Archive for March, 2011

Behavioural Safety – Counterfactual Reflections

Remember the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, where businessman George Bailey went from despair to intense motivation when a visiting angel intervened to show him how much worse off his town would have been without him. Unfortunately, few have a guardian angel named Clarence to show us our alternative histories, but all is not lost as it turns out just imagining “what if” scenarios is a powerful tool in real life.

In experiments in changing people’s behaviour it was found that Loyalty was an important factor but that it was incorrectly believed that Loyalty was something that was generally earned over time. However, it now turns out that feelings of loyalty can be increased in a rather simple way. Researchers at Northwestern University and UC Berkeley led by Hal Ersner-Hershfield found that having subjects visualize historical alternatives made them more patriotic. Similarly, reflecting on the shaky origins of a company made its employees more positive about the firm.

The researchers ran a series of tests. Subjects were asked to reflect on how the US came into being. Half of the subjects were asked to reflect on what their world would be like if the country hadn’t come into being. (This is called “counterfactual reflection.”) The other half were told to think about what their world is like because the country did come into existence (factual reflection). The subjects who were told to imagine the “what if the country hadn’t come into existence” scenario demonstrated higher levels of patriotism in subsequent testing than those that reflected on their actual situation.

And it’s not just patriotism that can be stirred by imagining alternate scenarios – it works for businesses, too. A similar test which had subjects reflect on the origins of a company showed a significant boost in positive feelings among those who thought about the counterfactual condition, i.e., the differences had the company NOT been created.

So what does this mean for Behavioural Safety? I can see a variety of ways that counterfactual scenarios could be employed. A few examples:

What if the company hadn’t survived? Most companies have had some touch-and-go moments in their history. The authors of the study cite FedEx as a famous example – the company was almost out of cash when founder Fred Smith flew to a Las Vegas casino in a last-ditch attempt to generate enough funds to make payroll. Just about every company has some sort of story like that (though perhaps not quite as dramatic), and letting employees think about their situation had things not turned out as they did could boost feelings of loyalty.

What if you hadn’t joined our company? The researchers didn’t test this approach, but I think it likely that particularly for employees who have had positive experiences since being employed – promotions, pay increases, home or car purchases, etc. – reflecting on the company’s role in this and the alternative scenarios could amplify positive emotion toward the company.

What if you didn’t buy our product/service? Has a customer had a positive experience or received real benefits from the relationship? Has the customer reduced their cost or improved their efficiency? Have there been fewer delivery problems than with past vendors? Helping the customer visualize alternative scenarios would be one way to enhance their positive feelings about the relationship.

Use with caution. Clearly, there are a lot of ways a ham-handed approach to this technique could backfire. Call an employee into an office had tell him to “Think about how what your life would be like if you weren’t employed by us,” and the emotions generated won’t be positive. Similarly, telling a customer, “Imagine how screwed up your manufacturing schedule would be if you were still dealing with that unreliable supplier you used to use,” won’t come across as positive and professional.

I am sure you can see that this Mindskills Approach of using Counterfactual Reflections could translate into positive behaviour changes. What if – we had free reign to run our businesses without restrictions would make an interesting discussion.

My advice: be subtle in introducing alternative scenarios, and you will produce the desired positive boost in loyalty and emotion without alienating the other person. Or, hire an angel named Clarence. (I actually CAN imagine a successful company doing a Clarence-like video showing its positive impact on the community by visualizing what it would be like had the company not existed – fewer jobs, fewer homes, etc.)



March 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Changing Behaviour

All behaviour is based on the emotional reward or stimulus they get from it. They don’t perceive the behaviour as something negative as the response it provides is positive. The weird thing about human behaviour is that no matter how much we want to believe that we base our decisions on logic we actually base them on emotions. In fact the latest brain studies have shown that without the emotion behind decisions we are unable to learn from past experience – god or bad. This creates a problem for behavioural change as many try and change it via logic and that just doesn’t work.
I would also add that behaviour is intrinsic to the individual and we measure it extrinsically so that in itself causes a dissonance. To change behaviour we need to get inside the mind of the individual and how they perceive the situation and then plant the required seeds of change and nurture these. If the behaviour is seriously unsafe then the pain of contravening the safe system must be so great (in the mind of the person behaving badly) that it outweighs the pleasure of the aberrant behaviour.

Let me tell you a story about human behaviour. Behavioural scientists set up a couple of maze experiments. One for a rat and an identical one scaled up for humans. When each creature managed to reach the destination of the maze they were rewarded. The rat with food and the human with money, both from a machine. The experiment went well but when the reward was withdrawn the rat after only three attempts stopped travelling the maze – no reward no work. However, when the human reward was withdrawn it took six plus on average to stop travelling the maze. That in itself isn’t the whole story. When the reward was withdrawn the human was the only one to get angry at the machine – they actually kicked the machine in temper. The rat just stopped and found something else to do.


March 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease

Decrease Your Risk Of Heart Attack

The risk of heart attack is a common health concern for so many people. Fortunately, we know a lot about what causes heart attacks, including the health and lifestyle changes we can do for ourselves to lower the risks.

There’s an old Scottish saying ‘Falling in the loch is the wrong time to learn how to swim!’ Likewise, waiting until you have a heart attack is the wrong time to work on prevention. In fact, waiting until you have caused damage to your heart only means that you have passed from ‘Prevention and moved onto Recovery’ – and this is a much harder fight.

Many of the health and lifestyle factors associated with heart attacks can be easily controlled with a little will power and a positive, healthy attitude toward daily life.

People can substantially lower their risks of heart attacks by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Cut down on fats, especially saturated fats, which are primarily found in animal foods, such as meat and whole-milk dairy products. Some vegetable fats, such as palm oil and coconut milk or oil, are also saturated.
  • Restrict the intake of cholesterol, which is found in animal foods, including butter, egg yolks, whole-milk dairy products, meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Eat a varied diet that gets 50 to 60 per cent of its calories from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain breads and pastas.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.


However, one of the biggest culprits is STRESS

  • Learning to manage stress is a vital ingredient in battling heart disease.

Stress has a significant influence when added to the additional factors such as a person’s age, sex, family history, medical history, and other health and environmental conditions. The best way to protect yourself against a heart attack is to know your personal risk factors and to tailor your lifestyle changes to suit your particular medical needs.

Mental, physical or emotional stress has a devastating effect on the body. Essential nutrients become depleted and the body goes into deeper distress. Therefore in addition to learning to manage stress you need to supplement your body’s nutritional deficiency. But where do you start?

Well I would suggest you take my free online and completely private Health Analysis.

Not even I will see the results unless you tell me.

For more information on your personal risk of heart attack, see your healthcare provider. Or visit my Habit of health website and learn more about your health.

Once you have visited these sites and you would like some support to help you overcome the factors that are increasing your risk of heart attack i.e. Stress, Smoking, Workplace etc. then drop me an email or give me a call and we can begin to return your life controls back to you.

In the meantime take care

Wilf Archer

March 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

Stress and Cancer

Does Stress Increase Your Risk For Cancer?

Everyone has experienced stress-induced headaches, neck pain, or digestive upsets at one time or another. Nothing serious, right? Well, new research suggests that psychological stress may actually increase the risk of cancer.

Stress And Colorectal Cancer

In one study, researchers found that people who reported they had suffered from workplace problems over a 10-year period had more than five times the risk of colorectal cancer as those who reported no workplace problems, even when diet and other risk factors were the same.

Stress And Cell Damage

Animal studies show that rats subjected to stress undergo DNA changes in the cells of their livers that, if unchecked, could lead to cancer-causing mutations. Other studies show that stressed animals are more susceptible to cancer-causing substances in the environment.

A Weakened Immune System

Stress is thought to weaken the immune system. A strong immune system is needed to destroy damaged cells that could lead to cancer.

Coping With Stress

Stress is a part of everyone’s life. Deadlines at work, traffic jams, family conflict, the death of a loved one, even positive changes, such as a new job or a marriage, are all forms of stress. A little stress is actually a good thing, providing the challenge that makes life worth living. But, too much stress can harm you mentally and physically.

If you suffer from stress, you can do something about it. Relaxation or New Age style meditation classes are often only a short term solution to mask the symptoms. You may feel better for a few days or weeks but all you are doing is supressing your Fight or Flight mechanism and that can be fatal. If you are experiencing symptoms of stress then your body is trying to tell you something. If you don’t listen to it or try to ignore the root cause by masking these symptoms with ineffective relaxation your body will only shout louder. The results are that symptoms turn into diseases.

Talk to a Professional Health Coach about what you can do that could save your life.

March 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm Leave a comment

Hypnosis for Birthing

I have noticed that several hypnotherapists have raised their concern that any training or potential work will be restricted to only those persons who are already medically qualified – i.e. nurses, midwife’s and doctors. Some of them see this as an encroachment into their domain and they see this more of a threat than an opportunity. So let me clarify the position from the health and safety perspective.

I believe that hypnotherapy is a profession and as such we must behave in a professional manner. This means that we must be competent in our practice or when not competent we must be under the guidance of someone who is. Yet out of all the training programmes I have examined not a single one covers the hazards, risks and dangers associated with our hypnotherapy profession. Yes some do include such things as duty of care but ask them for a risk assessment with regards to the specific client and their treatment and you will be met by a blank face.

I was approached recently by an organisation who specialise in weight loss using various techniques including the fitting of a hypnotic gastric band. Their marketing blurb was quite adamant that the dangers of surgically fitting a gastric band were substantial but that by installing a virtual gastric band using hypnosis that these risks would be eliminated. I read their training manual and was horrified to discover that not a single word about the risks of a hypnotic gastric band were included. And considering that this was a therapist training manual how were these risk going to be managed?

I love hypnosis and I know that it is extremely powerful so I get really concerned when fellow therapists think they can change a behaviour and that that behavioural change does not have ramifications or carry any associated risks.

Anyway, those who know me know that as well as on the national register for hypnotherapy I am also on the national register for occupational health and safety consultants. So I decided to do a risk assessment for a hypnotic gastric band.

Step 1 – I identify the hazards, who might be harmed and the degree of harm that could be caused by undergoing the hypnotic gastric band procedure based on my assessment of the individual client.

Step 2 – I assessed the risks associated with the selection of clientele and the likely support they would need both during and after the sessions.

Step 3 – I introduced a set of controls that minimised the likelihood of the possible harm being realised.

Step 4 – My risk assessment also introduced a monitoring and review of all procedures.

Step 5 – I ensure that the client is fully aware of all the risks involved and that they are provided with the essential controls to minimise these risks involved.

This may seem like overkill but this should be done for every single procedure that we do as therapists. So you can imagine my horror when I read recently that some hypnotherapists were peeved because the medical profession were looking at hypnosis for birthing within our hospitals and that they were restricting the practice to only trained medical professionals. Why because they know the risks and can do something about minimising them.


I am not saying that as hypnotherapists we do not have a role to play but if we are to be considered a profession then we should behave like professionals and that means having the ability to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments. Therefore whatever niche we therapists decide to focus on we need to make sure that we know the risks and that our clients also know the risks.

Get it wrong and we have failed in our duty of care and this is negligence and could carry a criminal conviction as well as a lawsuit for civil damages.

March 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm Leave a comment


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