings are being pulled by others, or a sense of not really being in charge of your life.

The solution may feel counter-intuitive. Many answers are.

You are probably aware of the phrase: “I need to stop and think”

Stop comes first, then think. 

It doesn’t mean you can’t think while you are busy doing, of course you can, but the quality of your thinking can improve immeasurably if you first stop, and then create the best conditions for creative thinking.

Different people need different conditions to thrive, but almost universally are the need to feel safe, comfortable with the people you are with, not judged or fearful.

What most people are unaware of is the impact that communication has in creating these positive conditions. Assumption, expectation and influence lead to negative feelings such as anxiety, concern and distrust. This leads to us ‘shutting down’ our creativity, not ‘opening it up’ to create possibilities and ideas.

Conscious Communication protocols can help you create these positive conditions.

Within these possibilities are ideas that can change the world, or at least change your world for the better.

There’s ‘Out of the box’ thinking, and then there’s ‘Thinking about the box differently’ thinking!

There’s a story in the papers today about Dutch company Vanmoof who manufacture quite expensive electronic bikes (up to £2,000 each) and the innovative solution they created to a major problem.

They had a number of bikes damaged in transit.  I don’t know about you, but if I had spent £2,000 on a bike, I would be very excited to receive delivery, and I would find that excitement dissipate if the package, and most importantly, the bike was damaged, and that bike would be sent straight back.

They changed couriers a number of times and the problem persisted. The solution they came up with was to print a television on the side of their boxes and they discovered that the couriers treated the boxes better and it resulted in over 80% reduction in the number of bikes delivered damaged, with all the positive ramifications of delighted customers.

What I particularly liked about this story was how the solution was so clever and cost virtually nothing. It was ‘just’ a brilliant simple idea.

Except brilliant ideas are not always simple, not always welcome, not always cultivated.

We human beings are blessed with incredible creativity, yet many people do not consider themselves creative, and many organisations either consciously or unconsciously supress our ability to access our creativity. Our creativity needs certain conditions to flourish. When both internal and external conditions are in place, clarity, collaboration and creativity combine to produce amazing results.

The internal conditions are created though our communication. If a person feels threatened, manipulated, or undermined, they will unconsciously direct attention to survival, to protection, to avoidance of risk.

Unfortunately, much of the communication in our society is negative, with people having expectations and making assumptions because they are focused on their own agenda. This does not lead to an environment where people can come up with creative solutions which have the potential to make significant improvements.

A new service that I am offering is a ‘Communication Needs Analysis’ where we can look at the current communication in your organisation, and allow an outside view on the impact that the communication has, together with some recommendations, if appropriate, on how to change for the better.

I salute Vanmoof for creating a culture that supports creative thinking and solution finding, as well as amazing bicycles. Check them out if you are interested in cutting edge bike design, and check in with me if you are interested in making your team’s thinking cutting edge.

Getting better all the time...

The story of human development has been inextricably linked with technological change.  According to Robert Gordon (Economics professor at Northwestern University) there have been three major industrial revolutions.  “When we had the invention of steam engines, steam ships, locomotives, factories making cotton fabrics, and then the telegraph. All of those things were invented in the century between 1770 and 1870. And they set the stage for the inventions that happened after 1870.

The Second Industrial Revolution included electricity, the internal combustion engine, chemicals, plastics, running water, the conquest of infectious diseases, the conquest of infant mortality, the development of processed food. Every dimension of human life, was affected by the Second Industrial Revolution, with the inventions mainly taking place between 1870 and the early 1900s

The Third Industrial Revolution started off around 1960, with the first mainframe computer. And went further into the mini computer, the personal computer in 1980, and then followed by the marriage of communications with computers that we call the Internet, and then into smart mobile phones in the last 10 to 15 years.” (Source: Freakonomics Radio)

Our lives and our personal productivity have been enhanced by these revolutions and by countless technological improvements, but we don't need to rely on the next tech marvel, or new app or breakthrough in artificial intelligence to further our human development, we can increase the utilisation of the incredible tool between our ears.

The brain compares and makes judgements at lightning speed which allows us to make decisions and improvements. Our brains unconsciously react not just to the present experience but to the combination of the present and past events. Instead of the best response to the present challenge, we often act to meet a previous challenge, leading to a sense that we are forever in catch up mode.

A solution is to train our brains so that we are able to respond to life's challenges more effectively.

A trained brain is open and curious, instead of comparing and judging. We see (visually and metaphorically) far more leading to better understanding.  We harness the power of our teams by learning to ask questions that clarify and open up possibilities instead of using our efforts to get others to agree with our point of view.

Our brains are incredible learning machines.  They take in enormous amounts of information from our five senses, and create meaning from experiences, and automatic behaviour from our past experiences without us using conscious effort.

If we do not consciously train our brain, it will unconsciously learn from its experience. Because experience is subjective and rarely able to see the whole picture sometimes the lessons learnt are not as useful to us as they could be, and sometimes the lesson we learn causes more problems than it solves.

Evolution has developed us to be most successful species with a capability beyond much of our comprehension.  We revere certain individuals for their abilities, Mozart for his music, Mother Theresa for her compassion, Leonardo Da Vinci for his creativity, Nelson Mandela for his capacity to forgive, and many more.  Each of us has the same capacity and capabilities that they had.

Instead of doubting, we can strengthen our determination. Replacing cynicism with creativity. Turning frustration into opportunities, hurt into compassion, and fear into love.  You can release your ability to create, to design new solutions or maybe to produce things of beauty.

Replacing reasons not to change, to develop and improve, we could be developing ourselves and our people with resultant benefits in improving communication, relationships, achievements and happiness.

Each of us is blessed with an unlimited amount of potential.  The same potential as the greats had.