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Flourish Bulletin February 2023. Are humans becoming redundant?

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

February 2023: In this Bulletin…

The last six weeks have passed like a blur. Not very mindful I know, but I am only human. Over the last six weeks I have been working with a small, dedicated group of busy people who want to turn their intentions into reality. I have been teaching staff from the European

Parliament how to teach mindfulness to their work colleagues. I have been coaching a client to help them overcome a fear of public speaking. I have also been reminded of the power of words and how they can shape your reality – more on this later. I have also become both fascinated and disturbed by how far Artificial Intelligence (AI) has evolved.

Are humans becoming redundant?

Has Artificial Intelligence (AI) already taken over? Have you seen ChatGPT yet? If you haven’t seen it, you should. ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that has gone viral, and everyone seems to be talking about it. Its both Incredible and deeply worrying. It made me question if AI is already taking over? If you know me then you’ll know that I am not one for conspiracy theories. In a recent survey 55% of experts predicted that AI will take over SEO in the next 10 years. Its already writing many of the social media posts you are reading. Its also writing school essays for pupils that teachers are finding difficult to differentiate from essays written by humans. I decided to give it a go.

I typed into the Chatbot: “Can you write me a social media post on intention”. It replied “Sure! Here's a sample social media post on intention”. It wrote me a quite passable 80-word post along with three hashtags. As a specialist in intention, I spotted a few words I wouldn’t use, and things I wouldn’t say. These small points wouldn’t have been picked up by most people.

The AI authored post was highly credible and anyone but an expert would have probably posted it.

Next, I typed a direct quote from my book: Intention Matters: “intention is a deep sincere desire underpinned by a belief that it is possible”. The chatbot replied “Yes, intention can be defined as a strong and genuine aspiration or aim that is supported by a conviction that it can be achieved. It is a combination of a desire and a belief that gives direction and purpose to one's thoughts and actions.” Again, highly credible. What it didn’t do was acknowledge that it was my definition, from my book. Worrying…

I am the author of Intention Matters and created the IDEA mode published in the book. I asked the chatbot to “Explain the IDEA model from intention matters book”. The reply worried me further. It told me that Intention Matters was a book authored by someone other than me. I Googled the authors name, and they hadn’t ripped off my work and certainly had not written a book of the same title. The Chatbots text explained each of the four steps of the model, subtly changing the title of each stage. It concluded by saying “The IDEA model is a comprehensive framework for setting and achieving your goals and helps individuals to break down their aspirations into achievable steps, to increase the likelihood of success.” The latter is hard to argue with apart from the fact that goals are different to intentions.

Whilst I think its incredible that the capability of AI has advanced this far it worries me profoundly that the internet will soon be awash with credible sounding articles that may be subtly incorrect or misleading.

It also worries me that anything on the internet can be converted into generic text and passed off as somebody else’s work. The ramifications for Intellectual Property rights are enormous. The possible ramifications for dumbing down society are immense. I would love to know your thoughts.

If you’d like a balanced overview of ChatGPT you might wish to read this article from Business insider

Overcoming your fear of presenting

This month I have been working with a leader who is frighted of presenting to groups of 10 or more people. Fear of public speaking - glossophobia is a very common fear.

It’s estimated that 75% of people suffer from various forms of this phobia, and 10% are genuinely terrified.

Symptoms of glossophobia range from knots in the stomach, sweaty palms, dry mouth, shaky legs, and tightness in the throat. In extreme cases, sufferers experience nausea, panic attacks and excessive anxiety. Why is this?

Some psychologists trace extreme cases to childhood trauma. Others think that fear of public speaking builds each time we avoid opportunities to speak. Some say the fear may be a by-product of low self-esteem and a fear of being judged harshly. Whatever the trigger for the phobia it can be debilitating and sometime career limiting.

My top tips for overcoming the phobia are:

  1. Controlling your breathing. Breathing in a controlled manner counters nervousness triggered by the increase of adrenaline in our bloodstream. Excess adrenaline makes us breathe shallowly, i.e., in the top part of our lungs, and too rapidly. Relaxation and breathing techniques are invaluable when trying to calm your nerves. When we are nervous, we often take shallow breaths. This leads to added anxiety, so slowing down our breathing and learning to relax are invaluable. Feel free to contact me if you need some breathing exercises to try.

  2. Grounding yourself. Grounding is a technique that helps keep you in the present and helps reorient you to the here-and-now and to reality. It can also serve as a distraction from the anxious thoughts about presenting. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your hands hanging loose, shoulders down and head relaxed on your neck. Feel your feet in contact with the floor. If it helps, imagine roots growing out of your feet and into the floor.

  3. Be prepared. Make sure you know your subject. This may sound obvious, but if you feel confident in your subject it will help you to feel calmer and in control. Plan your speech or presentation. Practise it, say it out loud. Visualise a positive outcome – your speech or proposal being well received. This will help you get into the right frame of mind for the speech you are about to make.

  4. Power pose. Immediately before or shortly before you present spend 2 minutes power posing somewhere private. Use a toilet cubicle to do so if necessary. Research demonstrates that just 2 minutes of Power posing reduce cortisol - the stress hormone that makes you feel fearful, and increases testosterone – the dominance hormone, which can help you to feel in control. To power pose, adopt an expansive body posture. * Try the hourglass - legs just over hip width apart and your arms above your shoulders reaching out to the side. * Alternatively try the Wonder woman pose - hands on hips, legs just over hip width apart. Feet firmly planted on the ground.

  5. Redefine fear as excitement. It’s a little-known fact that the symptoms of fear and excitement and very similar. Your pulse may quicken, and your breathing becomes more shallow and rapid. You might even get chills. By mentally associating all of these symptoms with excitement, you can trick yourself into associating your fear symptoms with their mirror image excitement symptoms. Your body and brain can't really tell the difference, so the only thing that needs to change is your conscious use of language to describe the feeling to yourself (and others). By changing the story you tell yourself, over time you will start to feel excited rather than fearful about presenting. For example, when your inner dialogue says “I'm afraid of public speaking. I'm really nervous about this presentation.” You could tell yourself “Public speaking excites me. I'm excited to give this presentation.”. This simple tweak can have dramatic effects.

Intention collective: lessons learned

Your intentions are “deep sincere desires, underpinned by belief that it is possible. Your purpose is highest intention in life. One of my core intentions is to educate and inform people about Intention and its practical uses and applications. As part of this for the last five weeks I have been piloting an online intention setting group called The Intention Collective. I have learned some valuable lessons from the group.

  1. The hardest part of turning an intention into a reality is identifying your true intentions in the first place. Working in pairs group members asked each other “why” this is their intention or “what’s behind” this intention. Both proved to be great ways to really get clear on what’s important in your life.

  2. Once an intention is set opportunities start to emerge – sometimes from unexpected places. All members of the Intention Collective have reported to me that they are noticing all sorts of links and opportunities, some large, some small that will contribute towards the achievement of their intentions. Clear intentions prime the mind to be hyper vigilant for anything that may help you to achieve the intention you have set.

  3. The right intentions energise you and motivate you to take action in the right direction.

  4. Words are very powerful and can work for good or ill. (See ‘you are what you think' below) One member of the group hated their job and kept telling themselves “I don’t want to work”. They quit their job and started a business doing something they loved but got a mental block about setting up their website, writing emails, and typing up the notes needed by their clients. All these were tasks they knew how to do, but somehow felt unable to. Working in the group they came to realise that although they now had a great self-employed job, their brain was still working on the outdated inner script that was telling them that work was bad and should be avoided. Their brain associated creating the website, typing emails and client notes as “work”. Interestingly working 1:1 with clients they associated as “play”, so was easy for them to do. Identifying the power of words helped them to change their internal narrative to something more helpful.

  5. Knowing your purpose in life is a powerful driver for action. Your purpose in life can be modest or expansive. The important thing is that it is right for you at this moment. Purpose drive intentions. Intentions drive actions that make things happen in the real world.

Psychology: You are what you think

"As you think, so shall you become" is a famous quote from martial artist Bruce Lee. If you think you are a Lion, you are a Lion, but if a Lion thinks its a kitten thats when problems start to arise.

Recent research with university students concluded that If you expect a lecture to be boring, you’ll probably end up feeling more bored. No great surprise, but this finding has wide reaching implications for all of us.

If we expect a meeting to be boring that’s how we will experience it. If we expect our boss to always focus in on the formatting of a report and not take on board the message it conveys that is what we will pay attention to.

The latter was the case for one of my coaching clients John (not his real name) who had a difficult relationship with their boss. Their bosses lack of strategic thinking capability was “well known”. John became frustrated when their boss commented on “trivial” aspects of formatting on reports whilst appearing to completely ignore their detailed analysis work and punchy recommendations. This led them to get snappy, which in turn led their boss to view them as ‘over emotional’.

Via coaching John came to realise his boss was probably suffering from psychological disorders that led to him getting fixated with small unimportant details and an inability to zoom out and see the bigger picture. By changing Johns perception of his boss, he was able to present information to them in a way that helped him to get the feedback and information that he was seeking from his boss.

Our perception guides our attention towards relevant data.

If we percieve that a meeting will be boring our attention will be drawn to evidence that its boring or a waste of time. If we percieve that the meeting is a great opportunity to gather information or share our views, our attention will be drawn to opportunities to gather information or contribute to the conversation.

We will pay less attention to a meeting or interaction we percieve will be boring or a waste of time. Our attention will be drawn to auditory or visual data that corroborate our perception of the situation. If we expect criticism or hostile treatment, we will subconsciously take steps to protect ourselves. This may trigger amygdala hijack which means we are unlikely to perform well and may do something that makes things worse.

Its important to actively take steps to cultivate awareness of our perceptions in the shape of thoughts and treat them simply as mental events. Thoughts are not facts, simply mental processes that our mind has created. Treating them as such leads to greater cognitive flexibility and an ability to step away from outdated thinking that no longer serves us well.

We are what we think. If we think we can do something we are more likely to suceed than if we think we can't do it. that Understanding the power that our perception of a situation has on our outcomes in life is vital if we want to change our lives for the better.

Mindfulness made simple

Over 8500 studies have been published over the last 40 years on the positive impacts of mindfulness. Over 400 of these studies explore the impact of mindfulness on busy working professionals in all walks of life. Several major studies have concluded that Mindfulness at work training increases multiple aspects of productivity, employee relationships and wellbeing. Compare that to the average MBA that has little or no underpinning evidence of its effectiveness.

I have been involved in the development of workplace mindfulness curriculums for over 10 years now. Initially I designed an 8 week MBCT light curriculum designed along western teaching methods. Next, I collaborated to design a six week program called WorkplaceMT. I co-trained over 270 mindfulness teachers to equip them to deliver this curriculum.

In the aftermath of Covid, I developed MindfulnessAWT as a 6-week curriculum suitable for both face to face and online delivery. I redesigned weeks three and six to link and flow better. I also gave the slides a more infographic feel and worked hard to make complex aspects of mindfulness simple and easier to apply.

In January I ran the first MindfulnessAWT trainer training program for a staff member working for the European Parliament. The training is designed as a bolt on module for teachers who have already completed mindfulness trainer training in MBSR, MBCT or similar. The training went well.

As part of the training, I model teaching the program so that students can observe how it feels to be a MindfulnessAWT student. I received this feedback:

“it was new to me to see mindfulness taught with PowerPoint slides and I wondered how it would work. I came away from the training persuaded that its an effective teaching method for mindfulness in the workplace. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable teaching the program without having experienced it myself as a student first”….

“I really enjoyed the training and came away from it feeling better prepared to teach in the workplace. Juliet’s approach is accessible engaging supportive and inspiring. I can’t wait to start teaching MindfulnessAWT”

Contact me if you would like further information on the program or trainer training

Discover what makes you happy.

This month I have been reading an old favourite of mine: Flourish by Martin Seligman

Flourish presents a novel concept of what well-being is, focussing on how to get the most out of life and what constitutes a good life. The book focuses on promoting positives rather correcting negatives. Seligman offers tried and tested solution on how to increase positive emotions, helping you to feel happier and get more from life. Worth a read.

Wishing you a great February!

With best wishes, Juliet

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