Posts tagged: life changes

If I’m Talking, I’m Not Learning

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“But there ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening…” Rod Stewart

Listening as Learning

I need to remind myself that learning to listen to others is one of the keys to a happy life. It’s a skill I have never ‘mastered’ and never will. The act of making the effort to learn to improve my ability to listen openly, is worthwhile.

The power of listening to the people we love is boundless. If we are able to listen without judging or thinking about what we’re going to say… we give a priceless and rare gift. It takes intention, practice and self-discipline. If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right, it is.

When we stop talking, stop telling our side of the story, reminding people of how smart we are, then we actually can learn; about other people, about their world, their problems and their joys.

But I Don’t Like What They’re Saying!

Part of the reason we don’t listen is that we don’t want to hear others because we don’t agree with their opinion or point of view. If I disagree with someone, why would I want listen to them? They’re wrong! This is a natural reaction, an emotional reaction, a dangerous reaction.

Modern living and the short news cycle, reinforce that those who “talk”, especially on television or on social media… have influence. We listen only to those people who reinforce our current thinking or point of view. When this happens, it strengthens the negative ‘we’ vs. ‘them’ thinking. We are called sheep by politicians and we don’t prove them wrong, because no matter what, we follow along. We avoid listening and thinking for ourselves because it’s easier.

Getting Started

First, I have to admit that I’m not right. My point of view isn’t correct.  Whether the person is someone in my house or my neighborhood or where I work, each person has a right to the way they feel. I don’t have to agree with them, but if I can honestly listen to them, I might learn what they are afraid of, what motivates them; not what separates us but what binds us together.

If you are sincere in your desire to learn to listen better, here are some resources:

TED Talk –  5 Ways to Listen Better

Listening Skills- The 10 Principles of Listening

Image credit: Quote Fancy

How The Light Gets In

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Judgement as Separator

It easy to find fault. To judge. To say that others are wrong. It’s harder to see their point of view. It takes commitment, energy, patience, compassion, and strength. If we see the crack as ‘brokeness’, then we’ll forever be trying to ‘fix’ it.

If we see the crack as a way for the light to get in, to help us change and grow, become more accepting, then we may be able to learn something. When I sense there’s something far away from my understanding, I try to make a point to move towards it, to open my mind and not close my heart.

Empathy as My Teacher

This is hard because my way, no matter how painful, is the way I know. It’s easier to blame someone else than really look at myself. For today, I’m going to try to accept my own ‘cracks’ and other people’s different opinions as my teachers. Compassion is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.

The Case for Doing Nothing

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Plans for the Weekend?

When someone asks me what my plans are for the weekend, I often answer.. nothing. In fact, my goal is to have nothing to do. My other answer is… “my goal is to do less, and then do less than that.”

The Cult of Productivity

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I understand. We live in a world where doing is more important that being.

“Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” Brain Pickings Newsletter

The Case for Stillness

Are you a human being or a human “doing?” Learning to just be took practice for me.

We each have so many gifts; a unique way of looking at the world. We need that. We need you to be you. If all we do is, well… do…then we don’t take the time to know ourselves. To hear our own voice. To cultivate our own thoughts, to pay attention to our feelings, to remember what is important.

For today, can you stop doing so much? Can you sit in a chair and look out the window? Can you take a 5 minute walk? Can you step outside and look at the trees and the birds? Try it and let me know how it goes.

Image Credit: To Do List

Irritation: A First World Problem

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“Irritation is a privilege. It’s the least useful emotion and… it’s a choice.” Seth Godin

Heebie Geebies

I  have been irritable lately. I noticed that I was being short with people, interrupting them, feeling jumpy… but I didn’t know why. I read this excellent blog post from Seth Godin “On Being Irritated,” and I made a decision to immediately take action to get off the crabby bus.

Honestly, I did know why I was feeling irritable … but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was obsessively thinking about things. I was not taking good care of myself. I was taking on too much. This is a familiar pattern for me and I thought I had defeated this demon. Wrong! Bad habits and negative thoughts/behaviors can sneak up on me.

Don’t Try Harder, Try Different

For me, when I’m irritable… it may be because I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. So I look first at these 4 things  to see how I can fix them. Then it may be that I am expecting something from someone and they are not coming through. Now my job is to make sure that I have made it clear what I expect, need, or want. The other person is free to say no, ignore me, or suggest something else. My job is make sure that I have been clear, with myself and them. Then I can deal with the situation from a position of clarity. I may be upset but at least I know what I need.

Caution: Feeling Irritable May Be Habit-Forming

There is huge difference between irritable and depressed/lost/hopeless. Irritation is minor, these other feelings are not. Look beneath your ‘irritableness.’ If you are feeling lost or hopeless or if there are people in your life telling you that ‘something is wrong’… then most likely ‘something is wrong.’ Pay close(r) attention. If you’re just crabby, because you’re crabby, then please take good care of yourself. The world needs you at your best.

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Skeptic or Cynic?

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We are “in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope, bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed.” Maria Popova

With our presidential election weeks away, I hear people talk about how they hate the two party candidates… that they are not going to vote, that the country is a mess, that they don’t see how this election could possibly turn out okay.

I understand. This will be my 12th national election. Most years, I didn’t like my choices either.

It’s much easier to be cynical than to commit to a personal effort to change things. Does the cynic serve a purpose? I don’t believe that the cynic does much to improve things. He or she may feel righteous, but nothing really gets better. Skepticism, on the other hand, can help us be discerning. So skepticism is useful, cynicism isn’t.

But what I see going on these days is beyond skeptical… it is surrender, a complete abdication of responsibility to think through what is good for our nation and neighbors. And this, I do not understand. If you are young and cynical to the point of inaction, then I feel sorry for you. If you are old, then I am ashamed of you. It is our responsibility to help the young understand that life is full of ups and downs. The downs don’t push us to whine and moan. They push us to look at ourselves and to figure out how to contribute to the common good.

“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

If you haven’t read  Maria Popova‘s 2016 commencement address, I hope you’ll take a minute. Her message is inspiring.

Walk Through The Fire

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“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time in my head. I think about what other people are doing, why they’re doing it. I let their moods, problems, ideas effect me … more than they should. I rationalize that people are the most important thing on the planet so thinking about them is good! I think about the way:

  • they feel
  • they’re treated
  • what happens to them
  • whether they have food, friends, a home
  • how they feel in relation to other people

I was born a white, middle class girl. I know something of what it’s like to be a ‘minority’ because I’m a female and I’ve been put down, ignored, belittled, and shunned… in my personal and professional life.  I have a taste, the tiniest taste of what many people experience on a daily basis, just because they were born.

I’ve had a little taste of the ‘fire’, the pain and sadness. I hope I have walked through with some grace. At this point in my life, I want to see what I can do to help those whose fire is fixable or improved by education, political action, attitude adjustments, and perhaps a bit of magic, love and prayer.

I watched television host Trevor Noah talk about his upbringing and his book, Born A Crime.  Here’s where the title comes from:

“I was born a crime,” Noah said. “I was born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father during Apartheid in South Africa, so them doing ‘the thing’ was illegal.” Apartheid , the despicable practice of white separatist rule in South Africa, only ended in 1990. Yes, 1990! The fact that Noah was born in 1984 to a black mother and a white father was literally a crime. How’s that for a fire to walk through?

When Noah is asked what he thinks about Americans complaining about our rights being taken away. His answer, “I never judge somebody for thinking their world is tough, because it is tough, to you.” Trevor Noah has walked through the fire and come out a man showing us how to live with the scars… with grace and humor. I tip my hat.

I Hate Networking

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Strangers are Strange

If I never attend another networking event in my life, I’d be happy. But modern living (and working) requires meeting people. Why do I hate networking? Is it because…

  • I don’t like people? No, I like people.
  • I have to make ‘small’ talk? No, I figured out that if you ask a few questions, the other person will start talking and I won’t have to say much.
  • I have to enter a room full of strangers and pretend to feel comfortable? Now we’re getting warmer.

Make a Plan, Work the Plan

Ok, so I know I have to go and do it. The plan I have is to:

  • Go to the venue and pretend that I’m happy to be there
  • Meet 3 people. If after I meet 3 people I want to leave, I can
  • Make sure I hand out business cards to those 3 unless it seems inappropriate
  • If there’s a pre-event sign up list, I review the list. Is there anyone going to the event that I will know? Is there someone from a company or organization that I would like to meet? If so, I write down the name and go to LinkedIn and look for their photo.

Work the Plan

I’m there, I’m talking to 3 people. Here’s what I have on my mind:

  • Practice active listening. Learning to listen – really hear what someone is saying is one of the most important life and business skills in our toolkits. If you learn to really listen to your family and friends; I predict you will find it immensely rewarding.
  • See how I can help someone. Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is just to listen. Sometimes, I can help in other ways. Do they know of a job opening? Maybe I know a candidate.
  • Learn something. Everyone has something to teach us, if we have an open mind.

The Reward

Most of the time, I meet someone pleasant and interesting. I find I can offer a something of interest to someone. Bottom line, I have had a much better time than I expected. I’ve attended 100’s of networking events and 95% of the time, it was far better than I anticipated. Either way, ice cream when I get home makes it all worthwhile.

Image credit: Glen and Al

Crashes and Rebounds

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The Crash

On Tuesday, I flew from my home in NY to Los Angeles, on the way there, my computer hard drive crashed. So now I’m away from home, with a dead computer. I’m not going home for 3 weeks. The first thing is not to panic. Right after I panicked…I started making phone calls…to Apple, to my computer backup company, to anyone who would answer my call.

When I worked at a big company… these things got ‘handled.’ Now that I’m work in a small business, these things are all “do-it-yourself.” I’m not complaining, I’m just reminded that we often think that the other person’s situation is better. Working in a big company has ‘support’ so you don’t have to deal with problems like this. In a little company, you have to rely on yourself and your ingenuity (and hopefully planning) to solve problems.

The Rebound

Life is full of crashes and we can’t predict when they’ll come or how we’ll deal with it when it does. I try to think of the crash like water. When a river meets an obstacle, it finds a way to flow. When we are crashing, after we calm down, we learn to rebound. And it is in the rebounding that we learn what we’re made of. We also learn our most valuable lessons. Ones that stay with us. Ones that make us who we are.

As for my computer, it’s is dead. My new computer is wonderful; smaller, lighter, easier. The transition wasn’t fun, but the outcome is cool. If it’s been a while since you’ve crashed, get ready because surely one is coming. If you’re in the middle of a crash, whatever form that crash might take, know that I am cheering for you. You can do it!

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Discipline is Freedom

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means”  Calvin Coolidge

Modern Living

Living within your means… in other words… not spending more than you earn… is important. Many of us don’t live this way. If we did, we wouldn’t have statistics like this. Source: Value Penguin

  • Average American Household Debt: $5,700. Average for balance-carrying households: $16,048
  • Total Outstanding U.S. Consumer Debt: $3.4 trillion. Total revolving debt: $929 billion

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people, who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves in debt. I grew up in a middle lower income household to a single mother. I know what financial struggle feels like. This isn’t for those people.

I’m talking to those who feel that getting more stuff, a bigger house, more clothes, etc. is not only a good idea, but necessary to feel ok.

Retail Therapy

I get the appeal of stuff; when we get something new, we feel special. When we are feeling down or our self esteem is low; many of us shop. The problem occurs when we rely on “getting “stuff” to make us feel whole or special. . The truth is that buying stuff will never really make us feel better. The little “boost” we feel from that getting something new fades quickly. Trying to have as nice a car or house or clothes or vacations as our neighbors or celebrities is a path to sadness.

In times of transition, what we used before to give ourselves a little boost, may not work anymore. We may need to eat, drink, shop, smoke, whatever we’ve used… even more. The transition feels overwhelming, we have trouble adjusting, so we do more and then even more.

Building From Within

There are a few things that work for me, work. None are sexy. None cost much. All of them feed my spirit. When I live within my means, when I am disciplined with my money and don’t look for “stuff” to make me feel better, I win.

  • A walk in the woods or a visit to water
  • Helping someone else
  • Sitting quietly
  • Listening to music
  • Looking at or making art

I hope you have things that help you find peace and feed your sense of well-being. Please share them.

Inspiration for this post goes to Charles Tijou

Image credit: Mary Lynn – Coins

Ignorance is a Choice

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Calvin and Hobbes on Ignorance - Bill Watterson

The Ugh-ly Truth

We live in interesting times. We have to work hard to keep up with the way the world is changing. Some of it we like. Some of it we don’t. We may have very good reasons why we won’t accept this change or that different way of thinking, doing or being. But we do have a choice.

We can open our minds to what others think and be tolerant and accepting. Or we can choose to shut down, get angry or refuse to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The former requires us to change, personally. The latter is merely reacting.

The Kids Are Watching

Worse yet, whether or not we accept others points of view becomes a generational tendency. As parents, if we are unwilling to work to change, then that’s what we teach our kids. They don’t do what we say, they do what we do. We are role models. Ignorance is choice.

Image Credit:  Bill Watterson