Category Archives: Character

Passivity Paralyzes

With eight months of the year behind us, how would you say you’re growing? In what areas are you really satisfied about your progress — and in which ones would you, in all honesty say, there’s been real blockage — even passivity?

Why should we beware of passivity? Because passivity is a usually a sign that we’ve been entertaining thoughts like:

  • I’ve arrrived. Although most of us would never actually say such a thing, it’s suggested when we sit, cemented in place.
  • I’m comfortable. Comfort says, “I know my marriage could be better, my relationships are few and weak, my fathering is part-time at best, my job performance could be great instead of average…but the discomfort I have now might be preferable to the discomfort I might experience from going on in those areas.”
  • I can’t. At my age…with my background…as busy as I am….(insert favorite phrase here) no one could expect me to make big changes in my __________ (fitness, marriage,  attitude toward work, spiritual life).

The key to breaking free from passivity is intentionality. It’s a clear and workable plan to get around growing people, to find and incorporate some new resources, maybe to add some accountability.

What kinds of passivity can you identify? What would be the first, best steps out of it for the rest of the year?

Habits of Growing People

For most of my life, I’ve witnessed it: some people are content to remain at their current level of understanding, education, development and maturity. It’s true in any facet of life where growth is possible. At some point, for them, growth became optional. So there they sit, seemingly in a recliner, on a plateau. It might be on the job, in their marriage, in the spiritual life and the like.

Others though, seem to always have a book at hand or they’re telling you about something they’ve just learned. They might be the person who always seems ready for another sharpening relationship, more input or an app they can download and put to use.

What can you observe in the attitudes and practices of people who grow and keep growing?

1. Growing people have a plan to grow.

Oh, it may not be complicated. Their plan might be as simple as a bucket list, a book club or a gym membership. Streaming entertainment excites them less than personal interaction. They prefer face time to Facebook and thought-provoking discussion to quoting sound bite.

2. Growing people have growing friends.

They associate with others who aren’t content with the status quo in their own lives. They attract the kind of people who also engage in thought and learn new skills. They might together pursue weight loss or health goals or DIY projects. They practice mutual challenge and encouragement.

3. Growing people take advantage of growth resources.

Invariably, growing people are readers. They’ll often have a book or device at hand, so when they’re waiting, they’re reading. They go to conferences, engage a mentor or take a class. They study areas not associated with their profession. They read select tweets and blogs. They listen deeply, learn intuitively and pass on what they’re learning!

4. Growing people practice growth habits even when they’re not motivated.

Motivation slows, even for growth-oriented people. But they know that growth isn’t an option. They’ve experienced that when growth ceases, the downward slide begins. People committed to growth understand that daily habits and small steps will both keep them moving forward and kick-start their motivation again.

You likely wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t committed to your own growth.

What attitudes or practices have helped keep you moving forward?

Leverage Your Discontent

Thomas Edison said, “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” When I consider change (almost any change) the risks associated or the pain (i.e. discipline, work) required by that change can keep me firmly fixed in place. Two views can give me the motivation to “move out”:

One view is the vision of your preferred future. When I paint a clear, vivid, compelling picture of what life will be like (a deepening relationship, growing sales, financial freedom, increasing health) I suddenly have a powerful tool which gets me moving and keeps me motivated.The second view is what Edison described. It is the real and honest view that comes when I evaluate my present state. It is coming to terms with where today’s path will get me if I continue on it! It likely will feature descriptions of my future which – when I see them on paper – will repeatedly get me “unstuck” and move me into a growth mode.
If you want help to think about where you really want to go, click or call! I love helping clients redesign their futures.

The Uncommon Attitude

John Henry Jowett said it: “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” When I read his words for the first time, I immediately thought of some of the negative attitudes and thought patterns to which I gravitate when gratitude isn’t a regular part of how I think and communicate.

I also thought of a man my wife encountered at a warehouse club. He was distributing food samples. He was very popular! When my wife reached his table, took a sample and said, “Thank you!” he told her, she was the 1 of 7 or 8 who expressed those simple words. He was experiencing first hand what many spouses, employees, and friends experience: no response at all.

Expressions of gratitude are simple acts which cost nothing yet enrich the hearer. They enhance the relationship. They remind both recipient and “giver” that life works so much better when generosity oils relationships — and when receivers express their thanks!

Who will do good for you today — who would benefit powerfully from some word of gratitude? In 10 minutes today, how could you express gratitude to 3 or 4 people in your life who bring value to your life?

 

Lessons from a Dickens of a Tale

Recently, I read of a website with 500+ classic books on audio available at no cost. I’ve listened to books on my Kindle; at best it’s a bit robotic. But when I heard my first download read by a professional I was hooked! I listened while walking, exercising, driving, even mowing the lawn! The one I chose first was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Having not read this story since junior high, I was looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with it. It turned out the movie based on it, like many films, had taken many liberties. What intrigued me most was the character development, through which Dickens’ reveals his view of truth, life and human nature. I also realized he was teaching valuable life and business lessons like:

Appearances are just that. However impressive the image, when there’s no substance to the image or brand, system failure is inevitable-likely it will happen at the most critical time. A memorable line from the book goes something like: “If you apply varnish to wood, it does not hide the grain, but shows it. The more coats you apply, the more the gain is highlighted.” Does what I display reflect reality?

Integrity is often found where you least expect it. Dickens’ characters include more than one quiet hero who lives in humble circumstances, yet displays goodness and faithfulness, forgiveness and love even when they’re undeserved. Do I value personal integrity enough? Am I growing in character? What are some ways to do that?

There is astounding value in the right kind of friends. The Proverb says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Dickens’ main character learns that in desperate times, the bonds of friendship offer him what money and possessions never would. What determines the kind of friendship I offer or the sort of friends I pursue?

Are you reading from (or listening to) good sources? What are some ways that you’ve learned to mine valuable truth and lessons from what you read or hear?

 

Are you listening to me?

Jim Collins records some profound advice he took to heart, offered by the legendary John Gardner. He told Collins, “It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?” 

In life, business and relationships, a common temptation of goal-centered individuals is to forget the power of listening, a crucial element in expressing interest. Listening as much as any other skill communicates, “I care.”

Good listening requries that I:

Be quiet. Mark Twain wrote, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Yes, as employer, parent or even spouse, maybe you know more or have more information. But, when the other person is talking, just listen. Don’t think about your response, don’t interrupt, talk over them or finish a sentence. When the person is finished ask questions which clarify, say, “tell me more about…” Don’t respond if you don’t hear accurately what’s been said.

Ask questions. Questions which center on, even repeat terms or phrases the speaker has used demonstrate good listening without my own agenda becoming the focus. Ask good questions, and then again, be still!

Put the speaker at ease. Give them full freedom to speak. Focus like a laser on their concerns and issues. Respond with nods, gestures or terms which encourage them to continue. Maintain appropriate eye contact. Actively jettison distractions (close the door, turn off your cell phone). Avoid any indication that says to them: “I’m in a hurry” or “I’ve got more important things to do.” If needed, talk about how much time is available in advance, not during the other person’s communication.

Empathize. Actively look at things from their perspective. Don’t “own” the opposite view or immediately hear them from the idea that your leadership or ideas are being threatened. If you hear something you disagree with, wait to discuss it until you’ve heard the whole of what they’re trying to say. Assume that you don’t know best!

Listen for more than words. Volume, tone, key words and emotion convey the real message as much as the initial few sentences. Ideas get buried with verbosity if a person feels ill at ease or has a hard time talking to you. Realize they may feel the need to cover their message with “acceptable” terms. Observe gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movement that says more than what is expressed.

Who in your sphere needs you to express interest?

Creativity Unleashed

I’ve been fascinated by Eric Hoffer’s thoughts on “alibis” — what we would call an excuse.

Hoffer wrote, “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture, and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement.”

It’s so often stunned me that humans will expend seemingly unlimited strength of mind and creativity to excuse what is often a simple dodge of responsibility. What’s sadder, in the case of many excuses (and that to which Hoffer alludes) we fail others and certainly fail ourselves when we default to offering up a cheap “word of dodging” rather than a what might have been the product of that strength and creativity.

If you know there’s more in you than the average effort, the average process and the average product which have been flowing from your work, shoot us an email or call us. We love to help creative people really succeed!