Mid Course Monthly Evaluation

This past week was challenging in terms of pursuing goals. Although I have successfully kept track of my efforts by logging progress nightly, I’ve recorded a lot of goose eggs. I don’t feel unmotivated, but I feel exactly what recording too many zeros is supposed to accomplished….an overarching feeling that I need to step it up, to act more strategically.

I did not take into account a distraction that will be with me over the next 2-3 months. I’ll be moving into a house, and moves are listed as one of the top stressful life events in a person’s life. Even though I’m spreading it out over two months, it still weighs me down. I’m pretty good at adapting, in fact, adaptability is a strength of mine, but there’s is an inherent part of me that resists change. The introvert who enjoys my status quo, even though I’m all about challenging the status quo.

Cold, wet weather is always a detriment to physical goals that are practiced outdoors. I will always take walking at Fairview Park over a treadmill. Since I’m not a gym member, that’s not even a option. So the goose eggs stack up.

My writing goals sometimes get sidetracked by my fear of revealing vulnerability. I get a feeling that I’m blocked, but I’m really not. I just don’t want to pour out something onto a blank page that might show my true self, knowing it might be revealed to the world. My strategy for that is just to write one sentence….and the rest soon takes care of itself. But that first sentence seems to be huge confrontation with the Resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it, (or the Lizard Brain, as Seth Godin calls it.)

Another thing I have been trying to work on is my “people skills.” I’m a generally easy going guy, and it usually takes a lot to set me off. I try to be as helpful as possible at work. But my introversion sometimes holds me back. Sometimes I’m quiet when I should speak. Sometimes I play it safe when I should be more assertive. I’m trying to be more aware of these moments, and occasionally push myself into the discomfort zone. Being aware is the easy part. Pushing myself forward is the difficult part. My primary job responsibility at Wal Mart is sales associate. So “sales” is a part of that responsibility, (although since there is “nada” commission, you can hardly call it sales, sometimes it’s more like order taking.) I’m trying to be aware of those few moments when a friendly nudge might push the customer into a purchase. Like most folks, I’m disgusted with the idea of a pushy salesperson desperately trying to close. More than anything, I’m just trying to hone my listening skills. That in itself seems to be the basis for all things involving personal interaction.

I did fair with sticking to my budget, with a few unplanned purchases, and moving and tweaking other line items to compensate. I did focus on the majors, though, and those got squared away immediately.

Well….there it is. My first month mid course corrections. The trick is not to panic and resign oneself to “failure” when you’re off track, because that will happen. Asking yourself if what you’re doing is working and giving an honest answer will help keep you from deluding yourself if you’re making progress. Progress happens, drip by drip by drip, a little at a time. These kind of journeys require a vision for long term perseverance. Without it, you’ll find yourself run aground somewhere between resignation and apathy, which hardly sounds like a desirable destination.

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The Gift of Listening

The Gift of Listening

If you want to make progress with people, you have to offer them a gift – the gift of a listening ear. One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is Seek First to Understand, then be Understood. The only way to understand others is to listen to them. So shut up. Zip up your bone box.

In 1886 a young socialite had the honor of dining in the same week with both William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. Both statesmen were running against each other for the post of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The press asked her of her impressions that the rivals had made on her. She replied, “After dining with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest person in England. But after dining with Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest person in England.” ¹ Mr. Disraeli had the gift of making you feel as you were the most important person in world. As a result, the young lady felt affirmed and of value.

There are some ways to NOT listen. Do not “listen” and simultaneously be thinking about how you are going to respond. That is not listening. This is the same as shutting them out. When listening, don’t be looking around the room or area. Instead, give them eye contact, with a genuine soft smile. Have an open look to your eyes, don’t stare them down with intimidation. Don’t interrupt. Again, that’s the same as planning your words, only you could care less about what they are really saying. Also, pause three seconds before saying anything when it is your turn to respond. It will seem like an eternity, but it will show that you are processing your partner’s ideas.

A benefit of actually listening? You might actually learn something about your conversation partner. What if by listening you gained some insight on this individuals needs? As a sales professional, this could be valuable information. What if by listening you learned something about their point of view or position? As a negotiator, you might find a true win-win solution. What if by listening you discerned the persons fears or pain that has been affecting their behavior? As a family member you might learn how you could show them love with actions, not just words, (although words are necessary, too.) What if by listening you were told what their biggest problems or concerns were? As a public office holder you might learn a practical way of serving your constituents. If you are constantly talking, you are not in a position to serve and love those you are trying to connect with.

When you actually listen, the other party will feel respected. They will discern authenticity and genuineness. You will be building trust. If you respond with authenticity, you will show that you have the other individual’s best interests at heart. You will be seen and heard as being trustworthy. You will be able to position yourself to show love, respect and trust. And your opportunity to influence them will have grown considerably.

Real listening can’t be faked. You are either listening or you are elsewhere. You have to be present. As mentioned in the title, listening is a gift, and like a present, you have to be present in order to give it.

1. Olivia Fox Cabane, The Charisma Myth (Portfolio/Penguin/2012)