We often look for motivation and overlook things that demotivate us. Motivation is not just about the presence of goals, purpose, energy and will. It is also about the absence of certain things. What are those things that kill your motivation? Where do you look for them?
Your surroundings. Clutter demotivates me even though I have to admit that my now 16-month-old baby desensitized me a bit to this aspect of my environment. A pile of blocks on the floor, a stack of old magazines to tear up and various squeaking things under my feet seem like a good bargain for a half-hour of uninterrupted work. Is there anything in your surroundings that demotivates you? Any annoying noises? An uncomfortable chair?
People. Negative people have a great ability to demotivate, and so do rude people. Limit your exposure to them if you can.
Low energy level. It’s hard to get excited about anything if you don’t have the energy. Shortage of sleep and exercise, illness, poor diet can all contribute to the lack of energy and motivation. Even eating a heavy meal can make you sluggish.
Stress and anxiety. While short-term stress can add to your motivation, prolonged stress will most definitely diminish it. And even though there are people who are motivated by fear, many of us find anxiety and negative thoughts demotivating.
Your leisurely pursuits. I am careful about what I watch and read. There are many things out there that put me in a sulky mood. On the other hand, being outdoors makes me more enthusiastic about things I need to do.
What demotivates you?
If any of you took interest in the holistic learning concept, Scott Young has released a free e-book titled “Holistic Learning.” You can download it here. To describe the holistic learning process, he uses an analogy of constructing a brick building. In class, professors often hand out bricks, but it is up to the students to construct a building out of them. How do you approach your construction project? This short, easy-to-follow book details the process. Interestingly, Scott seems to think that law may not be a good subject matter to study holistically because of the arbitrariness of the rule-based system. I am not so sure. What do you think?
The book made me ponder the question of how I link whatever I am learning to my existing knowledge base and what connections have more impact. I believe you can generate some positive energy and empower yourself when you establish a link that truly resonates with you. Without that link, the information is just a dead weight. I learned that when I decided to develop healthier eating habits. I read many articles, I knew what was good for my body and what was not, but all that information did not make much difference until I found the right connection. Weight loss goals and abstract health-talk didn’t do it for me. What prompted me to start looking at food as fuel was the notion that whenever I consumed sugar, trans-fats or other bad stuff, my body’s efforts were diverted from generating energy, building immunity, fighting viruses to absorbing and getting rid of the “junk.” I just had this image of my body getting “anxious” and “tired” after I ate candies or processed food and feeling “light” and “active” after I ate fruits and vegetables. That sensation made me think twice before grabbing a bad snack.
How do you integrate new knowledge into your way of life?
Whether we like it or not, fear is part of our life, and it is often part of the learning process. When we learn new things, we challenge ourselves, we venture outside our comfort zone, we grow, change, and redefine who we are. That’s when we become scared. What if I am not smart and capable enough to do it? What would others think of me if I fail? What would they say if I follow my gut instinct and not what everybody else says I should do? How will I handle rejection? Can I be financially secure? How we respond to those fears has a huge impact on our success in life, happiness, and peace of mind. So how do you deal with fear?
Do you feel that you must overcome your fear? Is it stopping you from achieving more in life? If so, read 5 life-changing keys to overcoming your fear at the Positivity Blog.
“Can We Control Our Fears?” Sevil Duvarci and Denis Paré tackle this question from the neuroscientists’ perspective. A recently published study suggests that “the expression of learned fear is flexible and subject to modulation by the prelimbic cortex, depending on the circumstances; our expression of learned fears is less rigid and less automatic than the expression of innate fears, which are beyond the reach of the cortex.”
Perhaps, you welcome fear. You may even believe that if you don’t feel fear, you are not doing enough. Fear may propel you to action. Is Fear Actually An Asset? It may well be according to Success from the Nest. Get to know your fear and learn from it.
Do you share your fear with others or do you hide it? Executive Coach Doug Sundheim believes that revealing our vulnerabilities to others may strengthen our relationships and generate good energy. He shares his 5-step approach at Fast Company Expert Blogs. Interestingly, neuroscientists also tell us that social contact reduces the brain response to threat.
Would you agree that fear is in the fabric of the law practice? Lawyers work with people’s fears. Sometimes, they alleviate fears, for example, when they do a title search for the clients who want to purchase a home. Other times, they seem to generate more fears: just read the "default" language in a promissory note. And then, there are circumstances when they have to say to their clients that it’s OK to be afraid and help them through their fears. Do you acknowledge your clients’ fears? Or would you rather shun the emotions and stick to business only? What role does fear play in your practice?
The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center created The Legal Research Jumpstation with links to various legal resources under categories such as federal resources, state resources, international resources, legal associations, legal education, legal employment, Continuing Legal Education (CLE), law practice technology, ethics, legal representation, future of the legal profession, surveys and statistics, legal news sources, legal research resources, business and reference resources, electronic discovery resources.
For example, you can visit the sites of the State and Local Bar Associations, check out various statistics about lawyers and the legal profession, read employment trend data compiled by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), find the wealth of information at the Legal Information Institute hosted by Cornell University's School of Law, search online law journals courtesy of the University Law Review Project, or browse through The Virtual Law Library hosted by the University of Indiana's School of Law. [Via Your ABA]
Today I offer yet another approach to reviewing – I’ll call it “transformations.” The idea is to transform the material presented in one format into a different format and engage your multiple intelligences in the process. Here are some examples:
Linguistic intelligence. Make a list of the most challenging concepts and then write a coherent paragraph on each of them as if you are explaining the concept in an article. Find the most efficient ways to describe legal tests, rules, standards, so that you don’t have to waste time and words when you take an essay exam.
Logical-mathematical intelligence. Play with fact patterns and causalities. Start by analyzing a hypothetical, and once you have your solution, change the facts. Ask “what if” and observe how the changes in the fact pattern influence the outcome. List all the assumption you make as you are analyzing the situation. Verbalize every step in your argument.
Musical intelligence. Create musical jingles or rhymes to aid your memory. Record yourself speaking on the subject: your voice will reinforce the retention.
Spatial intelligence. Pick a topic in your outline and rearrange it into a flow chart or a table. Create a mind-map of what you have read.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Listen to legal opinions while walking around campus. Do some repetitive movements as you study: you can juggle, do squats, pace around your room. If you feel creative, try molding a piece of clay as you are learning a concept. Here are more tips for kinesthetic learners.
Interpersonal intelligence. Participate in a study group. Explain the concept you are learning to somebody who has never studied law, answer their questions.
Intrapersonal intelligence. Be a reflective learner. Take time to figure out what works best for you and capitalize on your strengths. Ask yourself:
Naturalistic intelligence. Are there any similar laws, principles or categories that you can observe in the natural world?
Today’s tip comes courtesy of The Happiness Project. When I read Gretchen Rubin’s One big tip for changing the way you think on the use of catchphrases, I just had to share it because I am also a believer in brief, zesty expressions that can motivate and inspire. They are like little verbal energy bursts. Their brevity makes them more effective because your subconscious mind doesn't have time to “argue” with the message, like it may in case of longer affirmations. So next time your self-doubt sets in, turn off the negative thought flow with one of these phrases. Gretchen’s post has a list of her favorites. I like “Punch it, Chewie!” from Star Wars, which is my equivalent of “Let’s do it!” And when I look for a solution, I remind myself: “The answer is closer than you think.” What are your favorite expressions?
Do you want to develop your spatial intelligence and learn to think visually? How about attending Visual thinking school? It’s free, there is no formal enrollment or registration, and you don’t even need to leave your desk to do it. This online curriculum, developed by Dave Gray, includes mini-course modules such as Introduction to visual thinking, Visual communication, Visual vocabulary, Visual thinking tools, Visual thinking spaces, Sketching, Sings, symbols and icons, Information design, Visual mapping:
"This site is different every time you visit: it's continuously updated via live feeds from the web to bring you the best and most delicious images and links available: visuals to inspire, examples to follow, books to read and things to do, designed to stimulate your imagination and visual thinking."
Need a break? Check out 71 Optical Illusions by Michael Bach. They are very intriguing.
Some students prefer studying on their own, others join study groups. A study group can be beneficial if it is set up and run effectively, but it can quickly turn into a time-waster if the participants gather to socialize, share confusion and commiserate. How do you make your study group more effective? Here are a few suggestions:
What are your experiences with the study groups? Do they work for you? If you participate in one right now, how can you make it better?
Silence can say more then a thousand words.
This day shall unite us all about this unbelievable painful & shocking event and show some respect and love to those who lost their loved ones.
On April 30th 2007, the Blogosphere will hold a One-Day Blog Silence in honor towards the victims of Virginia. 33 died at the US college massacre.
The Blogosphere is in deep mourning.
All you have to do is spread the word about it and post the graphic on your blog on 30th April 2007. No words and no comments. Just respect and empathy.
You can copy the graphics for your blog at OneDayBlogSilence.com
Do you need memory boost? Here are a few suggestions of memory techniques that you can use as you review for the finals and, for some of you, for the upcoming bar exam, with the links to my earlier posts.
For more learning techniques, check out the Project Renaissance web site.
Many of you are approaching another round of finals. In order to give you more varied pointers on how to review before the exam, I decided to ask some people about their approaches to reviewing. Coincidently, my husband is studying for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level III exam right now, so I asked him. Here's how he thinks about reviewing material.
Let's assume that you've read through all the testable material. The goal in the review is to ensure that the information collected is converted into knowledge and insight. One way to do this is to consider three points:
Do you have any tips to share? Comments are always welcome. And there are more tips to come, so check back soon.
Have a big vision. To get inspired, listen to Big Vision Podcast: Interviews with Individuals & Organizations Creating Positive Change. Here’s the impressive list of interviewees.
Set big goals and participate in the “Gotta’ Get Goals” campaign.
Ask big questions. Read Chris Cree's question at Liz Strauss’ Successful Blog.
Learn from big personalities. By “big personalities” I mean experts in your field. If you were given an opportunity to meet, take a seminar from or become an apprentice to any person of your choice, who would that be and why? Do you know when and where you can hear this person speak?
Create big value. Whatever you do, define your value proposition. Larry Bodine’s LawMarketing Blog has tips on how to articulate the value proposition for the legal services you offer.
To continue with my “Thought-Full Series”, I though I would highlight a few examples of analytical, practical and creative thinking in action.
You have heard of Tupperware parties. How about using the same business model in the practice of law? In the article “Where There’s a Will…”appearing in the April issue of the ABA Journal, Jill Schachner Chanen profiles Massachusetts attorney James Haroutunian, who launched “Have Kids, Will Party” after watching his wife successfully selling jewelry at the home-based jewelry parties. Just like with other home-based parties, the "Have Kids, Will Party" host invites a group of young parents with basic estate planning needs. Before the party, they fill out the questionnaire, have phone conversations with the attorney, who then drafts the legal documents and sends them to the clients for review. As the party goes on, the attorney meets with each client in private and executes the documents. With the growing interest, James Haroutunian is considering a franchise for the will-signing party.
Think you can’t have it all? Think again. In the April issue of the Young Lawyer, Colin T. Darke talks about how to “Feed Your Creative Side.” The recipe comes from young attorney Marie Hejl who hosts a broadcast cooking show that airs on over 70 stations around the world. And you thought you were busy. In her interview, she reveals that her “passion outside of the law” helps to advance her communication skills and meet many different people in business and legal communities. And that’s good for business.
As these stories show, you don’t have to follow the beaten path. Be passionate, be creative, be smart, and you can create your own recipe for success. Do you agree?
I’ve decided to dedicate this week to thinking because that’s how my posts shaped up so far. It will be known as the “Thought-Full Series.” Robert Sternberg, the developer of the triarchic theory of intelligence, divides thinking into three categories: analytical thinking, creative thinking and practical thinking. The analytical thinking refers to abstract thinking and logical reasoning. It is about analyzing and evaluating information. Creative thinking is about the ability to generate new ideas and deal with novel situations. Practical thinking is about the ability to apply the knowledge in the real world and change your environment. Last Monday, I wrote about reasoning by analogy as part of analytical thinking. Yesterday’s post about goal-setting illustrated practical thinking. Today’s theme is creative thinking.
How important is creative thinking to lawyers? Lawyers are not usually seen as creative types. After all, they research the rules and advise on how to follow the rules. At the same time, there are many aspects of law practice that can benefit from creativity: how to find ingenious solutions for your clients while obeying the laws, how to negotiate better outcomes for all, how to mediate conflicts, how to communicate with your clients effectively, how to cut costs and grow business. Can you think outside the box but play by the rules?
“Think like a fool,” advises Roger von Oech of Creative Think. You will benefit from fresh perspectives, shrewd observations and surprising insights.
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project offers Eight tips for sparking your creativity. Let your mind wander and take notes.
I like to listen to Accidental Creative podcasts because I want to be “prolific, brilliant and healthy.”
What do you do to nurture your creativity?
I was tagged by Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg to participate in Alex Shalman's "Gotta' Get Goals" project:
In a new blog post, list and write about the top 5 to 10 goals that you gotta’ get so that you can truly say you have achieved your wildest dreams in life. These have to be your best, most exclusive, and over-the-top goals that you can pick off your goals list.
Stephanie’s email created a chain of serendipity as the night before I was reviewing my list of 100 goals that I made after reading The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Leslie Hewitt. The review, in turn, was prompted by the talk by Dax Moy on the Anatomy of a goal that I recently listened to. He reminded me of the importance of identifying why I wanted to achieve my goals and the price I was willing to pay for it because goals come with a price tag.
I like the idea of letting my goals “age” like Champaign concealed from the world in dark cellars so that when the time is right, they can come to life with a celebratory pop and a splash of energy. That’s why I have taken liberty to cloak my goals in the quotations I like, instead of revealing them outright. Being indicative of my goals, these quotations inspire me and remind me why I do what I do. They are part of my vision board. I had fun selecting them and I hope you enjoy reading them.
If you want to share your goals with us, consider yourself tagged!
Learning how to reason by analogy is one of the most important objectives of legal education. But you certainly don’t have to be a lawyer to use analogy in your thinking. In fact, whenever we encounter a new situation, we start searching for some familiar elements in it to give us an indication what to do. In law school, you have to build awareness of what is going on in your head when you reason by analogy. In other words, you deconstruct the process. Generally, when you reason by analogy, you take the following steps:
To test yourself, do Analogy Exercises by Peter Suber. For some practice in pattern recognition, try Brain Workout for Your Frontal Lobes from SharpBrains.
Internet is the repository of a wealth of information and a great time-waster as well. What I am realizing is that the source of information overload is not so much the sheer quantity of information, but rather the inability or unwillingness to choose what is worth the reading effort. I am guilty of spending hours jumping from one article to another to satisfy my curiosity. Did all this reading make me more productive, inspired, creative? I am not so sure. That’s why I decided to give my ACE system a try. It makes me more aware and accountable for what I read, why I read it, and what the results are. “ACE” stands for “Accumulate,” “Choose,” “Eliminate.” This is how it works:
Accumulate. I schedule time to skim my feeds, perform searches, follow interesting links and do other things to collect potential reading material. I bookmark the things I may want to read. I set up several folders according to my projects and interests so that I could sort the links into their corresponding folders. The challenge here is to fight the temptation to start reading. The upside is that I don’t need to be selective at this stage. Anything that catches my eye goes to one of my folders.
Choose. I schedule separate time when I actually read the materials that I bookmarked earlier. Before I read though, I make a choice of what I am going to read about today. The benefit is that my reading is more focused on what I am doing at the moment. Instead of reading five articles on memory on various days, I read them all in the same session when I want to tackle this topic. Another plus is that great sources accumulate over time without much effort on my part, and when there are enough of them, it is a signal for me to pay attention. I find that I get more ideas and inspiration out of such sessions.
Eliminate. I also take time to go over and clean up my folders. I delete the links that are no longer relevant for some reason. Again, I want to keep the things that I may read one day.
Do you have a system in place that helps you curb your appetite for online reading? I’d love it if you shared your approach in the comments.
Annual reports are usually not a fun read, but the annual reports of Berkshire Hathaway may be an exception. Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, writes his annual reports in a direct, witty and engaging style. So it is not surprising that he wrote the Preface to “A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents” for the US Securities and Exchange Commission. His advice is good for any type of writing, not just annual reports:
One unoriginal but useful tip: Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.
No siblings to write to? Borrow mine: Just begin with “Dear Doris and Bertie.”
For more writing lessons from Warren Buffett, check out Away With Words.
The works of memory fascinate me. I’ve already talked about how smells, associations, images, sounds, and emotions can bring memories back. Now I can add body postures to the list. Cognitive Daily describes a new study suggesting that “just holding your body in the right position means you'll have faster, more accurate access to certain memories.” The subjects were able to remember certain events in their lives faster when they assumed the same positions that their bodies were in when those memories occurred.
I personally don’t like to sit still for a long period of time. Now I have a legitimate excuse to move around. So, next time you need to learn res ipsa loquitur, stand on your head, imagine an ER unit, and reinforce the image with a smell of ether and the sound of ambulance. Later, when you need to recall the "scalpel left behind," just assume the head-stand position again.
To choose or not to choose: multiple choice tests
Get your pens ready: it’s time to scribble
Put on your detective hat: we are going issue-spotting
5 studying myths dispelled
Strategies and tools to plan your exam preparation
How to take exams with the champion’s mindset
The mosaic of legal analysis
Learning holistically is not done by trying to remember information by using repetition and force. Holistic learners instead organize their minds like spider webs. Every piece of information is a single point. That point is then consciously related to tons of other points on the web. There are no boxes with this form of learning. Science becomes literature which becomes economics. Subject distinctions may help when going to class, but a holistic learner never sees things in a box.
The interconnectedness of ideas, concepts, experiences, disciplines is at the heart of holistic learning. Whether or not you practice holistic learning regularly, I think you are likely to experience the “magic” of holistic learning when you research and write a paper, work on a case in a clinic, or work on a project as an intern. You don’t try to memorize the material, but the engagement and thinking involved in the process will cause you to remember it even years later.
Holistic learning is synthesis on steroids. You establish connections not only between the legal concepts you study, but also link to other disciplines and areas of life in general. Law is fertile ground for this as it permeates almost everything around us. In addition, law is constantly evolving, so to understand where a legal standard stands in relation to other rules and doctrines on the grand scheme of things is more important than to know its current interpretation (that doesn’t apply to the bar exam). It is like star gazing when you identify the stars by their relative positions in the constellation. Issue-spotting is another context where the holistic approach will serve you well because you have to take the characteristics of the familiar pattern and extend it to a new situation.
So how do you approach the study of law holistically? Next time when you struggle to understand a legal concept, consider the following questions:
Mind-mapping can be a great tool to visualize these multiple levels of connections.
What do you think of holistic learning? Is it worth the time and effort? Does it really eliminate the need for the traditional cramming right before the exam? Have you experienced those "Aha! moments" when
things just "clicked" for you? How did you get there?