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What exploding mice have to do with executing a plan

Deirdre Wilson – Wednesday, May 25, 2016   


Execute a planWe have had a bit of a mouse plague. It feels like a plague because I have mice everywhere I am – in the office and at home. The mice in the office left their 'calling cards' all over the kitchen bench but the mice at home exploded behind the fridge creating an unholy smell.

Exploding mice are the result of using bait to remove them from our presence. I really don't like using bait because of the way it kills the mice but there aren't a lot of practical choices. But making choices and living with the consequences is part of having any level of responsibility. The only easy choices are the ones where there is no growth.

Choosing between cheesecake and black forest cake is easy because you end up with cake in both outcomes. But choosing to get up while it is dark and go for a run regardless of how you feel is momentous – not saying I do this because I don't. But I do get up around five most mornings and more often than not now I am spending 20 minutes meditating. But there is no discomfort in meditating so it is very much baby steps.

The best advice I was ever given was one word: choose. Inherent in that advice was that you have to both live with your choices and work to bring them about. But the giver of the advice was not a chatty man so he left me to figure it out for myself.

The best advice I was ever given was 'choose' tweet this

Given that many choices need work to bring them about they then also need planning and execution of the plan. It was indeed good advice because you can't have choice without the ability to execute a plan.

The capacity to formulate goals and work through a plan to its execution is an essential aspect of a mature and effective personality – personality being an aspect of brain function. This capacity relies on the pre frontal cortex in your brain to be functioning well. Unless you have a reason for this part of your brain to not be working well like having ADHD or having had a stroke, then you can improve the function of your pfc function – if you want to know more, read this book: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

I tried this for myself recently. I had an exam to sit. There was not date. I could schedule it whenever it suited me and had already put it off from last year. Historically I don't perform well in exams and thinking about this one created enormous stress. So I decide to try something different: I took a week off work to study and I mapped out a plan for the week. There were trial exams I could take so I bought a set of those and planned to take one each day for 4 days to highlight the gaps in my understanding of the material.

Executing a plan

I expected that by the time I reached the end of the week I would be ready to take the exam. So, I spent the week taking the exams at 3.5 hours each and studying the things I didn't do so well on, and by the end of the week I was getting the scores I had decided I needed in order to be ready to sit the exam. Along the way, while I was getting poor results, I kept reassuring myself that the poor results were important to identify the gaps in my understanding and that if I kept going that I would eventually succeed because that is what the plan had been designed to achieve.

The result is that I am now ready to take the exam. My plan worked. I have broken the pattern of exam stress forever by turning exam preparation into a process, confident that if I walked through the process it will lead me to the outcome I wanted.

How using processes removes stress tweet this

The other interesting outcome was how rested I felt mentally after spending the week focussing on one thing only and being utterly without interruption – a very telling outcome indeed.


Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
Renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen includes cutting-edge research and scientific evidence that your anxiety, depression, anger, obsessiveness, or impulsiveness could be related to how specific structures in your brain work.


Further Reading

We have written other creative thinking and processes…here's a selection:
- How to be more creative
- Fluid intelligence and making diagrams

This post is by Deirdre Wilson, Director of Hothouse Design – Australia's most sensible information design company.
Deirdre applies her background in industrial design and design management to the complex and wondrous projects undertaken by Hothouse Design.

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