How To Reduce Stress with Automatic Comprehension Training

As much as Gen-Y don’t like to invest in their jobs, and Gen-X work to live instead of living to work, there’s a large gap between doing a job that you enjoy, and doing a job vital enough to incorporate your life into the role.

An article on Free Pursuits asks the question: At what age is it hardest to radically change your life? While the article is framed as an examination of the many valid reasons why any given portion of life is difficult to make changes in, the question itself raised one especially powerful for me, given my recent change of fields: If you aren’t doing something meaningful, what are you doing? Here’s the comment I left there.

Any lifestyle change – any major life decision – comes with stress.

I recently shifted from a career I hated (the kind where you say “I work at [insert workplace]“, rather than describing yourself as “I’m a [insert title]“) to one that will fall far better in line with my wants, needs and talents. It’s a win on all sides, but I’m still stressed out.

Any of this kind of work is taxing, not only because of a gain/loss in the situation, but because of how people operate. While I agree that age can add considerations, how difficult any major change is relies heavily on the ability of the individual to cope. Some people are very good under pressure, handling adversity with grace, but can’t fathom acting from a position of power or privilege. Others are better at negotiating success, but can’t handle what most people would call stress at all.

No matter the age, we’re all better working under conditions we can navigate best.

Anything is easier when we’re prepared – but there’s no escaping stress.

One of the best pieces of advice I got from my mom in my teens – and this is saying something, because she’s one smart cookie – is exactly what I was getting at above. Any life shift, be it good or bad, has a certain amount of stress attached to it. Promotion, demotion, marriage, divorce, breaking a bad habit, forming a good habit; all of these things are changes, and cause strain.

People like routine. Even thrill-seeking twenty-somethings have routines, no matter how simple or varied they may feel like these routines are. Little rituals are our saving graces when we go through change. Even something as simple as making coffee in the morning, listening to a familiar record, or taking that morning walk can reduce the amount of appreciable strain of any situation because of its familiarity.

So how do you reduce the stress and find routines when there is no familiar ground?

One of the things I’ve taught myself to do – something I hope to come up with a way of teaching other people to do – is called Automatic Comprehension Training. Going into a situation that feels foreign and looking for the patterns that can act like navigational cues is absolutely a lifesaver for me. Whether it’s applying old knowledge to new situations of similar scope (like using sales techniques in writing or conversation), or taking stupid tricks I’ve learned to get around hardships (such as seeking those familiar cues in design from one gadget to the next). The ability to pick something up and, very swiftly, develop a rapport with the situation, item or person, is one of the few skills I’ve taken away from retail that’s usable in every day life.

Here’s the problem: This won’t work for you if I teach you how.

The funny thing about any stupid human trick is that I can’t tell you how automating your learning will work. I can’t explain how to reduce new experiences to bite-sized portions to make them easier to handle, because the method I learn by doesn’t apply to anyone else. I can, however, offer a few tips.

1) Deja Vu is your friend. It’s a sign that something is familiar. Don’t freak out, analyze.

2) Repetition is the motor of learning. Repetition is the motor of learning. Repetition is what? (The motor of learning.)

3) Look for tiny errors. Not everything is a blue screen of death. But there might be some details that poke at your logic about new events or new situations. These are hints either than you’ve learned a lesson before (see point 1) or that there’s a lesson you’ve missed among many others you’ve already learned.

I hope this helps.

Automatic Comprehension Training is an ongoing process. You’ll never stop encountering new situations in life – if you do, something’s gone terribly wrong – s the best thing you can learn is exactly how you go about the process of learning, and continue to use the bits that work.

After all. This works for me – but, of course, your mileage may vary.

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  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    This is great stuff, Ian. I think many of us develop these kinds of skills, especially when we're introduced to a series of new and unusual situations in our lives. However, I think they way that you're defining them here could be very valuable to a lot of people.

    • http://ianmrountree.com Ian M Rountree

      I hope so too! Having the skills is common enough, I agree, but the real power of a skill like this comes from being aware of it and not letting it sink into a knee-jerk reaction.

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    This is great stuff, Ian. I think many of us develop these kinds of skills, especially when we're introduced to a series of new and unusual situations in our lives. However, I think they way that you're defining them here could be very valuable to a lot of people.

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    This is great stuff, Ian. I think many of us develop these kinds of skills, especially when we're introduced to a series of new and unusual situations in our lives. However, I think they way that you're defining them here could be very valuable to a lot of people.

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  • http://ianmrountree.com Ian M Rountree

    I hope so too! Having the skills is common enough, I agree, but the real power of a skill like this comes from being aware of it and not letting it sink into a knee-jerk reaction.

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