By all accounts by the time you read this, I will be six weeks into my 2015 fitness programme and hopefully four kilos lighter. The joys of a great summer season with sauvignon, crackers and cheese has seen me slip off the slippery slope of a focused healthier life style.
What dawned on me on the first day back at work (and back on the scales) was that I had lost the art of constant correction – my personal ability to review and refine my actions each and every day.
The art of constant correction is part of my personal armoury that I have used over the last five years to help me deliver incremental improved performance in both my personal and professional life.
This philosophy is like the constant art of correction in the respect that if we continually review and refine our output – whether it is for getting fitter, losing weight or delivering better results within your role or organisation – it gives you the means to constantly stay on track and have the potential of incrementally improving your performance in bite-sized chunks.
As I have explained to others in the past I see this as a similar approach to the premise of compound interest. Compound interest is where interest is added to the principal amount and then where by you begin to earn interest on the additional amount. This addition of interest to the principal is called compounding ergo the amount grows faster as you grow the pool of total funds.
With the same principle the habit of constant correction allows us to drive greater performance and results over an extended period of time with smaller and, if I am honest to myself, more realistic actions that I can improve on without it appearing a significant leap or change.
Behavioural scientists recognise the legitimacy of self-correction — not only as a way to develop new skills, but also to override self-defeating patterns of habitual thinking and behaviour that prevents us from excelling.
It helps train the brain into creating new ways of thinking and if we can think differently then we can act differently as well. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to adjust and adapt its response to new situations or to changes in the environment.
The brain is able to restructure itself after training or practice and neuroplasticity is what makes personal growth and development possible at its most basic level. In other words – just because you have always done or thought of something in a certain way doesn’t mean you have to continue doing or thinking the same moving in the future. So the old adage ‘A leopard can’t change its spots’ isn’t strictly true. Change is possible with a determined focus and mindset.
An example of how neuroplasticity works is if you viewed the brains of people who frequently play the guitar under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers. This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them.
One of the fun sayings around neuroplasticity: “neurons that fire together wire together… and neurons that fire apart wire apart.”. Effectively this means that when neurons activate at the same time as a response to an event, the neurons become associated with one another and the connections become stronger.
This is why people talk about “neural pathways being set” with respect to increased practice – the more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become. Of course the inverse happens as well – if those pathways aren’t utilised, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow.
Change takes place rather suddenly in the brain. Research has shown that habits can be formed in as little as seven days of repeated activity, but can dissipate just as easily. In other words, change comes naturally and quickly and can disappear just as quickly as it arrived.
It also appears that learning a variety of new things, rather than simply practicing old skills, may be most effective in terms of brain structure alterations and therefore building or improving habits, ways of thinking or performance.
We all now live in a fast-paced and often pressured world. I know for me if I can build into my daily life small mindful steps of thinking and reflection then not only can I build a world around that works best for me but it can also give me the best opportunity to thrive, grow and perform.
Improvement is a never ending journey and for anyone who seeks to improve constantly it is not a destination but a constant evolving process of correction. Simply put from Tom Peters, “It’s relatively simple. If we’re not getting more, better faster than they are getting more, better faster, than we’re getting less better or more worse.”
Writers Note: So hopefully by the time you read this, I have fully got back into my daily act of constant correction and those cheeky Christmas extra kilos are gone.
Fiona Hewitt is the Chief Executive at NZIM and comes to the role with almost 20 years experience in senior management and executive roles. With a strong focus on strategy, business development, marketing, and relationship engagement and stakeholder management, this has supported her passion to work with and for organisations committed to achieving strong results. She has a deep personal interest in making a difference and finding innovative ways for organisations and people to perform at their very best.