Visualization

Driving Lessons

My progress was slow after a couple of driving lessons. My driving instructor was simply unimpressed. I was still slow at shifting the gear correctly and often got confused on which way to move the gear stick. I was not happy about that. I still had more driving lessons to take though. For the sake of not embarrassing myself once again in front of the driving instructor, I decided to work on my gear shifting skills before the time for the following driving lesson came.

Visualizing

The interesting thing was that I had decided to practice gear shifting through visualization and not by actually getting into the car, holding the gear stick and moving it while holding down the clutch with my left foot. I had not heard before about visualization being used in practicing driving. Maybe it was, but I simply had never heard about it. I told myself to just give it a try and see the results. I did not expect much but thought to just give it a try.

Stunning Progress

Time for my following driving lesson came. I was stunned by my performance. I was able to make gear shifts rapidly and correctly without any hesitation or mistakes! I managed to surprise myself and my driving instructor who was impressed after having almost lost hope due to my poor performance and slow progress during the preceding driving lessons.

Visualization Technique

The way I had been practicing driving just before that lesson was by closing my eyes, imagining that my right hand was holding the gear stick and giving myself instructions on which gear to shift to by simply giving myself a number. So for instance I said to myself “first” and started to visualize myself moving my right hand while holding the gear stick to the place for the first gear. Then I said to myself “second” and visualized myself shifting the gear stick to the position of the second gear. Then I said “first” then “second” then “third” then “second” and so on each time visualizing myself making a gear shift. I did all that while closing my eyes in the comfort and safety of my own home. The results of such practice far exceeded my expectations as I have mentioned above.

Training of Trainers

Visualization can also be used by a trainer to prepare for a training session before actually delivering it. This technique can be used by experienced as well as novice trainers alike. It can be used more thoroughly by novice trainers though to help them overcome their fear of facing a live audience. The beauty of such technique is that it allows you to practice in a protected safe environment. Any mistakes you will make will not have negative consequences. This very concept of zero negative consequences gives you the courage and confidence to go in full force and perform superbly well during visualization. When the time comes for the real thing you feel as if you have done it before while in fact you had only been visualizing doing it.

Doing Vs. Visualizing

It makes almost no difference to the brain whether you are actually doing something or visualizing doing it. For the brain, the two have the same effect. Let’s say someone remembers a sad incident. This memory might cause him to cry. Or someone thinks about the negative possibilities of something bad happening, this can cause his whole physical body to be disturbed. A person who is afraid from heights might experience strong negative signs in his physical body just by visualizing himself getting close to the edge of a high building and falling. the physical body reacts to all such visualizations in a similar fashion to its reaction to them had they been actually happening in real life.

Your Turn

Visualization is a very powerful technique that can be used to practice just about almost anything within a comfortable, protected and safe environment. So next time you are working on improving a skill why not try having part of your practice in the form of visualization? You might just surprise yourself with the results in the same way I have during the time I was taking driving lessons.

Have you ever tried to practice something through visualization? If so, tell use about it.

Learning from my Mistakes as a Trainer

My First PowerPoint Presentation

I was not yet used to using PowerPoint presentations in my training, in fact it was my first time to create a PowerPoint presentation for a training session and use it during the session. I was volunteering to deliver such a session at some local place in my hometown. At first I was not planning to use a PowerPoint presentation for the session but the team organizing the training requested that I use one. I huddled and assembled a group of slides in which I kept listing points in bullet form in one slide after the other.

Saving the Day

During the training itself, I experimented by using the think and listen technique. It was my first time to use it after reading about it online. I had not even experienced it in any training I had attended before. Although the elements of interactivity I have used combined with my confidence in speaking to an audience helped save the day for that training session, which I was delivering for the first time, yet the dry sequence of bulleted slides I had been using was poor enough to reduce the overall quality of the training. The PowerPoint slides I had prepared contained no images, graphs or photos at all! My slides consisted of nothing but bare text in bullet form.

Poor Evaluation

The average evaluation of the training session as per the training evaluation forms for the trainer performance section was “good”. Compared to other trainers who had been getting “excellent” for their performance at that place my performance was considered pretty modest.

Feedback from Organizers

I remember those organizing the training politely suggesting to me, after the training session was over, that I add some images to the PowerPoint presentation to give it some visual appeal. They noted, however, that participants were “happy,” which seemed to surprise the organizers in light of my bland PowerPoint presentation.

Photo Slides

This experience I had gone through preparing and using my first PowerPoint presentation during a training session was enlightening and resulted in a powerful transformation of my skills later on. As I prepared PowerPoint presentations after that incident I started including some photos to provide visual appeal. This kept developing till my PowerPoint presentations were largely nothing but a sequence of full size photo slides with a few captions and minimal bulleted text which I found to be way more effective than cramming lots of text in bulleted form into the heads of participants.

Learning from Mistakes

Without having gone through the difficult and stressful experience of presenting my first bare PowerPoint presentation I would probably not have learned in such a powerful way the importance of using images and visual appeal in a PowerPoint presentation and would not have had the strong energy propelling me towards creating highly visual PowerPoint presentations later on.

Lessons Learned

Although a trainer should prepare well for the training program he is about to deliver and should practice before actually delivering it to participants yet poor performance and mistakes a trainer makes during the training itself can be a powerful way by which he learns and transforms his skills from a mediocre state to an exceptionally effective one.

So next time you make an embarrassing mistake while delivering a training program do not dwell on it, just use such force to fuel your efforts in developing your skills further in order to avoid such an embarrassing mistake or such poor performance from taking place once again. You will be surprised at the great positive transformation that can result in yourself after going through such an initially stressful situation.

Is there a difficult or embarrassing situation that you have been through which has helped transform the way you see things and has resulted in a positive transformation in your skills? Share your it with us.

The 3 Core Objectives of Training

The 3 Objectives

Whenever I deliver a training program I have 3 main goals that I focus on and seek to achieve. The first goal is making participants happy during the training sessions and having them enjoy the training sessions to the max. The second is to make participants benefit greatly from the training as it comes to an end and make them aware that they have greatly benefited from the training. The third goal is to have participants keep growing and developing further even after the training program is over.

Awareness

Although the three goals are tied to one another yet still some training programs may fail to achieve all 3 at the same time thus reducing the effectiveness and impact of the training. Let’s say that after the completion of a training program participants have benefited a lot from it but are just unaware that they have actually benefited. In such a case they will probably provide poor feedback about the training when filling in the evaluation forms. They might discover later on that they have actually benefited immensely from the training after seeing a great positive shift in themselves but that could be long after the training program comes to an end.

Also being aware that one has benefited from the training increases that persons’s motivation and happiness thus impacting the other two factors of success of a training program which are happiness/enjoyment and long term improvement. It is therefore essential that a trainer not only focus on making participants benefit from the training program but also make sure they are aware of the value of the training they have just received and the extent to which they have benefited.

Enjoyment

As for enjoying the training sessions themselves this has a direct impact as well on the other two factors. A participant who is enjoying the training would benefit from it most both instantly and on the long run. Of course it is not enough to make the training enjoyable for people who can have a great deal of fun without this having any real positive impact on them if the activities they are carrying out during the training had not been designed specifically with particular training goals in mind. Enjoyable training is more effective and it also makes the trainer himself feel good about the training as he sees participants active and happy.

Long Term

As for the third and final goal I seek to achieve in training programs I deliver it is the long term impact of the training. Although this cannot be measured during the training and would require months to pass by in order to measure it yet an experienced trainer can sense it during the training itself. By planting the seeds of positive change in the hearts and minds of participants a trainer may be able to ‘see’ with his mind’s eye how they will grow and flourish on their own in the future even long after the training program is over.

Conclusion

A highly successful training program should make sure participants are happy and enjoying the training, are benefiting from it and are aware of that and have the seeds of positive change planted in them so that they can keep growing and flourishing in the future. Failing to achieve any of these three goals leads to a training program of poor quality.

What other equally important general goals should a competent trainer keep in mind when designing and delivering a training program?

Story of my Learning Systems Analysis

Child doing Computer Programming

I started to do computer programming since the time I was a child at primary school. By the time I attended university I had been programming for years and wanted to advance to the next level. I had heard about systems analysis and reckoned that it would be the next step to take. At that time I had a totally wrong idea about what systems analysis really was. Maybe I thought it was the way by which one can know how to write complex programming code.

Systems Analysis Book

Anyway, my eagerness to learn systems analysis, despite my wrong idea about what it really was, made me buy a big fat book of around 800 pages about systems analysis. The book was titled Systems Analysis and Design. I set on a long journey of reading in that meaty book bit by bit. To my astonishment, I was introduced to a whole new world that I had earlier not known anything about. I was surprised to know that systems analysis was all about information systems and how to build them in a structured way. I enjoyed reading the book and learned a great deal from it.

Teaching Systems Analysis

Years later I was teaching Systems Analysis and Design at IBM Authorized Training Centers in Cairo yet it was object oriented analysis and design by then. Sure my earlier background with systems analysis and design helped me a lot with that.

Lessons Learnt

There are many lessons to be learnt from this story. One lesson is that one might set about going towards one direction based upon a certain perspective only to find that what he is going after is totally different from what he had thought it was yet still find it useful and interesting. New doors that the person had not been aware existed in the first place start to open up taking him to a whole new world he had known nothing about.

Another lesson is that reading and using books can be a very powerful means of learning. Still a further lesson learnt from this story is that skills you learn or knowledge you gain can turn out to be useful years later as you make use of them.

Follow your Passion

It is thus advisable to follow your passion and go to wherever it leads you for new unexpected worlds can open up for you and the skills you will gain, no matter what they are, may turn out to be handy one day.

What other lessons can you come up with from this story?

Aiming for Imperfection in Training

Perfection is Unattainable

An experienced trainer never tries to aim for perfection when planning for or delivering a training session. Perfection is something illusive that should not be chased and can never be attained in training. Aiming for perfection in training would probably result in an imperfect training session anyway plus the added stress and extra effort exerted by the trainer. Instead of seeing a flexible trainer who is able to adapt instantly and deal with various circumstances a perfectionist trainer would show a great deal of rigidness and be under constant stress. Such a trainer would burn down quickly.

Developing Constantly

Aiming for perfection during planning for and delivering a training session not only consumes enormous amounts of resources from the trainer and keeps him under constant high stress but it also prevents any kind of experimentation or learning from mistakes to take place. It does not allow the trainer to develop and grow and enhance his craft gradually.

In contrast to that, a trainer who aims instead at creating a very good total effect for the training doing 90% planning for the training and delivering most of the training in high quality would have room for learning during the training session and improving after that. By leaving an amount of ‘air’ or space for some imperfection in the training planning and delivery a trainer allows himself to deliver the training without being overstressed and provides him with the agility needed to be flexible adapting to new conditions and dealing with various situations with ease and confidence while constantly developing and improving his craft as a trainer. This imperfection also reminds us of the flexible training session planning method.

Perfection from Imperfection

Aiming for perfection might be something practiced by the novice trainer yet a trainer who wants to keep on improving and developing should never aim at making each and every training session he delivers perfect. Interestingly, by not aiming for perfection a trainer keeps improving and developing thus getting closer and closer to true perfection as time goes on.

Are there situations for which the trainer should attempt to aim for perfection? What can those situations be?

Switching Attitude 180 Degrees

Avid Explorer

I remember my aunt telling my mom about her son, that is my cousin, that one of his amazing characteristics is that he tries everything and never says no to trying something new. My aunt was saying this about my cousin in a very cheerful and energetic manner. My cousin at that time was perhaps around 14 years old. Upon hearing her words describing what she perceived as an innate characteristic of her son my mind instantly flashed back to a scene from the past when that very cousin of mine was perhaps only 3 or 4 years old.

Never Tries Twice

I remember him standing there in the balcony with his older brother with a deeply sad face due to finding himself unable to ride the skateboard successfully like his older brother. His older brother was trying repeatedly to convince him to give the skateboard another try and that through repeated trials he will eventually be able to use the skateboard successfully.

My younger cousin however was so stubborn and broke up crying while refusing completely to give the skateboard another try. That was the very cousin whom my aunt was praising years later and mentioning that he does not hesitate to try new things and she spoke as though it was some intrinsic characteristic he had!

Attitude Switching

As my mind flashed back to such a childhood scene while listening in great surprise to what my aunt was saying I had an aha moment. I realized that indeed people can and do change drastically in life and even switch completely from one extreme to its complete opposite.

This story really gives hope to those who think they can never change and that whatever characteristics they have are permanent.

Do you remember holding on to some belief in the past or having a certain attitude that you have now completely switched to its opposite?

Overcoming Calculator Dependence

Calculator Love

I used to love using the calculator during the time I was at preparatory school. I kept exploring the scientific calculator I had bought for school playing with all its interesting statistical and trigonometric functions. I used to rely on the calculator to do any form of simple math as well all the time. I had not been good at memorizing the times table.

Buying Milk

One day, I went to buy milk from the milk shop near home. As I got the milk and received the change I was totally clueless if such change the guy at the milk shop was giving me was the right change or not. I did not have a calculator with me to check it out and it was long before cell phones (that had calculators) were popular or even present at all. Even if I had had a calculator or a calculating cell phone it would have been totally embarrassing for me to get it out to make such a simple calculation in front of the guy at the milk shop giving me the change.

Breaking Dependence

The situation was a stressful one for me. As I went back home I relented relying on the calculator so much that I had not been practicing my ability to use my own brain for doing the math on the fly when I needed to. I felt it was too late for me to start now and that I should have started practicing my math skills long before. Nevertheless, my deep embarrassment back there at the milk shop made me determined to improve my personal math skills. I was determined to be able to calculate the change remaining when buying stuff from any shop.

Sustained Practice

I therefore set about practicing such skill by slowly attempting to calculate the change whenever I bought anything. I gave myself ample time every time I attempted such a calculation and never tried to rush it. Rushing it meant breaking my ability to improve such skill forever. Gradually, I became better at calculating simple math on the fly and never faced the embarrassment of not knowing what the right amount of change was any more.

Lessons Learnt

One lesson from this story is that facing a difficult situation can lead to a strong determination to improve one’s skill in order to be able to face similar situations in the future. Another lesson is that practice makes perfect and that it should be approached gradually.

What other lessons can you come up with from this story?