While teaching a management class, one of the participants continuously spouted off condemnations against his boss, his company, stupid coworkers, and the “tragically unmotivated younger generation.” When solutions were offered for one of his complaints, he shut it down with a standard reply; “It won’t work. Tried that. You can’t fix stupid.”
He reminded me of me; of the times I refused to listen to anyone who challenged me to take responsibility for change.
As much as we hate a Know-It-All, sometimes the Know-It-All is us.
To keep myself from throwing cold water on others’ suggestions, I am learning to say:
Tell me more about that.
What am I missing?
By disabling my shut-down switch, I listen, learn, and grow up.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in fear and nature’s night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray (what the heck?)
I woke. The dungeon flamed with light
My chains fell off and my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee
These are words to a powerful, ancient song by John Wesley. Many of us can relate to the imprisoned spirit and dungeon parts. But, this morning, I thought for the first time about the very strange “eye diffusing a quickening ray” line and (from personal experience) translated it as…You focused a laser of life-giving power directly upon me and, in a millisecond, I was free…
So, if today I need freedom (miracles, hope, direction, wisdom, forgiveness, power), can it be that the laser of life-giving power might focus on me, one more time?
“We talk to ourselves incessantly and choose our paths as we talk to ourselves. Thus we repeat the same choices over and over until the day we die, because we keep on repeating the same internal talk. A warrior is aware of this and strives to stop his internal talk.”
Castaneda was quoting ancient Mexican Shamans, yet this teaching can be found throughout the world, along with the first step out of talking ourselves silly: becoming aware of it.
When I noticed how adolescent or ridiculous my thoughts were and began to laugh at them, it became much easier to grow past them.
Having been stuck in the first circle many times, I know first hand that these thoughts never lead to an exit. They continue to keep us in the circle, driving us deeper into despair. As in a real traffic circle, unless one moves into a turn lane and chooses an exit, there is no escape.
Productive reasoning is not positive thinking. It is allowing my mind do what it does best: solve problems.
In the first circle, I render my mind unproductive by telling it to stop looking for an exit. Each of the statements in the first circle tell my mind to do just that.
IYAD = If you always do
WYAD = What you always did
YAG = You always get
WYAG = What you always got
Tired of unproductive?
Recently a man was telling me about his disappointment with his life. He said that after all the work he had done to improve himself and find success, he was still just where he started. This reality was enough to convince him…
- the world was irreparably screwed up
- everyone hates introverts
- women are gullible and only fall for jerks
- people take pleasure in excluding him
When I asked him what would happen if he just focused on showing genuine, non-judgmental interest in others, he erupted into a diatribe about his own innocence, defending what he had or had not done.
I couldn’t help thinking what this man would be if he had invested as much time in hearing as he had in telling.
So often we think we do someone a favor by staying in a job or in a relationship when our heart is not in it.
Afraid of change, taking a risk, or hurting someone’s feelings, we punish people inadvertently by being only “half there,” basically sending the message that they are unworthy of our soulful devotion.
Don’t think for a minute that it isn’t noticed.
We all have antennas for detecting insincerity, and (even if we pretend not to) we get the message regardless of elaborate deception strategies.
If you are in a lonely job or relationship, do everyone a favor by either:
- Figuring out what has to change so you can engage your heart
- Taking the first train out (so they can get a replacement who will)
…the life out of your day off, your vacation, your hope, or your good night’s sleep, it might be time to re-think what you are doing.
- Your job – For those of you who think you “can’t quit,” reconsider. If you are not taking your soul to work with you, it is seeping out in unhealthy ways and punishing countless people (co-workers, bosses, family, customers, complete strangers) in the process.
- Your attitude about your job – With slight adjustments in gratitude and focus, your job can magically transform before your eyes.
- Blaming someone else for your situation – Try asking your boss, employees, or co-workers for their wish-list for your performance and behavior. Listen carefully. Sincerely make adjustments. (Most people fear confrontation and won’t tell you otherwise.)
Marshall Goldsmith’s book reminds us that becoming a better listener is a crucial element in personal and professional growth. Unfortunately, many of us become too defensive, territorial, and arrogant about who we are or what we have accomplished to ever deal honestly with our blind spots.
A simple exercise Goldsmith suggests is to be aware of, and limit our use of the words, no, but, and however.
Not using those words forces us to:
- really hear what others say without defending our position
- take time to process before responding
- appreciate other points of view
I took the challenge. It was much more difficult than I thought. Several friends, relatives, clients, and coworkers benefited.
Personal growth is at stake.