Be a Better Listener

David Brooks wrote Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations in a recent New York Times article.

  • Ask open-ended questions (what was it like … tell me about a time …)
  • Make them authors not witnesses (not what happened but what they experienced)
  • Listen 100% present
  • Don’t fear the pause (most of us stop listening to a comment halfway through so when a person stops talking take your time to digest what you heard and respond.

“Humans need to be heard before they will listen,” Amanda Ripley

Pursuing Money

You can’t pursue money.  It outruns you.

Seeking to be the best at what you do brings remuneration in two ways:

  • You will be your happiest
  • You’ll make more money

Your chances of making more money come not from pursuing it, but by not trying so hard to make more and try harder at being the best.

Staying Motivated

Being hunkered down with lifestyles altered since March makes it challenging to stay motivated.

  • Just waking up, bouncing around from crisis to crisis like a pinball, obsessively texting, and living moment to moment with no greater goal is what a lot of us are doing these days.

Motivation comes from having a plan – specific goals even when usual routines have been disrupted.

Motivation comes from seeing vividly in your mind’s eye what is worth your time and effort – everything else is just a distraction.

Saving Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day 2020 will be the strangest one in anyone’s memory because for health reasons we’re avoiding the usual family gatherings or if they proceed uncertainty hangs over the holiday.

Saving Thanksgiving comes down to counting blessings you never thought about by comparing the current coronavirus with the pandemic of 1918.

  • Back then, no radio, no records, no television – no Netflix or YouTube.
  • No widespread ownership of telephones, certainly no cell phones.
  • No Amazon, no Hello Fresh or Instacart, no drug store deliveries.
  • No Zoom.

But we have it so much better now. 

  • Locked down but not disconnected with friends and loved ones.
  • The ability to work from home because of digital technology that we have.
  • Lifesaving medicines and vaccines on the way, something that was never available in 1918.

This time we may have to give up early holiday shopping or going to the movies on a full stomach but there is also this.

Thanksgiving may have become a routine family gathering that we took for granted but now with more to be thankful for than ever, the holiday has new meaning and importance.

Calming Your Mind

When we get a few moments to ourselves or go to bed at night, it is a good bet that we rifle through our mind for negative things that have built up all day.

Just as we can remember negative thoughts so easily, the mind can be trained to also recall positive thoughts.

  • Start by remembering acts of love and kindness.
  • Move next to the gratitude you have for not only major things but the many little things that often get pushed aside by negative thoughts on replay.
  • Don’t forget to appreciate family and friends, letting go of anger and animosity not for their sake but for yours and start or maintain a program of health and wellbeing that aids the physical side of stress reduction.

Phones, constant communication, too much screen time, digital distraction, not enough alone time to think and trying to multi-task are sources of anxiety that can be uprooted from our minds with three positive steps.

Lowering Daily Stress

My two favorite sources for stress reduction are Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and Mayo Clinic’s anxiety and resilience expert Dr. Amit Sood.

Lowering stress begins with this:

  • Assume that everyone around you is struggling and is special. Be kind.
  • If it won’t matter in five years, it isn’t worth stressing out about today.
  • Sometimes a step back can be a move forward. An adversity may be preventing a catastrophe.

“Not only does our response to stressors — real and perceived — start with the brain, but in the form of chronic, toxic stress, it ends up harming the brain.  It’s a kind of perfect feedback loop.”  — Amit Sood, MD

Resilience

One thought can make you resilient as long as you keep thinking it.

  • The day we quit is the day we fail.

You can’t fail no matter what happens as long as you don’t give in.

And there is a gift in getting headwinds on your way to success.

For every failure that makes you redouble your efforts is a reminder of how badly you want to achieve your goal.

Stoking a Positive Outlook

Studies show those who remain cheerful and enthusiastic show less cognitive decline in their mid-life and later.

More important is that an attitude of positivity is accretive to our health from the moment we adopt it.

  • Eliminating can’t and won’t is the first place to start.
  • Balancing a negative thought or bad outcome with something good.
  • Cultivate an attitude of never judging yourself in the eyes of people who don’t approve of you but see yourself the way people who like you do.

Some people are raised in negativity but they can change it with a commitment to these three things.

Look up not down, out not in, toward others not away.

Building a Plan

We don’t get into a car and wish it to its destination — it takes a roadmap or at least knowledge of where we want to go. 

In the meantime we find a way to enjoy the ride.

But in our lives we often do not know our destination let alone have a plan for getting there.

  • Without a plan it’s hard to enjoy the ride because we have to rely on luck to keep us engaged.

There’s been a lot of talk about living in the present but living in the present is happier when we know where we’re going.

Happiness increases when we can see the finish line.

Ending Negative Thinking

Why do we obsess about a single mistake instead of constantly repeating our many successes?

  • Our ears hear and our brains record every mistake we make or for which we are criticized and then we put them on replay – what if we hit STOP. 
  • To that end, try to look at yourself through the eyes of those who love you – whether two legged or four legged.
  • Do not outsource the precious real estate of your brain to those who make you feel undeserving. 

No negative thoughts can exist in an atmosphere of healthy self-love.