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Why Letting Yourself Make Mistakes Means Making Fewer of Them

Allowing mistakes is the best way to avoid making them.

Think back to the last time your boss assigned you a new project or task at work, or the last time you tried to tackle something really difficult in your personal life.  How did it feel?  I’m guessing scary, right?

While some people seem eager to tackle new challenges, many of us are really just trying to survive without committing any major screw-ups.  Taking on something totally new and unfamiliar is understandably frightening, since the odds of making a mistake are good when you are inexperienced.  Small wonder that we greet new challenges with so little enthusiasm.

How can we learn to see things differently?  How can we shift our thinking, and approach new responsibilities and challenges with more confidence and energy?

The answer is simple, though perhaps a little surprising:  Give yourself permission to screw-up.   Start any new project by saying  “I’m not going to be good at this right away, I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s okay.”

So now you’re probably thinking, “If I take your advice and actually let myself screw up, there will be consequences.  I’m going to pay for it.”  Fair enough.  But you really needn’t worry about that, because studies show that when people are allowed to make mistakes, they are significantly less likely to actually make them!  Let me explain.

We approach most of what we do with one of two types of goals: what I call be-good goals, where the focus is on proving that you have a lot of ability and already know what you’re doing, and get-better goals, where the focus is on developing your ability and learning a new skill.  It’s the difference between wanting to show that you are smart vs. wanting to get smarter.

The problem with be-good goals is that they tend to backfire when things get hard.  We quickly start to doubt our ability (“Oh no, maybe I’m not good at this!”), and this creates a lot of anxiety.  Ironically, worrying about your ability makes you much more likely to ultimately fail.  Countless studies have shown that nothing interferes with your performance quite like anxiety does – it is the goal-killer.

Get-better goals, on the other hand, are practically bullet-proof.  When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and improving, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur.

Just to give you an example, in one study I conducted a few years ago with my graduate student, Laura Gelety, we found that people who were trying to be good (i.e., trying to show how smart they were) performed very poorly on a test of problem-solving when I made the test more difficult (either by interrupting them frequently while they were working, or by throwing in a few additional unsolvable problems).

The amazing thing was, the people who were trying to get better (i.e., who saw the test as an opportunity to learn a new problem-solving skill) were completely unaffected by any of my dirty tricks.  No matter how hard I made it for them, students focused on getting better stayed motivated and did well.

Too often, when the boss gives us an assignment, we expect to be able to do the work flawlessly, no matter how challenging it might be.  The focus is all about being good, and the prospect becomes terrifying.  Even when we are assigning ourselves a new task, we take the same approach – expecting way too much too soon.

The irony is that all this pressure to be good results in many more mistakes, and far inferior performance, than would a focus on getting better.

How can you reframe your goals in terms of getting better? Here are the three steps:

Step 1:  Start by embracing the fact that when something is difficult and unfamiliar, you will need some time to really get a handle on it.  You may make some mistakes, and that’s ok.

Step 2:  Remember to ask for help when you run into trouble.  Needing help doesn’t mean you aren’t capable – in fact, the opposite is true.  Only the very foolish believe they can do everything on their own.

Step 3: Try not to compare yourself to other people – instead, compare your performance today to your performance yesterday.  Focusing on getting better means always thinking in terms of progress, not perfection.

Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D.   The Science of Success    Feb 01, 2011


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The Secret to Better Learning That Most People Don’t Know

Despite multiple studies showing the benefits, many people don’t know this learning trick.

Mixing up your learning can lead to massive gains, a new study of academic performance reveals.

For years now ‘interleaving’ has been a secret largely confined to researchers.

Interleaving means practising or learning different skills in quick succession.

When interleaving, tennis players might practice forehands, backhands and volleys altogether.

Interleaving for musicians could mean practising scales, arpeggios and chords all in the same session.

It’s quite a different method to how people normally learn.

Tennis players typically focus on forehands for a session and musicians on scales for a session.

The benefits have been shown in studies of motor skills:

“…college baseball players practiced hitting three types of pitches (e.g. curve ball) that were either blocked by type or systematically interleaved.
During a  subsequent test in which the three types of pitches were interleaved (as in an actual game), hitting performance was greater if practice had been interleaved rather than blocked.
A similar benefit was observed in a study of basketball shooting…” (Taylor & Rohrer, 2010)

interleaving_learning

A new study, though, shows the dramatic benefits of interleaving on children’s performance at math.

For the research some kids were taught math the usual way.

They learned one mathematical technique in a lesson and then practised it.

A second group, however, were given assignments which included questions requiring different techniques.

The results were impressive.

On a test one day later, the students who’d been using the interleaving method did 25% better.

But, when tested a month later, the interleaving method did 76% better.

That’s quite an increase given that both groups had been learning for the same amount of time.

The only difference was that some learned block by block and others had their learning mixed up.

One of the potential drawbacks of the technique is that it can feel harder at first.

Instead of concentrating on one skill at a time, you have to work on two or more.

But interleaving probably works because it forces the mind to work harder.

Instead of relying on learning a system and sticking with it, the mind has to keep searching and reaching for solutions.

The research was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (Rohrer et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog


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A little exercise may help kids with ADHD focus

NEW YORK | Wed Oct 31, 2012 

(Reuters Health) – Twenty minutes of exercise may help kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) settle in to read or solve a math problem, new research suggests.

The small study, of 40 eight- to 10-year-olds, looked only at the short-term effects of a single bout of exercise. And researchers caution that they are not saying exercise is the answer to ADHD.

But it seems that exercise may at least do no harm to kids’ ability to focus, they say. And further studies should look into whether it’s a good option for managing some children’s ADHD.

“This is only a first study,” said lead researcher Matthew B. Pontifex, of Michigan State University in East Lansing.

“We need to learn how long the effects last, and how exercise might combine with or compare to traditional ADHD treatments” like stimulant medications, Pontifex explained.

He noted that there’s been a lot of research into the relationship between habitual exercise and adults’ thinking and memory, particularly older adults’. But little is known about kids, even though some parents, teachers and doctors have advocated exercise for helping children with ADHD.

So for their study, Pontifex and his colleagues recruited 20 children with diagnosed or suspected ADHD, and 20 ADHD-free kids of the same age and family-income level.

All of the children took a standard test of their ability to ignore distractions and stay focused on a simple task at hand – the main “aspect of cognition” that troubles kids with ADHD, Pontifex noted. The kids also took standard tests of reading, spelling and math skills.

Each child took the tests after either 20 minutes of treadmill exercise or 20 minutes of quiet reading (on separate days).

Overall, the study found, both groups of children performed better after exercise than after reading.

On the test of focusing ability, the ADHD group was correct on about 80 percent of responses after reading, versus about 84 percent after exercise. Kids without ADHD performed better – reaching about a 90 percent correct rate after exercise.

Similarly, both groups of kids scored higher on their reading and math tests after exercise, versus post-reading.

It’s hard to say what those higher one-time scores could mean in real life, according to Pontifex, who published his results in The Journal of Pediatrics.

One of the big questions is whether regular exercise would have lasting effects on kids’ ability to focus or their school performance, he said.

And why would exercise help children, with or without ADHD, focus? “We really don’t know the mechanisms right now,” Pontifex said.

But there is a theory that the attention problems of ADHD are related to an “underarousal” of the central nervous system. It’s possible that a bout of exercise helps kids zero in on a specific task, at least in the short term.

Parents and experts alike are becoming more and more interested in alternatives to drugs for ADHD, Pontifex noted. It’s estimated that 44 percent of U.S. children with the disorder are not on any medication for it.

And even when kids are using medication, additional treatments may help them cut down their doses. Pontifex said future studies should look at whether exercise fits that bill.

“We’re not suggesting that exercise is a replacement, or that parents should pull their kids off of their medication,” Pontifex said.

But, he added, they could encourage their child to be active for the overall health benefits, and talk with their doctor about whether exercise could help manage ADHD specifically.

“Exercise is beneficial for all children,” Pontifex noted. “We’re providing some evidence that there’s an additional benefit on cognition.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/RR5Dh3 The Journal of Pediatrics, online October 19, 2012.      Reuters


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Can the Scent of Rosemary Make You Smarter?

The Scent of Rosemary Oil May Improve Speed and Accuracy During Mental Tasks

By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 24, 2012 — Can a whiff of rosemary boost your performance at work or school?

It’s possible. A new study suggests that the pungent and pine-like scent of rosemary oil may improve speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks.

Twenty people were asked to perform subtraction exercises and a task to see how quickly they could process new information before and after being exposed to the scent of rosemary in their work stations. Researchers measured participants’ blood levels of 1, 8-cineole, rosemary’s main chemical component, after the experiment.

The higher their blood levels of this compound, the better the participants scored on these tasks, the study shows. Speed and accuracy got better, but the oil did not seem to improve alertness. Exactly how rosemary can improve mental ability is not fully understood.

The findings are published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.

Alan Hirsch, MD, is the director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. He says the findings take aromatherapy to a whole new level. “This opens up the doorway for us to explore other odors and how they affect people,” he says.

So, should we place some rosemary-scented potpourri in our work station?

“It is something to think about if you want to improve your learning, as long as you like the smell of rosemary,” Hirsch tells WebMD.

More Research on Rosemary’s Brain-Boosting Effects Needed

Christy C. Tangney, PhD, says more study is needed to see how, or even if, rosemary affects how quickly and accurately we perform mental exercises. She is an associate professor in the department of clinical nutrition at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “This is an intriguing concept, but very preliminary,” she says.

The findings could be due to chance or something else besides the fragrance. “There is something here. I don’t know that I could conclude that it is the aroma of the rosemary that is associated with improvements though,” Tangney says.

She agrees with Hirsch. If you like the scent of rosemary, there is no reason not to surround yourself with it. “Rosemary has been used as an herb for generations, and there is nothing to say it is potentially harmful, at least in the short term.”

SOURCES: Moss, M. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, published online Feb. 24, 2012.Alan Hirsch, MD, director, Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, Chicago.Christy C. Tangney, PhD, associate professor, department of clinical nutrition, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.

source: medicinenet.com