I had an interesting conversation with a colleague from the US recently (March 2021) and I was reminded of an important point.
It’s all very well creating a website offering a ‘library’ of safe experiments that others have devised over the years. This page enables me to thank everyone involved here once again. Contributors to this library have identified small, safe experiments that work for them. They are included here as they may work for you, the reader.
My colleague’s question, in summary, was: what more might I do to widen access to ‘small safe experiments’ (or nudges)?
So: a challenge. Can more be done to see that nudges work more often and for more people?
I am convinced that learning from small defeats, as well as small victories, is what works for most people, most of the time. It is both, not one or the other. Indeed, my experience is that when I veer off to one side, I focus on my defeats.. That is not going to create a balanced view of my world. To journey outside the Window of Tolerance, and widen it a little bit more is – as I see it – a one-way street. With insight comes permanent learning. For example, have you ‘unlearned’ how to ride a two-wheeler? Some folk will believe so, but my experience is that it takes only a little time to regain confidence in cycling.
My colleague wanted to include more people into the art of small, safe experimenting. He was concerned about the less motivated individual. My own sense is that there is more to it than that. We agreed that motivation was going to be higher for a ‘safe experimenter’, and lower for anyone feeling defeated and/or unable to change. The models of change rather suggest that. He had a percentage figure for the less motivated group. I will not quote his global figure, but it was high, very high. His ambition was to improve on the figure: to ensure that the percentage of motivated and fulfilled people is increased.
This conversation reminded me of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s first Travel Tale was about the Lilliputians who were warring over eggs on a long-lost foreign island. The Big Endians asserted that boiled eggs should be opened at the big end. The Little Endians asserted eggs should be opened at the little end. Now, I don’t want to start a war between the safe experimenters and those less willing, or unable to experiment so let’s leave the categorising of people behind.
I do want to increase the number of small, safe experimenters but we agreed that the point was to enable rather than to tell.
Every such opportunity taken in this way will, in time, increase the minority of small and safe experimenters, and reduce the proportion who are not making moves. They may see a pathway in their heads, but not in front of them.
So, how might it happen that one person takes an important step that they value. All this begs one important question :
What are qualities that will make a difference; that a small, safe experimenter may want at their finger-tips?
I get close to it on the page — psychological healing where I describe the workings of our Vagus nerve, and consider how we might care for it. This is not straightforward; the ingredients I talk about here are important. So what are those ingredients? I have been reluctant to identify some of them as it implies I am offering the list. All you have to do is to go and buy them from the psycho-market!
After some thought, I’ve decided to ‘egg’ you on to identify, explore and mix these ingredients. I do so with one caveat: see if you can add at least one quality of your own and, maybe, move towards something even more comprehensive!
No one ingredient is necessary or sufficient to the task. But each is important. Combinations of ingredients are even more powerful. They can help you develop a stronger plan of action. With all that in mind, consider these ingredients:
Having awareness: this seems a vague quality and yet safe experiments can only begin if I know that something is wrong. It may just feel wrong, appear wrong, sound wrong or look wrong. A value of ‘wrong’ is needed before I am able to move towards ‘right’. I have to Think and Judge, before I Act.
Having patience: I put this quality in early on as many people tell me that they are impatient for change. Even so, the harder you try, the more resistance you may experience. So, how do you slow down or accept who you are, and the way you are, now?
Having willingness: your life will go on as it is without any change(s). You may well live a fine life. There has to be a willingness to shift, to move to somewhere else – literally or metaphorically. It is not obligatory. It may not even be desirable.
Having self-compassion: this is a tricky one. One person’s compassion may not be another’s compassion. Even so, most of us have an ‘inner critic’ and – for some – this is a sharp, shrill and persistent voice in our heads. The tricky thing is that some of us want to wash it away or order it away. The truth is that that voice, however unpleasant, may be saying something important – if in an unhelpful way. Through self-compassion, it may be possible to listen to the whisper, behind the voice.
Support: this is lower on my list, but it should be higher up. Why? Support is essential to most of us on a 24 hr / 7 day a week basis. That is not always the experience for many of us. Even if you are in therapy, there are still 6 days and 23 hours to account for – assuming you attend a one-hour consultation every week. None of us is guaranteed a high quality support system. That said, support systems can be improved by “talking” to our Drivers, particularly the Be Strong Driver. There is an antidote to that driver: to ask for things. This seems so easy on one level. You try it, and see! Not all of us are good at it..
Being motivated: this web site has touched on motivation a fair bit. Identifying what the word means to you does not produce the drive to change out of thin air. What skills and abilities may you need to encourage that drive to change?
Creating an outline of a plan: there are several ‘pathways’ described throughout this website. The Johari Window is a useful map to have at hand. Can you take a look at the illustration and find some inspiration for a journey you want to focus on? What is the scenic route you might follow using the Johari Window or the Window of Tolerance?
Possessing needed resources: now here is a big problem so I give it a lot of space. Resources are too often over-looked in the design and delivery of therapy. Sometimes, the lack of resource is seen as a personal deficiency – something that you could put right by ‘getting on your bike‘ . For the most part, those assertions are lies. Furthermore, there are few fair shares – we are not all in it together, as the popular mantra goes. Public services offering free services are inundated, and they tend to become inefficient or bureaucratic (and now they are sold on to private companies for profit). By contrast, low charge, third sector services are inundated as well and can duplicate services, or leave holes in service provision. By contrast, fee-paying services are not inundated. Why is that, I wonder?
The sad truth is that even fully-costed therapy cannot offer guarantees. There are some who might give the impression of a certain outcome. In financial circles, it is popular to say that if the promises are too good to be true, then they are not true. Similarly, in therapy, beware therapies with simple formulae, or many assurances. Some are serving a self-interest and, far worse, others undermine your own capacity for self-care. I’d go as far as saying that private services can collude with those seeking long-term therapy. This collusion ignores your own responsibility for your self-care.
By the way, I am in independent practice. How do I live with that, then? Do ask.
Ability: this is at the bottom of my list as we all lack some ability. We can make good some of those abilities, and the website has a number of pages devoted to this – on assertiveness, on communication, on management of our feelings and on improving sensitivity to yourself, your language and other people.
At the same time, we can undermine the abilities we do possess. The Discount Matrix provides information on how each of us can miss a trick here.