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Go ahead, set some goals! (DW#309)

Aristotle taught us that human beings are teleological creatures. Telos is the Greek work for target. In other words, human beings need something to aim towards.

Modern Philosopher Tom Morris puts it this way: "we are hard-wired to live purposively, to have direction. Without a target to shoot at, our lives are literally aimless. Without something productive to do, without positive goals and a purpose, a human being languishes. And then one of two things happens. Aimlessness begins to shut a person down in spiritual lethargy and emptiness, or the individual lashes out and turns to destructive goals just to make something happen". The Art of Achievement

As human beings we are also hard-wired to have dreams and aspirations for a better future. Without a plan or goal however, these dreams and aspirations have little chance of being realised. Worse, they can weigh on our psyche as regrets of an unfulfilled life and of unrealised potential.

So ahead, dream a little. What do you wish...

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Completing the Last Year (DW#307)

According to a 2016 study published in the journal Memory, recalling memories can enhance our well-being and it is not only so-called positive memories that are beneficial.

The study showed that three types of memories bring about positive emotions:

A positive or happy memory: for positive memories, simply thinking about them is enough to make us happy in the present
Problem solving: Remembering a time when you successfully dealt with a challenge increases your self-esteem and sense of efficacy (the belief in yourself that you can do it)
Memories related to identity: An experience, even if challenging and painful, that shaped the person you are today.

Other studies have suggested that while it is enough to simply think about happy memories, when it comes to memories about overcoming adversity, it is better to communicate them by writing them down (or sharing them with someone) rather than just to think about them.

Coming back to our topic of laying the foundation for a successful...

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Happy January! Not in any folder (DW#306)

January is an exciting time. A time for new beginnings. Almost half of us make a commitment to making a positive change in our lives for the new year by making resolutions for self-improvement or set goals to achieve something meaningful.

For the next few days, we will be talking about goals and resolutions and what we can do to greatly increase the odds of actually keeping and completing them.

But before we do that, there is an important action that we need to take. And that is to intentionally complete last year.

Did you know that January was named by the Romans to honor Janus, the deity of beginnings and transitions? Although Janus was called upon to bless beginnings, the Romans knew that he had two faces, one looking at the future and the other at the past.

What this meant was in order to look forward, they needed to glance back at what had passed.

Many successful people and organizations today "glance at the past" by doing an "After-Action Review" to improve performance and get...

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A third kind of lie {DW#293)

When people are asked to speak the truth under oath, it goes like this:

Do you swear to tell the truth (that is no lies of commission, saying exactly what happened)?

The whole truth (that is no lies of omission, leaving no major fact unspoken)?

And then there is a third statement "And nothing but the truth?", which may be less easy to understand.

Psychologists explain that this sentence is used to counteract what is called a character lie or a lie of influence.

In other words, sometimes people say something completely unrelated to the truth to cover up a lie. These lies are meant to make you believe the person who is lying or to make the person seem like such a great person that they are unlikely to be suspected of lying.

For example, suppose a person at your workplace is suspected of taking money from the cash registers. And it is your (most unpleasant) job to find out who it is. You interview one of the clerks and ask him if he took the money. He does not answer your question and...

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Please listen!

Many therapists would go out of business if we listened with compassion and without judgement to our loved ones.

Here is a poem that conveys it rather eloquently.

Please Listen

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving advice,
you have not done what I asked
nor heard what I need.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems,
you have failed me -- strange as that may seem.

Listen, please!
All I asked was that you listen.
Not talk nor "do"—just hear me.

Advice is cheap.

A quarter gets both "Dear Abby" and astrological forecasts
in the same newspaper.

That I can do for myself. I'm not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering -- but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to me seeming fearful and weak.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I...

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The difference between listening and agreeing.

In my experience, one of the things that stops us from truly listening to the other is the fear that listening might indicate that we agree with what they are saying.

What if we don't agree? Should we not start making our case right from the first sentence? Does silence not mean assent?

Not so. Just hear me out. :)

Listening to, and agreeing with, are two different communication processes. And in between the two lies a third one – understanding.

When someone is sharing their experience, their feelings or their thoughts, there is really nothing to agree to or disagree with. The experience, the feelings and the thoughts belong to the person who is having and sharing them. Our role is simply to hear them out and to understand them (if we wish to be connected to them, that is).

For statements or conversations that do require agreement or disagreement (such as making plans or finding a solution to a problem) understanding the conversation before we agree or disagree with it is...

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Change your intention

According to the vast majority of experts on communication, most of us listen only with the intention to reply.

We filter what is said so that we can focus on what we can challenge.

We are having our own little conversation in our heads, coming up with a suitable response that will prove our point. Instead of listening, we are "just preparing to speak."

We act like lawyers for the prosecution and the defense and focus on how we can decimate our opponent and the premise of their argument.

Oops . . . did I say decimate? Did I say opponent?

Is this a person that we care about? A person that we are in relationship with? Is that not why they are trying so desperately to get through to us?

How about we put aside the cross examination skills that we may have learnt from Harvey Spectera and Alicia Florrick on TV just for the moment?

And try listening to understand.

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Why bother?

Continuing our discussion from yesterday about not confusing listening with giving advice.

Here is a poem:

Why Bother?
Yesterday you asked as you passed
How I was
Without stopping to hear me say
"I'm feeling down."
You never even turned around
As you quickly walked away.

Today you stop to ask how I am;
My answer is quite real:
"I'm feel blue . . . "
You retort before I'm through,
"Don't feel that way,
Everything will be okay!"

These words I ponder,
At your insensitivity wonder;
You keep right on talking
While I go on hurting;
"Have a good day!" you say
As again you walk away.

Joy E. Walker Steward,1997

Just for today, can we intend to listen to someone who is attempting to express pain or hurt? Can we simply be present, be a witness to their pain or frustration and simply try to understand it?

It won't kill us, I promise.

AND it may just save their (emotional) life.

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Listening is uncomfortable

Listening to somebody express their needs, their problems, their pain, their frustration or sadness is not easy and it is not fun. It touches your heart, makes you anxious and you want to make it all better.

As soon as possible.

And so you start offering solutions to make the other person feel better…

"Cheer up. Its not so bad."
"Look on the bright side"
"Be grateful. There are so many people who have it much worse"
"Be positive. Its all in your mind."
"Don't be sad (or angry, or upset, or frustrated or whatever). It will get better soon".

A question for you: how is that working out for you and for your relationship?

Does the person thank you for your wisdom, calms down, takes your advice and becomes cheerful?

No, I didn't think so.

Here's the thing: there is a time for listening and a time for offering support, guidance or advice.

And you generally have to do one before you can do the other.

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Why work on listening?

There are many many reasons why it is important to work on our listening skills. Apart from being a key skill in the workplace and in life, it is not an overstatement to say that the art of listening is critical to successful relationships.

Without listening, we have what George Bernard Shaw called "the illusion of communication". We can tell when there exists a lack of listening in a relationship when there are frequent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and feelings of frustration regarding unmet emotional needs.

It is said that being listened to is so much like being loved that most people don't know the difference.

Truly listening to another human being and allowing another person to express themselves without interrupting, judging, refuting, or discounting is a gift of love – a sacred gift - that we can offer.

For the one expressing themselves, being listened to, heard and understood is like emotional oxygen. When the core human need to be listened to and understood is met,...

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