We're heading toward the end of the year, a great time to be creative and productive now that the temptations of summer are past. Here are some ideas and inspirations that can help:
1: We Like Alike!
One of the basic ideas of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is that if you want to get people on your side, personally or in business, you need to establish rapport with them. And one way to do this is to subtly mimic their movements.
For example, if they lean forward, you also lean forward - although not so obviously that they notice what you're doing. Now a new study reveals this works even when it's done by a computer.
The study in question took place at my old alma mater, Stanford University, and involved 69 student participants. They wore a virtual reality helmet that showed them a 3-D image of the head and shoulders of a digital figure. This figure spoke for about 3 minutes about campus security. For half the students, the figure mimicked their head movements with a four-second delay. For the rest, the figure moved its head the way the previous student had done.
Eight of the students realised they were being copied, and were dismissed from the study. When the rest were questioned, the students who were mimicked found the figure more persuasive and likable than the others did.
ACTION: The next time you have a meeting in which you want the other person to like you or to persuade them of something, try using the mimic technique. In order to be subtle, leave a little time gap, as they did in the study, or mirror their actions (in other words, if they make a movement with their left hand, do a subtle copy of that gesture with your right hand). You can also adjust the speed of your speech to more closely match theirs.
2: The Million Dollar Brainstorm
A 21-year-old British student is well on his way to making a million dollars due to a brainstorming session.
The story, recounted in the Times (London), is that the student needed to come up with a way to pay his way through university. He says that the time he finds best for brainstorming is just before he goes to sleep.
One night he had an idea: a website made up of exactly one million pixels, on which advertisers could buy a pixel for one dollar each (with a 100 pixel minimum, since that's the smallest area that will be readable). He set up the site (www.milliondollarhomepage.com) and sent out press releases. The story got lots of coverage, and the pixels started selling. His take, as of October 19, is about $430,000!
ACTION: Keep a notebook and pen by your bedside, and try doing ten or fifteen minutes of brainstorming every night. Set yourself a question to which you'd like an answer. If free-thinking isn't working, take a magazine and choose words at random and see what ideas they prompt. Don't force it, in some cases answers will come to you in the morning, when your subconscious mind has had all night to work on the question.
Of course, having the idea is just the first step. Like the student, you have to act on it. However, ideas that involve the internet usually require little capital and therefore little risk. If his idea hadn't caught on, he only would have been out the cost of the website and sending out the press releases.
3: Watch Yourself
In a Brown University Medical School study of people who wanted to lose weight, two strategies were found to be effective: partnering with someone who would encourage the participants and remind them to get back on track when they slipped; and weighing themselves every day.
ACTION: If you're trying to lose weight, weigh yourself every day. If you have another goal, figure out how you can measure your progress (or lack of it) every day.
For instance, at the moment I'm working on a novel that I want to finish by the middle of November. This means I have to write 2000 words per day, and I'm using a word chart every day to keep track of my output. If you have a goal, how can you break it down into daily steps, and keep track of them?
4: A Rose By Another Name
A study done at Oxford shows that when people smell an odor, how they rate its pleasantness depends on whether they were told they were smelling cheese or body odor. MRI scans also showed that the areas of the brain associated in olfactory processing were more active in those people who'd been given the positive label.
Steve Andreas, in an article in "Resource" magazine, explores something similar: the concept of recategorization. A great example in that article is from the work of therapist Salvador Minuchin when he was dealing with a boy who had been repeatedly caught selling and using drugs at school.
Instead of stressing how bad drugs are, he focused on the boy's incompetence, saying, "I'm very worried about you, because you don't seem to be very good at this. You are very likely to go to prison for a long time…" This fresh perspective shocked the boy and got him thinking about the situation in a new way.
ACTION: If there is a problem you are facing, or helping someone else face, consider what other perspectives might be more helpful. One more example: Andreas points out that people losing weight feel hungry sometimes, and they can either categorize this as "starvation" and "self-denial," which will add to their negative feelings, or they can consider it "signals that weight-loss is taking place right now" and "a demonstration of willpower."
5: A Smelly Anchor
A study done in Japan suggests that wearing perfume can make you feel and look more confident.
Half the woman in the test group were sprayed on the wrist with perfume, the others weren't, and both groups were filmed undergoing a mock interview. Afterward, the women who wore perfume reported feeling more relaxed, and they made fewer nervous movements. They also made a more positive impression on people who watched the tape without knowing which group was which.
ACTION: This could be combined with the Neuro Linguistic Programming principle of 'anchoring.' In anchoring, you create or evoke a positive feeling you'd like to be able to summon at will and link it to a distinctive gesture like pressing your thumb and forefinger together. The outcome is similar to that of Dr. Pavlov's experiments - after a few times, when you make the gesture, you also experience the positive feeling.
However, some people have trouble evoking the positive feeling strongly enough to make the link. That's where the scent can come in. In this case, you'd keep a bottle of perfume or cologne handy, and dab it on whenever you naturally feel confident or upbeat. Once the association is established, the next time you want to experience that feeling, dab on the scent and it should evoke it. Example: dab on the scent whenever you are naturally feeling confident—and again when you have an important interview or meeting coming up.
6: And a quote to think about…
"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these."
George Washington Carver