Listening part 2

Most of us come out of the womb knowing how to hear. But we don’t come out knowing how to listen; THAT is a learned skill. Listening is getting harder everyday. With all the noise of our world, it’s tempting to shut down and tune out. Learning when and where to do that is essential, but so is essential listening; Unless you live as a hermit in a cabin in the woods by yourself, your likely interact with people everyday. And interaction, relationships, business and the core of it all—communication, is dependent on listening. While I’m not usually big on lists, I do want to share ten principles to consider for improving your listening skills. Even if you don’t care about the topic, listen because you care about the person. Think about how you feel when you talk with someone you know is not listening to you. Do you feel devalued? Caring for another person is good motivation to give anyone a listen. Consider where to have conversations. Today’s pubs and restaurants are very noisy places. Trendy establishments are decorated with lots of hard surfaces (like concrete and steel) that do not absorb noise. If you need to have a deep conversation, carefully pick where you go. Think about places that will facilitate good conversation. Deal with the noise in your own head. Besides dealing with noisy environments, we have as much chatter inside us. We may be thinking about all the stuff we have to get done, whatever current challenge we’re dealing with, or some other life issue. And when we focus on ourselves, we leave no room for listening to others. Concentrate on not letting your mind wander with all the busyness of your own life. Seek first to understand before being...

Fruitfulness

This is the sixth and final article in a series on growth force principles identified by German biochemist, Frederic Vester who found six principles that lie at the heart of all living and growing things. By applying these principles to our lives, we can increase the health and potential for growth in all that we do. The final growth force principle is fruitfulness. “Be fruitful and multiply,” is a well-known passage from the book of Genesis. We can assume its intent was deeper and more profound than just keeping humanity going! We pack our days with a lot of activities. But sometimes we confuse a manic schedule with making a difference—being fruitful. And the only way to know the difference is to stop, breathe, think and evaluate! Bible teacher Joyce Meyer once talked about the difference between being busy and being fruitful. “Did you ever stop to think that just being busy – running around in circles all day but not accomplishing anything – is the same as wasting your time? It’s frustrating to expend so much energy and time and not have any fruit from your effort!” The fruitfulness principle (found throughout nature) says that every aspect of our lives should produce discernible results in line with its intended purpose. This, of course, assumes we know our intended purpose! In nature, fruitfulness is obvious. Either a fruit tree bears fruit, or it’s ornamental! An organism is alive as long as it continues to function the way it was designed, with appropriate outcomes. But when an organism is no longer ‘fruitful,’ it dies and makes way for others. Vineyards are a great example. Each vine must produce grapes. So if a vine fails to produce grapes (of expected quality and quantity) its issues must...

Symbiosis

The fifth growth force found in nature that we are exploring in this series is symbiosis. Each growth force, when applied to our life can increase the potential for health and growth. Symbiosis describes what happens when two different organisms, living in close proximity, share in a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, when a tree ages and its roots loose the capacity to gather nutrients from the soil, a certain fungus grows on the roots that helps transfer nutrients to the tree. In return (since the fungus cannot produce chlorophyll itself), the tree then transfers carbohydrates and oxygen to help the fungus grow. The tree and the fungus experience symbiosis that helps sustain both. Another example highlights how two great things combined can produce a whole new thing. Remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ad that imagined the way chocolate and peanut butter “accidentally” came together? Both chocolate and peanut butter were individual favorites, but the combination created was fantastic! The same principle works with food courts. You might think putting multiple food outlets in one small space would create so much competition that no one would survive. But in reality, the draw of multiple options attracts more people to the space, and all the food vendors thrive better than they would on their own. Symbiosis seems to be at the heart of the universe. And it’s equally powerful with people as it is in nature and marketing. Symbiosis takes place when people or groups engage in mutually beneficial relationships. Cooperation is a key component of symbiosis. Whether its birds who benefit from aerodynamic flight formations or societies that are healthy, it is clear the world is based on cooperation AND competition. Perhaps we have put the em-PHA-sis on the wrong SYL-la-ble. As Tom...

Sustainability

At the end of the last century, German biochemist, Frederic Vester identified six growth force principles found in nature we can apply to our lives and work to increase health and growth. This article looks at the fourth growth force of sustainability. You can read about the first three here: Interdependence, Multiplication, and Transforming Energy. The principle of sustainability challenges us to consider how what we’re doing will produce the resources we’ll need for the next lifecycle. In nature we observe how the leaves of a tree fall and become part of the nutrient base for the next growth season. And farmers rely on crop rotation, knowing that what one crop takes out, another replaces. This also applies to ourselves and the way we personally approach our time and energy. We’re in this for the long haul; life is a marathon, not a sprint. A synonym for sustainability could be recycling. Recycling embodies the idea of reusing resources for the future even though the resource may look different in the next cycle. For example, investing in education could be a critical piece in building your future. Creating and nurturing friendships will give you the support system you need now and in the future. Developing new interests will help you develop new brain pathways and continue to expose you to new and exciting ideas. Saving and investing for retirement will ensure you will be able to meet your needs in old age. As you make decisions about the future, here are some questions you may want to consider: What am I doing (or not doing) today that is building the future? What resources do I need to increase the potential for the next cycle? How is the lifestyle I’m creating today going to sustain me for...

Disappointments

What do you do when life does not work out the way you hoped it would? Do you feel defeated and let it destroy you? Do you get bitter or better? I recently applied for a teaching position that I thought was perfect. While I realized it would not be a complete dream job, it was one I thought was the best ticket for my future. It would offer a guaranteed salary with perks until I was ready to retire, which I could then do with dignity. I thought about the position for several years, then planned actively for it for a year. I spent hours preparing the cover letter and resume, and even did two mock interviews in preparation. I was invited to an initial interview, but not a second. Suddenly the goal I’d sought for so long was over. Just like that, it was over. In some ways I was crushed. I was extremely qualified and could not believe I was out. While I suspect all sorts of things about the process, I had to work through the disappointment and decide how to move forward. Perhaps you can think of times you have had high expectations and put your eggs into a particular basket, only to have the opportunity ripped away. When stuff happens, you have to realize that you have response choices. How do you turn the disappointment into something that does not crush you? How do you deal with the emotions? While emotional responses—such as shock, anger, surprise, sadness and disappointment—may be valid, they don’t have to dictate how you go forward. Own your emotions, realizing they are real and valid. Sometimes it’s helpful to examine your emotions and analyze what is behind them. For example, you might be really...

Transforming Energy

This is the third in a series exploring how the growth force principles found in nature—that perpetuate life and health—can be applied to our lives to increase healthy growth. You can find the first two articles here: Interdependence and Multiplication Energy transformation is the principle that calls us to recognize both positive and negative energy that is already flowing in a system, and utilize both for a productive outcome. In fact, sometimes the energy, which we might be tempted to label as ‘negative,’ can become a positive energy force if utilized well. Just ask a surfer about utilizing existing energy. The force of the waves surfers use for their favorite sport can be very destructive. When resisted by retaining walls, the pounding surf can destroy all but the strongest barriers we erect. Yet surfers are able to utilize that same energy for propelling them through the water for hours of entertainment. In another sport, boxing, opponents see force as something to be resisted and blocked. But in jujitsu, rather than blocking energy coming at you, you utilize that energy and turn it to an advantage. The martial arts economize energy by recognizing and valuing the energy, already at play, to accomplish a specific purpose. We can use this same principle in our lives. Perceived negative energy can come in the form of a disgruntled employee, a downturn in the economy, loss of a key client, or increased competition. At first glance we may be temped to resist these developments. We may tell the employee to shape up, batten down the hatches to ride out a bad economy, panic when we loose a client or redouble our efforts against increased competition. Energy transformation encourages us to see each situation as a gift and take advantage...

Top 10-#3 Try New Things...

We have an English expression that one can be stuck in a rut. A rut in the ground is created when repeated activity takes place in the same location. If you walk or drive in the same place everyday, you will create ruts or crevices in the ground. Over time, these can become huge. Our brains are no different. When you do things over and over and only occasionally deviate from sameness, your brain actually creates ruts. So the expression, “I’m in a rut,” is very literal. Scientists used to believe that the brain has little ability to change past childhood. But research since the 1960s shows the brain is like plastic; it has the ability to change as a result of new experiences. It can even rewire itself after suffering damage. I saw a documentary about a 95-year-old Japanese man who was still directing a preschool for special needs children. He had learned the Korean language in his 80s, and was learning Chinese in his 90s so he could travel to China to share his expertise on children. This man refused to retire into a rocking chair; he continued to live by pushing himself and learning new things. I think he might have a key to staying young. I once took a creative communication class. We were encouraged to alter our daily routines in order to spark creativity: take a different route home or brush your teeth with your other hand. If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I often quote the famous American basketball coach John Wooden. He said, “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” So do something different today. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences....

What Matters

There is nothing like facing your own mortality to bring astonishing clarity about what’s important. Bryan was an ordinary guy who died and came back. Below is his story in his own words. By Bryan Wood Three years ago this week, I died. But obviously I and was brought back for a second chance. I had been feeling very sluggish for a couple of years but didn’t know what was happening. I’d been in and out of the doctor’s office many times, but everything always checked out. However, on a particular morning, I felt unusually tired, so I went to the hospital. When I arrived, my heartbeat was very sporadic, averaging 32 beats a minute instead of a normal 70. The technician on duty thought I might have a blockage, so he gave me a nitroglycerin pill to test his diagnosis. The pill made me feel a little bit better, so they gave me the another one. That’s when they realized I did NOT have a blockage. I turned pale and began sweating like crazy. I looked at the doctor and said, “I’m going down!” And then I flat lined. Because I had no blockage, my slow heart rate could not pump enough blood to sustain my life. Then complications (that are still unexplained) caused the electric signal to my heart to just stop! Apparently, the medical team fought for 2 hours and 15 minutes to bring me back and get me stabilized; it only seemed like seconds to me. The next thing I heard was someone telling me I was going to need a pacemaker, to which I responded, “I want one like Iron Man–with the blinking lights.” After the intense effort they’d made to bring me back, they failed to see the...

Live Intentionally

Do you struggle with keeping a healthy perspective? I have made multiple changes in my life in the past couple of years. After traveling extensively to teach and produce videos for non-profits all over the world, I am now focusing on teaching in the U.S. (in addition to blogging and podcasting). A challenge is to keep thinking globally while working locally. It is so easy for us to become myopic (narrow-minded) and me-focused. This plays on a theme my community college studied this week: emotions. It’s so easy for our minds and emotions to go places that are small-minded and self-serving. We have to be intentional to maintain the big picture, remember the goals we have set, and be other-focused. I found the following a timely message for you and myself. “It is often tempting to look at the lives of many great Christian figures and assume that the reason they were able to live their impressive lives was because they were simply better people than you are me. However, as we study these figures, we find that more often than not, the only difference between us and them is the future they saw and were fighting for. Whenever we become short-sighted to the point of only focusing on our bank statements, deadlines, and Netflix queue, we are bound to live uninspired lives.”* Take a moment to reassess, re-grab the larger perspective and live intentionally.   * Quote from Rusty Gates, M.Div. The Cycle of Life: A Lenten Devotional (Sunday before Easter) from Bloom Church in Denver. Royalty-free image by Johan Borg of Sweden; retrieved from: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/406855...

Trapped

The question has been rolling around in my spirit since I read it two weeks ago. It is a question haunting me: “God, where am I trapped and unable to see it?” This most simple questioning prayer seems beyond profound. Is trapped the same as being stuck? If you’ve been around Get Control Of Your Life very long, you know we are all about getting unstuck. We all get stuck in various aspects of our lives: dead-end jobs, life-sucking relationships, routine, habits, and thinking patterns that keep us from moving forward. I’ve worked very hard to get unstuck in the past couple of years. I have a sense that it’s quite possible to get unstuck. If you get your foot “stuck in the mud,” You just get it out. But if you get your car stuck in the mud, it may take considerable effort to get it out. Point is: it seems doable, even if you have to get help. But being trapped. What is that? It reminds me of situations in which I felt stressed with no obvious way out, like not having money to pay a bill, feeling the panic of a dark and tiny enclosed space, or what it must be like to have an elephant on your chest. You know flies get trapped in spider webs; then they become lunch. Maybe you feel trapped because of too much rain or snow, and are “dying” to get out! Or perhaps you have memories of an animal that has somehow become stuck, like a whale on a beach or a dog that has fallen in an icy pond. What about you? Where are you trapped and unable to see it? We’ve talked about the Johari Window before. We must come to terms with...