Second Experiment – Learning

My first experiment was a failure…but I learned from it, and have set up a second experiment which is now in process. So the failure was transformed into helpful feedback.

Since I’m still pursuing this second experiment, I’m keeping it a secret for now! But an interesting thing happened as I pursued this new goal — I found that in the pursuit, I created the philosophy page for this website, which caused me to come across information leading me to create a much larger vision for my career. Since this is a career goal I’m pursuing, the revisioning of my career took me away from implementing my plan!

When we act, we get feedback from the environment and also from within ourselves. This feedback can change how we pursue the goal (the plans). (This is the TOTE loop as taught in NLP and conceived of by Miller et al.)

The feedback we get from doing things can also change the goal itself. (This is what researchers Wang and Mukhopadhyay call the TOTAL loop.) Basically, if the goal wasn’t feasible, we might adjust it downwards, whereas if it was achieved or too easy, we might adjust it upwards to make it more challenging.

The feedback can also change whether we continue to pursue or abandon the goal. If it’s totally not feasible and we discover this by doing something and finding out it is totally unrealistic, we might abandon it altogether. Or we might find that the goal is no longer desirable to us — for instance if we discover that the costs outweigh the benefits.

And what I am adding now based on insights from today is that the feedback can change the vision or context from which the goal comes about in the first place. In pursuing one goal this week, I came up with a vision for this project which then greatly broadened my vision for my career, which put me into a different mindset (a deliberative mindset) than the mindset used for executing plans of action (an implemental mindset). (See Gollwitzer and Bayer, 1999.)

Context is hidden from us when we are in an implemental mindset (focused on how to get something done), and appears again when we are in a deliberative mindset (focused on what options we have and choosing which to do). This can be really helpful, because otherwise we’d be constantly trying to choose between options. But the implementation mindset can also be like putting on blinders.

In any case, now I have to update the flow chart I made for the Creative Solutions Generator. My learning feeds back into the process itself, making the process better!

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First Experiment of 2013 — FAIL

It only took me 6 days to fail at one of my most important goals for the new year — and that is great!

Let me explain. I set just two goal intentions on New Year’s Eve. Unlike most people’s “resolutions,” I made them specific enough that I could do something immediately to find out whether they would work or not.

What I failed at was this:

“I intend to get one person to sign up at minimum (max 3 people) in January, for a month long, 4-session coaching program at $345 each person, testing out the Creative Solutions Generator v0.2.”

This goal intention met my three criteria for a personal development goal: it was highly feasible (9/10), highly desirable (10/10), and moderately to highly challenging (8/10).

At first I actually started with a much bigger wish, but I determined it was not feasible. So I chunked it down to getting just one client right away.

I wanted to get this goal by the end of the first week in January but I got zero people to sign up, so today I am declaring this experiment a failure.

In NLP there is the saying, “there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.” The purpose of my Creative Solutions Generator technique is to learn how to really adopt this attitude — not just to change our vocabulary on a superficial level, but to actually be resourceful no matter what happens as we go through life.

For most things in life are outside of our direct control. This goal certainly was, as are goals like weight loss, or getting into graduate school, or world peace, etc. None of these things is in our direct control.

In this case, what was in my direct control was putting up this website, alerting my various communities online about this project and offer, etc. I did all these things, taking about 8 hours of my own labor on New Year’s Day. Even so, these strategies I employed did not get me the result I was wanting.

I wish I could say I immediately felt resourceful anyway, took in the feedback, and adjusted, but I did not. Instead, I spent the past week moping and feeling sorry for myself! This may be because I’m operating more within a performance goal orientation than a learning goal orientation with respect to career goals. Currently my identity is tied up with wanting to feel like I am already a success, rather than learning and adapting as I go.

After a few days however, I got it together to actually use my method and learn from the experiment.

So what did I learn?

I suspect that I don’t have a big enough list of potential customers at this time. I also didn’t sell the coaching based on the benefits enough — I only gave the features. $345 is a lot for people to invest in something without really understanding why it would be valuable to them. Even though I know the service is good (my clients consistently tell me how great my services are, and I think this service is one of the best things I’ve ever offered), I didn’t sufficiently convince anyone else of how good it is.

I also found that both pursuing this goal and failing at it negatively affected another career-related goal (basically I got temporarily distracted and off-course with the other goal), but the pursuit of my fitness goals were not affected. Goals do not take place in a vacuum — there is a ecology of goal interactions.

So last night I abandoned my first goal and set a new one. And I plan on succeeding or failing as fast as possible again.

On my other goal (fitness related) I’m making excellent progress — only 6 days into the new year and I’m 63% of the way there — but I still have a ways to go.

Wishing you fast failure (and even faster learning) in 2013,
~Duff

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