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20 Confidence-Boosting Tricks You’ll Love

20 Confidence-Boosting Tricks You’ll Love

If you’re self-assured, believe whole-heartedly in your abilities, know your judgements to be sound, and feel prepared for any of life’s challenges, congratulations! You are one flawlessly confident individual.

Odds are, though, you have self-doubt, guilt, or shame in your perceived inadequacies tumbling around your brain. Don’t worry—you’re human. These things happen.

And this list of confidence-boosting tips and tricks will help inspire you to pursue a more complete, more confident you.

1. Try Out Power Poses

Our body language speaks volumes about how we feel about ourselves and our abilities. You’ve likely heard many ways body language influences others—closed arms signals others to stay away, for instance. Taking this research one step further is Harvard Professor Dr. Amy Cuddy whose research into “Power Poses” in the business world applies to many life situations. High-power posing is about “opening up,” taking up as much space as possible, while low-power poses require taking up as little space as possible (fetal position, hands in pockets, etc.).  Her research found that after 2 minutes of high-power posing, testosterone levels increase and cortisol levels—the stress hormone—sharply falls. For a quick boost of testosterone to gear yourself up for many situations where confidence is key, practice some high-power poses.

2. Take Risks

If you don’t give yourself new challenges to tackle or jump on opportunities to grow, you’re liable to get stuck in a self-defeating low confidence rut. Take the initiative to take risks. Even small everyday risks (let me take a new route to work) can have a cumulative effect on your overall level of confidence. You have to be willing to risk failure and systematically ignore the mantra that failure means you are worthless. In truth, failure is a sign of incremental growth. Accept this, and you’ll no longer be self-conscious about admitting failure—you’ll actively seek it out, one risk at a time. That’s some serious confidence!

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3. Exercise

exercise

    By now you’re probably sick of hearing how vital to our mental health exercise is. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s as close as we’re likely to get, especially where confidence is concerned. Our self-image is intimately linked with our sense of self-confidence. Research shows that light exercise of any kind boosts self-image, and boosts it more than in people who rigorously work out 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. This result holds true for older people, as well. Killer workout routines aren’t the deciding factor, here; the key to a confident body image, and more confidence, in general, lies in frequent, low-intensity workouts.

    4. Dress Well and Groom

    Another surefire way to boost your self-image (ergo self-confidence) is to treat your body like a temple. Exercise is important, as is eating right, but our outermost layers—grooming, clothes, self-presentation—can really make a difference, too. Make a routine out of healthy grooming habits. Brush your teeth, comb your hair. Look your best to feel your best. The goal is to present your best at-a-glance side, and this starts with the simple habit of cleanliness and dressing well.

    5. Be Resilient

    Everyone is familiar with big disappointments or situations that drag their confidence to new lows. One way to swim against the depths of low confidence is to activate your resilience. Resilience is the innate human quality of rebounding from tough, even devastating life events, and being flexible enough to adapt and not let our short-term failures leech our confidence dry. The best ways to be resilient include setting realistic expectations for yourself, rewarding yourself for jobs well done, and being curious and self-compassionate enough to examine your failures without being overly critical. Practice is key; the more resilient you are, the more confident you will be when life throws you a curve ball.

    6. Be Optimistic

    Pessimism—thinking that the worst is always in store—plays the role of the thug in our mental lives. Both pessimism and optimism are both free outlooks to use, but only the latter is linked to self-confidence benefits. Thing is, it’s very hard to think the best of yourself, or even recognize when you accomplish something big, if you keep your nose to the ground instead of to the sky. Being optimistic doesn’t mean you have to be naïve, but adopting a mindset that says “I feel I’m good enough to do this” scrubs your self-perception clean, makes success sweeter, and failure more manageable.

    7. Prepare

    Much of our stress and anxiety comes from feeling or being underprepared. These feelings cling to our sense of self-confidence like vampire bats, sucking our resolve dry. Better to be prepared, then! Preparation and forethought are natural antidotes to the worst thoughts fear, stress, and anxiety can muster. Even better, no matter what your personal style, there are always ways to cut down the time it takes to do necessary things. It may seem like preparation takes too much time—but being prepared actually increases the time you can put toward building your confidence, instead of being stressed you still have so much to do.

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    8. Use Positive Affirmations

    That little voice in your head? The one telling you what a lousy person you are? Guess what? Using positive affirmations gives you the discipline to fire the negative man in your head and get a new mental coach. The things we say to ourselves before, during, and after a goal or event have wide-reaching influence over how we think about ourselves and behave. Practice giving yourself affirmative feedback, even if (and especially if) you fail. Make your affirmations unique to you and take time out of your day to focus on them. They’ll seep into your unconscious with routine use and become automatic sound bites in your life. Follow this link to get some affirmation ideas.

    9. Set and Achieve Small Goals

    Often people setting out on the road to enhance their confidence feel overwhelmed. It seems like too many factors are involved, that there are too many things to consider and spend time and energy managing. Luckily, you can always break down these mental mountains into smaller hills of success. Make a list of short- and long-term confidence goals you want to achieve. Actively think about how success at this or that goal, or failure at other goals, still helps you in the long run. Be sure to set goals that are meaningful, not the ones you feel you have to meet to appease some imaginary audience. Make your goals personal, bite-sized, and realistic—you’ll dedicate yourself to them more and not be so distraught if things shouldn’t work out the first time.

    10. Know Your Values and Live By Them

    Do you know what you stand for? Knowing what your values are, and sharing those values with other people, is an underlying method to use to live with confidence. At any moment you can ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing/thinking in line with what I believe? How I want to behave?” Your values help you plot out what is most important in your life; things not on your value list can be easily deflected from awareness. Though this tip takes quite a bit of introspection, the greater your conviction in what your guiding principles are, the tougher your skin becomes to outside forces and opinions set to squash you under inadequacy. Know who you are, strive to be that person every day, and watch your confidence soar.

    11. Smile

    smile

      The simple smile has a wealth of research to back up its effectiveness as a confidence-boosting tool. People take more notice of you, and think more positively of you, when you smile. And since smiling in groups is “contagious,” each social encounter you enter with a smile increases your odds of feeling positive about yourself and your abilities. You feel emotionally and psychologically better after a good smile. Plus, laughter and smiling have health benefits—upticks of testosterone and lowered blood-pressure to name a few. Even “fake smiles” put us in a better frame of mind. Don’t underestimate the power that smiles have on your own sense of confidence and worth.

      12. Know What You Can/Cannot Control

      Not everything that happens to you is directly under your control. Pretending that external factors are all knowable, or that there is always something you can personally do to turn a situation around, can be self-destructive. Self-blame is a confidence killer, so it’s best to pay attention to and accept situations outside of your direct influence. The less guilt you feel about not reacting in such-and-such a way to a situation that’s indifferent to our actions, the more self-confident you’ll become. Know what’s under your responsibility and what is beyond your grasp. Your self-confidence will thank you later.

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      13. Try Mindfulness Exercises

      mindfulness

        It’s easy to let our insecurities wash over us. We only have so much attention to spend, and if we don’t spend it wisely—worrying about missed opportunities, blaming ourselves for not being “good enough”—we have nothing left to contribute toward positively increasing our confidence. Mindfulness is a hyper-focused mental state wherein you focus solely on the present moment. Practicing mindfulness techniques, even for as little as 10 minutes a day, is a way to safely confront lingering feelings of fear, doubt, or low self-worth. Through mindfulness exercises, you’ll learn how to gently allow these emotions and feelings to enter your awareness, and without judgement let them pass you by. You’ll also learn how not to get bogged down by the negative records that skip in your head, which clears your mental schedule for more important exercises—like building self-confidence!

        14. De-Stress

        A relaxed mind is a mind best armed to defend itself against the demons of thought that strip confidence of its wings. When you’re stressed, your inherent negativity bias is on overload. Things you used to do with confidence and ease suddenly turn into immovable objects. Stressed minds aren’t just pessimistic—they systematically peel back the layers of your self-worth and agency to do what you dream of doing. Regular de-stressing sessions are a must for anyone in need of a confidence boost. Your mind, body, and sense of confidence all work their best on foundations of unstressed belief.

        15. Work on Your Posture

        We’ve talked about Power Poses, but even something as rudimentary as your posture has a rippling effect on your self-confidence. Most people think their thoughts of confidence and worth come from inside their own minds; really, the way we carry ourselves (literally) informs our self-perceptions. When you pay attention to your standing and sitting postures, you tend to believe in your opinions more, whether positive or negative. Slouchers are indifferent about their opinions and beliefs, which is not a conducive attitude toward setting confidence goals. If you want to experience greater confidence in your own thoughts, simply adopt a confident can-do posture to create a mini-feedback loop of positivity.

        16. Find Your Confidence Idol

        We humans are visual creatures. When we watch someone perform in a way that speaks to us, we have the ability to not only learn from their examples, but actually behave like them and see how it feels. You may lack the confidence to follow through to their abilities now, but just as even fake smiles prime our minds for positivity, “faking” a higher form of confidence can seed the idea that, actually, yeah, I can do this! Look over the aspects of your life in which you’d like to be more confident, find a mentor or coach to model, and you’ll instill the small, powerful idea that someday you can do the same thing.

        17. Do What You Enjoy

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        fun

          This advice can seem pat or cliché, but when it comes to confidence, we all do our best and want to succeed at the thing we love most. Pursuing the things that inspire us leads us to meet like-minded people who encourage our development, keeps our minds goal-directed and excited to work, and gives us the exact right amount of success-to-challenge ratio researchers call “flow.” When we find our niches, we have ample opportunities to increase our self-confidence doing, discussing, and sharing the things that drive us wild.

          18. Have a Great Support Network

          Let’s face it: that confidence-building trail can seem long, arduous, and lonely. That’s why the greater your support network, the more likely you are to succeed in your goals. Find people who you feel comfortable sharing your journey of growth with. Ask them to help keep you accountable. Let them join you on some of your confidence-building exercises, and seek outside advice or join groups of people all trying to do the same thing. Connection is key to maintaining any gains in confidence.

          19. Get Creative

          The act of creation—whether writing a story, dancing the tango, playing the clarinet, or making epic meals—is the act of confidence. Despite the widespread stereotype that only “certain people” are creative, research shows that humans use creativity like a Swiss Army Knife. What’s more, gaining confidence in creative endeavours has the potential to spill confidence over into other areas of life. If you haven’t doodled in a while or tried to do a handstand since middle school, remember that achieving even a minor creative act can act as a catalyst, and give you confidence, to try other important things.

          20. Don’t Be Overconfident

          Oh, the irony! While many of these tips advocate “Fake It Till You Make It” behaviours, you should know that there is a cap to this mantra. In your quest to gain true confidence, remember that overconfidence can be your undoing. Overconfidence comes on the scene when we believe we have more accurate information about ourselves, other people, or the ability to do important things or make important decisions, than we really do. At some point—the point of no return—your overconfidence will unravel. You’ll start a negative spiral of shame, guilt, and doubt (justifiably so) that can then infect your mind, deterring you from ever trying to put the time and work into building confidence again. Don’t be an Achilles; use these confidence-boosting tips, as well as this handy infographic, to gain confidence the honest (and long-lasting) way.

          Photo credit: cyclist, smile, mindfulness, vegetables.

          Featured photo credit: www.myalexu.us via myalexu.us

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          Published on September 3, 2019

          How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain

          How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain

          What is knowledge? Does it have structure? And how do we acquire it?

          When seeking answers to questions like this, we must turn to the appropriate field of study. Here, we must turn to the branch of philosophy known as epistemology.

          Epistemology is defined as the study of the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief.[1] Epistemology deals with the production of knowledge.

          But what exactly brings about the production of knowledge? And what can we do to trigger cognitive learning to improve our knowledge leading to changes in our brain?

          The simple answer is that we must learn to think. But we can’t stop there. We must learn to think about our thinking. That’s when cognitive learning comes into place.

          Cognition (thinking) is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

          Metacognition (thinking about thinking) is awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.

          Constructing Knowledge

          In order to bring forth knowledge, we must learn to think. If we follow the advice of Derek and Laura Cabrera, we find that Information X Thinking = Knowledge.

          So, how do we construct knowledge? Let’s examine an analogy for knowledge construction offered by Steve Stockdale in Here’s Something About General Semantics: A Primer for Making Sense of Your World.[2] Stockdale compares the “Building Block” Analogy vs. the “Spiral” Analogy in knowledge construction:

            Building Blocks Analogy

            Stockdale posits,

            “Typically, we grow up with a view of learning using the building blocks analogy.”

            Here, we do the following:

            • We see things segregated and compartmentalized.
            • We learn our alphabet as a block of stacked letters.
            • We learn our numbers as a block of numbers.
            • We learn to spell by visualizing blocks of letters.

            Spiral Analogy

            Stockdale argues,

            “However, if we apply what we ‘know’ about what goes on around us, we can choose to use a more appropriate analogy: we tend to learn in more of a spiral pattern than simple building blocks.”

            Stockdale describes the spiral nature of learning as follows:

            • Just as the spiral expands from the center, our learning is continual and never-ending.
            • As we learn about one thing, we enable ourselves to learn more about something else, from a different perspective.
            • What we learn relates to what we’ve already learned, and what we’ve yet to learn, just as the spiral connects, or relates, one region to another.
            • The spiral more appropriately implies the continually-changing and more complex nature of ourselves and the world around us.

            Moreover, to further answer this question, and to deepen our understanding of the topic, we will examine the philosophy known as General Semantics. From there, we will learn how to eliminate confusion and barriers to learning.

            You might not agree with the philosophical beliefs of some of the philosophers, for which I am not asking you to become a follower of, but I am asking you to keep an open mind regarding the ideas discussed here (the ideas, not the person)

            As you learn more about the philosophy, pay attention to how your level of understanding deepens and expands. Your level of understanding on any topic progresses from an intuitive understanding, to a systematic level, then to a scholarly level of understanding.

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            In The Logical Structure of Objectivism (“Beta” Version) by William Thomas and David Kelley, we are provided with the following example of Levels of Understanding:[3]

            1. Intuitive – non-reflexive acceptance of a principle, based on the subconscious integration of a mass of accumulated information and experience.
              Example: Physics – common-sense experiences of gravity.
            2. Systematic – ability to formulate principles explicitly and relate them logically to other principles and data.
              Example: Ability to state the law of gravity and its relation to other laws.
            3. Scholarly – issues pertaining to the formulation and validation of the principles.
              Example: Physicist’s knowledge of gravitational theory.

            As you read, I encourage you to think about your level of understanding as you learn more about a concept. You will find that as you learn more, you will increase both your breadth and depth on any concept.

            Learning the Whole Picture

            “A person does what he does because he sees the world as he sees it.” – Alfred Korzybiski

            When an event happens, what portions of reality do we select to attend to and what portions do we leave out? Is it possible that we might miss certain things by simply attempting to label and explain them?

            The answer is yes and General Semantics was developed to help us answer this question.

            Alfred Korzybiski developed the theory of time-binding, which later evolved into General Semantics as scientific orientation toward language behavior. Bruce and Susan Kodish define it as a,

            “General theory of evaluation. One that is concerned with understanding how we evaluate, with the non-verbal, inner life of each individual, with how each of us experiences and makes sense of our experiences, including how we use language and how language ‘uses’ us.”

            In Here’s Something About General Semantics: A Primer for Making Sense of Your World, Steve Stockdale defines it as,

            “General Semantics deals with the process of how we perceive, construct, evaluate, and respond to our life experiences. Our language-behaviors represent one aspect of these responses.”

            General Semantics is a self-improvement program created by Korzybski in the 1920s that sought to understand and regulate human mental models and behaviors. It was officially launched as General Semantics in 1933 after Korzybski published Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.

            To understand General Semantics at a deeper level, we need to possess an understanding of the map-territory analogy and the abstraction process.

            The Map is Not the Territory

            Mary P. Lahman provides the following premises for General Semantics in Awareness and Action: A General Semantics Approach to Effective Language Behavior:[4]

            1. The map is not the “territory,” so there is no not territory.
            2. A map covers not all the territory, so any map is only part of the territory.
            3. Maps refer to parts of the territory becoming reflexive to other parts at different levels of abstraction.

              To understand this map-territory analogy, let’s first examine how the words “map” and “territory” are being used.

              • Map = Language
              • Territory = Reality

              Korzybski proposed a map-territory analogy to encourage exploration of verbal maps (language or words), noting that they (maps) do not accurately describe what is happening in the territory (reality). Korzybski found that when the territory (reality) changes, we must update our maps (language).

              Stockdale argues that,

              “Just as a well-drawn map depicts, represents, illustrates, symbolizes, etc., an actual geographic area, so should our language properly reflect that which it refers to – that which is NOT language. However, we often confuse the words we use with those ‘things’ the words refer to. We confuse the word with the thing; we mistake the map as the territory.”

              Process of Abstraction

              Let’s try a quick thought experiment to demonstrate this point. In Awareness and Action: A General Semantics Approach to Effective Language Behavior, Mary P. Lahman asks us to do the following:

              • Close your eyes to help you experience a world without words.
              • What are you doing right now? As you hear these words let yourself become aware of how you are sitting or lying down or standing.
              • How can you allow yourself to feel the support of what holds you up?
              • Where do you feel unnecessary tensions? Do you feel tension in your jaw? In your face?
              • Where do you feel ease? How clearly do you feel yourself breathing?

              Lahman states that, “Many events are occurring inside and outside your skin right now.” She asks, “Can you allow yourself non-verbally to experience these activities?” She found, along with practitioners of General Semantics, that the answer is no. By attempting to label and explain things, we simply leave out information.

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              Alfred Korzybski found that we leave out information through the process of abstracting. He developed a model called the Structural Differential as a means to visualize this process. Let’s briefly examine this model.

              Abstracting or the process of abstraction is typically defined as the process of concept formation and the recognition of common features. In philosophy, you typically find abstraction and concretization, where we classify a concept by distinct categories and referents.

              For example, you could classify living organisms and then further breakdown the concept to rational thinking and non-rational thinking to differentiate a human from an animal. If you were to classify dogs, you could use referents to make an even more concrete distinction by listing different types of dogs, or different colors of dogs, etc.

                Korzybski took a slightly different approach to abstracting with his creation of General Semantics and the Structural Differential. According to experts at ThisIsNotThat.com, Korzybski originally developed this as a three-dimensional (free-standing) model, where you imagine a colander (or a strainer) in place of the ragged parabola in the actual model.

                They posit in Explaining the Structural Differential, that we move from an event (something happens), to object (I partially sense what happens), to description (I describe what I sense), to inference (I make meanings, inferences, beliefs, theories, etc.).[5]

                Turning Imagination into Reality

                “We don’t get meaning, we respond with meaning.” – Charles Sanders Peirce

                Let’s examine a practical example of the abstraction process and the Structural Differential. An idea took root in the back of my mind after watching a TED Talk – Turning children’s imagination into reality. Artist and designer Dominic Wilcox explained his mission: to inspire the world’s children to become the creative thinkers of our future by connecting their amazing ideas with skilled makers.

                Here’s the TED Talk video:

                Children are the most creative people in the world. They possess the unique ability to think to the furthest reaches of their imagination. Whereas adults have a barrier to creativity, children do not.

                I followed Dominic’s advice and asked,

                “What if I take my daughter’s wild imagination seriously?”

                This question brought about something truly creative and imaginative.

                One day, while I was working in my basement, my four-year-old daughter, Ella Schwandt, created a story on my whiteboard. With Dominic’s idea firmly planted in the back of my mind, I asked my daughter to explain her story to me.

                A couple weeks went by. My daughter was outside playing with chalk on our driveway. I asked her to recall the story she drew on my whiteboard. I then drew six boxes in the form of a storyboard and had her go through the story again, yet this time we simplified it.

                This ultimately led to a self-published children’s book authored by my daughter – Ella Katherine Schwandt. I identified myself as the translator and my wife, Tomi Schwandt, as the editor. We were able to bring my daughter’s vivid imagination into reality. And this is the book published on July 15, 2019: Charlotte Emmy & The Rainbow Dimension: A book by a four-year-old girl!

                What was fascinating to witness was watching my daughter go through the process of abstraction, where she was able to describe her ideas from something extremely abstract to something more concrete. Essentially, she was able to place her wild imagination into this world. And she’s four!

                Recall the discussion of the Structural Differential. The closer to the top (event level – shape of a parabola) the more abstract, where the closer to the bottom, ideas and concepts become more concrete.

                For example, my daughter held abstract ideas in her head about rainbows and different characters. By drawing the images, she took those ideas (not all) and abstracted them. She then described the images and applied meaning to them.

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                  Lahman found that,

                  “Language shapes the questions that we ask, which then affects what we observe, and, consequently, how we report findings.”

                  Thus, my daughter’s map, or her view of reality, is not true reality. It’s a mental model (a continuously evolving mental model) overlaid over the territory (reality). Whereas, as a child, my mental model would have overlaid the same territory, but my map would have been completely different.

                  Let’s take a loot at how my daughter moved through the process of abstraction to create her story:

                    1. Event (Reality): My daughter starts to form ideas based on her map (language) of the territory (reality).
                    2. Object (Senses): She starts connecting dots (or strings); however, it is impossible to connect everything, so certain things were left out. She was able to use her senses to start capturing some of the ideas.
                    3. Description (Verbal Awareness): She verbally describes her story for the first time. This is the difficult part. Imagine you are asked to close your eyes and describe what is going through your mind at that moment. It is difficult and things will get left out. However, this is where my daughter described her abstract characters and creations, such as Charlotte Emmy, a ham-et (vehicle for riding rainbows) and Hanny P’Tanny (location within the Rainbow Dimension).
                    4. Infer (Generate Meaning): She started to generate meaning for each creation after describing them. For example, the character, Charlotte Emmy, is on a journey to find her fifth birthday present (my daughter loves her birthday!) Along the journey, she finds a fat and soft house where you are both inside and outside at the same time. She then explains that her birthday present is inside a box, which is also inside a cloud. Inside the box is her thoughts, emotions, and feelings. She even described her thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

                    Using Science as a Method

                    “Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.” – Wendell Johnson

                    One of the more controversial figures in recent times, L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Dianetics and Scientology, was familiar with Korzybiski’s work. In Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright discussed how Hubbard used Korzybski’s work as he saw the need for creating a special vocabulary. Wright remarked,

                    “Hubbard saw the need for creating a special vocabulary, which would allow him to define old thoughts in new ways (the soul becomes a thetan, for instance).”

                    Another example of this is Hubbard’s creation of a clear, which is defined in Scientology as the name or a state achieved through auditing and describes a being who no longer has his or her own reactive mind. Or as Andrew O’Hehir remarked when comparing the smart drug movie Limitless to a clear, “It’s like Scientology in a pharmaceutical form.”

                    Just to be clear (pun intended), I am not a Scientologist, nor am I asking you to become a believer in Scientology. However, I am asking you to keep an open mind as the following ideas for eliminating confusion and barriers to learning are extremely valuable.

                    Confusion and Stable Datum

                    “Confusion is the basic cause of stupidity.” – L. Ron Hubbard

                    In Tools for the Workplace, based on the works of Hubbard, confusion is defined as any set of factors or circumstances which do not seem to have any immediate solution. It is more broadly defined as random motion.

                    Furthermore, a datum can be defined as a piece of knowledge or something know (plural is data). Hubbard provides the following example,

                    “If you were to stand in heavy traffic, you would be likely to feel confused by all the motion whizzing around you. If you were to stand in a heavy storm, with leaves and papers flying by, you would be likely to be confused.”

                    Hubbard posited that we can understand confusion, but we must first understand its anatomy. He remarked,

                    “a confusion is only a confusion so long as all particles are in motion. A confusion is only a confusion so long as no factor is clearly defined or understood.”

                    Let’s examine one more example of the stable datum (it is not linked to Hubbard, nor Scientology). Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling write about this idea using an air traffic controller as an example in The 4 Disciplines of Execution,

                    “Right now more than a hundred airplanes might be approaching, taking off, or taxiing around, and all of them are very important, especially if you happen to be on one of them. But for the Air Traffic Controller, only one airplane is important right now – the one that’s landing at this moment. The Controller is aware of all the other planes on the radar. She is keeping track of them, but right now all her talent and expertise is solely focused on one flight. If she doesn’t get that flight on the ground safely and with total excellence, then nothing else she might achieve is really going to matter much.” 

                    How to Apply the Idea of a Stable Datum

                    Jim Westergren answers this in Theory on How to Become a Genius.[6] Westergren posits,

                    “For a person to become more smart he has to recognize which data are of value for him. What is valuable for him also depends on what his purpose is. He has to develop a skill to see which data are important for him in the ocean of data that he is operating in.”

                    Westergren provides an example, similar to the abstraction process mentioned earlier, where we can view data in four specific fields.

                    • Field 1 – Vital Data. Data in the field of true philosophy. Covers such things as understanding of life and how it operates, reason for existence, Metaphysics, etc. In short – the greatest truths.
                    • Field 2 – Valuable Data. Data concerning how to do things and which helps you in your life. Data which help you understand things and how it works.
                    • Field 3 – Useless Data. Data that does not help you and has no value. Most data from TV, newspapers, school education and talking between people unfortunately falls under this field.
                    • Field 4 – Destructive Data. False data, data which makes you unhappy, data intended to bring about destruction. Unfortunately more than you believe.

                    Overcoming Barriers to Learning

                    “Trying to live in a high-speed world with low-speed people is not very safe.” – L. Ron Hubbard

                    Based on the works of Hubbard, in The Technology of Study, we are provided with three barriers to learning. Here are my interpretation of the three, along with an example and practical application.

                    1. Absence of Mass: Theory + Application = Practical Knowledge

                    Example:

                    Flying an airplane. If you were to study an airplane, you could read about it in textbooks. You could read how to operate it, learn about its controls, and read about how to fly an airplane. But you would have to actually fly an airplane to learn how to fly an airplane.

                    Practical Application:

                    Hubbard stated, “There is a rule which goes if you cannot demonstrate something in two dimensions, you have it wrong.” Outside of putting hands on the actual thing, sketch a two-dimensional representation of it and all its parts.

                    2. Too Steep a Gradient: Process Knowledge

                    Example:

                    Learning to read. You can’t learn to read without first knowing the alphabet, then the formation of words, then the formation of sentences followed by paragraphs, etc. We must understand the process of a task prior to successfully completing a task.

                    Practical Application:

                    Do a process map of the task you are confused on. Then pinpoint where you became confused in the process. From there go back and relearn the previous steps.

                    3. Misunderstood Word: Sense-Making (Meaning-Making)

                    Example:

                    We have all had the experience of reading a book only to finish the book without knowing what we have actually read. The confusion was our inability to grasp something after we came across a confusing word.

                    Practical Application:

                    Every time you read something (a book, magazine, blog, etc.) and you come across a word you don’t know or fully understand, take the time to look up the definition and application of the word. If you find yourself reading and you have no idea what you are reading, start over and pinpoint where the confusion began. Lookup that word, apply it in a different context, then go back to your reading.

                    The Bottom Line

                    Attaining cognitive learning benefits is like storing information on a computer’s hard drive (your brain). Then, improving the brain’s ability to provide quick access to the information stored on it. The hard drive stores the information, but to connect and speed up your processing power, you need to insert thinking. Thus, Information X Thinking = Knowledge.

                    By understanding how you think and learn, you can improve your level of understanding on any concept. This includes an understanding of the abstraction process, the elimination of confusion and eliminating barriers to learning.

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                    Just as you should not use a map from 1940 to navigate across a country – you should not use a dated mental map to improve your learning capacity. You must possess a more accurate map of the territory to navigate successfully.

                    Featured photo credit: J. Kelly Brito via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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