Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Carol Dweck, The Growth Mindset, Labels, and the Messages We Send To Children

I've been reading up on Carol Dweck's ideas on the growth mindset. Here's a quick definition of the fixed and growth mindsets (this is from TES magazine).

The "Fixed" Mindset

A fixed mindset is the belief that a person's intelligence, creative ability and talent are fixed at birth and cannot be significantly changed. Carol Dweck argues that individuals with this view are reluctant to take on challenges because they see failure as a sign of weakness and lack of ability.

The "Growth" Mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence, creative ability and talent can change. According to Professor Dweck, people with such a mindset believe they can learn from failures and improve their performance through persistence and a willingness to try different approaches.

(Here's a useful diagram illustrating the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.)


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

As someone who has saturated their life with CBT and thinks about much of life with CBT tools, I find it easier myself to think about Dweck's ideas in terms of the CBT model well established in my head.  Actually, instead of "fixed mindset" I find it easier to get my head around the term "fixed labeling". I think about:

Fixed labels and the messages they send to my daughter.

A Message to a Child 

I threw a ball toward my daughter's head and expected it to just bounce off her head but, to my surprise, she headed it well - she jumped up and then powered it away. To that I responded:

"You're a good headerer!"

That made me think about the way I communicate with my daughter when she can achieve a task. I realised I'd used a label and I found myself thinking about the growth mindset and then asking myself: What does this way of talking to my daughter achieve? If my daughter is to go on improving her heading skills (only if she thinks this stuff is important though!) how does awarding her a label "good headerer" help her? Does it help her progress anywhere?

Can 

So I thought it might be more productive  to acknowledge  her success using the word "can", which  seems like it could emphasise the fact that she has achieved what she has done through effort:


"You can head the ball!"

There is greater emphasis there on the action than the label. It feels as though it might also stress that she is responsible for her success at heading.

Breaking it down 

Is it constructive to break "can head the ball" into the component parts of the action? I could look at the sequence of actions that make up the action of heading the ball:

Can jump/can connect with the ball/can apply force to the ball.

So, if she wants to improve her heading, or was having some problem with her heading, I could focus on one element at a time to improve it. There wouldn't be the black-and-white thinking of "you can either head the ball or you can't". 

A Can't 

Well, I'm not wanting little one to think she lives in some cloud cuckoo land where she does everything right! I thought maybe it could be constructive to tag a "can't" onto the cans to send the message that there's always scope for improvement. This I've done in the "But can't" form:

Can jump/can connect with the ball/can apply force to the ball - but can't do that with great power.

or:

Can jump but can't jump high/can connect/can apply force to the ball

There are, of course, always many things you can't do in life. The things you can do are heavily outnumbered by the things you can't. You also always have the chance to improve something you can already do. There's always the option to set another goal. It's worth planting a seed and sending the message  that although you can head the ball, it's not job done - there are more mountains to climb (if you choose to). Even a task at which you would say you have found mastery there will always be some way to improve your skill, so I'd conclude that digging out can'ts is a good habit.


Adding Can'ts

It doesn't take too much creativity to tag on the can'ts. Thinking of adverbs or adjectives can usually trigger a thought:

You can kick the ball but can't do it powerfully.
You can kick the ball but can't do it into the air.
You can head the ball but can't direct it to a team mate.


If you can't do the thing at all 

If she couldn't head the ball at all (I'm defining this here as "her head didn't make any contact") then there's the possibility of listing the can't first, and then listing some cans that are components of the journey towards the successful heading of the ball. 

You can't head the ball, but you can position yourself, you can see the ball, you can jump.

Again, it's not about the black-or-white thinking of either being able to do a task or not. There's always a degree to which you can do any task and components of the whole task which can be worked on individually.

Degree

It's constructive to look at the degree to which an action thought of as "can't"can be done to a degree - even if it's to the smallest degree.

You can't power the ball/ You can hit the ball with a degree of force, even though it's not strong yet.
You can't tackle/You can make yourself a nuisance by going close to an opponent and getting in the way.
You can't run fast/ You can run, you're getting faster,  and you'll go on getting faster.

Can, Like, Want, Know

"Can" seems to be a good word to use but I think these others words can be thrown into the mix to use the way can is above:

Like/Don't like
Want/Don't want
Know/Don't know

Like/Dislike: If my daughter didn't like heading the ball because it hurts her head when she connects then it could be constructive to word this as "You don't like heading the ball". That cuts to the problem and gives us something to work on - the fear, and the huge leap of touching a ball hurtling through space toward your head - much more than if we'd gone down the fixed label route of saying, "You can't head the ball!"

Want/Don't want: Seems like a constructive couple of words to throw in that might suggest goal setting. "You want to learn how to take corners". "You don't want to take corners because you don't have the power to kick that hard."

Know/Don't know. Also constructive. Implies that the knowledge is there, but hasn't been converted to a can yet. "You know how to take a penalty but can't add the power yet." Or "You know that as a goalkeeper you have to stop the ball with your hands but aren't fast enough yet".

The idea of balancing the sentences - in the same way as with can/can't above - appeals:

"You like to outrun an opponent but don't like it when you get tripped up."

I'm sure there will be more words I will find that can be used positively in this way.


ARE-A

I use the awareness of "are a" and "are" to locate when I've used a label.

"Are a"

The words "Are a" might indicate when I'm using a label and when it might be a good time to switch to using the approaches above. An example would be, if my daughter dribbles the ball well I might say, "You are a footballer!" But better alternatives might be: "You can dribble the ball well" or "You can dribble the ball well but can't pass to team mates" or "You can dribble the ball well but can't run fast while you do it".

"Are"

The word "Are" might indicate when I'm using an adjective (which can also function like a label). If my daughter scores a goal I might say "You are skillful!" when "You can hit the target with the ball" might send a better message.

Confidence

The words "be careful about not damaging a child's confidence!" pop into my head when I think about the ideas above and I don't know what kind of balance between cans and can'ts would nurture confidence or damage it. But is thinking in that "you are either confident or you are not" way a mistake in itself? Should there be one overall label of "confident or not confident" or is it constructive to break confidence itself down into component parts? I have to admit I don't know!

The idea of "can't listing" appeals but I don't know if that would be detrimental to a learner's confidence. As I said above, there are unlimited things you can't do, but also unlimited ways to improve on something you can do. What's the right balance? No idea!

The "Good girl"/"Bad Girl" thing

This is related. I don't say either of these. I prefer to use "like", as in, "I like that!" rather than declare "You're a good girl!" Similarly, instead of saying, "That's good!" about something, I would - if I'm not using the approaches above - prefer to say "I like that!" to indicate it's more my personal opinion than a declaration of worth.  It always seems like arrogance to me to assume you're the one who gets to declare to a child if something is good or not. 

Part Two: Types of Skipping

"I can't skip!" my daughter proclaimed after trying to skip for all of twenty seconds. I kind of figured that the word "skipping" acts as a kind of label to her and she has this concept in her head of "perfect skipping", the thing that must be achieved if one will be able to say they can skip!

As "normal skipping"  is beyond her ability at the moment I thought a good approach might be to kill the idea of this one form of perfect skipping and invent many types. Perhaps with increasing difficulty.

So to get her used to the idea of jumping over the rope I could invent:

 line-skipping: The rope is put on the floor and she just has to step over the rope.

Yoyo-skipping: The rope is put on the floor and she has to jump over the rope, then backwards over the rope.

Triangle-skipping: Mummy and daddy hold the rope and all she has to do is the jumping while mum and dad twirl the rope.

Slow-motion-skipping: Self explanatory; the "normal" skipping process, all done by herself, but done slowly.

NB: The hardest part for her was flipping the rope over from behind her to get it over her head. How to get round that? I think that sliding a light tube over a section of the rope could add some weight and make it easier to flip the rope over. Maybe. That could be called something like tube-skipping. (I need to experiment with that.)

With the football problem above - that of my daughter being scared to head the ball - the way ahead there could be to build up the difficulty by inventing different kinds of ball-heading:


Push-head: You hold the ball against her forehead and she just has to push it away. Easy!

Inch-drop-head: You drop the ball just once inch for her to power it away.

The still-head: Her task is to stand perfectly still while you throw the ball at her head from a increasing distances.

etc.

Summary: Here's a tl; dr for people who were too lazy to read the article (yes, that should be: people who don't like to read long articles)

1) Instead of applying a label when a task is achieved, use the verb "can".

2) Think of tasks - both those achieved or not achieved - in terms of cans and can'ts. List as many cans and can't as you like instead of using one "inert" label.

3) Invent a simpler form of a task that a child can do, and give it a name.

Conclusion

So these are thoughts on the Carol Dweck growth mindset ideas from the perspective of someone who's done a lot of CBT.


* It would seem that in the writing of this article I have invented the word "headerer".

Monday, August 17, 2015

CLMR Options

This CLMR acronym is a tool for assumption busting. (Pronounced as "Calmer".)

My daughter turned to me one day and said, "Let's draw a robot!" If we went straight to the task we'd probably end up drawing a typical cartoon-style robot. However, the CLMR acronym suggests we take a pause, take a step back, and look at other options that are just as valuable.The letters stand for:

C = Create
L = List
M = Make up (Guess or Lie)
R = Research

If we want to draw a robot and the directive we have in mind is "draw a robot" then the CLMR options would suggest:

Create a robot 

We'd ignore existing robots and wade into the creative process to generate our own idea of a robot.


List Robot

We'd make a list of existing robots. Robots from movies, fiction, books, etc. We could select one to draw.


Make up
Guess

We could guess about either a robot that existed or one that will exist. For example, we could make a guess about what robots will appear in future Star Wars movies. We could guess what ideas were considered during the preliminary design stages of C3PO or R2D2 etc. All guesswork - no wrong answers!


Lie

Imagination can run riot for the lie! We could imagine that a robot had been invented to help round the home. What would it look like? What jobs would it do?


Research

To do research we could pick one of the robots listed above (by the List option) and do some research on it. A good place to start is an image search. Obviously Wikipedia, too. 

DO IT technique

This is a nice simple process to approach creativity.

DO IT 


Friday, February 27, 2015

A new version of FOLIO

I will be posting a new, simplified version of FOLIO soon. I need more hours in the day!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hindsight-How to...More and More


As explained in the FOLIO Simplified  post, the How to...more and more (which was called "Creative-mentor" in that FOLIO simplified post) nudges thinking towards creative thinking. It's like I imagine there's a mentor with me who sets a creative challenge, with the challenges always being in the same format. Here's some examples of challenges in the How to...more and more format:

How to make (reading) more and more (enjoyable).
How to make (libraries) more and more (popular).
How to make (paper books) more and more (durable).
How to make (my singing) more and more (melodious).
How to make (learning maths) more and more (painless).

Obviously those are all simple, creative challenges. The template to form challenges like that would be:

How to make (topic) more and more (random adjective).

Purpose of Hindsight-How to...more and more

The purpose of the Hindsight-how to...more and more (that's getting to be a bit of a mouthful!) is to generate more angles on a topic, more perspectives. Especially with a view to generating ideas.

The Hindsight-how to... more and more

To do a Hindsight how to...more and more, I pick an idea and ask:

If this idea were the product of a challenge in the format "How to make (topic) more and more (adjective)", what would the specifics of that challenge be? What would have been in the "topic" and "adjective" sections?

For example, if I had this idea:

Go swimming more often.

then I can reason that swimming has an effect on my body (thus "my body" is the topic), and an adjective that would describe the changes I want to happen to my body could be "fit". Thus:

How to make (my body) more and more (fit).

Or I could reason that my swimming has an effect on the local swimming pool, and an adjective that describes the changes to swimming pool is "profitable". Thus:

How to make (local swimming pool) more and more (profitable).

Some more possibilities could be:

How to make (my weekends) more and more (varied).
How to make (my childhood learnings) more and more (relevant). 

Thus, just from the simple starting idea of  "go swimming more often", the Hindsight-How to...more and more produces the following information - new angles and perspectives:

My body
Making my body fitter
The local swimming pool
Making the local swimming pool more profitable
My weekends
Making my weekends more varied
My childhood learnings
Re-applying my childhood learnings

All of these are great areas to think about about and apply some creative thinking. 


Other focuses

In the above examples I've applied the Hindsight-How to...more and more  just to ideas, but I can apply it to anything - objects, beliefs, people, activities, thought experiments, problems, goals, etc. For example, for the topic: my pet dog,  the Hindsight-how to...more and more could give:

How to make (my home) more and more (friendly).
How to make (the weekly food shop) more and more (expensive).(!)
How to make (my walks) more and more (enjoyable).

As another example, for the topic the moon I can have in my mind the idea that the moon was the product of a Hindsight-How to...more and more, almost like it was the product of a creative project - like someone sat down and invented the moon! Thus:

How to make (the solar system) more and more (full).
How to make (the sea) more and more (tidal).
How to make (the night sky) more and more (bright).

More examples applied to ideas

So, here I apply Hindsight-How to...more and more to end up with a sentence in the format:

How to make (topic) more and more (adjective).

The ideas are underlined in italics, and the result of the Hindsight-How to...more and more  (a How to...more and more) is under each one.

Link up with people reading the same book.

= How to make (book's readership) more and more (familiar).

What's the best way to find books that might interest me?

= How to make (my resources) more and more (productive)

How to relearn everything I've forgotten since leaving school?

= How to make (my old textbooks) more and more (useful) 

Make reading obsolete by inventing a way to download books to your brain.

= How to make (the human brain) more and more receptive. 

Could I get a kindle?

How to make (my reading habits) more and more (frequent).

I could go through my books and sort them out.

How to make (my book shelf) more and more (organised). 

I could read more non-fiction.

How to make (my reading habits) more and more (diversified). 

I could dig a book out right now and read.

How to make (my present moment) more (productive).

Could I read some of the classics?

How to make (my reading mindset) more (experimental)?

Could I make a list of the books I enjoyed as a child and pass them on to my children?

How to make (my childhood experiences) more and more (influential).

Contribute to the local library. Give some books away.

How to make (my old books) more and more(appreciated).

Read a book that doesn't interest me at all.

How to make (my cerebral pursuits) more and more (adventurous).

Write critical reviews of books I hate on Amazon.

How to make (my book opinions) more and more (widespread).

Try to design a cover for a book.

How to make (my creativity) more and more (design-oriented).  

Live in a cave and spend all day reading.

How to make (my life) more and more (bizarre). 

Read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

How to make (the world's famous books) more and more familiar. 

Read up on understanding the economy.

How to make (my financial knowledge) more and more (diverse).

Taking a Step Towards Creativity

I can get creative by simply replacing any adjective with another random adjective. For example, with:

How to make (my creativity) more and more (design-oriented).

I can replace the design-oriented with:

How to make (my creativity) more and more (splashy)
Interpretation = How to make my creativity more involved with generating family fun.

How to make (my creativity) more and more (relaxing)
Interpretation = Maybe...how to make a creative contribution to the areas of meditation and mindfulness. Develop a new mindfulness technique maybe?

How to make (my creativity) more and more (lazy)
Interpretation = I usually sit down at a desk and graft out ideas (especially when writing jokes). Why not try just "planting seeds" in my mind, have an incubation period, and see what my mind comes up with by inspiration?

More examples

Original: How to make (the human brain) more and more (receptive)
Alternative: How to make (the human brain) more and more (secure)
Interpretation: What would be ways to make the brain safer from accidents?

Original: How to make (the present moment) more and more (productive).
Alternative: How to make (the present moment) more and more (smelly).
Interpretation: Put some incense on!

Original: How to make (my childhood experiences) more and more (influential).
Alternative: How to make (my childhood experiences) more and more (nocturnal).
Interpretation: An idea that appeals this!...Use lucid dreaming experiences to revisit memories from my childhood.

See also:

How to create a list of adjectives quickly

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Simplified Version of FOLIO


This is a simplified version of FOLIO. It gives a good overview of the tools and what they can do. The chosen example topic for this post is "reading books".

The FOLIO Tools

This blog post will feature all the main FOLIO tools. These tools are:

1) Switch
2) Hindsight Question
3) Mentors (Questions-mentor, Advice-mentor and Creative-mentor).
4) About (Listing Facts)
5) Big Picture
6) Introspection (Psychology)
7) Paper
8) Label and Extract
9) TRIPES

These can be represented with the letters: SHM ABI PLT.

Use of Adjectives 

Throughout this blog post, I'll use random adjectives to help guide the thinking directed by the nine tools. Here's a post about generating a list of adjectives: How to create a list of adjectives quickly.

Tool 1: Switch

The purpose of Switch is to deliberately switch my thinking when I'm thinking about a subject. There are two types of switch, on-topic and off-topic:

On-topic Switch

For an on-topic switch I'll switch my thinking, but stay on the topic. I'm currently thinking about the chosen topic reading books. So an on-topic Switch could be:

Could I get a Kindle?
I could go through my books and sort them out.
I could read more non-fiction.
I could dig out a book right now and read.
I could visit the library.
etc.

Using Random Adjectives, and a Format for an On-topic Switch

(I'll stay on the chosen topic reading books) To do an on-topic switch with an adjective, I pick a  random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate an on-topic switch  that has the characteristic suggested by the adjective. The format is thus:

Make X Switch

Then I choose a random adjective. In this case: historic

I put my random adjective - historic - in the place of the "X" which gives:
 
Make historic switch:

And I ask myself: "What would a historic switch be?" I'll try to interpret that in a few ways to generate the following thinking switches:

Could I read some of the classics?
Could I make a list of the books I enjoyed as a child and pass them on to my children?
What are the all-time best sellers?

More Examples of On-topic Switches:

Make introspective switch: Could I focus on the way I read? (Learn speed reading, etc.)
Make illegal switch: What books have been banned in the past or have been controversial? Could I read them?
Make wise switch: Think about what makes a wise reader. What should my reading priorities be?
Make morbid switch: Have any books been written with a ouija board?
Make specky switch: Do I need to get new glasses?
Make dead switch: What books could I add to my bucket list as possible reads?

Off-topic Switch

For an off-topic switch I'll switch my thinking completely away from the current topic. So, with the topic "reading books" I could end up with something like:

Have some food.
Watch telly.
Go for a run. 

Using Random Adjectives, and a Format for an Off-topic Switch

This is constructed in the same way as the on-topic Switch: I'll pick a random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate an off-topic switch that has the characteristic suggested by the adjective. The format is the same:

Make X Switch.

Then I choose a random adjective: funny.

I put the random adjective - funny - in the place of the "X" which gives:

Make funny switch

and I ask myself "What would a funny switch be?" I'll interpret it in a few ways:

Watch some funny vids on YouTube.
Read some jokes.
Write some jokes.

More Examples of Off-topic Switches:

Make deep switch: Go swimming
Make dear switch: Go shopping
Make clear switch: Tidy out the shed.
Make frightening switch: Do a bungee jump.
Make penitent switch: List mistakes I've made that I regret.

Switching Back to the Topic from an Off-topic Switch

I can utilise an off-topic switch I've generated to see how it could help the original topic (reading books, in this case):

Go swimming: Would help me to read books because I'd be fit and refreshed.
Go shopping: I could go in a book shop.
Tidy out the shed: I could find somewhere to store my books.

Tool 2: Hindsight Question

The purpose of Hindsight Question is to produce more switches in my thinking, but in a different way to the Switch tool. To generate a Hindsight Question I look at the topic (in this case reading books) and ask myself, "What question(s) would've generated the answer 'reading books'?" Examples could be:

What's a good way to educate myself?
What's a leisurely hobby?
What can you do in a library?
What's a necessary part of studying?
What did I like doing as a child?

Then I can pick one and generate alternative answers (thus, alternative focuses). Example:

What's a good way to educate myself?

Possible answers:

Do a course.
Learn online.
Get a private tutor.
Go to night school.
etc.

See also: Hindsight-How to...more and more

Tool 3: The Three Mentors: Questions, Advice, and Creative 

With the Mentors tools, I imagine there is a mentor sat with me, in a mentoring role. There are three mentors - the Questions-mentor, the Advice-mentor, and the Creative-mentor.

Questions-mentor

The Questions-mentor asks questions about the topic.So, if reading books is my topic then good questions could be, "Are you reading enough?" or, "What books haven't you read?" There are two approaches I can use: I can create a question intuitively, or use an adjective to help me generate a question.

Creating a Question Intuitively

To generate an intuitive question I simply ask the question, "If a Questions-mentor were sat beside me and they asked a pertinent question, what could that question be?"

So, for the topic reading books examples could be:

Are you happy with your reading material?
What knowledge would you like to acquire?
What's the best way to find new books/subjects to read?
etc.

Creating a Question with an Adjective

I can use a randomly chosen adjective to help me to generate a pertinent question from the Questions-mentor.. For this I use the format:

Make up X question.

Then, I pick a random adjective to put in place of the "X", and use it as a trigger to generate a question that has a characteristic suggested by the adjective. Example:

Make up superlative question: What are your favourite ten books?
Make up coupled question: What sequels could you read?
Make up flexible question: Could you try a new genre?
Make up jaded question: Do you stay fresh during reading/studying by taking regular breaks?

Advice-mentor

The Advice-mentor offers advice about the topic. I imagine a mentor is sat with me offering advice. Good advice about the topic reading books could be, "Join a reading group" or, "Improve your general vocabulary" etc. Like with the Questions-mentor, there are two approaches I can take: I can generate some advice intuitively, or use an adjective to help me generate the advice.

Intuitive Advice

To generate intuitive advice I ask the question, "If an Advice-mentor were sat beside me and they offered some pertinent advice about reading books, what could that advice be?" Examples could be:

Check out your local library.
Check out a list of the current best sellers.
Check out a list of the best sellers in your areas of interest.

Advice Created with an Adjective

As before with the Questions-mentor, I pick a random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate some advice that has a characteristic suggested by the adjective. The format is:

Make up X advice

And I pick a random adjective  to put in place of the "X", then interpret it. Example:

Make up feline advice: Read up about caring for my pet cat.

More Examples of Advice:

Make up measured advice: Log how much you've learned in the past 5/10/15 years.
Make up dual advice: Read the same book as your wife so you can compare notes.
Make up smurfy advice: Find classic children's books for my children.
Make up angst-ridden advice: List your main ten problems in life and find out how they are addressed by any books.
Make up evocative advice: Read through your old journal diaries.
Make up messy advice: Have several books on the go at once.
Make up odd advice: Learn to read books written in Latin.
Make up sick advice: Read up on your ailments.
Make up harmonic advice: Polish up on music theory.
Make up satirical advice: Read some work by the famous satirists.

Creative-mentor (How to...more and more)

The Creative-mentor is a little different.The purpose of the Creative-mentor is to start steering the thinking towards creativity and possibilities. I imagine the mentor sat with me has set me a creative challenge. To create the challenge, I choose a random adjective, then increase the degree of the characteristic suggested by that adjective. The basic format is:

How to make (topic) more and more (random adjective).

With the topic of reading books and the random adjective "stubborn" that gives:

How to make reading books more and more stubborn.

What to make of that? Maybe:

Be determined to read and finish a difficult book.

More examples of Creative-mentor:

Find a way to make readings books...

more and more cliquey: Link up with people reading the same book.
more and more sincere: What's the best way to find books that might interest me?
more and more schoolish: How to relearn everything I've forgotten since leaving school?
more and more legendary: How to be as good at reading as Kim Peek. Or (more plausible) research reading abilities such as those of Kim Peek.
more and more odd: Read standing on your head.
more and more dead: Make reading obsolete by inventing a way to download books to your brain.
more and more essential: Invent a "25 books qualification" where you can be tested on your knowledge of any 25 books.

Bigger and Bigger Challenges

I can also, if I choose to, think about what kind of challenge would come from increasing the degree of the characteristic to an impossible or surreal extent. It's an area for letting the imagination run riot and doing lots of wishful thinking. Example: What would it mean to make reading books more and more funded? Maybe:

Set up a scheme so that nobody has to buy a book again.
People could get paid for reading.

More Examples of Bigger Challenges:

To a fanciful or surreal extent, make reading books...

more and more calm. Ways to express information so that it relaxes the reader as well as informs.
more and more musical. Audio books that sing the words as lyrics to well known songs.
more and more white. Books are black text on a white background. Why not white text on a black background? Would it make a difference?
more and more sporty. Make reading books and memorising them a sport.
more and more underwater. Books that are readable absolutely anywhere.

Tool 4: About (Listing Facts) 

The About tool is used to list information about the topic. Again, adjectives are used here. For the topic reading books the format is:

On the subject of reading books, what is X?

Where the "X" is a random adjective. The random adjective "silent" would give:

On the subject of reading books, what is silent?

And I can come up with a few answers:

Libraries
Listening to books by headphones
The pastime itself.
Etc.

A question based on the adjective "nocturnal" would read:

On the subject of reading books, what is nocturnal?

Possible answers:

People queuing at midnight to buy books such as Harry Potter.
Reading at night.
Books about astronomy.

More Examples of About Tool:

On the subject of reading books...

Q: What's knowledgeable? A: People who read a lot of books.
Q: What's evident? A: The words on paper.
Q: What's watery? A: Ink on the paper.
Q: What's square? A: The shape of the book.
Q: What's hoaxed? A: The Hitler Diaries.
Q: What's odious? A: The burning of books. Some forms of censorship.
Q: What's dark? A: The horror genre.
Q: What's dichotomous? A: Party manifestos.
Q: What's menial? A: "Stuffy" books.

Tool 5: Big Picture

There are three options within Big Picture, all used to dig deeper into motivation. These are ASH: Arrows, Scenarios, and How to (more and more).

A: The Positive and Negative Arrows

The positive and negative arrows are based on the Vertical Arrow Technique,  a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) technique that features in the book Feeling Good, by David Burns. The idea is to dig deeper and deeper into motivations, thoughts and beliefs - both positive and negative ones. There are two types of Arrow approach: Positive arrow, and Negative arrow.

Positive Arrow: Why is that good to me? 

To do the positive arrow, I look at the topic (which can also be a thought, problem, challenge, etc) and I ask, "Why is that good to me?" I answer that question, then apply the question, "Why is that good to me?" again, to the previous answer.. I keep repeating this process, asking "Why is that good to me?" and then answering the question again, digging ever deeper until I'm left with an "final answer" where I think I am unable to dig any deeper.

Example 1:

Reading books...

Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like new ideas.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like to think in new ways.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: It floats my boat.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: It means I enjoy life.

Example 2:

Reading books...

Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I can learn new information.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I can think differently.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like to blitz my assumptions.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like making life simpler and easier.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like a creative mental challenge.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: It's fun.

Negative Arrow: Why is that bad to me? 

To do the negative arrow, I look at the topic (which can also be a thought, problem, challenge etc) and I ask, "Why is that bad to me?" Like with the positive arrow above, I answer that question, then apply the question, "Why is that bad to me?" again to the previous answer, continuing the process, asking and answering the question again, digging ever deeper until I'm left with an "final answer" where I think I am unable to dig any deeper.

Example:

Reading books.

Q: Why is that bad to me?
A: It can be hard sometimes to restructure someone else's thoughts so it fits my own thinking model.
Q: Why is that bad to me?
A: It can be stressful.
Q: Why is that bad to me?
A: It's unpleasant.

Scenarios: The Worst That Can Happen, The Best That Can Happen 

Everyone is familiar with asking, "What's the worst that can happen?" and "What's the best that can happen?" I think asking these questions is an important part of seeing the big picture. I also like to get a bit creative when thinking about these scenarios - here I've included the option of putting more imagination into forming the scenarios (again, by using random adjectives).

The Worst-That-Can-Happen

There are two ways here to form the WCH - intuitively, and generated with an adjective.

Intuitive Worst-That-Can-Happen

Here, I'm asking the following question: On the subject of readings books, what's the worst that can happen? Here's some possibilities:

I might not understand it at all.
I might get so lost in reading that I neglect real life.
I might read all of it but then forget it all by the next day!
I might never be able to retain the information.

Using an Adjective to Generate a Worst-That-Can-Happen

Here I'm using the format:

Create X worst-that-can-happen (about reading books).

I insert a random adjective into the position of the "X". The random adjective "normal" gives:

Create normal worst-that-can-happen (about reading books).

What terrible scenarios could occur? Maybe:

Information overload. Meltdown! 
Stress.
Burnout.

More Examples of Worst-That-Can-Happen Scenarios:

Create excluded WCH: I might be the only one who can't understand it.
Create unhygenic WCH: I might catch an awful disease off a library book.
Create fun WCH: I might have so much fun and get so engrossed in the book I neglect other areas of my life.
Create valuable WCH: I might read the book and learn the information only to find the information is now useless, obsolete, or not applicable.
Create bespectacled WCH: My glasses could break and I won't be able to read.

The Best-That-Can-Happen

Like with the worst-that-can-happen, there are two ways to form the best-that-can-happen - intuitively, or with an adjective.

Intuitive Best-That-Can-Happen

Here I'm asking the following question: On the subject of reading books, what's the best that can happen? Here are some possibilities:

I'll be ecstatic about reading..
The information could change my life.
I could find a new author.
I could be inspired to gain a qualification.
I'll retain 100 percent of the information.
The knowledge might help me to tackle other subjects. 

Using an Adjective to Generate a  Best-That-Can-Happen

Here I'm using the format:

Create X best-that-can-happen (about reading books).

I insert a random adjective into the position of the "X". The random adjective "quick" gives:

Create quick best-that-can-happen (about reading books).

What great scenarios could occur? Maybe:

I might learn a new subject quickly.
I might really get engrossed in the reading straight away.
I might find my outlook changes quickly due to learning new information.
I might finish the book in one sitting.
The reading could change my life very quickly.

More Examples of Best-That-Can-Happen Scenarios:

Create far away BCH: I will drift off to another world and feel refreshed after reading.
Create countryside BCH: I might want to take a book everywhere.
Create natural BCH: I'll enjoy the whole process.

H: How to...More and More

This is the same as the "How to...more and more" explained in the Creative-mentor section above.

Tool 6: Introspection (Psychological)

The idea of the Introspection tool is to dig deep into thoughts, feelings, beliefs etc. There are three elements with the Introspection tool, represented by the letters BAH. B is for  BA DAFT. A is for Arrows, and H is for Hypothetical. 

BA DAFT 

BA DAFT stands for: Belief and assumptions, automatic negative thoughts, downsides and benefits (same as pros and cons), automatic positive thoughts, feelings, thoughts. The aim is to list my BA DAFTs about the topic. I imagine there is a mentor-type person with me prompting me to address seven psychological directives about reading books.

The Seven Directives:

1) On the subject of reading books, name one of your beliefs (or assumptions)
2) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic negative thoughts.
3) On the subject of reading books, name a downside
4) On the subject of reading books, name a benefit
5) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic positive thoughts.
6) On the subject of reading books, name one of your feelings.
7) On the subject of reading books, name one of your thoughts.

Example of Each of the Seven Directives Applied to reading books:

1) On the subject of reading books, name one of your beliefs (or assumptions).

Answer: Reading books is good.

2) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic negative thoughts.

Answer: I don't have much time to read.

3) On the subject of reading books, name a downside.

Answer: You can't learn all day. Fatigue sets in. And it's difficult to judge when you're properly refreshed enough to go back to the study.

4)  On the subject of reading books, name a benefit.

Answer: It's an enjoyable process. You can feel like a different person.

5) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic positive thoughts.

Answer: If reading fiction, you can get lost in another world.

6) On the subject of reading books, name one of your feelings.

Answer: It can be hard work if you're memorising information.

7) On the subject of reading books, name one of your thoughts. 

Answer: The knowledge I've gained from reading has improved my life since I started reading seriously in my 20s. 

Arrows (Why is that good to me? Why is that bad to me?)

The Arrows technique (asking "Why is that good to me?" and "Why is that bad to me?" ) is covered in the Big Picture section above.

Hypothetical

For the hypothetical, I create - and think about - a hypothetical action I could do. I am asking, "What would happen if I did (hypothetical action)...?" and then I can apply the BA DAFT and Arrows tools above.

To form my hypothetical, I use random adjectives and the format:

If I do something-X

I pick a random adjective for the "X" and ask myself "What action does that suggest?"

So, for the topic reading books, the random adjective "bleary" for the "X" gives:

If I do something-bleary.

And then I ask, "What action does that suggest?" Maybe:

If I burn the midnight oil and study until the small hours.

More Examples of Hypotheticals:

If I do something...benevolent: Contribute to the local library. Give some books away.
If I do something...cheeky: Leave smart arse comments in library books.
If I do something...unwanted: Read a book that doesn't interest me at all.
If I do something...moany: Write critical reviews of books I hate on Amazon.
If I do something...aesthetic: Try to design a cover for a book.
If I do something...alone: Live in a cave and spend all day reading.
If I do something...red: Read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
If I do something...matey: Ask mates what they're reading at the mo.
If I do something...material: Read up on understanding the economy.
If I do something...interrogative: Read about interrogation techniques and brainwashing.

I can apply BA DAFT and the arrows techniques to any of those, or I can use any of the Folio tools.

WITOWT (What If The Opposite Were True).

There's a simple question I use to challenge assumptions and beliefs etc. It's "What if the opposite were true?", which is represented by the acronym WITOWT. It works on beliefs, thoughts, assumptions and opinions. Generally speaking, WITOWT can be applied to anything that could be recognised as an assertion. In addition to asking WITOWT? I like to generate thoughts that are somewhere on the scale between the opposites.

For example,  if I believe, "I'm no good at singing", then that's an assertion, and I can ask WITOWT? and generate the opposite:

I'm great at singing!

then list points between the two opposites - "I'm no good at singing" and,  "I'm great at singing":

I'm okay at singing.
I can sing sometimes.
I can sing some kinds of tunes.
I can sing tunes that don't have a great range of notes.
etc.

Tool 7: Paper

With the Paper tool, I look back on the information written on the page so far (I usually work on A4 paper), parenthesise a selected section of the writing (it can be a word, a phrase, sentence, paragraph etc) and "lift" that information away to focus on with the SHM ABI PLT tools in its own right.

For example, scrolling up in this article I could pick out information such as:

This is a simplified version.
Produce more switches in my thinking.
My thinking.
I pick a random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate some advice.
Make a difference?
Relaxes the reader.
The purpose of the creative mentor.

I can opt to stay on-topic or go off-topic. So, for example, with "my thinking" I could stay on-topic and think about my thinking in relation to the topic -  reading books - or go off-topic and think about my thinking more generally.

Tool 8: Label and Extract

Label

The Label tool represents information with a single word. This makes the information into a manageable chunk and can open it up to more thinking options, ideas and possibilities.For example if I've written the sentence, "I can't sleep at night", then labeling it as "that problem" makes for a more manageable way to attack and think about the problem (I could use Advice-mentor, Questions-mentor, or any of the SHM ABI PLT tools).

I can use any word to label any amount of information I want, but the words from this group of words seem to work again and again: challenge, fact, question, goal, action, thing, sentence, problem. 

Example of Label:

The sentence I'm looking at is:

Some books are too expensive to touch.

That can be labeled as a fact, and I can then refer to the idea that some books are too expensive to touch as "that fact".

More Examples of Label: 

A party manifesto: That publication.
Reading up on music theory:  That mission.
Reading the work of a famous satirist: That idea.
Finding a way to project a book onto a wall: That challenge.
Reading a book in the bath: That action.
What makes a good reader? That question.

NB: If the information is plural then "those" can be used instead of "that":

People who read books: Those readers.
Stories that appear in trilogy form: Those stories.

Extract

To do the Extract option, I parenthesize some words in the past sentence and "lift them out", to consider them in their own right. For example, while thinking about the reading books topic, I could've generated the following sentence:

Have any books been written by ouija board?

I can parenthesise some of the words there:

Have any books been (written by ouija board?)

and lift them out, to focus on them in their own right:

Written by ouija board.

More Examples of Extract:

Here are some sentences. The words I could extract are inside the parentheses.

(What makes a wise) reader?
(Learn to read) Latin.
(Ways to express information) in ways that relax the reader.
The (horror) genre.
If floats (my boat).
You can't (judge a book by) its cover.
Might read and study a book only to find the (information is useless).

Tool 9: TRIPES - Making Sentences Evolve.

The six TRIPES options make changes to the written word (usually those words are in sentence form). The six TRIPES options make random changes to a sentence so that the sentence evolves and the new sentence can be interpreted (or re-interpreted) to generate new meanings/ideas etc.As an example of the evolution that can occur to a sentence, the sentence:
 
I read a book a week.

could evolve - by the use of the TRIPES options in combination -  to a new sentence such as:

I will write a review of every book I read.

and then on to:

(an off-topic sentence) I will discover some cool subterranean places to explore.

T: Threeword Option: Convert to Three Letters

With the T - Threeword - option I convert the written information (that information could be a word, a phrase or a sentence) to just three words that I think roughly mean the same thing.

Examples of Threeword Option:

The sentence:

There are books that are very valuable.

Converts to: 

Expensive books exist.

The sentence:

I polish up on music theory.

converts to:

Boost music knowledge.

Converting the words to one syllable

Sometimes I also like to convert the words to words of just one syllable. Where:

Boost music knowledge.

converts to:

Boost tune nous. 

Why convert to one syllable? I find the ambiguity of three words of one syllable is more open to interpretation. For example, "boost tune nous" could suggest the idea, "Boost your knowledge of existing tunes." (I've made it my goal to hear every Beatles' track recorded.)

R: Replace Option: Replace a Word

With the R - Replace- option,  I replace a word in a sentence with another word. I can intuitively replace the existing word, or I can replace it with a word randomly generated to see if any ideas or new thoughts are suggested by the resulting new sentence. (A quick and easy way to replace a word systematically is to simply replace it with a rhyming word. If the word to be replaced is of more than one syllable then it's easy to replace it with a word of one syllable and find a rhyme for that word instead.)

Example of Replace Option:

If one of my sentences generated during the reading books focus is:

Get my kids signed up for the library.

then a good intuitive replacement could be swimming for library:

Get my kids signed up for the swimming.

If I opt to replace a word with a random word, then rids could replace kids:

Get my rids signed up for the library.

What could that mean? Maybe books I'm getting rid of - to boot sales and church fetes - I could donate to the library instead?

I: Interpret Option

Interpret

With the I - Interpret - option, I interpret the information, or think of ways that I could re-interpret the information.

For example, if the topic was reading books then I could interpret that in a few ways: I could interpret it as the action of reading books. or I could think it refers to books that can be read, or I could even interpret it as referring to books that are from Reading.There are obviously endless ways to interpret the written word. I try to do three or four interpretations of words/phrases/sentences, but sometimes I like to go a little crazy and name as many as I can and for something like reading books I could end up with the surreal image of something like a living book sitting in an armchair having a read.

Examples of Interpret Option:

Sentence: Music theory:
Interpretation 1: The facts that help you to understand music.
Interpretation 2: My theory that The Beatles unconsciously used the Hokey Cokey as a template for the song Yellow Submarine.

Sentence: Words on paper:
Interpretation 1: Words written in books.
Interpretation 2: Watermarks.
Interpretation 3: Words written on newspapers.

Sentence: You can drift off to another world when you read:
Interpretation 1: Reading fiction can make you imagine yourself in another world. That's good!
Interpretation 2: You can drift off and daydream when you're reading non-fiction or studying. That's bad!

P: Parenthesise-The-Start Option

With the P - Parenthesise - option, I parenthesise a number of words at the start of the sentence and lift them out of the sentence and ask myself, "What could that mean?"

Examples of Parenthesise Option:

Sentence: I polish up on music theory.
Parenthesise (I polish up) on music theory.
Interpret: I polish up = What do I need to review?

Sentence: People queuing at the middle of the night to buy books. 
Parenthesise: (People queuing) at the middle of the night to buy books.
Interpret: The phenomenon of people having to wait to collect something or buy something.

Sentence: You can drift off to another world when reading.
Parenthesise: (You can drift off to another world when) reading
Interpret: There are other things that can make you drift off? What are they?
Further thoughts? Meditation. Sleep. 

Sentence: Learn to read Latin
Parenthesise: (Learn to read) Latin
Interpret: Learn to read
Further Thoughts: Can you learn to forget how to read? Could I learn to read in another language?

Sentence: Battles have accounts done by the fallen.
Parenthesise (Battles have accounts) done by the fallen.
Interpret: Battles have accounts.
Thoughts: What is the cost of a war? In terms of lives lost and financially? Which war was "most expensive"?

E: Expand Option

With the E - Expand - option I expand the words to make a proper sentence. How long is that sentence? I will usually (because I write on paper) aim to expand the information to fill about a line of an A4 pad. (That's about 8 to 10 words.) So reading books could expand to:

When you get a book and read it to gather information.

If the information was already a full sentence then I'll pick a word that can work as the first word of the sentence then rewrite the sentence. For example, with the sentence:

Books can make you think about your life.

the think(ing) can go at the front of the sentence and the rewrite that follows reads thus:

Thinking about your life can happen when you read books.

Examples of Expand Option:

Sentence: List mistakes I regret
Expansion: List the things I've done in my life I later regretted.

Sentence: The horror genre:
Expansion: The genre of writing that aims to scare the reader.

Sentence: Children's books are for sale.
Expansion: Books that appeal to children can be purchased. 

Sentence: You can study something only to find the information is obsolete.
Expansion: (Where "information" goes to the front of the sentence): Information can be obsolete once you've learned it.
 
Sentence: I read a book a week.
Expansion: I will sit down and read a different book every week. 

S: Synonym Replacement

With the S - Synonym - option, I replace one - or any number of - words in a sentence with a synonym. The subtle changes in meaning of the sentence after application of the Synonym option can lead the thinking in novel directions.

NB: I lean towards using words of one syllable or two, but it's okay if it's more.I am also more likely to change just nouns and verbs in the sentence because these are more likely to bring changes in meaning and they're easy to change.

For example, in the sentence: 

I polish up on music theory.

The word "polish" can be replaced with the word "learn", the word "up" can be replaced with "more", the word "music" can be replaced with the word "tune", and the word "theory" can be replaced with the word, "mechanics". Which gives:

I learn more on tune mechanics.

Which - as an idea - could suggest to me that I spend some time looking into the mechanics of existing songs - chord structures, etc - to improve my knowledge of music theory and my compositions.

More Examples of Synonym Replacement:

Sentence: Read about the famous satirists.
After synonym change: Search on the great comics.
Interpretation and thoughts. What could that mean? Maybe: "Do some research on Bob Hope or other famous comedians".  It could apply to the great paper comics. When did Spiderman first appear? What about Hulk? What is their history? Etc.

Sentence: Read a book a week.
After synonym change: Scan a novel each Monday.
Interpretation and thoughts. Scan first chapter of a different novel each week? I read mostly non-fiction. Fiction is a blind spot. Maybe I need to dip into fiction a bit more; I could read just the first chapters of books to see if I'd enjoy the book.

Sentence: People who read lots of books.
After synonym change: Folk who see masses of publications.
Interpretations and thoughts: That could be publishers, agents, bookshop workers etc.

All the TRIPES Options Used Together

In this example I'm using all the TRIPES options together, but I pick which tool to use next randomly. In this example, the sequence of the options I follow is: E, S, T, P, I, R. 

Reading books

E - Expand: Looking at books to get useful information from them.

S - Synonyms: Viewing the publications to get good facts from them.

T - Threeword: Utilising book facts

P - Parenthesis: Utilising books

I - Interpret: Using books in ways that are productive and useful to you.

So far I've stayed on-topic. Now to go off-topic:

Using books in ways that are productive and useful to you.

R - Replace: Using cooks in ways that are productive and useful to you.

If I treat that as an idea what would it suggest? Maybe it's time to try some new food!

Another Example of all the TRIPES Options Used Together:

This example starts with the sentence:

Find a way to project a book onto a wall.

The sequence I use here is: T, S, R, I, S, T, I.

Threeword: Walls display books.
Synonym: Walls have publications.
Replace: Wars have publications.
Interpret: Wars have diaries written by soldiers.
Synonym: Battles have accounts done by (the) fallen.
Threeword: (The) Fallen leave records.
Interpret: Dead people leave wills.


See Also...

How to create a list of adjectives quickly.

Hindsight-How to...more and more.

Works in Progress

Intuitive version of FOLIO (Link to come)
The 100 questions of FOLIO (Link to come)
10 brainstorms on "reading books" (Link to come).

FOLIO Contents

I'll use this post to provide links to the FOLIO posts. FOLIO stands for "Foundations of Life and its Options". It addresses the question, "What shall I think about?", then, "Where do I start thinking?", then, "How do I direct and expand that thinking?"

FOLIO introduction

A Simplified Version of FOLIO

(See also:  How to create a list of random words quickly)

FOLIO: Foundations Of Life and Its Options.

I've been working on this project for years and have recently made great progress I want to share for feedback. The project is called FOLIO, which stands for Foundations of Life and Its Options.

The general question I've tackled is:

When I'm thinking about something, where do I start thinking? (though just as valid a start is the question WHAT can I think about?)

and once I've chosen that point, the next question generated is:

Where does my thinking go from that point?

And from that point, the questions become more specific:

How can I guide my thinking? How can I find different perspectives? How can I explore a topic fully? How can I step out to see the bigger picture? What are my options for areas to focus on? Etc.

Problems that have inspired me to develop FOLIO.

My wife suggested that I could take my daughter to a playground on Saturday mornings. This is an utterly simple suggestion, but I find it interesting to think it's one perhaps you might never have by chance, even though it's a great idea and essentially very simple. Even if you live to be one hundred years old you might never think of that idea. How to structure my thinking so that I can generate options for things to do with my daughter? More broadly, how to structure my thinking so that a vast array of options of things to think about and do with my life are easy to generate?...Should I become a vegetarian? Were my school years really a waste of time? What could I study? Should I? Could I be a nasty person without realising it? How can I find out? What can I do about my nasty procrastination habit? Would it be fun to go on a meditation retreat? What are my preconceptions about meditation retreats? Are my preconceptions about meditation retreats stopping me from going on one? How can I find out my preconceptions about other subjects? Am I happy? Should I be happy? What proactive things could I do to make my family more happy? Etc.

The "Name 100 uses for a paperclip" challenge. This is a well known creativity challenge. I could be doing the challenge and busily brainstorming possible uses for a paperclip when I suddenly make a switch from thinking of actual uses for the paperclip, to thinking to myself, "My mate Dave is very creative - I'll ring him and ask him for some ideas!" How can I systematically make switches like that? So that I may come up with other options to help with the big 100-uses challenge? Here's some switches that might help me in my quest:

Start a blog called, "Name 100 uses for a paperclip" and ask readers to contribute ideas.
Contact brainstorming consultants and ask them what ideas were generated when they did this challenge.
I could visit a factory that makes paperclips and take a tour for inspiration.
I could research the manufacturing process.
I could use Google to look at images of existing paperclips for inspiration.
I could ask you to leave your idea for a use in the comments below.

And then there's the possibility of going off on other interesting tangents:

Just what is it about listing uses for paperclips that makes for a great creativity challenge?
What would be a more interesting creativity challenge?
Could I invent a better paperclip?
How many paperclips are there in the world?
Would setting a target of 500 uses make for more creative ideas than 100?
What mindset leads to the most creative ideas?
Could I make the biggest paperclip ever made and get in the Guinness Book Of Records?

Conclusion

So, this obsession with the starting point of thinking and the guidance of thinking to generate perspectives and options has inspired me to create FOLIO. I think FOLIO could also be called FONIO, which would stand for Foundations Of Now and Its Options, Or simply JO, which would be Juncture Options.

I will post the first FOLIO techniques in the coming weeks.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^
That's the introduction to FOLIO I posted on the 19th of July. As I think of more important points about FOLIO I will post them below.
 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
(29th July, 2014) I want FOLIO to be like a "manual to my younger self" so that I'm writing the "manual about life" I wish I'd had when I was 18 (or younger!).

(30th July, 2014). Some other challenges that I hope will be tackled by FOLIO:

What's the best mindset to have if you want an enquiring mind?
How to make your thinking in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) expand to consider more life options?

(3rd August, 2014): Although I'm hoping FOLIO will be one big, all-encompassing model, there will be loads of stand alone techniques I want to share. Not sure where these are going to go yet!

See also: FOLIO contents

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My memory technique

On my John's Memory Systems blog I've posted a memory technique I've devised, the Adjective and Verb memory technique.