It’s Our Choice

I am a suck-the-life-out-of-my-day kind of woman. From the moment I get up in the morning until the moment my head hits the pillow I am on the go. I really do not know how to slow down. Some might think that is a bad thing and say I am relentless while others might think of it as being tenacious. Regardless of what others think, we all get to decide each day how we are going to approach our day.

This recent Daily Om, titled: “Do What Excites You” says it so well:

“Each day, we make choices that influence the character of our experiences, and our decisions determine whether our paths are rousing or tedious, breathtaking or tiresome.”

I want my life to be rousing and breathtaking. I want to learn, grow, and be challenged. If you are bored you are not trying hard enough. How is it even possible to be bored today? There are endless ways to entertain ourselves, even if they are tedious and brain numbing. Sure, I have my days where the wires in my brain do not connect for some reason and all I want to do is veg out on some bad game apps on my iPhone. Candy Crush anyone? That, however, is the exception rather than the norm.

So, what in life rouses you? What takes your breath away? New ideas? Compassion? Empathy? What makes you in awe of the world? Remember, we can choose to make decisions in our lives that invigorate, inspire, and challenge us to look at life in new ways. We can do that every day. It’s our choice.

Empathy and Grit

Yesterday my team went out to lunch and one of the items we ordered was polenta fries. One of my favorites especially with the dipping sauce that often comes with them. I found that polenta fries are not something that everyone had tried before. Polenta made from cornmeal make me think of southern cooking most likely because of the cornmeal and how similar it is to the texture of grits.

Which leads me to the true topic of this blog post. Grit. Yes, polenta fries at lunch made me think of grit, which made me think of the book I recently finished called “Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck” by Jon Acuff. He has a plethora of ideas about careers, and adds in some great ideas about empathy and grit. Empathy is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I can often plow through the day checking items off the long to do list, going from thing to thing, and while people are my top priority, it might not always come across that way. Acuff gets right to the point and this idea kept it simple for me to remember the two components of empathy:

“At times, empathy will feel complicated, but it’s not. It only involves two things: Understanding someone else’s needs. Acting on them.” page 191-192

I can do that. Understand, and act on needs. Can you?

Which leads me to grit. Gosh, I love that word. What is it about the word grit that makes me think of rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty? Doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. Sweat, blood, tears. Well I prefer just the sweat, I can leave the blood and tears behind.

“Grit is being stubborn in the face of fear. Grit is the first time you try something and it’s the thousandth time too. Grit is believing in can when can’t is loud. Grit is expecting fear and moving forward anyway.” page 213

Folks often call me relentless and it is true. If I get something in my mind that I am going to do it, well I do. I do not always care what it takes. I am going to find a way to make it happen. It takes grit to do that. I am stubborn and I am going to move forward anyway. Want to roll up your sleeves and join me?

Do You Listen 100%?

A few months ago I came across “You Learn by Living” by Eleanor Roosevelt. I wish I had read it many years ago. She inspired me more than any other first lady. One idea (of the many I wrote down) was about listening. I feel that over the past few years we as a society have become horrible listeners. There are too many other things happening around us. Our phone is ringing, we are getting a text message, sending an email, or in the middle of a level of Angry Birds. We multi-task. I myself am just as much to blame. I am a hard-core multi-tasker. I of course feel like I do an amazing job at it, but do I really? I feel like I do, but I often wonder if I am just trying to make myself feel better about all that I am trying to do at once. This is what she says about listening:

“If such a search is to be successful, however, you will need two qualities which you can develop by practice. One is the ability to be a good listener. The other is the imaginative ability to put yourself in the other person’s place; to try to discover what he is thinking and feeling; to understand as far as you can the background from which he came, the soil out of which his roots have grown, the customs and beliefs and ideas which have shaped his thinking.”  P. 136

Three short sentences that are jam-packed with ideas. Do you have an “imaginative ability to be a good listener?” To me that means going to extremes to make sure that the person you are engaged with knows you are listening, and that…you ACTUALLY are. What if you tried that for one week? What if you made sure that every conversation and interaction you had, you were focused 100%? I would like to try that over the next week and see if I can tell the difference in how I connect with others. Do I feel I understand them more, retained more information, and better executed on my part of the conversation? Did I tell someone I would follow through on something?

I also love where she says: “the imaginative ability to put yourself in the other person’s place; to discover what he is thinking and feeling” – it is something I try to do. See, I love learning about people. You could say people fascinate me. I always have the thought in my mind: “put yourself in their shoes.” I think it helps to relate to others who might be different from you, that might even have an opposite upbringing and life experience. I think it gives a person empathy when interacting with others.

So, are you with me? Do you want to try to listen 100% over the next week?