Video presentation of this page

Strategies are great. They go hand in hand with the other cornerstones of having a good life (Positive Way of Being, Creating a Life Philosophy, Continuous Growth, etc.)

The idea of a strategy is a straightforward one. The word itself is defined in the Oxford dictionary as, "a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim." Strategies are like recipes in a cookbook. Presumably, if you subscribe to a given strategy you will likely see the desired benefit. Of course, there are good and bad strategies and, just like a recipe, they don't always turn out as you would hope.

Some of the strategies we might cover in coaching sessions are shown on the graphic image on this page. Let's take a look at a couple of them so you will have an idea of what you might expect.

Learning Strategies

For the sake of example, let's consider learning strategies, specifically those of Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., engineer, author, and learning specialist. In her book, Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens, Oakley provides a number of techniques that will decrease study time, increase retention, and perhaps as much as anything, give the reader a feeling of mastery.

Here is a list of Oakley's "10 Top Ideas to Help Your Learning:"

  1. Make use of both the intense focused and relaxed diffuse modes
  2. Create brain‐links with practice, repetition, and recall
  3. Interleave
  4. Space out your learning
  5. Exercise!
  6. Test yourself. Have others test you. Teach others
  7. Use funny pictures and metaphors to speed your learning
  8. Use the Pomodoro Technique to build your ability to focus and relax
  9. Start your most difficult work first
  10. Find ways to learn actively, outside of your usual classes

In a coaching session, we might review these strategies in detail and you might choose to adopt one or more as action items. The action items then become your homework for the next week. In the following session, we would decide if the strategy helped, reinforcing it if it does, or abandoning it if it does not. For more details on the individual learning strategies above, and to also discover 10 learning pitfalls, take a look at this PDF from Barbara Oakley's website: 10 Top Ideas to Help Your Learning and 10 Pitfalls. Additionally, you can take charge of your learning by finding places where you like to study (library, coffee shop, etc.). When preparing to go to your study locations, don't be thinking about having to study. Instead, think only about what you need in your pack. You'll be less likely to forget something and less likely to decide not to go.

Social Strategies

Many people find it difficult to get a conversation going with someone they do not know well. Questions like, “Nice day, isn’t it?” can seem overly trite, while more direct personal questions can seem invasive.

There is a conversation-starting strategy called “Observe, Share, Ask” (O-S-A) that is easy to remember as well as easy to execute:

  1. Observe. Comment on something that you and the other person can both observe. For example, at a party, you might say, “The appetizers look really good!” Or, “I really like how Mary has furnished her apartment!”
  2. Share. Share your thoughts about what you said in number 1. Such as, “I think my favorite is the Swedish meatballs.” Or, “I like a lot of color in my surroundings.”
  3. Ask. Ask an open-ended question, not one that can be answered by yes or no. Such as, “Which are your favorites?” Or, “What style of furnishings do you like?”

The point of the O-S-A approach is that you are starting your own conversation and then drawing the other person in. This feels more relaxed and natural to both you and the other person as opposed to starting the conversation with a question, such as, “What style of furnishings do you like?”

If you have a goal of making new friends, we might work together to discover strategies for being a friend. A starting point could be spending a few days observing your peers -- ones you admire. In the evenings you might write in a journal:

  • What is interesting about the person? (talents, encouraging others, their smile)
  • How does the person look when greeting friends? (smiling, eye contact, acting friendly, social distance)
  • How does the person start a conversation? (use of slang such as "What's up?")
  • How does the person know when to leave others alone? (noticing when they say, "Okay, I have to get going." etc.)
  • How does the person handle getting teased? (smiling and saying, "Oh well." or laughing it off or moving away from the teaser)
  • How does the person decide whom to spend time with? (common interests, after-work or after-school activities)

Just as with the learning strategies, you do a bit of research, then try to carry out a strategy or two yourself. And the next week we would review to see what works and what doesn't. Then reinforcing the strategies that do work so that they become part of your way of being!

Other Strategies

Some of the other strategies we might work on include motivation, mood, time management, organization, and career development.

Learning How to Learn - Ted Talk by Barbara Oakley