Tag Archives: workplace wisdom

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.

Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.

We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.

At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.

This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.

In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.

Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees.

She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:

  1.  Look unapproachable.
  2.  Have a thin skin and make it about you.
  3.  Do not ask for input.
  4.  Bully and berate others or their ideas.
  5.  Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
  6.  Ignore ones who raise issues.
  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
  8.  Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
  9.  Take credit for others’ ideas.
  10.   Accuse and blame in public.
  11.   Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
  12.   Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
  13.   Pit one person against another.
  14.   Override every decision others make.
  15.   Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.

Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.

YouTube Video – The Power of Listening – William Ury – TEDxSanDiego

We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.

“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.”William Ury

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.

Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.

Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.

We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.

[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]

We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.

Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.

Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? – James R. Detert & Ethan R. Burris – Harvard Business Review

6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work – Glenn Llopis

7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again – Matt Straz

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Workplace Wisdom – From the Shallows Back Out Into the Rapids – 5 Resources

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The river of work is often a fast current – the movers and shakers are in the rushing waters. If you find yourself in the shallows how did that happen? Illness (yours or someone in your family), underemployment, qualifications issue, somehow just not the “flavor of the month”? Any or all of these situations could have prompted a detour out of the faster waters of your work.

Some of us thrive in the shallows. I want to learn how, now that I’m semi-retired. Still, the rapids call me  back…for many reasons.

If you, like me, are in the shallows and you are bewildered rather than refreshed by them, think why that might be.

The rushing waters are where the action is. They’re here and gone, but they carry along whatever is happening in the river.

Occasionally something interesting and important will pop out for you from the current – and you tackle it with excitement – and when you finish it, then it’s gone. Taken back up by the river as if it never visited the shallows, as if you never touched it.

The shallows are a lovely place to visit…especially when you’re exhausted from the rapids. Especially when you need a new vantage point…a new view of your work. The shallows provide that. Being long in the shallows is a strange experience…if you’re used to the rapids.

How does one push back out into the current?

OK…enough metaphor. Here are 5 super useful resources to help us push back into the running river of work…if that’s where we want to be. Choose which fits the most right now, and dig into the article:

1) Achieving Stadium Status – Why not have a colossal goal, right? Leadership consultant Skip Prichard posted a piece recently on How to Achieve Stadium Status. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He gives a hardy review of John Brubaker‘s book Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time. From the book, Prichard covers such topics as how to use affirmations, dealing with critics, rising above the noise, leaving our comfort zones, avoiding comparing, and not repeating others’ mistakes. Until you can read the book, catch Prichard’s article to get started toward the main stage.

Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time – John Brubaker

2) Bouncing Forward After a Big Fail – One of my favorite writers on leadership and the workplace is  Adam Grant . He takes a very different view of failure at work in his article When You Get Fired Or Fail Big, This Is How You Bounce Forward. Photo Credit: Pexels

Quoting Grant here:

“Most of the time, when someone fails, it’s not because there’s a bad apple spoiling the barrel. It’s because the barrel is a bad relationship.

In other words: It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us.

That doesn’t mean shirking responsibility or failing to hold others accountable. It means realizing that in many of our struggles, the biggest problem lies not in individuals but in relationships.

It helps to remember that in most failures, relationships are a major factor. We just have to make sure we don’t pull the wool over our own eyes.” – Adam Grant

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

3) Addressing Team Alignment – Leadership trainer Jesse Lyn Stoner looked at how team alignment influences team performance. In her piece, Team Alignment is for the Birds, she had this to say:

 

Team alignment is often “leader dependent. Followers depend on the leader to make decisions on direction and tell them what to do.

Team members [in this scenario]. . .

. . . should not act independently.

. . . have little need to communicate with each other.

. . . are following the leader, with no idea where they are going.

We need teams composed of individuals who are able to make quick decisions on how to respond to what comes their way, who are able to use their good judgment to solve problems, who coordinate their efforts with each other, and who come up with fresh new ideas.

A compelling vision (that includes common purpose and shared values) is a more powerful way of unifying your team than trying to align them through structure, policies and procedures.

When a team is organized around a unifying vision, the vision becomes the glue that holds your team together.” – Jesse Lyn Stoner

6 Benchmarks of High Performance Teams – Jesse Lyn Stoner

4) Excellence in Execution – Strategy thinker Robin Speculand writes on what it takes to effectively implement change. In his blog (guest post on Skip Prichard’s website), Speculand talks about the role of the leader in driving strategy forward. To effectively execute change, leaders must demonstrate their own commitment to the strategy. How visible they are to the rest of the company’s employees attests to how valuable the execution of that change is to them personally. Speculand talks about how to carve out time and energy from a busy schedule in order to be fully available to those most impacted by the strategy change. Photo Credit: All Hands

Intriguing ideas, especially for any of you in the shallows. To be a person who executes well is a valuable employee. Don’t lose sight of that.

A Leader’s Role in Achieving Excellence in Execution – Robin Speculand

Excellence in Execution: How to Implement Your Strategy – Robin Speculand

Robin Speculand Presentations – Slideshares

5) Becoming More Likable – Work is not a popularity contest. However, likable people are just a whole lot more fun to work with than folks who insist on being controlling or contrarian. Marcel Schwantes lays out 6 qualities of folks we would all like on our teams…

  • Be curious and ask interesting questions.
  • Describe other people in the positive.
  • Make an immediate good first impression with your face.
  • Listen. Really listen.
  • Choose every opportunity to experience joy.
  • Don’t pass judgment.Photo Credit: Flickr

6 Qualities of Extremely Likable People, According to Science – Marcel Schwantes

Bonus: a Critical People Skill with Kate Nasser

A Critical People Skills Moment to Handle With Ease – Kate Nasser

When others ask you to change a behavior that rubs them the wrong way, what is your response? They will remember how you reply to this critical people skills moment.

Do you …

  1. Give a list of reasons why you do it?
  2. Ask them to explain why it bothers them?
  3. Suggest that they are being demanding, irrational, unprofessional, or childish for asking?
  4. Take offense and avoid these people whenever possible?
  5. Stop doing it?

Check out Kate Nasser‘s lightning fast read on looking seriously at the 5th response above. We want our preferences…we want things done our way. We want “me” to win, not “we” to win. Something to think about.

Let’s push out into the fast water of our workplace…we’ve had enough time in the shallows.

Monday Morning Moment – That Thing That Doesn’t Need to Be Said – and If It Does

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Being an extrovert is a bit of a curse, isn’t it? Verbally-processing introverts struggle as well. That need…that compulsion…to get words out of our heads and in the open. We who suffer with this understand the wild nature of words. For those who don’t have this same impulse, you may also suffer under the weight of our words.

This is a public confession and redress of this particular conundrum.

[For those of you, like me, who feel sometimes your head might fairly explode if you don’t voice your thoughts so you can find resonance with a hearer, you are free to read the last two paragraphs first.]

I grew up with good teaching from an introverted mom who knew the power of words…and the importance of using them wisely.

This adapted from a past blog posting of mine:

My Mom raised us up with lessons on our speech from Scripture backed up by the cultural message of an old Walt Disney film, Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel. Only problem is the continuing conversation in our heads that color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions. These we still must wrestle down and be done with.*

First, this is not a guilting of any sort. For myself or anyone else. We who restrain words understand the risk we take in speaking… especially those things we feel almost an obligation to say. Those words we think will somehow right a tilting world. Those words we feel entitled to. The words that state our case or that of another.

Second, we know, often too late, that words not spoken are rarely misunderstood. Of course, silence can be deafening as well, but we have to put our own meaning into someone else’s silence. With spoken words, it’s clear what a person is thinking. So it needs to be worth speaking. The hearer may have a very different take on the matter. Thus the risk and wariness that must accompany speaking boldly.

Third, does what we think need to be said? Will it make a difference in the positive to what’s going on in our heads? Or will what we say only add to a problem, rather than bringing it closer to resolution?

There’s a pithy and true saying floating around the internet about thinking before you speak. Here is a visual of it.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Jo Quinlan

Along with this, these days, is Think Before You Post. How many times have we deleted a Facebook or Twitter post put up in haste, hoping it came down before being read by those significant in our lives who would be hurt or offended by it? Sigh…Photo Credit: Flickr

Is our opinion so valuable as to cause pain to those who matter to us? Not. At. All.

Photo Credit: Hannah W. Potter

All that being said, finally, what do we do with the words building in our heads about massive concerns, witnessed injustices, shifts in worldview or mission drifts? There are words, as I see it, that have to be expressed almost to understand the whole picture of a thing going on. These words, raw and impassioned, we don’t speak randomly or post publicly (except in the rare occasion of stopping harm). These words if expressed may only yield spiritual reprimands, or hurt silences, or long tirades from disagreeing hearers/readers. The words that must be said, words that you know may have disastrous consequence, might need the hearing only of a trusted friend…at least at first. This sort of friend will hopefully help guide you to sort out that which does not need to be said and what does – to whom, in what manner, and on what occasion.

Oh the wisdom in thinking before we speak. How thankful I am for those trusted friends who refuse to think ill of me when words spill over! Friends, and family, who know my heart is not meant to wound, who help me sort out my words and what to do with them. Friends who know I take no joy or satisfaction in anything bordering on gossip or slander. Friends who listen, and may agree and resonate, but counsel with me – about what must be shared and what is best left unsaid. Friends who pray with me and remind me to pray. In my book, that is never spiritualizing…prayer is as real a thing as all those thoughts that can rob me of sleep…but so much better.Photo Credit: Flickr, J. D. Hancock

Anybody out there have the same struggle? Or a different struggle with words? Any helps you want to share? Shoot us some of your words in Comments below.

*Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills Writer

Speech, Power and Significance of

5 Friday Faves – Skyrim Guitar Cover, Workplace Wisdom, Repair Cafes, Belonging, and Movie Previews

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Just jumping in today with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Skyrim Guitar CoverNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted a new arrangement on Youtube this week – Skyrim – Dragonborn Main Theme. You video gamers probably know this song.  I’ve no experience with this personally, but this song seems to generate sweet emotions for gaming folks. This young man amazes me with his skills, yes, but especially his heart. It comes out in his music. On another note: He has over 1 million views of his Harry Potter medley on the Facebook group Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Exciting.blog-nathan-mills-guitar-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

2) Workplace Wisdom – Finally…on millennials. I know, I know…there is so much written and spoken about millennials. I usually just pass over it…but Simon Sinek’s observations on millennials in the workplace are fascinating and telling. I appreciated that what he sees applies to both millennials and the rest of us. blog-simon-sinek-leadership-and-millennials-why-millennials-matterPhoto Credit: Why Millennials Matter

It is wisdom. Sinek came on my radar this week through a talk he did on IQ with Tom BIlyeu. In his talk, he focused on four components that millennials bring with them into the workplace that affect their professional maturing. These are 1) parenting, 2) technology, 3) impatience, and 4) environment. His take on “failed parenting strategies” may apply to some cultures, but many parents of millennials saw early on the fallacy of communicating how “special” our children are…no matter what they bring to the table. Sinek does communicate a victim mentality here and that’s the weakest of his 4 components. The other three were applicable to the workplace, in general, and to millennials, in particular.

Technology can be a crutch and squelch our creativity more than fuel it. Technology has a negative impact on the depth and breadth of our relationships…we have to pay attention to this. Impatience – for purpose, impact, advancement – is a big issue in the workplace. We need colleagues willing to hang in there through the doldrums. Environment at work is changing at a rapid pace…as much as it appears, on the surface, that it is bending toward the millennial, what is needed is a workplace where millennials can actually grow their skillsets. Sinek speaks to this.

4 Damaging Mentalities Millennials Must Break – Jeremy Chandler (a millennial)

3) Repair Cafes – Wouldn’t you love to have a place within an easy drive where you could take your aging laptop, or blinking lamp, or burned out leafblower for a repair? Is it possible to ever reasonably repair instead of replace? There is a phenomenon around the world where this is happening…not just in rural “third world” settings but in cities. Repair cafes are on the rise. If you want to find one, or start one, go here. This isn’t just about being frugal; this is a craft – this learning how to repair your own broken stuff with the help of a skilled professional – someone’s mom or dad who has learned how to fix things. The closest repair café to us is in Charlottesville, Virginia – do you have one near you?blog-repair-cafe-nytimesPhoto Credit: New York Times

4) Belonging Scott Sauls‘s book Befriend: Create Belonging in in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear is next on my reading list. Belonging is a core need for all of us, and Sauls takes the reader deeply into the realm of true friendship and solid relationships. Whether between peers, family members, colleagues, or even strangers at first encounter. I long to get past superficial and to know and be genuinely known by at least a few people. My desire is to be open to the possibilities of befriending and being “friended” with true authenticity. This book seems a good place to reboot.blog-befriend-scott-sauls-amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I discovered this book from a tweet about Matt Smethurst’s article 20 Quotes from Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship. I ordered the book based on those 20 quotes. Here are three:

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.” (75–76)

“This is what you call reversing the flow of the umbilical cord: parents demanding that their children function as their source of life; their emotional nourishment; their identity; their Jesus. This always ends in sorrow and alienation and loss. Just as in marriage, we must not place a burden on our children to provide for us the things that only God can supply.” (87–88)

“The best way to measure your desire to serve is to look at how you respond when someone treats you like a servant.” (98)

5) Movie Previews – Call them teasers and then trailers. Whenever we go to the theater, we have to be in place with a family-sized popcorn before the previews start. That is just how it is. I love these glimpses into coming feature films. Two I’ve seen recently follow: On the darker side – Jackie. On the lighter side – Table 19 . Whether I ever see these movies in the theater, watching the trailers was satisfying and wholly entertaining!

blog-friday-faves-table-19-cdn-colliderPhoto Credit: Collider – Table 19

Have a safe and peaceful weekend. Tacky Lights Tour is on our schedule…let the festivities begin.

Also:

Life On My Knees – Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie – Angela

blog-aletheia-praise-band-nathan-angelas-blogPhoto Credit: Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie

YouTube Video – Big Crosby & David Bowie – “The Little Drummer Boy” (Peace On Earth)

Macy’s Christmas Adv 2016 Video – #OldFriends – [Sorry about the Poo-pourri ad at the beginning of the video.]

 

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 5

[From the Archives]

At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always playing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus.

When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.

Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you.Dave Mills

There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have they changed?

We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.

My Mom raised us out of the era of Walt Disney’s Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel except for the conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.

Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I decide that person is a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.

Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.

If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferrent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help build trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave

Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:

“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”

“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.”LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff

He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:

“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.”Jon Acuff, Do Over

I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance yourself from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.

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“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

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For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8

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 Do Over by Jon Acuff

Fourteen Indispensable Leadership Quotes from Jim Collins – Thom Rainer

How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers – Read keeping in mind that some days you might be the one perceived as difficult.

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Photos: Just a few of the men in Dave’s life who required no special work on his part to love and respect…and there are many more. Grateful.

Understanding True Habit Change & Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions

Blog - New Year's Resolutions - davidlose.net - Calvin & HobbsPhoto Credit: DavidLose.net

New Year’s resolutions are very energizing really. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, makes a difference in understanding our habits and progressing toward true habit change.

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. With a resolution like that, it means abstaining from chocolate…which is a topic all its own.

Anyway, I was successful for over a year each of those times in excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 2 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Now I sometimes have dessert or sugary snacks but I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

Without knowing it, I was using a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His New Year article on Seven Principles of Habit Change comes at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. Anyone who loves chocolate can understand this easily. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

Blog - Habit Change - relational wisdom 360Photo Credit: Relational Wisdom 360

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

[If any readers want to talk further about habit change regarding sugar addiction, I would love the exchange, either through the comments or email.]

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

Matt Monge wrote a great piece on 13 questions we might ask ourselves to better understand why we do what we do. He is applying these questions to leadership and workplace, but they apply as well to habits. Also, in researching for this blog, I came upon this YouTube video of David Wallace Foster giving a commencement speech on awareness. Really thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to becoming more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most to us – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more life-changing than just going off sugar for a few weeks. These same habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

I’d like to close with Ken Sande’s thoughts on taking self-awareness to other-awareness and God-awareness:

“The better we know and follow God (God-aware, God-engaging), the more we will know and discipline ourselves (self-aware, self-engaging), which opens the way for us to better understand, relate to, and serve our neighbors (other-aware, other-engaging).

To close the loop and spur us on developing relational wisdom, the Lord promises that the more we obey his command to love our neighbors, the closer we will draw to God himself (John 14:21-23). Thus, relational wisdom is a circle of interrelated skills that continually fuel one another.”Ken Sande

Blog - Relational Wisdom - Ken SandePhoto Credit: RelationalWisdom360

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness – The Mojo Company – Matt Monge

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change – Paul Jun

This is Water – David Foster Wallace on Awareness

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose