Sunday, May 31, 2015

Get Into the Habit

"It's just a bad habit" - words that we are very accustomed to hearing...and yet how much thought do we give to our habits, be it good or bad. The truth of the matter is that it is not easy to form a good habit. If it was easy, then life would be a bowl of cherries. We would all be healthy and happy individuals.

Well, lucky for us there are strategies we can use to help us form good habits. It begins with self-knowledge; that is, understanding ourselves. The more self-aware we are about our
behaviours, the more changes (for the better) we can make in life.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the book Better than Before, provides us with a Quiz to help us in our habit breaking or making. This blog is a continuation from the previous blogs.

So simply give it a read through, and whichever 'tendency' you see yourself being - then that awareness will help you in your drive to obtain and sustain favourable habits. 

Quiz: The Four Tendencies

What tendencies do you feel you follow the most?

Upholder Tendency

  •  I feel uncomfortable if I’m with someone who’s breaking a rule. E.g. using a cell phone when the sign reads “No cell phones” – even if that person isn’t going to get into trouble and isn’t bothering anyone.
  • I can meet a self-imposed deadline, even one that’s set somewhat arbitrarily.
  • I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, and I usually have good success in keeping them. (Note: this question is specifically about New Year’s resolutions.)
  • It’s just as important to keep my promises to myself as it is to keep my promises to other people.
  • Other people sometimes feel annoyed by my level of discipline. I’ve been accused of being rigid.

Questioner Tendency

  • If I want to make a change in my life I will make it right away. I won’t make a New Year’s resolution because January 1st is a meaningless date.
  • It’s very important for me to make well-reasoned decisions; in fact, other people sometimes become frustrated by my demand for information and sound reasons.
  • It really bothers me when I’m asked to do something for what seems to be an arbitrary reason.
  •  I like to hear from experts, but I decide for myself what course to follow. Even if I’m given a very specific instruction (say with an exercise routine), I’ll tweak it according to my own judgement.
  • I can start a new habit without much effort, if it’s something that makes sense for my aims. Otherwise I won’t do it.
  •  I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework.

Obliger Tendency
  •  People often turn to me for help- edit a report, to take over a carpool run, to speak at a conference at the last minute – because they know I’ll pitch in, even when I am swamped myself.
  •  I’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions, because I never keep them.
  • I’ll do something to be a good role model for someone else, even if it’s not something that I’d do for myself: practice piano, eat vegetables, quit smoking.
  • I get frustrated by the fact that I make time for other people’s priorities, but struggle to make time for my own. 
  • In my life, I’ve adopted some good habits, but I often struggle without success to form others.

Rebel Tendency

  • I don’t make New Year resolutions or try to form habits. I won’t cage myself in like that.
  •  I do what I want to do; I’m true to myself, not other people’s expectations.
  • If someone asks or tells me to do something, I often have the impulse to refuse.
  • Other people sometimes become frustrated because I won’t do what they want me to do.
  • I enjoy a challenge as long as I choose to accept it and can tackle it in my own way.
  • If I’m expected to do something – even something fun, like a woodworking class- I have the urge to resist’ the expectation takes the fun out of an activity that I enjoy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Self-Awareness and Therapy

This post, as well as the next few, are a continuation from my initial post. They follow a common theme related towards getting to know yourself as an individual.

As you will soon find out - sometimes my posts will be aimed more towards those I see for counselling while others will be very specific to speech, voice, and accent modification. This post serves both groups. In fact, it is something for all to instil into our daily lives. It can only make us better... and this is why.

Gaining a sense of self-awareness opens up a part of yourself that you may not know is there. It can be a good part of yourself, or a part of you that is hindering you from obtaining what you truly desire. To make this relevant to speech pathology - lets talk about those of you who come to see me for accent modification. Most of you are not happy about how you sound, for whatever the reason.

I can testify that many of you are not truly aware of how you sound, or how this really impacts your life. Others envision becoming this 'professional sounding executive, educator, or speaker' that they long for in order to be seen as successful. Depending on your career path, you may be right. But, are you willing to make the changes that you need to - or are you fighting an inherent part of yourself that feels "I am intelligent, successful, and extremely competent in my job' and 'I don't need to do this'. It is time to take a step back and do some self-reflection. The only way you are going to change your speech is by truly wanting that change.

Many of us are not aware of our own behaviours - even though we genuinely think we are. I recently read this quote by Gretchen Rubin " I get so distracted from the way I wish I were, or the way I assume I am, that I lose sight of what's actually there." In my own opinion, nothing could be farther from the truth. I know that I am a testimonial to that statement. 
It is something I need to work on.

So what is the best way of becoming self-aware? There are many strategies and this comes down to personal preference. The one I find most helpful is monitoring or becoming accountable towards your actions. Your world will open up if you start keeping a record of the habits you have come to form.

Scheduling is another related strategy. If you schedule a task that you strive to do more, because it will provide you a sense of self-awareness in terms of accountability - e.g. pronunciation homework, then you will be more aware of how often you practice this behaviour. Instead of 'believing' you practice this behaviour, seeing no change in behaviour, and left wondering why. Scheduling an exact time, instead of a more nebulous scheduled event, will also dictate more success in maintaining this new behaviour.

Most of what I have written about today it not new. However, sometimes it is good to revisit, reflect, and rethink.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect holds true no matter the age, culture, or situation. I use it in therapy whether the client is 6 years old or 60 years old.

It applies to any behaviour we do. I think you could confront any sport coach and ask 'What is the best way to become a better swimmer, cyclist, or javelin thrower? The answer would undoubtedly be 'by swimming, cycling, or throwing a javelin more.' Throwing a baseball is not a great solution to perfecting your skill at throwing a javelin.

So, when I saw Friday's episode of Marketplace on CBC, I was not at all surprised. In summary, Marketplace challenged a group of individuals to use a specific computer software program for one month,  to determine if it resulted in improving overall cognitive function. It did not. Deep down inside I was saddened, as there was always a small part of me that truly hoped these types of brain training exercises really do make a difference. 

What does 'practice make perfect' and brain training (cognitive re-training) have in common? A lot. Therapists who treat those suffering with cognitive loss often use such programs as Luminosity as well as the standard pen and paper exercises to 'regain neurological connections, increase synapses' etc.

I am not saying that the exercises do not have any relevance to their overall cognitive progression, but is this type of 'fee for service' therapy superior to a caregiver or loved one engaging the client in a similar fashion? Likely not. 
Would a Clinician be able to guide and support the client and their team of caregivers by providing ongoing standardized assessments that measure working memory, speech, language, and other cognitions related to mental acuity? Yes.
Ultimately the best way of regaining a specific cognitive behaviour is by doing that behaviour; do it in real life. You will not only enjoy it more, but you will gain more from it.  

I think watching this episode of Marketplace reinforced my decision years ago to leave the specific practice of providing clinical word-finding, memory, problem solving, etc. types of treatment to those with cognitive and neurological loss due to trauma.

It reinforced my decision to seek specific training in counselling, as this was the area of treatment that appeared most effective and to which I seemed to migrate to more during treatment sessions; that is, providing support to the client and their caregivers, in terms of education, standardized assessments, and clinical strategies as it related to speech/language loss due to neurological decline. 

Offering those suffering from cognitive loss a sense of companionship, outings, social engagement, proper diet, and adequate exercise opportunities provides the greatest value towards rehabilitation.

I continue to offer counselling to those who suffer from anxiety, trauma, and depression associated with speech and language disorders. This work provides me great satisfaction as a therapist and counsellor. Offering online accent modification classes, along with speech, language and literacy learning brings continued gratification to me as a speech language pathologist and educator.