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I grew up in an Asian family, where one believes in fate.  Born at a certain time, day, month, year, preferably “Year of the dragon” – you’ll sail towards the golden sea, without hard work.  I was not born under such lucky stars – and hence embraced American style motivational thinking with open arms.  You can be what you put your heart too.  Is this true?

As a Myers Briggs Type Indicator facilitator and career coach, I am now inclined that nature, nurture and “will” or adaptation through self awareness can help us modify our behaviors.

In “Quiet, the power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop Talking” (Ch 5),  author Susan Cain, interviewed Dr Carl Schwartz, Director of the Developmental Neuroimaging and Psychopathology Research Lab, using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines if introverts and extroverts behave differently.  Specifically, through measuring the activity of the amygdala – in shaping the personalities of introverts and extroverts.

In an experiment using a slideshow projecting a crowded room of strangers or some familiar faces, Schwartz found that the amydalae of high reactives (introverts) reacted more to the photos of strangers than low reactives (extroverts). Using a longitudinal study, found that the footprint of a high or low reactive temperament never disappeared in adulthood (what Carl Jung assumed all these while).  Susan Cain calls this the “rubber band theory” of personality.  “We are like rubber bands at rest.  We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much.”  Nature and nurture. Bill Gates is never going to be Bill Clinton.

What’s being processed in the Introvert’s brain in a cocktail party?

A lot.

1. When we greet a stranger in a party, the amygdala (the ancient part of the brain), goes into overdrive.

2. For those relatively skilled in social situations, the neofrontal cortex kicks in to tell you to calm down, and what to do next – shake hands, smile. But conditioning and learning only suppresses the activity of the amygdala, not erase the fear.

3. During times of stress, unwarranted fears came go haywire,  – “when the cortex has other things to do than soothe an excitable amygdala”.  => Solitude and time for meditation works for both introverts and extroverts as you don’t want your amygdala to spin out of control on you.

What should we do:

To conquer fear of public speaking, small talk with strangers etc.

1. Desensitise yourself (and your amygdala) in small doses, over and over again – in a safe environment.

Reassuring. Something I’ve known intuitively.  Don’t just jump into the deep end. Bad advice.  As Japanese say, “Kaizen” or small improvements daily is better. A case in point was when I learnt to ride a bicycle “in one hour” in my forties at the harassment of my husband.  Instead of buying a beautifully crafted bicycle meant for racers as my first bike, so that it can still be used 3 years later and not out-grow it, as he put it, I bought a safe one which I would put my feet on the ground “safely”, to minimise my fear of falling.  Also, I took to “Youtube” and watched many, many bicycle training videos to desensitise myself.

A “one hour miracle”, was actually hours of practice soothing my amygdala which cannot tell the difference between real practice and what the eye sees.

2.  Find your sweet spot.

Once you discover your preferences, organise your life around “optimal levels of arousal“, what Susan Cain calls “sweet spots”.   If you’re happily reading your book in a quiet place, and after 30 mins find yourself re-reading a sentence 5 times, you’re understimulated.  Call a friend, go out for tea.  Now you’re back into your sweet-spot.  But if your extroverted friend who needs a higher level of stimulation, persuades you to follow her to a party after this tea, you may find yourself having to make small talk with strangers, and soon, find yourself “overstimulated“.

What next?  Pair off with someone for in-depth conversation, or go back to your book. Understanding your sweet spot, can increase satisfaction in every area of your life and more.

Ask: How much time does your work require you to behave out of your sweet spot? Too much time in a research lab, and not enough time interacting with people? Or too much time socialising and schmoozing and not enough time to research in your cubicle.

3. Find out what’s meaningful for you

Can we act out of character? How then do famous strong introverts speak in public effectively?  Susan Cain introduces us to the Free Traits theory, created by Professor Brian Little, former Havard University psychology lecturer. “According to the Free Traits theory, we are able to act out of character in the service of core personal projects. ” Introverts can behave like extroverts to accomplish work/causes they regard as important, people/ projects they value highly.

To thine own self be true. – Shakespeare

How to identify core personal projects?

4. Pay attention to your actions

Can you fake it till you make it? Yes, to a certain extent according to studies by research psychologist, Richard Lippa comparing introverts who pretend and act like extroverts, with actual extroverts. Some psuedo-extroverts are surprisingly convincing.

Pay attention to how your face and body arrange themselves when you’re feeling confident and adopt the same position when it comes time to fake it. Studies have shown that behavior can lead to emotions. Smiling makes you feel stronger and happier and frowning makes you feel angry.

There is a limit to the control of self-presentation – beware of behavioral leakage. When you act out of character for a project you don’t care about, your discomfort can come across strongly and detected by the other party, sometimes as “freudian slips”.

5. Restore

Professor Little advises, find as many restorative niches as possible in your daily life, recommended by “The Introvert Advantage” – a quick read, practical guide. Surprisingly for a sedentary person like myself, going for a walk in the park, or jogging in the gym is a restorative process. After a day of lecturing, I recharge with a 20 min treadmill time, then off to a dinner with my husband’s colleagues and then supper with his friends.

While some of the recommendations are not new, it has given credibility that I am not abnormal, and allowed me to negotiate with my husband, an extrovert, who wants me to go everywhere. Professor Little calls it “Free Trait Agreement”,

Read more about this inspiring book, Quiet by Susan Cain.

There are more nuggets in this book not covered by my blog. Watch Susan Cain’s TED introduction, but she’s too modest in promoting her book.

“Its not only the desire for wealth and position that debases and subjugates, but also the desire for peace, leisure, travel and learning. It doesnt matter what the external thing is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another … where our heart is set, there our impediment lies.”

– Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.1-2; 15 (from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman).

Ryan Holiday asks “surely Epictetus is not saying that peace and travel are bad, is he?” No, he explains. But ceaseless, ardent desire is filled with “potential complications”.

I am reminded of a verse in Bible that money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is.

When we pine for something, we set ourselves for disappointment. We can lose our self control in response.

Authors suggest that a good goal, like “love or a noble cause” can set you up just as well.

My self reflection: this verse jumps out at me and helps explain something Im going through, have been going through, esp with manipulative family members.

Coaching question of the day

Are you in control of your desires, or are they in control of you?

Transcending

Escher got it right.
Men step down and yet rise up,
the hand is drawn by the hand it draws,
and a woman is poised
on her very own shoulders.

Escher

Without you and me this universe is simple,
run with the regularity of a prison.
Galaxies spin along stipulated arcs,
stars collapse at the specified hour,
crows u-turn south and monkeys rut on schedule.
But we, whom the cosmos shaped for a billion years
to fit this place, we know it failed.
For we can reshape,
reach an arm through the bars
and, Escher-like, pull ourselves out.
And while whales feeding on mackerel
are confined forever in the sea,
we climb the waves,
look down from clouds.

~From Look Down From Clouds (Marvin Levine, 1997)

I first chanced upon this poem on Martin Seligman’s book “Authentic Happiness”

Do you find that 1hr just flew past and you were scrolling on social media sites/ newsworthy rabbitholes reading (almost anything aimlessly).

If you are like me, I was going site to site reading the same news about President Trump testing positive.

“Brainwash” by David Perlmutter, MD has quick tips to share, using TIME as a checklist.

Whether you are Social Media or TV bingeing, might I add (Korean soap operas), we need to take back the power to control our time usage and avoid tech addiction.

Time restricted – set a timer say 1hr or 10 min to accomplish your goal if you are doing online shopping to restrict the time spent. Tweak the timing until you arrive at one which you can comfortably honour.

Intentional – does it truly benefit you? Is it a good use of your time, be it to relax or do research.

Mindfulness – awareness of how you are using it and being conscious of the way it is making you feel. Incorporate pauses where you question the way you are using the tech and the way it is making you feel. Does it make you feel angry, envious or self conscious?

Enriching – is it a waste of time or helps you understand your world. Does it better you and make you feel more rested and optimistic or just distracted.

David Perlmutter has more advice on understanding our brain.

What do you think about his TIME checklist?

You know the conversation. The Great Man theory proposed by likes in history and research. Leaders follow a mold.

Im reading Jacob Morgan’s “Future Leader”. Leaders decide they want to be leaders. (Steven Covey)

We can choose to exercise situational leadership. Small things we do.

When you see someone exercise a selfless act, affirm them for choosing to do that. Leadership is a choice.

Whats one habit you choose to develop today?

Mastering Adulthood” by Lara Fielding, PsyD.

Mind Warps: Can our brains distort reality or as Dr Fielding calls them “thinking errors”.

Do you trust your thoughts? One of my clients is going through a “Nobody cares! Im alone in the world” moment. Dr Fielding recommends a Mindful Mastery practice to Validate, Check and Change.

Skill 1: Notice: mind warps (examples below), catastrophizing.

Skill 2: Ask: is the thought 100% true?

Skill 3: Compassionately reframe.

1. All or none, black and white thinking – She always gets all the rewards.

2. Blaming – Hold others responsible for something that went wrong. If not for you, I would have… its all your fault. You screwed up my life. My mom wont let me…

3. Catastrophizing – assume the worst that can happen. I recall a client who thinks the plane will crash when he’s queuing at the visa office.

4. Emotional reasoning – mistake feelings for facts. If I feel nervous, it must be bad.

5. Mind reading – assuming others are upset about you when you see them frowning. She thinks Im stupid.

6. Minimization or Magnification – That doesnt count. My parents taught me not to boast or show off. Afterawhile every time I get a “compliment” or positive feedback from a student, I think they want something out of me. I disregard all the compliments I get from my students. Result – burnout. I magnify all the negative comments from 1 student of a class of 45 or a cohort of 120 students each semester. Lol.

7. Overgeneralizing and time travelling – if it happened in the past, it will happen again. One of my clients who is in her 70s talks about being bullied by her mother in law who died 20 years ago. She talks about this everyday if she has nothing dramatic to complain.

8. Personalizing – why is this happening to me? Eg. When something breaks and needs repair. Rather than thinking, all things break.

Any of these mind warps are common traps for you?

Do pick up this very practical book. Dr Fielding has QR codes for more videos on the topic.

Reflect + Reset + Results

https://qz.com/1712239/a-childrens-book-about-the-global-economy-and-the-future-of-work/

A children’s book about the global economy and the future of work — Quartz

Quartz’s Dan Kopf and Bárbara Abbês, Alphabet for the Next Global Economy

A is for Automation,
That great destroyer of jobs,
In the olden days,
It brought out the mobs
It can also be great,
Something people can dig,
The agricultural revolution for example,
Farming was a really hard gig
The effect is complicated,
It creates and it ends,
Is it going to hurt you?
Hard to know, it depends

This is what I call creativity. Combining two simple ideas and creating a fabulous and essential product. References to American companies like Uber which may confuse some.

Whats better, the words rhyme and comes as an audiobook. Three simple ideas into another outstanding product.

Im definitely trying to buy some as gifts for Christmas. Useful not only for children but for most of us trying to learn the vocabulary of the new normal.

A will be Agile or Adapt to the changing trends. With change, we certainly see no end.

If you were to recreate your own alphabet set, what’s A for you?

“Virtues and vices – like carpets and hats – obey the law of fashion, and at different times, society with infuriating inconsistency punishes or rewards the same trait.

What characteristic in Churchill, won him adulation and honors? The same characteristic that earned him censure: his love of war. He never changed, but the values of the world did.

And if the years before 1940 were a prelude, the years after the war were a long decline. In the 1945 election, even before Japan surrendered, Churchill was ejected from office. The public sensed in him the permanent relish for battle, and they wanted no more of it.

Ch13 Churchill’s Bellligerence, His Defining Characteristic from “Forty ways of looking at Churchill” by Gretchen Rubin.

Can our weakness be our strengths?

Is there such a thing as strength or weakness? Gretchen Rubin concluded Ch 12 with this observation “Churchill didn’t care what anyone else thought. He never shut up, he was rude, he was undignified. Churchill’s greatest fault was the fault of his greatest virtue. His disdain for other’s opinions gave him his own clear vision, and he saw what others missed. Willingness to consider all points of view can be a source of weakness as well as strength; in 1940, Churchill knew the true course and led the way without listening to anyone.”

Forty ways of looking at Churchill” by Gretchen Rubin.

My initial reaction to the PM’s announcement that the “circuit breaker” will be extended till 1 June 2020, was one of despondence. Failing to queue for my favourite bubble tea, I went to Chinatown to buy a box of plum wine roast chicken and Chinese roast duck. The food surprisingly tasted bland. The mind plays tricks on our desires.

Instead of mopping if an L shaped or W shaped recession awaits round the corner, what if I use the next 10 days as entering a meditative retreat, in my own home. Minus tv or news. Minus noise. Minus activity. Just deep breathing. Simple food. But

allowed to read and write.

allowed to walk.

allowed to listen

to me

Not judge.

  1. Always make your future bigger than your past.
  2. Always make your learning greater than your experience.
  3. Always make your contribution bigger than your reward.
  4. Always make your performance greater than your applause.
  5. Always make your gratitude greater than your success.
  6. Always make your enjoyment greater than your effort.
  7. Always make your cooperation greater than your status.
  8. Always make your confidence greater than your comfort.
  9. Always make your purpose greater than your money.
  10. Always make your questions bigger than your answers.

I recently chanced upon the writings of strategic coach Dan Sullivan whose 10 laws of growth are so inspiring if you, like me struggle with how opportunistic networking can be.

If we know that networking is necessary, whats holding us back? Fear of rejection.

1. Courage to step out. Curiosity to acquire diversity of experiences.

2. Commitment to change

3. Capability – deep work

4. Confidence

Adapted fron the 4Cs of Dan Sullivan.

Source: https://resources.strategiccoach.com/the-multiplier-mindset-blog/the-laws-of-lifetime-growth