Watch out for the Gorilla!

Gorilla By Kris Elshout on flickrI’m currently reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (amazon affiliate link).

In one of the first few chapters, Dr. Kahneman describes the “invisible gorilla test” popularized by psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. The test consists of a team of 3 people dressed in black and a team of 3 people dressed in white passing a basketball to their teammates.

Watch for yourself…and really really focus on counting the passes between the white-shirts. (If you are reading this via RSS and don’t see a video, please click here to view it).

Did you get the number of passes correct? How about the gorilla…did you see the gorilla the first time?

Whether you saw the gorilla while watching the video or not…research shows that about half of the people that watch this video and focus on counting passes, do not see the gorilla. Pretty amazing huh? Half the people don’t see a gorrilla walk through the scene, pound its chest, turn and look at the camera, then stroll off.  Half the people.

From this test (and many other tests by other psychologists), we’ve learned that its very easy for us mere humans to get deceived, to miss things and/or just not pay attention that well. The ‘invisible gorilla’ phenomenon isn’t just some theoretical phenomena…Its something that happens in the real world every day. It happens to me and to you everyday.

The invisible gorilla shows up in many workplaces too.  With so many people and organizations focused on “doing more with less” (or whatever other buzzworthy terms you want to use here), we tend to miss some of the very important details that might change our outlook and approach towards those things we are so focused on.

Take a step back in your job/life and look for that invisible gorilla.  Maybe your gorilla won’t be as easy to see as the one in the video above…but i bet there’s one there…if you look hard enough.

PS: If you want to learn more about The Invisible Gorilla phenomenon, Simons and Chabris have written many papers on the subject and have even released a book titled The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us (amazon affiliate link). 

Image Credit: Gorilla By Kris Elshout on flickr

Resolutions for 2009

My wife just asked me what my resolutions were for 2009.  I normally don’t do ‘resolutions’ but the question, and the many blog posts about resolutions, started me thinking.

What is it about the changing of the ‘year’ that gets people into the mindset of making resolutions to do things differently in the ‘new year’?

Well…being the geek that I am, I had to look into it.

I read a few articles about the psychology of new year’s resolutions….two of the more interesting articles were:

The Psychology of New Year’s Resolutions lists some results from a 1998 survey that aren’t that surprising:

most people — 75 percent — who make a resolution fail on their first attempt and most people — 67 percent — make more than one resolution.

Not really that amazing if you think about it.  The results from that survey also show:

people who believe that self-control is something dynamic, changing and unlimited (e.g., “I can stop smoking, all I have to do is put my mind to it. I can also change my eating and be a better person, it just takes willpower.”) tend to set more resolutions.

People who believe that we all are born with a limited, set amount of self-control that one cannot change (e.g., “I can’t help myself from eating all this chocolate — I inherited the ‘chocolate gene’ from my mom!”) and who also have little belief in their own capabilities to carry out their own goals (they have what psychologists refer to as “low self-efficacy”) naturally did worse on obtaining their New Year’s resolution goals.

Very interesting, don’t you think?  In order to meet your resolutions or goals, you’ve got to believe that you can reach them.

The 2nd article (What is Really Behind New Year’s Resolutions) backs this up when they report:

The first step in making any permanent change is to become an observer of your life. This is simply becoming aware of your thoughts and actions. Your thoughts lead to emotional states which lead to your actions. Take responsibility for your thoughts, emotional states and actions

To meet your goals, you’ve got to think about them constantly, not just at the new year.  You’ve got to continuously re-asses these goals and compare them with your life and see if the goals still make sense.

So…back to the original thought.  Why is it that we wait until the New Year to make these resolutions.  For most people, I think it’s because they get so wrapped in day-to-day life that they (me too?) lose focus on what they (I?) really want to do with their life.

So what are my resolutions?

Well…I’m going to try Chris Brogan’s appraoch to goals for the new year. Chris has used an interesting approach called “3 words” since 2006 and it looks like his approach has worked well for him.

Here’s my 3 words: Create, Think, Lead.

More on those words:

  • Create – Whether I’m writing for this blog, working on my doctorate, working on entrepreneurial activities, working with clients or spending time with family, I want to be creating 2009.
  • Think – I want to think better. I want to think more creatively.   I also want to make other people think….this is what I’ll be working on for the coming year.
  • Lead – My goal for the coming year is to lead in everything I do.  This doesn’t mean I want/need to be the ‘best’ at everything I do (although it would be nice)…I want to be seen as a leader in the various aspects of my life.  My writing, my research, my work…I’m going to push to be someone that people look to for information and direction.

2009 is going to be a good year….I’m going to make it one and I hope you do too.

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