Living On Purpose    ...Life Coaching
Living On Purpose

Archive for December, 2009

Saying YES and Saying NO

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Feeling “out of balance” seems to be the American Way. We are pulled and stretched in many directions, and keeping it all in balance becomes quite a challenge. Yet when we consciously choose which things are most important and which things must go, balance is attainable.

Finding balance means putting the things you value most as a priority, which can leave you feeling empowered and fulfilled. When you are “in balance,” things that are not as important don’t command as much (if any) of your energy and time. When “less important” things begin to take over, you tend to feel out of balance.

Finding balance is a constant process. It’s not some equilibrium that is maintained magically once you find it. Every time you consider beginning or ending something, by definition, the balance will be disturbed. You are saying YES to something and NO to something else. Life is made up of choices and those choices define your life.

When taking on more responsibilities or activities, it’s important to recognize what you are saying YES or NO to. If you are spending your time and energy in one place, you cannot be spending it in another– at the same time. For example, if you volunteer (saying YES), there is something you are giving up (saying NO to) – somewhere you won’t be when you are volunteering.

“They all seem important,” my client Sandy said to me. “There are the kids’ activities, a full time career, volunteer work, the relationship with my husband, and I’m taking classes at the local college,” she explained. “Now I’m being offered an opportunity to present a workshop. It’s something I’ve always been interested in pursuing,” Sandy said as she presented the scale-tipping invitation. “I really want to do it but can barely handle what I have on my plate now. What should I do?”

A powerful exercise I do with clients is called, “Powerful YESes and NOs.” To best evaluate the choices, we look at what the client is saying YES to and what he/she is saying NO to. Something has to give. It can be other activities, time with family or friends, or possibly getting less sleep. The time must come from somewhere else.

As we went through the topics, it was clear what resonated with Sandy’s purpose vs. what she felt she “should do.” I even had her say the statements both ways, “I should

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teach this workshop,” versus, “I could teach this workshop.” By simply changing the word, “should” to “could,” she realized that she really did have a choice.

By choosing to look at what she would be taking on (saying YES to) and what she would be releasing (saying NO to), the decision points came more clearly into focus.

One of my favorite sayings is, “You can have it all, but it might not be all at once.” Something might be exciting but doesn’t fit into your schedule. To save this opportunity, but not give up your time and energy right now, start an IDEA file to store the information. At some point, look through your IDEA file to see if anything should be re-considered. If not, you retain the information and can go back to it at any time.

Almost any opportunity – if it’s meant to be – will still be available when the timing is right.

Coaching Challenge: When you are presented with an idea of adding something new into your life, first try it on to experience how it “feels.” If it feels exciting and worth evaluating, then look at the YESes and NOs. In making this decision, what are you saying YES to and what are you saying NO to? Is it worth it right now to make this commitment? If it is worth it, then do it. If not, tuck this opportunity away in your IDEA file to be re-considered later. This will help you to keep the important things in your life at top priority and keep you from diluting your time and energy. In other words, it will help you to maintain balance. Also look at the things that you are currently saying YES to that may be a “should” vs. what you truly desire. Practice saying NO to the things that bring you down or take energy away from you so you can say YES to your true priorities.

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What Did You Say?

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

We’ve all had it happen. Someone is talking and we zone out, not hearing a word that was said. Our thoughts wander – coming up with what we will say or do next – while the other person is expressing something he or she would like us to hear and understand.

Throw in a subject that you don’t exactly agree upon and the listening really goes downhill as each person tries to formulate a position and out-maneuver the other. No one is listening, words are flying, feelings are hurt and misunderstandings happen.

Hearing is literally processing sounds as they enter your ears. Actively listening and being fully present is hearing the words and being with the person as they speak. Not fully listening is one of the biggest factors behind miscommunications. How can you understand someone when you are only partially listening?

One of the reasons people enjoy being coached – including myself – is that someone is really listening to what they are saying – not just the words, but the emotions behind the words and the meanings between the words. Active listening is the practice of mindfully listening when someone is speaking. It sounds easy, but how often do we practice it? Add in the multitude of things that are happening, the various topics that circulate in your head, your own emotions and background, and it becomes perfectly understandable how the words go in one ear and out the other.

Think of a time when someone really listened to what you were saying. She gave you one of her most precious possessions – her time and attention. No matter what you expressed or how you said it, she was right there with you.

This doesn’t mean that she agreed with every word you said, but she listened. She asked questions to clarify and helped you find meaning behind your own words. You felt heard and understood.

The most important tools to actively listening are focusing on the speaker, hearing the words, listening for the meaning behind the words, and then paraphrasing back what you heard. These steps will significantly change how you interact with others. Here is an example of how these skills can be used.

Having three boys, I have witnessed how miscommunications easily turn into fights. Instead of talking about what they need, fists, feet and nasty words are flung at each other. Breaking it up I say, “This is NOT how we handle conflict. Let’s sit down and communicate.” A final push is given, nasty words are mumbled and eyes roll as we sit down to talk.

I play a combination of referee and talk show host as I invite each one to speak. “What happened?” I ask facing one of them. Kid #1 begins to explain his side of the story as I keep his brother from interrupting. When Kid #1 is finished, I look at the other and say, “Tell me what he just said.” Kid #2 paraphrases what the first one said and then relates his side of the story. We go through this until each one has described what happened.

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We move on to “I Statements.” I cue the words, “When you (describe the behavior), I feel (describe the emotion). I would like (what is desired) because (why is this important?).” Kid #2 paraphrases what he heard and responds. It sounds cumbersome, but this emphasis on listening and paraphrasing helps them to communicate and move through misunderstandings.

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Is there any place in our society where good communication is not important? Learning these basic skills – especially paraphrasing – will make a difference in your interactions with others. Giving someone the gift of fully listening is truly priceless.

Coaching Challenge:  This week when someone is talking to you, over-emphasize actively listening to him or her. Look at the other person. Focus on what he or she is saying and tune in to the meaning behind the words. Be with this person as he or she talks to you. Then paraphrase what you heard and ask if you interpreted it correctly. Note how you feel and what his or her reaction is as you fully listen and hear what is said. Note how this impacts your relationship.

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