The Psychology of Fulfilment, Achievement and Success
Presenter – Brian Faulkner BSc(Hons) BVM&S MBA GPCert(BS) GPCert(SAM) MSc(Psych) MRCVS
Filling the breech of the stethoscope who is taking a break this week, I approached the evening with a rather typically cynical viewpoint I was concerned that this will be another of those ‘feel-good’ for a day or two motivational speeches which quickly drops into the deep, dark recess that poses as my memory, and that’s that.
But in fact Mrs cynical came away thinking that this simple one hour presentation should be compulsory for all first year vet students – and indeed anyone else who’s never watched Brian Faulkner’s The Psychology of Fulfilment, Achievement and Success, it, especially parents!
Brian began by explaining in visual terms the unique way that humans respond to a stimulus. Unlike most animals we have a space between a stimulus and our response, which allows us to imagine concepts such as time, especially the future.
It is this concept that allows us to work towards a state that doesn’t yet exist. The ‘space’ gives us choice in how we respond to a stimulus, and this lecture is about how we take command of that space.
Fulfilment, achievement and success (FAS)
Brian explained that ‘fulfilment’ is the feeling that you know how the world works (or a specific area of it that you are relating to) and you have mastered the skills that allow you to make a difference and that you matter. Achievement is something you reach or attain like a goal. It is clearly defined tangible and memorable. It is what we did by when; and ‘success’ is a feeling that we get when we (or others) achieve or surpass expectations.
Brian then went on to talk about challenges we can sometimes face, for example when we graduate from vet school and go into practice for the first time, and the anxiety and stress that can follow. The biggest issue here is uncertainty, and anxiety = uncertainty multiplied by importance.
So what happens when we face challenge and uncertainty? Studies have shown that we have essentially two responses: The ‘helpless’ response and the ‘resilient’ response.
Helplessness: One failed task can bring a permanent response ‘I am a failure as a vet, I can’t do this, everything is going wrong, I blame myself (or others) for my failure’.
Resilience: The same failed task can bring a temporary response ‘that operation went wrong, what can I change or do better for that task to succeed/improve next time’.
If the reason for something going wrong is seen as either temporary, specific or non-personal, then the person has ‘hope’ however if it is seen as permanent, pervasive or personal, then the person will be feeling helpless, leading to hopelessness and even depression.
The most interesting aspect of the seminar for me was the ‘mind-set’. Do you believe that we are born with a set / finite level of intelligence? Or that we can grow and acquire intelligence? The factual answer – if there was one – matters not here. It s about what we believe. Studies have shown that our mind-set, when faced with predicaments and uncertainty, is a massive predictor of whether we will become helpless and lose motivation and perhaps give up, or resilient and work through it.
But where do our mind-sets come from? Some fascinating studies have revealed that the way we are praised can influence our mind-set. Nouns and verbs such as ‘you are clever’ can in fact be limiting. Girls who have been high achievers at school are particularly exposed to this and it has been shown that they are ‘more likely’ to give up’ when faced with an overburdened challenge, or feel relieved rather than fulfilled when they complete a difficult ask.
Boys however, are more likely to have gone through school being given ‘actions’ (verbs) rather than praise ‘if you work harder you can achieve’ etc., and so again studies have shown they are more likely to be resilient in challenge and fulfilled when they succeed. The important distinction here is that it is not what you ‘have’ (you are clever) but what you ‘do’ (you worked really hard) that makes the difference when it comes to a fixed or growth mind-set.
The final part of the seminar focused on performance versus mastery. Those of us who measure our performance against others versus those who simply want to master the task regardless of whether anyone else has, or how well they have done.
So coming full circle to that ‘space’ between stimulus and response, this is the opportunity to take command – the ability to take charge and manage others through the uncertainty. So the antidote to uncertainty is the ‘growth mind-set’ and the confidence that we can learn and master skills and that this is more important than anything you might ‘have’.
Of course I can’t make watching this seminar compulsory but for those who didn’t get to see it I hope that this insight is enough to whet your appetite to watch the seminar
The Stethoscope’s stand-in!