Learning Archives

Wealth creation

Photo courtesy Jan available on Flickr.

Getting rich or wealthy is a dream of many.
You would like that too, wouldn’t you?

Let us begin with the four pillars of wealth creation.

According to a dictionary, wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. Interestingly enough, we often think of wealth in terms of accumulated money or possessions. We forget that wealth is so much more than money.

In short,

Wealth creation is about habits, practices and systems that provide you with the abundance of resources. Of various kinds.

This can only be achieved and maintained through conscious thinking and actions.

Rich vs wealthy

Let me first clarify the difference I perceive between “rich” and “wealthy”. Even though they may be considered as synonyms, their meanings are different in the practical use of the English language.

Richness is about a series of events in which we earn money or receive money. We may think of a well-paid job (but not necessarily secure), investments, inherited money or lottery wins. When we hear “rich”, we think of “being rich” or, more frequently, we think of “getting rich”. Ideally, fast 😉 The later expression describes external events that help us to earn or receive money, or collect valuable resources.

Wealth is about a process in which we create and deliver value, maintain the resources we have and accumulate new ones. When we hear “wealth” we think of “creating wealth” or “maintaining wealth” which are about long term approaches that involve a personal change.

In my opinion, “rich” is to “wealthy” as external circumstances that force you or help you to grow are to a self-inspired personal transformation. The difference lies in the details: the level of consciousness, value creation, independent thinking, self-discipline and the set-up of right systems.

Wealth creation

We are now at the core message here. There are four pillars of wealth creation. These are:
– Health
– Education
– Relationships
– Assets

Your health is your wealth

As you know it is hard to fully enjoy life when health is poor.  There are multiple limitations you will need to deal with, including low energy levels, possibilities for taking action and perhaps even the level of independence. Surely, you can achieve great things in any situation, but only when you take sufficient care of yourself first. When your health is compromised, you will spend lots of effort, time, money and energy to get yourself back on track.

Choose to become responsible for your health now. It may take some time before you get well, perhaps even years, but it is worth it. Even if you cannot become perfectly healthy, you can still create habits that support you in the optimal functioning on daily basis. Decide to take health as a life-time project and you will discover what serves you and what depletes you. In addition, you will learn to optimize both (maximize the former and minimize the latter).

Improvements will not likely happen overnight but they will come if you persist. Educate yourself on eating well, healing with whole foods, exercise, release of emotions (such as grudges, disappointments or anger), life in kindness and gratitude, meditation, prayer and rest. It is simpler than it sounds.

The challenge is that nobody can tell you what is right for you. There are theories, practices and guidance available. But there is a lot of confusion even with respect to the basic things: how to eat well or how to exercise well.

For any diet or recommendation you will easily find a diet with the opposite ones. E.g. raw food diet vs all-cooked diet, high-protein diet vs low-protein diet, eating small meals frequently vs fast-5 diet (eating only within five consecutive hours and fasting the remaining 19h – imagine that!), whole-grain based diet vs no-grain diet.

Obviously, the same holds for the exercising plan.

Finding meaning in chaos

How can you find out what makes sense?

I think that the first step is to learn about yourself. It can only happen through self-reflection and paying attention how particular food (or exercise) effects you during a day. Example questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you usually warm or cold? (too warm? too cold?)

If you are too warm you may need to eat more raw vegetables. If you are too cold, you may need to eat more cooked and spicy food.

  • What is your tendency under stress: anxiety or depression?

Anxiety is about confusion and expansion so you may need to eat food that encourages contraction such as naturally salty food (e.g fish) or drink herbal teas such as peppermint tea. Depression is about contraction, so you may need to eat food that nourishes and support expansion such as sweet root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, swede, sweet potatoes, pepper), lamb, lettuce or drink liquorice tea.

  • How do you feel satisfied after a protein-rich meal? Energetic or sleepy? Hungry soon after or heavy stomach? How do you feel after a carb-rich meal? Energetic or sleepy?

Depending on the action of protein and carbs on your body you need to find the optimal ratio. Warm people are often slow metabolizers, so it is the best to include more carb-rich food in their diets. Cold people are usually fast metabolizers and it is best to include more protein-rich food in their diets.

  • Which cravings or additions do you follow? Caffeine? Sugar or sweets? Energy drinks? Salty food?
  • What climate do you live in?

Hot climates will need more cooling foods, eating in their raw forms. Cold climates will need more cooked foods (such as soups or stews) to warm up the body.

  • What type of food depletes your energy soon after the meal?
  • What type of food make you feel energized hours after the meal?

Pay attention to what you eat and how it effects you. Health is a complex project and only through self-education, experimenting, reflection and observation you can determine what is best for you.

Why is health so important?

I believe that taking care of your physical, emotional and mental health is the first step to wealth creation. Why? Because your creative power, clear mind and good performance depend on your being well both in the mind and in the body.

More importantly, in the process of learning how to optimize and maintain your health you will learn how to deal with confusing information, cut through chaos, find meaningful suggestions, experiment and test various approaches. This is all done in order to set up habits and systems that promote your well-being. It is not an easy process, but possible!

Having learned how to take care of your health will teach you skills that can easily be transferred to creating abundance in your life. In the end, the maintenance of your health is about the right habits and approaches to which you stick daily.  It will prepare you to handle similar challenges, but now with respect to independent thinking, saving, investing and business.

Eating well

I think that eating well is very important. What “well” means, however, depends on a person. One person’s healing food may be a poison to another. And I mean it.

I don’t advocate any particular diet because I don’t follow any to the letter. Moreover, it is a personal choice. I eat meat, even though I experimented with the vegetarian and vegan diets in the past. I drink green smoothie every day, self-made juices a few times a month and protein drinks most of the days.

I was very enthusiastic about the raw food diet and experimented with it for a few months, but I ultimately decided against it. Not because the diet is bad, but because it is not optimal for me. In the cold / rainy climate, where I live,  I feel more nourished by warm, cooked meals than by raw meals. As I also long for leafy greens and vegetables, I eat both raw food and cooked meals.

When I cook I often follow the ideas from the traditional Polish cooking modified by the principles of the Paleo diet or the five element theory from the traditional Chinese medicine. I also use fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles) in the kitchen and lots of herbs, where turmeric, wild thyme, ginger, basil, marjoram, cumin, cloves and black pepper and chilli are my beloved standard. They are pretty healthy, by the way.

Books

There are a few books that are thought provoking. Please don’t take them as dogmas even though the authors have strong opinions. Avoid to be biased in thinking by beliefs of the authorities or gurus. take what speaks to you and adopt the ideas to your personal circumstances.

Traditional foods

Five elements cooking / whole foods

Paleo diet

Green smoothie and high raw diet

Health is your first foundation towards the wealth creation. Please treat it with respect.

Your education is your wealth

I understand education broadly as an inspired learning, not necessarily bound to particular diplomas or titles, schools or universities. All education is self-education as you will ultimately learn things by yourself. The help of mentors, teachers or masters will usually speed up the learning process or allow you to better understand the foundations. Mentors are not necessary though. Schools or universities provide teaching systems which will serve some but may be too limited for others.

The truth is that you can learn new things all the time by studying books, online learning, following courses, learning from a mastermind group or a mentor, training at university, and so on. And there is plenty available for free. Just look around!

You can also learn through observation, experimenting, reflections and discussions with others. There are many ways to enquire knowledge and put it to test. And yes, testing it is necessary to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.

My experience is that new skills and new techniques add to your repertoire of life experience. A new skill creates new neuron connections in the brain. As a result, there are more paths for information processing. And you would rather choose to have your brain full of connections than empty, wouldn’t you?

Your intelligence depends on the recognition of patterns, observing the difference and connecting seemingly unrelated ideas. The more connections in your brain, the higher your intelligence. The more you know and can, the more interesting your life becomes.

Skills developed in one area can often be transferred (after some modification, obviously) to another area. This is a common phenomenon in science when new inspiration and creative solutions arise from the marriage of particular ideas in e.g. computer science and physics, neurology and computer science, organic chemistry and math and so on. But the same applies to our lives too.

Your knowledge on nutrition and cooking skills can help you to organize your clutter-free life. Your organization skills can help you to become a good teacher. Your talents with kids can help you to become an artist. Your musical trainings can help you become a good scientist. Your engineering skills can help you become a great climber. And so on.

Your knowledge and your skills are your valuable resources, your second pillar to wealth creation.

Always look for learning something new – there is no better way for increasing intelligence. Moreover, learning is fun.

Your relationships are your wealth

It’s hard to exist alone. It is certainly possible and even greatly serves a few individuals, but without community we lack both reference for our growth and a place where we belong. Relations create a context and a domain of knowledge. It is a matrix where we live in. They reflect to us who we are and help us develop. They also pose challenges, which we understand here as possibilities for growth.

Most importantly, relationships allow us to receive love and to give love to others and live in a flow. This is the optimal state of being in which we feel deeply alive. We keep balancing between the polarities of similarity and difference, independence and interdependence, giving and receiving, sorrow and joy. Without relationships we loose the meaning of life.

It is the quality and depth of relations that matter most, not the quantity. We long for meaningful connections with others, for the recognition of ourselves and own vulnerabilities in others. We are tired of surface courtesies and polite talk for the sake of keeping manners.

If this is true for you, start to meet people where they are – in their weak spots and in their achievements. Seek to understand first, listen actively and develop empathy. Cherish their achievements. Be kind. Volunteer to help. Spread love. And your life will become meaningful.

Seek to connect with inspiring and positive people and cut off draining relations. Find good teachers. Make friends with people who already have the skills you want to develop. Because it matters.

Recognize you are not alone. Your wealth lies in the matrix of people who are supportive of you. Appreciate that.

Your assets are your wealth

Assets as possessions are the usual ingredient of wealth. But there is some confusion about assets and liabilities. For instance a house or a car are usually considered as assets, definitely on the balance sheets. They are not necessarily so.

Let’s keep things simple. Assets are possessions or resources which bring us money. Liabilities are possessions which cost us money.

A house you bought with a 20-year mortgage is not your asset. It is your liability. First of all, you don’t own it. Secondly, you have to make repairs or investments as things worn out. The house costs you money. Even if you pay the mortgage, there are still taxes and maintenance costs – the house does not bring you income (until you sell it, obviously).

On the other hand, a house becomes an asset when you rent it and the monthly payments cover the necessary investments (and mortgage if there is one) and leave you some money on the top.

Clearly, a car is a liability. Its value deteriorates quickly with time and there are high maintenance costs. For this reason the best advice is to drive 2nd hand cars, and, ideally until the end. A piece of land that you own and lease to a farming business is an asset.

Saving accounts look like an asset because you seem to earn some money by interest. However, many banks do not keep up with the rate of inflation. For instance a bank may offer 1% interest while the inflation rate is 5%. Consequently, by keeping money on your account you basically loose money. Isn’t that ironical?  It is usually much more profitable to invest the money wisely in a business or to buy gold or silver.

Please educate yourself on the subject of finances. Ramit Sethi, who also published the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich, is an example to learn from.

The biggest asset for wealth creation

It is you.

Yes, it is you.

Surprised?

It is who you are and whom you are becoming.
It is your being: your vision, your purpose and your integrity.
It is your doing: your traits, your skills and your actions.

Finally

Wealth creation is like farming. Improve your soil first (health and assets) so that you can plant quality seeds (education), support their growth (education and relationships) and collect your abundant crops. It is possible.

***

It has been a year since I started blogging, so it is a good moment to cherish my first year online. I say to myself “Congratulations, Ela! You have made it.” There are many who give up blogging after a few months.

Even though it was hard to continue, I did not have the idea to give up. Why? First, because I have cultivated a vision bigger than myself and, secondly, because I have been stubborn to stick to the ideas and make them work.

So, the moral is this: A powerful vision helps you to go through difficulties.

It was a year of profound learning about blogging and entrepreneurship. I truly enjoyed it. I have spent lots of time on reading, watching videos, experimenting and testing the tips and ideas. I have also read blogs of other successful bloggers and watched their undertakings.  It was a hard work behind the scenes, but I am happy with the little results I had. And I am ready to learn much more.

So, the moral is this: Appreciating of whom you have become opens you for learning and change.

The first decision I made about blogging was to write long or/and meaningful posts instead of the suggested short ones (300-400 words). Obviously, I can only do it once or twice a week because writing such posts takes a lot of dedicated effort.

Such an approach is actually against the advised strategy of posting frequency which is 3 x a week, and ideally, (multiple times) every day. My goal, however, is to write meaningful posts and quality articles for conscious people and not for web crawlers (although they need to be taken into the account as well). I want to write in order to help myself and others grow, hence I will continue with this practice.

So, the moral is this: Follow your heart desire but account for other factors as well.

Learnt from blogging

If you are curious what I have learnt from the blogging journey, here are some points.

1. Blogging is a great tool for personal growth.

Why?

Because of the commitment you make with yourself to write and deliver. Writing is about thinking, planning, discipline and action. Delivery depends on learning everything behind the scenes and producing the results.

2. Blogging is an art.

Why?

Because it involves the skills of mastery. And we talk about a few skills at least. Apart from the obvious crafting with words and inspirational writing, there is much more about the presentation, touch and feel, choice of keywords or long-tail keywords, selection of images, SEO (search engine optimization) and so on.

Words can hurt, discourage and kill the spirit. But words can also give hope, encourage and inspire for change. The right use is what makes a difference. The inspirational or action-provoking writing is what makes it art.

3. Content is the king, but marketing is the queen. And they are happy together 🙂

Why?

Because even the best ideas and practices are useless if nobody learns about them and practises them.

4. Writing is a real work.

It may not  feel like that to an outsider. But writing is an act of creation. This creation is a product such as a post, an article or a book.

Writing original posts takes a lot of time.

Why?

Because of the process that is necessary for the development of the ideas. It is an enjoyable process but it takes time. It takes lots of thinking. It takes lots of writing. And it takes lots of editing.

The hard part is to prune the tree of all ideas, half-baked ideas or weak ideas, and stories into a single seed of inspiration. This seed is then planted on various soils of experiences where creativity is called to work. Then multiple views are inspected and some of them are combined into a particular view. Finally, a (more or less) coherent story is created.

Any post you read in 2-5min often takes days of thinking and hours of writing. Perhaps it gets faster with experience. And speed typing 😉

Writing quality posts is a good exercise for personal growth.

Why?

Because you need to collect own ideas and experiences, reflect on them and organize them in a new, creative way. By doing so you will see new patterns that will help you to develop a deeper understanding. And such an understanding will ultimately lead to a new testing.

Writing valuable posts is hard.

Why?

Because the judgement is in the eye of the reader.Even if I write about the ideas that have been tested by me and others, there is no guarantee your will find them inspirational or useful.

5. It is busier behind the scenes.

Why?

Because blogging is also about maintaining the chosen content management system (such as WordPress or Drupal) and self-promotion. The first includes updating content, formatting text, improving articles and correction errors, plugins, backups and so on. The latter includes research behind the keyword selection, creating inner links, taking care of back-links, working on SEO and so on.

For every post, there is on average 2-3h of additional work, not even mentioning the beautifying of the theme, installation of new plugins, updates and many other tasks. There are many hours of work behind many successful blogs. Something that I have not realized before.

6. Generating traffic (=getting readers) is hard.

Why?

There are two reasons. First, because there is a lot of confusion how the organic search works. Google and other search engines change their algorithms all the time. There are numerous strategies and approaches suggested and it is extremely difficult to choose the good ones. Why? Because you need to follow them for a few months to judge the results. Multiple strategies are used at the same time, some perhaps counter-effect each other, so it is usually difficult to point which approach made the greatest difference. Many bring little results.

Secondly, self-promotion is necessary in one form or the other. And it is not easy to act upon this.

7. Spam is there. Deal with it.

Why?

Because clutter is an inherent challenge in life.

In the beginning there was virtually no spam. I started to get spam messages or comments after the first two months. Until the end of January, I have looked at every single message marked as spam by my spam detector. It grew from 30-50 spam messages a week to 50-100 a day. So I stopped this practice.

For the last few weeks I have been under attack, it seems, and I may close the Comments sections. I now receive about 2000-3000 spam messages daily. In addition, about 20000 -25000 (yes, 20 thousands) messages are blocked from considering it even a spam.

It took me quite some hours to find a proper detector and deal with the spam in my mailboxes. Yet, I take the challenge with a smile. Clutter is something we need to learn to deal with.

8. Vision is the key.

Why?

Because without vision I would not have made through the first year.

I received very little feedback about the value of my efforts – only a few people expressed their opinions. I got more criticism than applaud, I must say, but I don’t mind criticism at all. Still, I prefer to learn what works than what doesn’t.

And, by the way, if you find some articles valuable I will appreciate if you let me know what was particularly useful. Many thanks!

Growing the seeds

This year is essential for growing the seeds I have planted so far. I want to see them grow beautifully so that they can provide great value and help both me and you to change. My goal is to create a platform for personal growth: practical tools and systems, learnings and courses, people and experiences. I want to create my own valuable products.

I hope you will stick around.

And if you want to start blogging, but are hesitative, I want to encourage you to go for it. You will experience an enormous growth. No doubt about it.

Best wishes,

Ela

***

Coaching is a practice of conscious development

Coaching is about paying attention.
Coaching is about acceptance.
Coaching is about asking questions.
Coaching is about listening.
Coaching is about learning.
Coaching is about rising your consciousness.
Coaching is about the right actions at the right time.

In the traditional view, coaching is about setting goals and taking actions to achieve them. Coaching is also focussed on solutions, instead of what is not working.

While this is true, it is only a partial truth.

Why?

Because coaching is much more than that.

Coaching is about powerful transformations. And you can make them happen either with or without goals. Goals are helpful but not necessary.

Coaching is about asking powerful questions

It starts with the most important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • How do you feel in this moment?
  • What do you notice about yourself and your feelings?
  • What makes you joy?
  • Whom do you want to become?
  • What are your deepest desires?
  • What do you want to achieve in the coming five years?

But it doesn’t stop there. Coaching always wants you to go through a process of learning: observation, thinking, feeling, action, reflection and change. Coaching encourages you to go for a direct experience because coaching asks for a balance between action and thought.

Coaching is a process

Oftentimes, coaching or self-coaching is presented as a bag of tools and techniques that once implemented will lead you to a particular result. This is a partial truth, again. The tools work when short-term efforts are required for achieving specific goals or challenges, but they fail when a transformation or change is necessary on multiple levels.

Why?

Because general tools are insufficient. There is much more happening beyond the surface of You (and who You are) that needs addressing before a real transformation may happen. Be it fears, guilt, lack of motivation, values or limiting beliefs. Only specific, person-tailored or situation-tailored exercises and practices can help with that.

True coaching goes hand in hand with the process of change, encouraging you to dig deeper, ask better questions, find better answers, act on them and learn.

Willing to change

Coaching only makes sense if you really want to change and are willing to transform. Without that, coaching can only lead you through avenues of frustrations.

You can easily understand that by watching coaches of the famous athletes.These sportsmen really want to achieve a particular result. They don’t lack the motivation in a big frame although they may lack it on a particular cold and wet morning. Coaches are their ultimate supporters, the guys who will join them in effort, pain and joy.  Coaches are there to encourage, acknowledge, support and challenge, while going alongside until they feel comfortable enough to do it alone.

In my early enthusiasm I used to coach anyone who was interested. It was a great learning time. Now, I know that selection is the key. Not everybody is willing to go through coaching and only few are willing to grow. No quick fixes bring satisfactory results. Coaching others who are unmotivated and refuse to take the actions is useless.

True coaching

True coaching always touches the deepest issues of our being: identity, spirituality, desires, motivations, core values and beliefs. So, if you want to go through coaching or self-coaching, be prepared to tackle such issues. You will remarkably benefit from that! Not even mentioning your enormous growth.

You don’t need to have a personal coach for an effective and long-term growth, although having one is helpful. Self-coaching works very well if you are prepared to ask yourself questions and act upon the answers you find.

Finally

Remember, the miracle of coaching lies in its focus on the solutions, instead of the problems.

Coaching always looks for the way forward.

***

The image above is a photo of a painting of the remarkable Chester cathedral. I made it some years ago when a number of paintings were collected there.

 

change_is_difficult

Most people are afraid of conscious change. They would rather stay in their comfort zone than take steps into the unknown. As a result, life controls them.

Things happen to them and they respond to the circumstances. They become reactive instead of proactive and they become victims of the circumstances instead of their co-creators.

Yet the world keeps changing all the time. Both the employment of ideas and development of technology have been very fast nowadays. And we, as individuals, change every day.

We are bombarded with new information, new knowledge, new structures, new technology as well as the new challenges they pose. We collect new experiences, we learn new things and we change our minds. We evolve and change in response to the changing world.

Conscious change is often difficult. It may also be easy, if we encourage the right circumstances and apply the right strategy. An effective change can be implemented by simple and manageable steps. Change does not need to be a painful process, either. On the contrary, it can be pleasurable when we are enjoying the process.

Most people fear change and consider the fear of unknown as the major obstacle. I don’t think it makes change that difficult though.

Why is change difficult?

In my opinion there are two reasons:

  1. we don’t want it badly enough (motivation) or
  2. we don’t know how to make it happen  (techniques).

We don’t want to change

How many times did I want to become an early riser? Countless, I have to say. Have I been successful? No.

There were many times I committed to getting up at 4:30am or 5am and although I succeeded in a short term, I’ve never made it a habit. Why? I can give you various more or less valid explanations, but the truth is simple. I didn’t really want to.

I thought I wanted it because there was a logical explanation, a social pressure and a strong evidence of an organized and successful life from the early risers I knew. I understood all the benefits of becoming an early riser, too. But such a change required a major shift to happen – going to bed early to get enough sleep.

I simply loved the quiet atmosphere of the night and the focus I could get in the evening hours. The morning hours were unattractive to me because they kept introducing the pressure of the tasks to be handled in the day. I failed because I couldn’t sustain both processes: working late at night and starting fresh and energized early morning. I simply did not want to become an early riser if I had to give up my quiet evening hours (this is my secondary gain). So, I ultimately chose not to become one.

How many times did you want to loose weight, stop smoking, get fit, become debt-free or earn extra money aside? Even if you initially succeeded, have you been back to the old patterns?

It is quite common to be excited for a change, seemingly commit to it to get the short term result, only to find yourself back where you started some time ago. At the moment we take conscious action we are likely to stick to the process for a while. The moment we stop paying attention we are back on the old tracks.

Going against homeostasis and a staying both feet in the stretch zone requires much more than the initial intention and enthusiasm. It requires a conscious shift to happen.

Coaching

I love coaching because we get to know ourselves and we grow enormously through asking the right questions, committing to right action and evolving through experimentation. Through self-coaching and coaching others it has become crystal clear that most people don’t really want to change. They want a magic button instead so that the change will miraculously manifest at the door. But there is no one like that, I’m afraid.

We say we want to change and we may even think or believe so with our hearts. In reality, however, this is often untrue. When you dig deep enough, you will often want the result but not the cost to be paid, learning to go through nor the shifts required for this change to happen. We want the result, the magic pill, but not the process. As if being fit or wealthy, having an interesting job or great family was a one-time event that could have been extrapolated to a lifetime.

Change is about learning new skills or forming new habits that have to be managed and maintained.

There are three main reasons why we don’t welcome change:

  1. We lack understanding.
  2. We are not ready.
  3. We want the result but not the process.

We lack understanding

Forced change or lack of communication. This usually happens when a change is forced upon us, in a company, between peers or friends, or by some forms of social pressure.

For instance, the company has to go through a process of structural changes that will affect employers on all levels. Perhaps some positions will be threatened, new tasks introduced and new teams created. Everything is uncertain.

The lack of honest and effective communication from the CEO to the leaders, from the leaders to the managers and later co-workers will provide a fertile ground for false ideas, assumptions and speculations. This leads to the lack of trust, and ultimately creates resistance.

In addition, we also lack understanding when we have an inaccurate perception of who we are, what we want and what is our reality. This actually challenges us to dig deep to know ourselves.

Secondary gain. When we have a negative habit or a habit we would like to change, there is usually something beneath the habit that serves us well. It is called the secondary gain. We may perfectly understand the reasons and circumstances for a change to occur. We may clearly see the benefits, yet resist change from our heart.

Why?

Because deep beneath there is an additional gain for this habit to function. It may even be completely illogical.

For instance, a child may start wetting in bed simply because his secondary gain is to attract attention from the busy parents who (by default) dedicate majority of their attention to the younger siblings. Stopping this habit will withdraw the attention back to the sibling, something a child doesn’t want. And in some cases, any dedicated attention is better than no attention.

You may choose to smoke because you seek acceptance from the peers and you get it by joining the smoking circles at school or work. There are usually some interesting conversations going on. Quitting smoking would mean staying outside these circles and becoming “less cool”. You don’t want that, hence you will sabotage your approach to stopping smoking.

You may choose to over-eat because you don’t feel lonely during eating. With cooking, cleaning and eating there is always an activity to be done, so your mind (or stomach) is occupied.

We are not ready yet

Any change to happen needs to be accepted on the emotional level. In order to change we need to leave the comfort zone and taking steps into the unknown. And this bring forward our basic fear – the fear of the unknown. We are born to maintain the homeostasis, the status quo, and resist those things that we cannot easily predict the outcome. Change is uncertain and will lead us through new avenues and new learning. It invites tension and requires extra attention and focus for the new learning to occur.  It also requires new energy levels for maintaining the process.

For a change to happen we need to accept it. Not only by logical reasons, but also through the act of facing our fears that will surface on the way. We also need to give ourselves permission to make errors, choose suboptimal strategies and solve problems inefficiently. This means we grant ourselves permission to learn even if these are baby steps. Such an emotional preparation will allow us to embrace the change together with the underlying process.

We want the result but not the process

We want a quick fix without hard work. We want to become fit, healthy or wealthy overnight or in to weeks, (let it be a month but no more, ok?) without taking the necessary actions or establishing long term habits. This is again related to our inborn difficulty to think and predict trends long term. We are good at short term perspectives choosing an immediate gain (oversleeping, eating cakes, drinking coffee, buying stuff, etc) over the delayed gratification. And for these reasons, we will succumb to marketers who offer us shortcuts: one click to become a millionaire, a pill to a perfect body or a car for a perfect self-esteem.

Yet, change is a process. And we need to understand this fact.

We don’t know how to change

Change is difficult because we focus on the negative aspects of the change. We follow a wrong strategy. We want to stop habits or patterns and focus on what we don’t want. Effectively, we want to uncreate the very thing we have, but instead we usually add more features.

As we know from experience, when we have a poor product or a computer program then adding more features or creating fixes will usually not lead to a better product as a result.We will only get a complex solution, overcomplicated for the tasks to be done, counterintuitive, having too many preferences and unclear choices to be made. And perhaps even conflicts between the existing features.

It is much easier to create a new product from the scratch with the essential features only. It is then well-thought and optimized for the task, hence simple, fast and working like a charm.

The same applies to a change. If you focus on uncreating your unwanted habits by introducing fixes, you are likely opening yourself to pain and frustration.You need to replace one habit with another. But this is often difficult too. The right approach is to focus on creating a new product – the New You.

It is much easier to imagine the person you want to become and set up the conscious habits from the scratch that correspond to the You 2.0 :). This requires a cultivation of an ideal self-image, setting up right values and right beliefs, and starting small with right actions in order to built habits that serve us.

Finally

The truth is this:

If we don’t manage change, change will mismanage us.

If we don’t take the responsibility for change to happen we will become shaped by the external circumstances. Not to our liking :(.

Obviously, we can’t manage every change possible, but the essential ones. It is our task to choose the changes that matter and make a difference.

Make a choice to change. Understand the why’s and the circumstances. Get ready. Implement!

***

Photo credit Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

***

learning

What is learning for you?

Please pause for a second and define it for yourself before reading on. Is it about books?

English was difficult

Let me start with a story. When I was in the secondary school I was poor at English. I could not understand it why. I was very good at math and chemistry, and I was able to understand structures well. Such skills should have helped me to master languages. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Languages posed a challenge for me and I found English especially difficult.

At some point during my study I had to learn the difference between the Simple Past and Present Perfect tenses. This was difficult, despite my best efforts and long hours spent on studying the examples. The teacher made a test and I failed. I was very disappointed because I had the best intention to understand and I put the time into learning.

So, I said to the teacher “I disagree with the note. I have been studying hard for a few days.” Yet, she answered, “Perhaps you have been studying for days, but you have not learned it yet.”

The moral is this:
Learning is more than memorizing. Learning is more than studying examples. Learning is more than understanding structure.

What about a change in your life?

Let me now ask you. What would you like to change in your life?

Do you want to solve your health problems?
Do you want to loose weight?
Do you want to become fitter?
Do you want to start a new carrier?
Do you want to become an entrepreneur?
Do you want to find a mate?

How successful have you been so far?

Let’s say that you want to solve your health problems, e.g. heal from the irritable bowel syndrome.

How much have you thought about it? Perhaps a lot.
How much have you educated yourself on the subject? Perhaps a lot.
How deep is your understanding? Perhaps deep.

Perhaps you have read many books or articles on diet, nutrition, digestion, elimination, stress and so on. Perhaps you have inquired people around, asked for suggestions, listened to seminars, and so on.  Let me now ask you.

How much have you changed as the result? Perhaps not much.

Can you think your way out of poor health? Can you learn driving by reading a book or watching a video? Can you reason your way out of debt?   No.

The moral is this:
Thinking is not enough. Understanding is not enough. They are helpful, even necessary, but insufficient for learning to occur.

As long as you stay on the level of thinking, there is little chance for growth. Why? Because you need to integrate the knowledge into the working of your body. You need a direct experience.

Pattern recognition – how we learn from data

Let me now briefly tell you about pattern recognition. In a basic scenario you want to discriminate between two classes, say apples and pears moving on a conveyor belt. The task is automatic sorting. A camera makes a photo of a passing fruit and the system needs to detect which fruit it is and sort it accordingly.

To solve the problem you first start with the labeled data: a set of raw images with individual apples and pears. They are labeled. In addition, you may be given other measurements such as weight or size.

You start by finding a meaningful representation of the raw images in the form of mathematical descriptors. These are often characteristic features, e.g. related to various shape characteristics. Next, the challenge is to choose a function that will discriminate between two classes based on the extracted features. The task is to learn this function.

There are multiple approaches and models possible and within each approach there are multiple, even infinite, candidate functions. How do you start?

You make a selection of a few promising models based on your experience, literature (what other people reported that worked for them for similar problems), understanding of the problem and initial data analysis. Then, for each approach the labeled data is used to train the related discrimination function, which means that the data is used to define the parameters of that function.

But it is not as easy as it sounds.

Some measurements of particular apples are more important than others as they influence the parameter values more strongly. Perhaps these are examples of typical apples.

Some measurements may also be faulty and lead to poor estimation. Perhaps these are examples of other fruits such as small mangoes that were mistakenly labelled as apples.

Some features may be meaningless (unspecific), giving similar response to both apples and pears.  Ideally, these concerns should be incorporated in the way the parameters are estimated.

Let’s say we have learned the function. Now, it is the test time.

This is often the most time-consuming step as various scenarios, strategies and sub-strategies are tested with respect to a number of selected functions. During this validation time, the function is being tested on the labeled data but unused in the learning of the function. In this way, we evaluate how good the function is at predicting the correct labels for fresh data.

In real problems, the results are sub-optimal, even poor, at this stage. It is just the first reference.

What you do next is to go through a repetitive cycle of small improvements on all levels. You investigate multiple factors. For instance, you look at the data to understand the incorrectly assigned cases. Perhaps these are border cases that need a separate treatment (i.e. another function to be learned).

You also look at the appropriateness of the data used for training, the usage of atypical or problematic examples, choice of discriminative features: adding new ones, extracting better ones or removing some, the usage of multiple functions that focus on specific aspects of the problem and use a voting scheme for the final labeling and so on. Or perhaps you even abandon the model you have chosen first and select another one.

And you test extensively all simple updates made. This all happens because a function can be learned perfectly on the given training data (give zero error) yet behave poorly on new, unseen data.

It is a tedious process in which you go through the cycle of sequential changes to find small improvements at each stage so that the overall performance is greatly enhanced. Yet, this process still requires a conscious human partner – the one to set criteria, observe, make choices and decisions.

If you now think that sorting apples and pears is an artificial example I can assure you that similar tasks are being automated on all levels in real life. These include sorting luggage on airports, detecting faulty planks in a factory, automatic recognition of post codes, computer aided diagnostic for malignant tissues in X-rays or ultrasound, speech recognition and so on.

How do automatic systems learn from data?

The moral is this:
Learning is a process in which informative data is collected and represented for the task (data and knowledge organization), the discriminating function is chosen and its parameters are well estimated such that the whole system performs well on new data, i.e. the discriminating function makes little or no error. This is achieved through a repetitive cycle of improvements.

The development of pattern recognition techniques was inspired by human learning. Isn’t now the time for us to be inspired back? Learning is practised through little updates.

What is learning?

In the light of personal growth, learning is about the change in behavior. We now understand behavior broadly as abilities, skills, habits, practices or actions to be taken.

There is no learning if there is no change in the behavior. We often make the mistake thinking that we are learning when we are reading books, memorizing techniques, analyzing problems or thinking about them. But we are merely collecting information and organizning it into structures or perhaps knowledge. Even understanding complex phenomena is not yet learning.

Learning truly occurs when there is an update or a change. Think about it. We can study all the books on driving and analyze road scenarios, but unless we simply start driving and practice, there is no way to develop this skill. The same principles apply to all areas in our lives. Be it becoming healthy, loosing weight or running a business.

We can understand the problem and know what to do to solve it. But unless we do what needs to be done, observe the results, reflect, draw the conclusions and update our approaches for the better results, our situation will not change much, even though we hold the best intention possible. So, let me summarize.

True learning is about

  1. Information collection. (Data collection)
  2. Observation and thinking. (Visual inspection of the data.)
  3. Understanding and knowledge organization. (Problem understanding. Data representation. Selection of features.)
  4. Action or practice. (Learning the discrimination function)
  5. Reflection. Drawing conclusions. (Testing! Analyzing what needs change. )
  6. Change.
  7. REPEAT the steps 1/2 – 6 until satisfied.

In order to learn we need all the steps above. We may also need to go through these steps multiple times to find a satisfactory change.

***

So, I’ve learned to discriminate between Simple Past and Present Perfect when I started to practise their usage in real scenarios. I’ve learned about the impact of green smoothies by making them and drinking them daily. I’ve learned to listen actively by coaching others especially in conflict situations. I’ve learned cooking simply by doing it.

What about you?

Are you a data collector, knowledge organizer or a learner?

If you choose to be a learner, it makes sense to adopt a practical approach. Select one aspect that you want to change in your life. Choose one book or one idea relevant to your situation. Which one to choose? Take the one which is either the most attractive or the easiest to implement.

Then simply do what they suggest. If there are multiple choices – simplify as much as possible. Your goal is the first direct experience. You will improve later on.

Test the idea and reflect on how it affects you – your energy levels, your emotions, your thinking, your physical being, your relations and so on. See what the results are. Make your best guess how to update the idea towards an improvement in the final result. Apply. Test it. Reflect. Repeat.

If the idea works, improve it further on. If it doesn’t work and you see no way of improvement, abandon the idea and move on to another one. If it works well, make it a habit.

If you want to create a change in your life, learning is the necessary step for transformation.

You need to make the ideas tangible by integrating them with your being on the physical plane. There are so many insights and observations you can gain from a simple application that no reading or thinking will ever provide. Testing gives you the real taste. It is much better to take one idea and test it than staying knowledgable but stuck.

Embrace change. You need to become it in order to be it.

***

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

Learning and generalization posts:

 Page 6 of 11  « First  ... « 4  5  6  7  8 » ...  Last »