Category Archives: Cognitive Psychology

Black and White Thinking in a Full Color World

Black and White Thinking

Everything may not be as it seems to people who live in a black and white, all good or all bad world. Remember when television was black and white and all of the imagery and perception supported a black and white view of life. It was a simple time when everything was predictable and life was very linear. People believed in God, went to church, children prayed in school, people kept their word, couples stayed together when they got married, and everything fit into a nice neat box.

It was a time when everyone seemed to know where to sit on the bus. Then, about the time color TV came along, it became difficult to visualize life in the same way anymore. To adjust many movie makers began to colorize the old black and white movies and paint a new picture of the old black and white world. However, as much as the movies were colorized, the world was no longer black and white, the music began to change the songs that people sang, the length of their hair, where they sat on the bus, and the age of color brought a different way that many people thought about marriage, values, and even their spiritual lives.

What happened to the black and white world that was so safe and predictable? The world of color brought life out of the black and white box in the living room and it changed the imagery and the hues of how the world looked. Therefore it was hard to to see a world in full color, the vivid expressions, and all that came with it while people could only see life inside a black and white TV. I wonder about how people who only see the world in black and white world are now managing in a HD world with a 1950’s black and white analog TV.

The resolution of the world and the brilliance of the imagery is hard to look on when the eyes are accustomed to I Love Lucy, Bob Hope, and John Wayne. I wonder how well a black and white culture is managing the abstract picture of the 21st Century in full color, where values are decided on demand in a pay per-view network delivered wherever people can get a signal. How is it possible to remain a Penguin and view life through a high density lens without feeling confused by what the range of color has revealed about the world that we did not have to view on a black and white screen? People are feeling a broad range of emotions because they are seeing different views of life.  The world is no longer black and white, nor is it all abstract color.  It is a very challenging time for all of us to find answers and a view of the world that will work.


Science, Misinformation, and Make-Believe Memories

In what is known about memory, our memories serve a purpose of enabling people to make sense of the past and incorporate it into the present experience of life.  This importance of memories according to Loftus (2003) explains that people are the sum of our memories: what we have thought, what we are told, and what we believe.  In addition, we are not only shaped by our memories, but existence is shaped by our personal experience.  Loftus argues that we “seem to reinvent our memories, and in doing so, we become the person of our own imagination”  (p. 872).

An important distinction made about the power of suggestion upon initial memory of an event and how memory that is manipulated impacts beliefs formed about events.  Information offered by Elizabeth Loftus in, Make-Believe Memories, advocates that memories are malleable and subject to distortion and suggestion.  The following observations about how memory is influenced through eyewitness accounts of crimes:

“Misinformation can influence people’s memories when they are in a suggestive fashion or when they talk to other people who give their version of events. Misinformation can sway people when they see biased media coverage about some event that they may have experienced themselves. This phenomenon would ultimately be called the misinformation effect [Loftus’ italics]” (p. 868).

An apparent assumption about initial memory of an event is that it is influenced by suggestion and post-memory influences, but also by the weight of said influences upon the person holding the memory.  A good place to begin in an understanding what misinformation effect actually means.

A dictionary description of the misinformation effect given in the APA Dictionary of Psychology (2007) states, “a phenomenon in which a person mistakenly recalls misleading information that an experimenter has provided, instead of accurately recalling the correct information that has been presented earlier (VandenBos, 2007).  This theory often used in connection with eyewitness memory of events in the investigation procedure.  Loftus cites a cause and effect relationship between what is presented to witnesses to a crime responses to questions asked i.e., “Research on memory distortion has shown that post event suggestion can contaminate what a person remembers” (p. 867).  As a result, a fair assumption about recall of a crime or incident is that the further removed a witness is from the incident and the more times it is discussed the greater chance there is that misinformation effect jades original memories of the event and details.

The position of this article presents the opinion that memory can be distorted by interjecting information and by using techniques which may be misleading to distort original memory.  What can be learned is that misinformation exerts an influence upon what may have been sensed, experienced, and stored in the memory at the time of an event.  The inference is that memories can be altered or changed in intentional and unintentional ways i.e., “Misinformation can influence people’s memories when they are in a suggestive fashion or when they talk to other people who give their version of events”, as cited in (u04d2 Make-Believe Memories, 2010).  A rational conclusion suggests that changes in memories are connected to the suggestions made by the examiner and suggestibility of the person remembering the account.  As a result, an explanation of the misinformation effect contained within the statement made through: post event suggestion (Loftus, 2003) which alters original memory that is stored as suggestion, as well as exposure to other perspectives about the memory-event places influence upon perception.

One important factor in the process is described by Sternberg (2009), as encoding (p. 217). Based on this description, how a memory is encoded –one’s experience, conditions surrounding an event –factors contributing to retrieval, will affect acquisition of information: “the physical, sensory input into a kind of representation” (p. 217) which distorts original sensory input.  Therefore, the misinformation effect suggests that, “suggestion can lead to false memories being injected outright into the minds of people” (Loftus, 2003).

When questions are asked that are suggestive,  false memories are injected into the first impressions of the person being questioned.  Loftus (2003) reports, “that leading questions could contaminate or distort a witness’s memory … Related studies showed that memory could become skewed with various techniques that fed misinformation to unsuspecting individuals” (Make-believe memories).  This practice is associated with techniques which are used in police-witness interviews to a crime.  For example, “Three errors occurred universally: interrupting the witness, asking too many short-answer questions, and inappropriate sequencing of questions” (Fisher, 1995).  A conclusion can be made here that demonstrates that when rehearsal of the memory is interspersed with the injection of questions, interruptions, dialogue, and questions, the initial sensory perception will become adapted to misinformation that affects perception of the original occurrence.

It may seem on the surface that the misinformation effect presents a negative perspective of how memory can be manipulated and the impact upon a criminal investigation.   However, one application of this theory may be of value when applied to research, which could aid in better training for law enforcement professional when conducting witness interviews.  In addition, another application could be that when misinformation is used to correct distorted memories, it may hold properties of value, which present a therapeutic value.  Some examples could be in treatment with those who have experienced traumatic events that present with PTSD symptoms or anxiety related conditions.

Obviously, this article only scratches the surface and more needs to be written on such an important subject of interest.


Fisher, R. P. (1995). Interviewing victims and witnesses of a crime. Psychology, Public Policy,  Law [electronic version] , 1 (4), 732-764, doi:10.1037/1076-8971.1.4.732.

Loftus, E. F. (2003, November). Make-believe memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied [electronic version] , 14 (3), pp. 255-265,, doi: 10.1037/1076-898X.14.3.255.

Sternberg, R. J. (2009). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

u04d2 Make-Believe Memories. (2010). Retrieved 5 2009, August , from Capella Universisty:

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC, USA: American Psychological Association.

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Science, Philosophy, Reason, and Life Without Memory

Watching this video is a very sobering look at the way that what the memory provides to an individual in the everyday activities is taken for granted and that without a functioning memory there is no connection with the past, identity, and a conscious way of relating to the present activities of life or the future. A line from the film says it clearly, “I think it is a very dramatic illustration particularly for the public of what it is like to being without memory. For example, this constant feeling that he has just waken up or he has not tasted anything before” (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). While the video, stimulated thoughts about the value of memory, there is also the thought about how many things could be different, if only some memories could be erased. However, a connection is implicit from the story that it is relative to every individual is and how functioning occurs in life within the environment.

One question which has already been discussed in previous posts in the connection between the brain and the mind. If consciousness and memory are functions of the brain, but also connected to the mind, then there is a relationship between the anatomical structure of the, how the mind operates, neurologically, function, and the wakening experience of awareness in behavior and response. The way that memory is encoded and retrieved forms an understanding of knowing, believing, and behaving. Sternberg (2009) says, “A memory is a mental experience taken to be veridical (truthful) representation from one’s past.  Memories can be false in relatively minor ways … and in major ways that can have profound implications for oneself and others” (p. 198).  In the case of Wearing’s condition, the damage to the brain through Encephalitis affected not only the encoding, but also the ability to recall because of the damage to the Hippo-campus. This raises another observation about the impact of chemical, biological affects to the brain, mind functioning.

It has been established that Teratogens, (Friedman J.M., 1999), affect development of the brain, and also how the introduction of disease destroys tissue, thus disabling explicit memory (Sternberg, 2009, p. 180) from engaging the mind in an experience of conscious recollection (p. 180). A question might be posed about the difference in the absence of explicit memory in contrast to implicit use of information (p. 180). This is discussed in the dialogue by Dr. Michael Oddy who stated, “We ask him if he would like the coffee … But it is all about current events, it is about the surroundings (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). The events seem to suggest that there is not a reference to past experiences that could have been encoded and recalled, but rather knowing through cognition of present observations in the moment.

The traditional model of memory referred to by Sternberg (2009), in William James (1890-1970) theory of primary memory and secondary memory; then later Waugh and Norman, 1965 (p. 182) give explanation of the components and functions of the memory that are not in tact as a result of disease which destroyed brain tissue. However, the theories as presented, do not adequately offer explanation of ingrained skill or the, “four or five things, he will if questioned appropriately tell you about” (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). In analysis, it seems evident that one working model of memory does not provide a complete picture without gaining insight from a Neuropsychology model that examines how dissociation of function, “to explain a link between a particular lesion or function” (Sternberg, 2009, p. 207). It seems that there is a correlational relationship to all of the activities, biology, physical structures, or trauma to the brain which in turn affects what happens in conscious awareness that is connected to how perception occurs, what is understood and believed, and what the experience of the life is in feeling and behavior.   How important is this to advancing understanding in the study of psychology?

It cannot be underscored enough that understanding what has been written and engaging with current and future research will build a bridge from the encoded memory that has been described by theorist to provide ongoing and enriched understanding of how the functioning of memory in the mind-brain relationship is enhanced by the value of ongoing research in Cognitive Affective Psychology.


Friedman JM, a. J. (1999). Clinical Teratology: identifying teratogenic risks in humans. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from Capella Library:, doi:10.1034/j.1399-0004.1999.560601.xJans,
Sternberg, R. J. (2009). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.
The Anenburg Foundation. (2009). Life without memory: The case of Clive Wearing, Part 1. Washington, DC: Annenberg Media,, DC.

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Science, Philosophy, and Reason and the Mind-Brain Problem

A primary voice within the history of philosophy was Rene Descartes who coined the phrase, Cogito ergo sum — “I think, therefore I am”.  It was Rene Descartes who suggested and early explanation of the nature of the mind that separated, at least in philosophy a separation between the brain and mind and described in the term Cartesian Dualism.

What relationship or difference does the mind hold from the brain?

The question of mind, body, and brain interaction is a subject speculated upon, as well as, studied by philosophers, religious thinkers, medical researchers, and psychological researchers in an effort to find definitive answers. One of the places to begin looking for answers is to understand the difference between mind and matter.  A distinction between mind and matter stated “to be found in the fact that in man there is a mind which is absent in the rock.  The mind, they argue, controls that part of the individual which is mind” (Frost, 1945). This inference separates a man from all other creations and inanimate objects.

A distinction in difference between the mind, brain, and body is at the heart of the position held by Descartes.  This difference is referenced by Johnson, (1991) who poses a question about cognitive process and the impact upon the material and biological structural development (In the palaces of memory: How we build the worlds inside our heads). This question becomes important in understanding that a relationship exists between what goes on in the mind –thought processes and the physical development and structural changes in the brain tissue.  What is apparent through research that is currently available is that theories that support Cartesian Dualism, as well as Cognitive Neuroscience do influence modern assumptions about the science of Cognitive and Affective Psychology in the development of a theory of mind-brain interaction.

The argument for the mind-brain problem, attributed to Descartes, is a subject which has been debated by philosophers who predated his work.  Examination of what is believed in Cartesian Dualism reveals the essential core teaching that is characteristic of, “Plato (c. 428-347 B.C.)  [who] was a dualist who divided the human being in his dualist theory into material body and immaterial soul” (Mind-BodyTheories, 2006).   A number of important issues that are contained in dualism, which are important to understanding how philosophy delineates the arguments presented.

One presupposition is, “the body is a hindrance to the soul in the acquisition of knowledge and, as a rationalist, he abandoned the body and the senses for the activity of the soul capable of accounting for absolute being” (Mind-BodyTheories, 2006).  Inherent within this position an ontological influence is reflected that essentially regards the mind, soul, as a metaphysical property that is contained in the concept of mind, thoughts rational ability, and cognition. The basis of the mind-brain body dualism is that, “the body is a hindrance to the soul in the acquisition of knowledge and, as a rationalist; … [Plato] abandoned the body and the senses for the activity of the soul capable of accounting for absolute being (Mind-BodyTheories, 2006).

This approach lends itself naturally to a “rational/deductive science over the empirical/inductive approach “ (Elsevier’s Dictionary of Psychological Theories).  This essential framework of thinking has a substantive connection to Descartes who, “proposed that matter (body) is ‘extended substance’ and that the soul (mind) is ‘unextended substance’” (Mind-BodyTheories).  According to this view, the atoms or constituent parts that make up the mind are existent in the universe and are joined to form the mind. A way of explaining this by philosophers is in the term, interactionism, that is, “the theory that mind and body are separate realities that mutually influence each other” (Hunnex, 1986). This way of explaining the brain-mind differs from contemporary approaches in that it describes the mind in terms of what it is as opposed to what it does.

A contrast to this approach is found in the theoretical propositions of Cognitive Neuroscience which uses a scientific approach to what the brain-mind-body processes include. This is noted in the Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science (2004) where Cognitive neuroscience is described as “The study of the neural basis of cognition … that depends heavily on the use of modern imaging technologies such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)” (Neuroscience, 2004).  One the significant differences in the approach of the psychologist—scientist and the philosopher-dualist is the assumptions that frame the epistemology for Neuroscience.

Cognitive science is based in the same logic which the theory of evolution follows. The rationale is to weight the biological and physical interactions as precursors of theory as opposed to metaphysical theory.  This is evident in early theorist in psychology, such as Freud looked at what the mind did in the unconscious more as a “flow than a ‘place”’ (Unconscious, 1995) .  His work in the latter part of the nineteenth century was a byproduct of what was understood in neurology and physiology.  This is illustrated in his theory about the “reflexive arc … the involuntary jerk of the leg when the knee is struck … tension builds up and needs to be released, and this release is an involuntary action” (Unconscious, 1995).

However in contrast, understanding the complex symbolism in psychoanalytical approaches and literature analogies placed upon the subconscious, repression, and consciousness that are presented by Freud seem to bear a resemblance in approach to Cartesian Dualism.  A question which arises is whether there is a metaphysical distinction-separation of the mind-brain, body or is there a tension that occurs in the narrative of the subconscious—with slips, lapses, and knee jerk reactions that alleviate the primal tension between what is perceived or repressed in the way the mind-brain and body function?  Answers that are contained in the science of Cognitive, Affective Psychology that answer questions related to the mind-brain issue by mapping understanding through Localization of Function (Sternberg, 2009,2006, p. 34).

Looking at the brain and identifying which schematic zones affect activity associated with behaviors or abilities enhances understanding of how the brain controls the activity in the body.  According to Sternberg (2009), “the fundamental structures and processes of the brain … [are] the nervous system … divided into two main parts: the central nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system” (p. 71).  The relativity of how brain topography, organic construction, and systemic interaction is related to intelligence, aptitude, learning,  behavior, feeling, personality, memory, and physical motor activity are important to establishing a correlation between brain activity and phenomena occurring in human existence.

A truth abundantly clear is there is a relationship that is molecular, physical, and related to development and experience in brain function.  This is attested to in explanations of how behaviors connect to those individuals with injury to the head and brain which demonstrate that a correlation exists between brain functioning and perceptions in the experience of the individual.  This is noted by Sternberg (2009) who demonstrates how, “Damage resulting from head injuries can include spastic movements, difficulty swallowing, slurring of speech among many other cognitive problems” (p. 70).  An observation inferred is that influence on the neurological, psychological, vision, motor skills, etc. directly affects how the tissue and cells of react to trauma.  This experience and phenomena establishes a correlation between tissue, biology, experience, and how changes relate to the experience, as well as, the functions of the brain, mind, and body.

What relationship do the disciplines of science, theology, and philosophy have to gain from one another?

Summing it up reminds me that this is a developing science and while there may be substantive answers, the fact remains that there is more that we do not know than what we do know.  Within the theory of Cartesian Dualism and modern views about how mind-brain-body interactions occurs, what is apparent is that epistemology seems to dominate the research that has been done in the past and it seems that there still needs to be a greater understanding of the relationship between the brain-mind connection.  What is apparent to this writer is a need to demythologize the process of understanding and place appropriate value upon spiritual and religious understanding while allowing science, research, and benefits from theoretical study to posit value to the field of psychology bringing greater understanding of the mind-brain conundrum.  Consequently, I know that the polemics will rise up in arms to protect the ideals that are held, but my suggestion is that we defend high ideals to advance the truth and not to inhibit, scientific, theological, or spiritual input into such a complex subject.

Frost, S. (1945). The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Garden City Publishing.

Hunnex, M. D. (1986). Chronological and thematic charts of philosophies and pholosphers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan House.

Johnson, G. (1991). In the palaces of memory: How we build the worlds inside our heads. New York: Random House.

Mind-BodyTheories. (2006). Elsevier’s Dictionary of Psychological Theories. Retrieved July 24, 2010, from Capella University Library: MIND-BODY THEORIES. (2006). In Els

Neuroscience, C. (2004). Cognitive Neuroscience. Retrieved July 17, 2010, from Capella Univertsity Library: Cognitive Neuroscience. (2004). In The Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavior

Sternberg, R. J. (2009,2006). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

Unconscious. (1995). In Critical Terms for Literary Study. Retrieved July 18, 2101, from Capella University Library: Retrieved from

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Creative Thinking: Living Outside the Box

When you live in a box, think in a box, it is hard to see anything outside the box.  The tendency that people have who think in a box is to reject anything that will not fit in their box, criticize it and throw it away.  Creative thinking is a hallmark of intelligence and problem solving.  A problem presents in life when the focus is upon compliance, pathology, and what is wrong.  What results is that is that all energy focuses upon defending a rationale for what is wrong and virtually what will not fit in the box.  Linear thinkers tend to think on a straight line, not being able to see anything that is not on the straight line.  People call it concrete thinking, close mindedness, black and white thinking, but something to think about is that thinking in a box can be a symptom of someone who needs to control life in certain definable terms to rid themselves of the anxiety that occurs when something does not fit in the box.  Learning to give up control of the way reality is constructed in certain definable terms is a step in developing an ability to think creatively about problems. Thinking outside the box is not unfaithfulness to an ideology; it is being faithful to your own capability to think about creative solutions.  The choice that we have is to live in a box– or not, to use your innate intelligence, to focus upon your strengths in ways to bring a positive outcome.

Destination: Where the Road is Going

Where is the Road Leading?

Uncertainty about what is ahead makes it hard to focus upon where the road is at today. Looking back at where the journey has been and remembering the safety found in memories of how things were comfortable, manageable, and predictable; there is a desire to go back to a place built in the castle of the mind.  Living in the memory of the past and feeling the uncertainty of the present leaves fear of where the road is going and what will be there when I arrive. A destination is too much to fathom, to fearful to embrace; a place that having no certainty and no familiar faces.  Looking forward to undefined potential reality which can be experienced the call of the destination is understood.  Feeling anxiety in the present experience controlled by idealism about the past holds potential captive bringing ambivalence feeding the hesitation to move forward and embrace the destination: where the road is going.

Finding Balance Between Perception and Expectations

The image of Seattle being refracted through m...Who’s Glasses Are You Looking Through?

Is it really reasonable to believe that you can make other people happy by always doing what’s expected, acquiescing to the wishes of others to live in their blessing?  In reality you can never make someone else happy, they may be happy that you gave them what they were wishing for, but it does not necessarily make them happy. Much of the problem with viewing life from this perspective is fueled by a low sense of self and how worth, value, and happiness comes in life. The question that is at the core of the issue is: how does a person get to the point of not feeling that if one does not live up to the “expectation” of others, that acceptance, love, and approval will not be experienced?

Is There a Pattern of Response Connected to the Past?

While there are biological factors of personality and behavior, much of what’s beneath response is grounded in performance based thinking-behavior patterns established at a very early age.  The result is an experience characterized by falsely associating rewards for behaviors with value as a person.  A common response is a skewed sense of identity dependent upon reward attached to performance.  Often, when performance based behavior is thought of by some, it is linked with a negative connotation.  Performance and reward are not necessarily bad components when join together.  Human behavior is understood in terms of motivation and goal.  In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, the principles of felt need and motivation for behaviors are illustrated in the basic way that individual’s act out behavior. The response is connected to how needs-drives are internalized, organized, and acted out. At the basic level, a common thread of response is present that supports the function of a healthy, well expressed life, but the response takes on a different pattern based upon signals from the environmental conditions, and perceived outcomes. Another point of consideration is that, humans are not simply deterministic in responses, but free to demonstrate dynamic interaction in response to what is occurring and has happened over the course of life. Knowing why behavior occurs may be more important to living effectively than identifying or classifying behaviors as good or bad. The truth is that everything that we are doing and how we respond is a continuing flow of experiences, information received, and responses that we organize in the unique way that integrates the information of life in our experience.

Is it Wrong to Respond as You do to Life?

Some individuals describe life in terms of black and white—good and bad.  That is characteristic of a personality disorder that is described as Borderline Personalityand indicates a behavior that presents with emotional dis-regulation response to stress.  The personality illustration points to a reality experienced when we possess a limited view of life that describes everything in terms of good and bad, black and white. When the experiences in life do not fit linear terms of good and bad—stupid and smart, there is a difficulty in managing information that does not fit in the box, which colors outside the lines, and is not really understood.  Looking at what people do and why in terms of what is effective and works and what do not work and is ineffective will provide a way of connecting behaviors with solutions that work.  In response to the many questions that are within this, there is a place for good and bad, mores, values, and spiritual implications.  However, simply describing the moral quality or value principle of what is done, will not help anyone: it more likely than not– will reinforce the same negative, self-destructive patterns of thinking and behaving. Therefore, understanding why behavior, resulting in performance that is motivated by a need for approval, characterizes how individuals respond to expectations and will provide more substantive answers that describing in terms of good and bad—right and wrong.

Healthy or Unhealthy Expectations?

A good question to ask about what is healthy and unhealthy is to look at the impact of actions in terms of what effect is elicited that promotes a specific behavior. An illustration about perspective and the effects of a point of view, internalized is within how Christians generally respond to behavior problems with guilt or conviction. I have a personal axiom that says, “guilt” drives us away from God—to hide as they did in the Garden of Eden and ”conviction” drives us toward God—as Isaiah’s vision of God (Isaiah  6).  There is a distinct difference in how response is given to guilt and how response is given to an understood cognitive, spiritual truth.  One produces neurotic behavior with its own distinct pathology and another with the response that frees choices and produces intentional responses.  Consideration about what is healthy behavior may be best, framed in terms of motivation and what effect is produced.  For example, a well-founded effort leads someone to let another know that they are a drunk and that they need to change.  A good question to pose is: who feels better after the exchange, the one who identified the behavior or the “drunk “who heard those words describing behavior flavored with a character assessment?  Understanding behaviors that identifies the action and misses the person has the missing component– hope of efficacy.

The epilogue is this: if the guilt of not pleasing others is placing expectation on you remember, “Healthy people with good self-worth and identity have a solid foundation from which to operate. They enjoy love and approval and success, but do not crumble without it. Their good feelings come from the inside, not from the external people and things which surround them” (Smith A.W.).

Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly

Out of Focus Picture

One of the great difficulties that leaders experience is the inability to change when it is necessary to stay vital and continue to experience success. One leadership principle that John Maxwell teaches in The Twenty One Laws of Leadership is that an organization cannot grow higher than the level of leadership at the top. He calls this the leadership lid. Does it seem like your organization is stuck; like someone has put a lid on the top and things have plateaued? It may be that the organization has grown as high as it can go because of the level of leadership it has. One of the reasons that organizations do not grow is because the leader has not been growing and as a result, both the leader and the organization are stuck in a complacent rut of ineffectiveness: everything is out of focus. Staying focused is difficult when you aim is off. One way to stay on track is by keeping a narrow focus. “…pressing towards the mark…” narrowing the focus to define what will be done. It is easy to look around and find someone to blame when things are not going well, but maybe the place to look is in the mirror and realize that when an organization is having difficulty that the answer may be that it is a leadership problem. One of the reasons we fall of track, so often, is that distractions, circumstances, and life change the center of our everyday world. The result is that organizations and leadership gets out of focus.

If there is one thing that will help leaders to continue to be successful, what would that be? People may have many different opinions, but the one defining truth is that leaders must continue to learn, grow, and develop their selves to maintain vitality. Learning to adapt to change is a requisite for leading in today’s leader. Talent Management Perspectives reports that, “Against the backdrop of an ever-changing global business environment and unstable economic conditions, it’s no longer sufficient for leaders to embrace the status-quo …”The organization has to lead change, rapid change. The environment is changing — someone’s inventing something before you expect it or something is collapsing in front of your eyes …’”It’s becoming much more important to deal with change and creativity and innovation and speed and nimbleness,” she said. “Those are part of producing the results; you have to pay attention to those factors”’ ( It may be that leaders have a lot of information at their disposal, but knowing how to use the information and where to apply change in style, strategy, and innovation will define how leadership will be applied in the context of change.

Personal growth and development are indications of a leaders potential for success. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading. All leaders are learners because there is no growth without change and there is no change without being flexible. When a leader stops growing, he/she becomes inflexible. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of predispositions and attitudes toward having never done it that way before. If the attitude is maintained that, “I want to lead the way I used to lead, the way I’ve always led” is maintained, then yesterdays methods will only yield results in yesterday’s constructs. The attitudes and skills that brought you to this point in your leadership are not going to take you to the future. New problems require new solutions. New situations require new attitudes. New difficulties and new opportunities require new skills and new attitudes. What brought you this far and made you a success – that’s why success creates inability to manage new ideas and challenges, because the rules are forever changing.

The root behind resistance to change is fear. There are times when fear paralyzes forward movement: I don’t want to change because I’m afraid of loss–I’ve done it this way and I feel comfortable with it. Therefore what am I going to lose if I do ministry in a new way? The root is the fear of change. Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, or defending the status quo or striving simply to repeat the past because it worked last, it may be that there is a danger of terminal failure. What’s the key to overcoming this trap in leadership? The antithesis is to never stop developing. Never stop developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart, and what you bring to your leadership.

Skill brings success. You may be dedicated to what you are doing, but if development of the necessary skills is not occurring, the tools you have may not fit a new situation. A farming analogy might be: you can’t use a corn harvester on a wheat field, a cotton picker in an apple orchard. The tools that are used have to match the context, culture, organization, people that you are working within. Consequently, if learning stops then the axiom, that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence and then they get stuck there, kicks in and drives what will happen.