Articles/Discussions of General Interest



Excerpts from an article by Dr Sarah McKay, PhD., published on the ABC Active Memory site, 17th December 2015

For most people, it’s easy to set an intention or dream up a goal, but unswervingly difficult to translate that intention into action. The ‘gap’ between intention and action can be found in various guises including:

  • Intentions to exercise more
  • Intentions to eat more healthily
  • Intentions to be more careful with the disclosure of personal information when chatting to colleagues
  • Intentions to get to bed earlier instead of staying up late watching TV, and so on.

The intention-action gap is observed even when intentions are strong and drastic action is required, such as making healthy lifestyle changes that affect the risk of developing disease. How many times have you promised yourself you’ll exercise more, stop smoking, or eat less junk food, but not followed up?

How do you bridge the intention-behaviour gap?

If-then’ planning is an effective and easy strategy for turning goals into action. Numerous studies show that it’s a successful tool to help people achieve diverse health goals including eating more vegetables, drinking less alcohol, exercising more, giving up smoking, regulating emotions, and attending cancer screening programs.

The key is to plan when, where, and how you’ll act toward a goal. So, instead of declaring, “I intend to achieve Z!”, ‘If-then’ plans take the form, “If X happens, then I will do Y.” X can be a time, place, or an event. Y is the specific action you will take whenever X occurs.

Examples of ‘if-then’ plans include:

  • If I eat chocolate for an afternoon snack, then I’ll stop at the supermarket on the way home and buy some vegetables for dinner.
  • If I haven’t returned that phone call to mum by 8pm, then I won’t turn on the TV until I do.
  • If I get home from work late and I don’t have time to go to the gym, then I’ll wake up early tomorrow and go for a run before breakfast.

In one classic study, 248 people were allocated into three groups: a control group who kept track of how often they exercised, a second group given a motivational chat on how exercise reduced heart disease,and a third group who used ‘if-then’ planning. The ‘if-then’ planners had to explicitly state their intention to exercise by completing the following statement: ‘During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].’

When the three groups were followed up a few weeks later, 91% of the ‘if-then’ planners were still exercising regularly, compared to only 39% of the control group. Perhaps more surprisingly, only 35% of the motivation group were exercising regularly. This suggests that motivation alone is not enough to bridge the gap between intention and action.

‘If-then’ planning removes the need to rely on innate motivation or willpower (which waxes and wanes in most of us) because you decide in advance when and where you will take each action you want to take.



A moving article that gives some details of how the traumatised children act out their traumatised state. The charity is called The Red Pencil, out of Singapore. The refugee camp is on the border of Syria.




Odelya publishes regular articles on the “PsychCentral” website. Seems quite a good website with many interesting psych articles. This one addresses the question of recovery from severe trauma. Odelya offers a ‘van der Kolk-style’ list of the top three most effective interventions for C/PTSD, and her own ‘6 Steps’ approach.


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I have included this short article, from LinkedIn, because its wisdom can be taken out of the business field and applied to the experience of healing from trauma. The CEO/leader can be seen as the Executive Self, and the ‘team’ as the many parts of self, who often have competing needs, agendas and biases.



The Value of Delaying Judgement

By Richard Branson

One of the most important skills any leader can learn is when to be decisive, and when to take a step back and look at the wider picture before making the big calls.

In times of turmoil, excitement, rapid growth, or crisis, there will be more decisions to make than usual and less time to make them. There will also be an almost irresistible temptation to make these decisions as quickly as possible. A leader must be calm, confident in his choices, visible to his team and their customers, and in control of the situation.

However, this doesn’t mean rushing in and jumping to rash conclusions before knowing all the facts. I recently read a story about the businessman Stephen Covey’s lasting lesson: seek first to understand, then to be understood. He tells the sweet tale of a little girl holding two apples. Her mother comes in and asks her for one of the apples. The girl looks up at her mum and takes a bite of one apple, then the other. The mum looks disappointed at her daughter’s selfishness. Then the little girl gives one of her bitten apples to her mum, and says: “Mummy, here you are. This is the sweeter one.”

Boy Holding An Apple

Even when we think we know all of the facts and figures, and have viewed every angle of a given scenario, the truth about a situation can be a big surprise. This is one of the things that makes life so exciting — just when we think we understand something, we learn something new.

This is why delaying judgement can be so useful in business. There have been many occasions when I have been tempted to make a snap decision and decided to wait until I can see the whole picture more clearly. These delays can mean missing the odd opportunity. One example that springs to mind is taking too long to decide to buy the rights to a new game called Trivial Pursuit. But for every missed opening, there have been several averted disasters.

There is a growing overreliance on using statistics as an alternative to using judgement. While facts and figures are extremely useful, data analysis shouldn’t solely drive every decision. The advertising guru David Ogilvy summed executives’ reliance on statistics over judgement: “They are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”

One vital component of decision-making that is often overlooked is quiet contemplation. After looking at all the stats, speaking to all the experts and analysing all of the angles, then take some time to yourself to think things through clearly. Take a walk, find a shady spot, or simply sit and think for a while. Don’t delay unnecessarily — but don’t rush either. Get that balance right, and you are far more likely to make the right call.


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SELF COMPASSION vs SELF CRITICISM : An Antidote to Depression & Stress


A wise article about the proven link between self criticism and depression. Offers some practical suggestions on countering self criticism and enhancing self compassion.


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