Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Pacific Institute

In December 2012 I attended a 3 day course entitled Investors in Excellence, run by Pacific Institute (PI). I had never heard of PI before, but it is compulsory training for all employees where I work. I’d heard lots about it from colleagues – positive and negative accounts – so I was a little apprehensive about what to expect, but I must say I needn’t have been…

My PI models
Investors in Excellence is a self-awareness psychology course, with the aim of promoting positive thinking. The belief is that if you think positively, you are a happier individual who is likely to achieve much more than if you don’t think positively. The course takes you through various steps to help you learn positive thought patterns, such as making affirmations and the power of self-talk. There were a number of practical activities to help you realise there are different ways of viewing a particular situation, and if you ‘think outside the box’ you may be able to increase your effectiveness. These ranged from simple paper-based puzzles to more physical group-based tasks. Several of them were quite fun and raised a smile. My favourite was being paired up with a partner and standing quite close, face to face for a minute. We then had to turn away and change something about our appearance before turning back and seeing if we could recognise the change. This was repeated 4 or 5 times (there was almost nothing left to change!). I took my earrings off and felt quite exposed; it’s a silly thing, but I am never ever without my earrings. The thinking behind this activity was to show how we are influenced by outward appearances, but do we actually see the whole picture? Another activity I enjoyed was making small figures from modelling clay. It was fun to be creative in a non-pressured environment. One model had to represent something important to us. (I created a heart to represent my boyfriend.) We then had to tell our partner why we had made this particular model and why it was important to us. We were then asked to crush our partners’ models – and even though it was just silly modelling clay, nobody in the group wanted to do it. I remember having strong feelings of guilt that I was about to crush my partner’s ‘son’. It was quite surprising, to be honest. I’ve kept my PI models on my desk at work, as a reminder of what I learnt.

I wanted to wait a while to gather my thoughts before blogging about this course. To start with, I was a little worried that I was being brainwashed, but then I realised that what the facilitators were describing was simply common sense: if you focus on negative aspects, your outlook on a situation will be different to if you focused on positive aspects. It’s something we all know, but sometimes we get so caught up in life we can easily forget, and it was nice to be reminded of this. On a personal note, I was intrigued to see how PI could help me as I sometimes do have pessimistic thoughts, and I’m pleased to say I think it did. I follow the PI Twitter feed, which shares positive comments, and I occasionally listen to the PI CDs in the car on the way home. Almost everyone in the library department has undergone PI training, and I do think it’s making a difference. Whenever a team member does the training we discuss it in our weekly team meeting, and it’s interesting to hear the different opinions and impressions. We remind ourselves of the importance of positive thinking, and overall I'd like to think we’re gradually moving towards that as the team’s natural state.

Since completing the PI programme, I've learnt that it's also rolled out for staff in a secondary school near where I live. I wonder which other establishments make use of it? It'd be interesting to know...

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