” Kung Hei Fat Choi” – Reviewing and Renewing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Has your resolve has already weakened and have resolutions already been abandoned, or  are about to be? Well, take the opportunity of the new lunar year (Chinese New Year) to renew your goal-setting vows.

The first day of January is always brimming with significance but the euphoria soon evaporates when the reality of a poorly thought-out goal strikes. What is it a realistic and achievable goal or do you need to review, refine and re-target?

Try this:

(i) Apply the SMARTER formula to be sure that the goal is well formulated.

(ii) Was the goal realistic and achievable or just too ambitious. Do you need to revise your expectations? This isn’t admitting failure, it’s all about responding to the feedback.

(iii) Review your motivations. Write down ten good reasons for achieving this goal. Think of internal rewards that tap into values rather than external rewards such as money or possessions.

(iv) Take action and start again. You may have to review and renew your goals again. It’s all part of the goal setting process.

Wishing you every success with your goals for the coming year, and here are some previous posts to help.

Kung Hei Fat Choi

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Writing a Critical Essay Does Not Mean “Rip to Shreds” Armed only with an Introductory Textbook

For many people the words ‘critical’ and ‘criticism’ have negative connotations. Of course it’s not helped by the impression many people have of professional critics who spend their lives reviewing the accomplishments of others. Tales are told of critics who can ‘make or break’ plays or restaurants who can with the flick of a pen and a few well chosen acid-tongued ‘put downs’. It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that when students are faced with the prospect of writing their first critical essays that they think they have to don a black cape and mask and go MwaahhHHHAHAHAHAHA a lot.

Critical essays should offer balance. They are not  opportunites for students to be ‘smart arses’ armed only with the knowledge on an introductory textbook. Many students fall into this trap. The general rule is: the more you’ve read the more critical you can be. If you try to dazzle with insights and wit based on a chapter in a textbook, it simply comes across as immature academic development, laziness and arrogance.

Often students rely too heavily on introductory texts because it is easy. It’s important to recognise that they serve the function only to introduce you to a topic, not become the fount of all of your knowledge. The publishing process in academia is notoriously slow. With the review process, it may take two years to get research into a journal. Then the textbook authors get their hands on it and after the editing and publishing process the information finds its way to you. By that time it is already out of date. Remember that textbook authors are often generalists rather than specialist researchers. So, once the textbook has set the scene and context, you should head for the journals.

Another main problem is that students are not necessarily taught how to write critical essays and so fall back on erroneous assumptions of what it means to be critical. This is more often than not ‘rip it to shreds’. Rarely, if ever, is this a wise approach. So what it?

Start by imagining that you are writing the essay of an intelligent fifteen year old. If you’re ask to ‘critically analysis’, don’t launch in with ‘theory X is a load of old rubbish and Dr X has a drink problem and was molested by gibbons when he was a child”. Instead begin by giving the reader a neutral account of the theories in question. Once you have established that, you can give an account of the pros (positives) of the theories, and then the cons (negatives). Obviously, reading around a topic will help to develop your critical skills as you  encounter different perspectives. You are hardly likely to get this level of detail in a textbook.

This approach will communicate to your tutor that you are developing good academic skills. Yes it’s more work, but you aren’t studying to regurgitate what you already know or to demonstrate that you can get by for three of four years paraphrasing one book. Unfortunately some students do try this approach. Learning is about pushing the boundaries of what you know, and hopefully you may come up with critical analyses that is not in the textbooks.

Library cards to the ready and step away from that introductory textbook!

You can also find other insights of study skills and essay writing in my other posts:

Bright Moments for 2010. . . (I’ll make a charity donation for every subscription to my blog on 1st January 2010)

The Greek letter 'psi' as featured on my seasonal hat is the symbol for psychology - 'the scientific study of human behaviour and experience'

For every new subscription to the PsyCentral blog up until 31st December 2009, I’ll donate 20 pence (£0.20) to charity (Albert Kennedy Trust). . . plus the same donation for existing subscriptions.

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.
–  Marie Beyon Ray.

When not hanging out of photographs, psychology is my vocation and lifelong passion. Please get in touch to see how psychology and coaching might enrich your life.

Wishing you a psychologically rewarding, solution-focused new year. . . and lots of bright moments!

Gary Wood

Click on ‘Keep Up With PsyCentral’ on right hand side.


Welcome to PsyCentral with Gary Wood

Hello and welcome to my blog. As you may have gathered, the key theme running through it will be psychology. I’ve recently become a ‘tweeter’ on Twitter.com and to be honest I’m still a bit bemused by it all. However, I noticed that a friend had integrated his blog and his ‘tweets’ and was inspired to do the same. So I’ve set up the blog in the hope it will inspire my tweets. Hey, it’s not the greatest of motivations but it’s got me started.

The goal for the blog is to discuss news stories that have a psychological angle and ‘critique’ a few of the nonsense bits of research that do psychology a great disservice. Performance artist Laurie Anderson has derided blogging as ‘Me-search’ (as opposed to ‘research’), so I will be bearing this in mind and keep the emphasis on evidence-based research. Although, I’m not ruling out the odd rant or a bit of ‘thinking out loud’.

Bright Moments

Gary Wood