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How to Give Instructions

How to Give Instructions

There’s a common story in America about a hapless tourist asking a Maine farmer for directions. After thinking a moment, the farmer rattles off a lengthy lists of directions along the lines of “…take the old side road up a ways past the Anderson’s farm and turn left when you see Smithy’s cow. After a while you’ll come to a broke-down truck, turn right and cut across the Kingses’ back lot to…”. Inevitably, though, the farmer winds up concluding “but you can’t get there from here!”

Much of our daily communications consists of giving instructions, whether helping friends find our new house or office or writing a manual for a new product or helping a jury decide the guilt or innocence of the accused. The popularity of blog posts (like this one) with titles that tell you “how to” do something, and even whole sites like Instructables.com and WikiHow.com, suggests the importance of good, clear instructions.

And yet, so many of the instructions we get are so bad. Electronics come with poorly translated manuals that are often more humorous than useful; software comes with thick manuals that sit, unopened, beside our computers for years; we finish assembling our flat-pack furniture with a handful of extra parts and doors that don’t close right; and so on.

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Giving good instructions, whether written or spoken, requires a certain kind of mindset, one that few of us can hold onto for very long. It is hard to put ourselves in the place of a person who doesn’t know how to do something — especially when we can do it so easily and with little, if any, thought. The Yankee farmer in the old story above gives great instructions — for himself. For the tourist, though, the instructions are meaningless — they depend too strongly on local knowledge that the outsider would have no way of knowing. He truly “can’t get there from here”, not without the local’s specialized understanding.

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In his book Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Learning to Give, Take, and Use Instructions, Richard Saul Wurman outlines a simple set of conditions that a good set of instructions must meet (no matter how complex the desired outcome is). In order to be effective, a good set of instructions must provide information about six things:

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  • Mission: What do the instructions show me how to do?
  • Destination: What will I see, hear, experience when I’ve followed the instructions?
  • Procedure: What are the exact steps I need to follow to reach the destination and accomplish the mission? What tools and equipments will I need? What special information do I need to finish?
  • Time: How lon
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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

How to Think Positive Thoughts When Feeling Negative

How to Think Positive Thoughts When Feeling Negative

Positive thinking can lead to a lot of positive change in your life. Developing an optimistic outlook can be good for both your physical and mental health.

But sometimes, certain situations arise in life that makes it hard to keep a positive outlook. Take steps to make positive thinking become more like your second nature and you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

Here are 10 ways to make thinking positive thoughts easy:

1. Spend Time with Positive People

If you surround yourself with constant complainers, their negativity is likely to rub off on you.

Spend time with positive friends and family members to increase the likelihood that their positive thinking habits will become yours too. It’s hard to be negative when everyone around you is so positive.

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Learn How to Surround Yourself With Positive People.

2. Take Responsibility for Your Behavior

When you encounter problems and difficulties in life, don’t play the role of the victim. Acknowledge your role in the situation and take responsibility for your behavior.

Accepting responsibility can help you learn from mistakes and prevent you from blaming others unfairly.

3. Contribute to the Community

One of the best ways to feel good about what you have, is to focus on what you have to give.

Volunteer in some manner and give back to the community. Helping others can give you a new outlook on the world and can assist you with positive thinking.

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4. Read Positive and Inspirational Materials

Spend time each day reading something that encourages positive thinking. Read the Bible, spiritual material, or inspirational quotes to help you focus on what’s important to you in life. It can be a great way to start and end your day.

Some recommendations for you:

5. Recognize and Replace Negative Thoughts

You won’t be successful at positive thinking if you’re still plagued by frequent negative thoughts. Learn to recognize and replace thoughts that are overly negative. Often, thoughts that include words like “always” and “never” signal that they aren’t true.

If you find yourself thinking something such as, “I always mess everything up,” replace it with something more realistic such as, “Sometimes I make mistakes but I learn from them.”

There’s no need to make your thoughts unrealistically positive, but instead, make them more realistic.

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6. Establish and Work Toward Goals

It’s easier to be positive about problems and setbacks when you have goals that you’re working toward. Goals will give you motivation to overcome those obstacles when you encounter problems along the way. Without clear goals, it’s harder to make decisions and gauge your progress.

Learn to set SMART goals to help you achieve more.

7. Consider the Consequences of Negativity

Spend some time thinking about the consequences of negative thinking. Often, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, a person who thinks, “I probably won’t get this job interview,” may put less effort into the interview. As a result, he may decrease his chances of getting the job.

Create a list of all the ways negative thinking impacts your life. It likely influences your behavior, your relationships, and your feelings. Then, create a list of the ways in which positive thinking could be beneficial.

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8. Offer Compliments to Others

Look for reasons to compliment others. Be genuine in your praise and compliments, but offer it frequently. This will help you look for the good in other people.

9. Create a Daily Gratitude List

If you start keeping a daily gratitude list, you’ll start noticing exactly how much you have to be thankful for. This can help you focus on the positive in your life instead of thinking about all the bad things that have happened in the day.

Getting in the habit of showing an attitude of gratitude makes positive thinking more of a habit. Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

10. Practice Self-Care

Take good care of yourself and you’ll be more equipped to think positively.

Get plenty of rest and exercise and practice managing your stress well. Taking care of your physical and mental health will provide you with more energy to focus on positive thinking.

Learn about these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

More Tips for Staying Positive

Featured photo credit: DESIGNECOLOGIST via unsplash.com

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