Why is it so hard to change the way we think and behave?
Everyone–school kids, college students, professionals, faculty–has trouble with this: changing the way we think and do things.
It’s as if our brains cannot reframe things even when we’re presented with clear, factual information that would seem to mandate changing the way we think.
Let’s start with a simple example. Which of the below captions is better framed–literally?
The one below with the digital framing is obviously better! But I struggle to get my own middle-school child and the legions of college students I have taught to move away from using Kindergarten paste and craft scissors when assigned any kind of “poster” project (students in my Spanish for the Professions courses had to present at and participate in poster sessions modeled after those that are common in scientific–and increasingly, non-scientific–professional conferences).
It seems outrageous that in the 21st century there would be resistance to digital framing which can be done using background color and borders in Word (as is the case at right, where the gray background color was set using “Background” on the Format menu, text was created by using “Text box” on the Insert menu and the blue border was set on the “Color, weights and fills” tab on the Formatting Palette) or the specific poster feature in PowerPoint (set up the poster size in “Page Setup” on the File menu). It’s so simple! But even when presented with visual evidence like I’ve provided here, most will get out the construction paper and paste when assigned a poster project.
The poster example is a simple one, but I deal with these same issues when I:
-try to get someone to prepare PowerPoint slides differently than the traditional “Title:” followed by word-filled lists that are inevitably read out loud to an audience. It is much better to open with an assertive statement, provide visual support, and speak on the topic (thus making you, the presenter, essential in a way that you are not when your audience could just as easily read your slides to themselves from the comfort of their homes). Click here for a post on the details of how to reframe your approach to PowerPoint.
-direct clients to reframe their job search documents and answers to job interview questions so that they’re framed around the employers, the employers’ needs, and the employers’ problems that will get solved if only they’d hire you! It can’t all be about “I, me, my.” But job seekers struggle to move away from exclusively presenting themselves.
-urge academic clients to move away from guessing how and what and where they need to publish toward asking a trusted leader in their department (preferably via email in order to have the answer in writing). It’s as if it invokes a taboo to seek much-needed direction.
-talk to people about ways we can re-imagine the humanities curriculum by tweaking it–layering on and weaving in a few innovations aimed at professional development and connections to students’ own lives and experiences (not abandoning, not re-creating, not developing parallel & competing curricula). The humanities can survive and thrive if we make small changes that tie the curriculum to the specific applications students will have for it. But it does require changing the way we think and behave.
Here’s the challenge I pose: think of one thing you will reframe. Take on a task that pushes you outside your comfort zone, but is almost guaranteed to yield better results. Stick to the new, reframed approach and at the end reflect on it: how did it go? Were the outcomes different than before you reframed? Did you become comfortable once you made yourself do it? Are you a convert? Will you default back to your old framing next time? If so, why? If not, why not?
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: email@example.com