Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our automatic sense making of mind directs us in the school age

We find direction by automatically making sense of situations   

By using our mind, we constantly make sense of the different situations which make or mar our journey of excellence:

We are constantly making sense of a situation, event, challenge or problem. When we can make 'adequate' sense, we feel empowered and take action or commit with a deliberate decision. When we cannot make sense, we feel paralysed in inaction and refuse to take any conscious decision. 

Based on our sense-making, when we take the action , if we produce 'desired' result, we feel that we made the right sense. Our Self belief increases. Self belief emerges from the knowledge that our mind (that is stock of beliefs plus facts) is capable to deal with reality. However, if our action does not produce 'desired' result, we learn and alter our stock of B+F. We try once again. But if it does not work even after repeated attempts, our mind is confused. It downgrades our Self belief. When it works, it upgrades our self belief. Once this self belief grows beyond threshold level, it changes everything for us. Our self belief continues to grow or wither based on this circular loop of action>desired result or not>sensemaking>self belief>action. 

Let us understand this process better through three anecdotal but common examples.

Stories of Sam, Sarika and Lalit

For instance, let us imagine three students, Ram, Radhika and Lalit in 6th class but in different schools. Till 6th class, Sam's and Lalit's self belief is " I am good in Geometry'. However, when Sam and Lalit cannot get good marks in the first chapter in geometry in his 7th class, they stop. They try to make sense of the new problem situation. Based on individual stock of B+F,  Ram and Lalit conclude that ' they have not understood Geometry chapter well'.With this sense, both try to understand Geometry by talking to their friends and teachers. Lalit solves his problem and moves ahead. His Self belief 'I am good in Geometry' consolidates further. On the other hand, Sam does not understand the Geometry chapter. His Self belief may be altered to "I may not be good in Geometry". If the same problem continues with the next few chapters of Geometry for Sam, he consolidates his self-belief into "I am not good in Geometry". Also remember that, in our education system, there is a 'missing-train effect'. If someone fails in understanding the first chapter, he cannot understand the next and so on. So once the train is missed, you cannot catch it. Now with this Self-belief, Sam is stuck up because that stops his learning in Geometry. On the other hand, Lalit's self belief is consolidating into "I am good in Geometry', because he jumps back into the train in time !

If Sam however is good in Drawing, his self-belief that 'i am good in Drawing' continues to grow. But when he talks with others, he discovers the popular belief that 'being good in drawing is not helpful if you have to achieve something in life'. He also slowly finds that his friends, elders and society also subscribe to this belief. Therefore, despite being good in Drawing, he starts worrying about his capabilities and starts wondering if 'he is good enough to achieve anything in life'. This sensemaking colors his responses to all the situations now, not just in Geometry. On the other hand, when Lalit learns about the belief that ' Geometry is helpful in achieving in career', his Self belief further consolidates.

Now imagine Sarika, studying in the same class, who also goes through the same path like Sam. But, instead of consolidating her belief that ' Being good in drawing is not helpful to achieve', she meets a painter in a shopping mall who is painting sketches. She likes the sketches and goes to ask him some questions. Some talk happens. It leads to further questions. For the first time, she finds that there is a different world of painting. Her belief " Being good in drawing is not helpful in achieving in life' is punctured. She becomes curious. Then she meets a friend of a distant relative who is working in Animation. When she meets this friend, her self-belief " I am good in drawing and i can achieve in life' germinates. With more such events, some happening due to chance and some happening because of Sarika's curiosity of drawing career, her self-belief consolidates further. She discovers that there are other careers that are based on drawing such as fashion designing, ceramic designing. Her Self-belief ' I am good in drawing and can achieve something in life' consolidates further.

Lalit, Sam and Sarika may start with the similar education environment, go through the same difficulties, but a small change here and there can lead to a very diametrically divergent consequences.  ( It is a popular myth that big results in life happen due to big moments negotiated successfully.) If you therefore meet Lalit, Sam and Sarika in 10th class, you will find them to be completely different. Sarika will look motivated because she is engaged with her strengths in drawing by finding enough support for her drawing path.While Sam is demotivated because, unable to focus on his strength, he is engaged with his weakness and therefore continues to struggle to perform. Lalit is motivated because he is engaged in his 'strength' of geometry for which he found ready 'support' from others.

In other words, due to some fortuituous changes, Sarika's Self belief has consolidated into 'i am good in drawing and can achieve something in life', while Lalit's Self belief that 'I am good in Geometry and can achieve something in life" has risen to a threshold level.Once this Self-belief reaches threshold level, everything changes. Now one takes the steering in one's hands. This is the first step towards achievement for a student.

Self belief beyond a threshold level is the first step of being Self-directed

Once a person has a self belief beyond threshold level, he or she becomes self-motivated (or self directed). After one becomes self-directed, one starts choosing directions instead of following others. One starts converting crisis into opportunity. One starts finding 'situations' to make things happen, instead of waiting for 'situations'. This step is therefore the prerequisite of achieving anything in life.

Once this level of self belief is reached, even poor performance or failure does not puncture the confidence of a person. If you have listened to the interviews of six speakers in Ved Program, you will observe that their self-belief had grown beyond a threshold level. Because of this high self belief, Abhishek Sen, despite failing 31 times, still continued to work on the problem of his diagnostic haemoglobin measuring instrument. Or Pradeep Lokhande, despite failing to get any response to his 20,000 letters from the villages two times, still mustered enough energy to send letter the third time. Or Sunil Khandbahale, despite performing poorly in software test in his company, still worked on learning software for six months to master the software despite being an Instrumentation Engineer.

If Self belief has grown beyond a threshold level, the person becomes self-motivated. Once this happens, you will see a different individual. This is why you will find lot of difference between Lalit, Sam and Sarika after they reach Xth class. While Sarika & Lalit will surmount any difficulty that comes along the way, Sam will not be able to muster enough energy even to overcome the slightest difficulty. Because Sam is unable to do anything, you will conclude that Sam does not willpower. While, because Lalit and Sarika are taking up challenges, you will assume that they have willpower and confidence.

As Sarika and Lalit are self directed, they can use all the rules of success like work hard, be persistent, have willpower and so on. On the other hand, Sam, whose Self-belief is below threshold level, is so much 'down' and 'demotivated' that he is unable to use any of these rules. If you tell him to work hard, he will tell you that he has done it many times. Advice of working hard does not work for him because he is working hard in his weak area ( like Geometry and physics). With no results forthcoming from his hard work in geometry, he is further demotivated. Working harder is just causing more demotivation for him. How can he work hard?

In the school, a student must gain enough Self belief. With or without academic performance, he has to build this self-belief. For instance, Sunil Khandbahale and Abhishek Sen seemed to have good academic performance which helped them gain Self-belief. But Pradeep Lokhande must have found it very difficult to sustain his self belief due to his poor academic performance. Sometimes, I have noticed that, even with good academic performance, the student does not have enough self belief, because he is not sure of 'how being good in physics and chemistry will help him achieve anything in life'.

Self belief is a basic requisite to become self-directed. In addition to self-belief, a student must at least fulfill three conditions to become self-directed: identify one's potential strengths, find a career path that will exploit that strength in the future and create a  Unique Learning Plan (ULP) to use potential strengths into useful outputs. Without this ULP, his dream of achievement by using his potential strengths becomes a pipe dream.  Therefore all three conditions must be fulfilled to become self-directed 


It is important to remember that, in career-making, factors controlling achievement are endogenous. They are not exogenous.

This means that motivation does not come from outside; it is not an external input in Sam's or Sarika's life. In other words, Sarika's motivation does not come from her character. Likewise, Sam's demotivation does not result due to his lack of willpower. Sarika is motivated because she gets desired results from her sense-making. She finds enough data from the environment to alter her Beliefs in time. Similarly, Sam is demotivated because he could not find timely support for his strengths from his friends and family in time. One is result of sensemaking that has gone right; another is the result of sensemaking that has gone wrong. So the outcome of sensemaking has made Sarika different from Sam.

In the earlier blogs, we had seen how the factor like confidence is not inherent in a person; it depends on one's engagement with the system. We had also seen how our nice looking virtues ( like virtue of honesty) are also relevant in a context; outside the context, these virtues are irrelevant.

But we tend to ignore all this research when we are listening to achievers. Like, when we hear the story of Sam and Sarika, we prefer to assume that Sam will not achieve because he is not working hard or because he is not persistent enough. Similarly, we like to believe that Sarika (or Lalit) achieved because she was self driven, motivated, intelligent and ambitious. But, as you would have realised, these explanations are inaccurate and therefore misguide us. Motivation is both a cause and effect. First it is an effect, and then later it becomes a cause !


Aniket said...

Excellent Article.. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! This is an excellent article. permit me to re-title it (Road-map to Success). One of the holy book says "my people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge" This article is full of knowledge which can give life to a lot of people looking for it. Well done.