Messages

dreamstime_xs_91266791I was at a conference recently and one of the speakers was talking about communication and listening skills.  During her presentation she mentioned how we communicate non-verbally as well as verbally and used the example of pictures we have in our offices.  The specific example she used was what we would think if we saw hunting pictures in someone’s office.

My immediate thought was, “Cool!  I can use that to start a conversation.”  I don’t hunt, but my father did and my brothers and a niece and nephew do.  I know enough that I can use it to start a conversation, to form a connection.

A moment after my thought, I heard a woman at the next table say, “Predator.”  Wow!  She would receive a completely different message from a hunting picture than I would.

It is important to realize that the message sent and the message received might not be the same.  Whether you are the sender or the receiver, take steps to clarify the intent of the message if you think there might be misinterpretations.

Use the Back of Your Brain

dreamstime_xs_62496032When I was in college it always took me awhile to complete the research for papers.  The major reason was that I always found so many interesting studies to read.  They might not have been relevant for the paper I was writing, but it was hard to resist reading them anyway.

One related to brain functioning.  It said that either the subconscious or unconscious (I forget which—or maybe it was both—let’s call it the back of the brain) was always working.  Since it was always working, we might as well have the conscious part of our brain (let’s call it the front of the brain) tell the back of the brain what we wanted it to do.

I was going to college full-time and working 30-40 hours a week to pay for college.  I needed all the help I could get to make best use of the time I had, so I started experimenting with this.  I would tell the back of my brain things like: “I have to write a paper on XYZ.  What should I include?  How should I organize it?”  Then I would work on other things for a day or two.  When I sat down to work on the paper, the information flowed.  I had much more information than I ever had when I tried to write something “cold.”

The more I used this technique, the better it worked.  I still use it.

For example, a few days ago I had the idea that this topic would make a good blog.  If I had sat down and tried writing it the minute I had the idea, I would have struggled.  Instead, the front of my brain told the back of my brain to work on this idea.  Now, the thoughts are pouring out, faster than I can type.

I use this for large projects, such as writing books.  With a book, I tell the back of my brain to work first on the overall concepts and content of the book and as I start writing, I tell it to work in more detail on the next chapter.  It works!  I have more trouble finding time to write than I do in getting thoughts on paper once I have time to do it.

I also use this for little things such as planning parties, holiday dinners, and vacations.  People comment on how organized I am.  To a large degree, I think it is because I use the back of my brain to work on things while the front of my brain is focused on other items.

If you don’t already do this, I suggest that you try it.  If it works, you might find that you are more productive.  If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost a thing.

 

Aim Higher

Blog Drawing SquareI recently attended my 40th high school reunion.  During a conversation with a friend since elementary school (not an old friend—neither of us are old!) I was reminded of something one of the high school guidance counselors told me many years ago.  He explained it differently than I will here, but the concept is the same.  (Since we were face to face, he could talk with his hands as well.  That doesn’t work so well in a blog.)

Imagine a vertical line.  Near the top of the line is point A.  Around the middle is point B.  Near the bottom is point C.  He said that he would rather see students aim for point A and only achieve point B than to aim for point C and achieve it.  Even if they don’t achieve point A, by achieving point B they will have achieved more than if they settled for point C from the beginning.

At the time, I couldn’t begin to realize how important that concept is.  At least I grasped enough that it encouraged me to go for a bachelor’s degree rather than an associate degree after graduating high school.

I hate to admit it, but there have been times in my life when I did not try for point A because I did not think I could make it.  Sometimes I aimed for point B and got it, but sometimes I settled for point C when I could have done more had I aimed higher.

Have you done this?  Are you doing this now?  Could you achieve more if you aimed higher than you thought you could achieve?  What could your life be like if you did?

College Bound

1, SF_52WeeksOfWisdom_FINAL COVER_022215, front_edited-1, squareFarrell_Don'tActLikePrey_FULLCOVER_FINAL_090714, cropped_edited-1Are there any women in your life that are going to college this fall?  Someone who has graduated from high school and is starting the next phase of her education?  Someone who has been in the “real world” for awhile and has decided that a college degree is what she needs to accomplish her career goals?  Someone who is going back to college for an advanced degree?

If so, my books would be great gifts to let them know you are thinking of them, as well as assisting them in meeting their goals through self reflection.

Don’t Act Like Prey! A Guide to Self Leadership for Women uses stories and metaphors to discuss the costs of being passive, the costs of being aggressive, the benefits of being assertive, and how to find the delicate balance of assertiveness.

52 Weeks of Wisdom, A Guide to Self Leadership for Women provides 52 short stories to encourage the reader to think about what she does, why she does it, and does she want to change.

For additional information, and to order from your preferred supplier in your preferred format, go to SusanLFarrell.com.

Common Courtesy—Not So Common

dreamstime_xs_87916289, resized_edited-1I’m beginning to believe that common courtesy is an oxymoron.  Courtesy is not so common anymore.

You do not hear the little courtesies (please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me) as frequently as in the past.  You also hear more obviously discourteous behaviors (yelling, screaming, interrupting).

I think part of this is related to television.  Think about the lack of common courtesy in many of the TV shows; think about how people are treating each other.  Even in many of the news programs, it’s not about a civilized discussion, it’s about who can outshout the others.  When people watch this enough, they begin to think that this is appropriate behavior.

I think part of the lack of courtesy is related to social media.  It’s easy to slam people and their views when you don’t have to do it to their face.

I think another part is related to parents who don’t teach their children manners.  Too many parents let their children do whatever they want.  Children need to be taught what is acceptable behavior, and this means teaching boundaries.  It also means that when children display negative behavior, there is a negative consequence to their negative behavior.  If the child is allowed to continue with the negative behavior, it reinforces that the negative behavior is acceptable.

I think the root of lack of courtesy is lack of respect.  Too many people do not respect other people.  They do not respect that other people have the same rights they do.  They do not respect that other people have the same right to their views and beliefs.  They do not respect that other people deserve to be treated the same way they want to be treated.  And too often children are not taught to treat others with respect, both directly and by example.

I know this is not an easy issue to solve.  But if each of us try to treat the people around us with courtesy and respect, it will at least make our little piece of the world a little better.  And who knows?  Maybe it will spread!

Take It Off the List

dreamstime_xs_34342688Do you have things on your to do list that have been there for weeks? Months? Longer?  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Either do them today or take them off the list.  If you  haven’t done them by now, what makes you think you are ever going to do them?  Plus, if they haven’t been done by now, they must not be that important.

Keep in mind that a to do list is not the same thing as bucket list of things to do before you “kick the bucket.”  It might take a long time to accomplish some of the things on your bucket list.  It’s good to keep that list to keep you motivated to accomplish those things.

A to do list is not the same as your long-range goals and corresponding plans, either.  Those, too, can take a long time to accomplish.

However, for your daily or weekly to do list, I’m sure there are things that you can safely delete if they have been there far longer than a day or week.   Clean up your to do list so that you can focus on the important items.

Everything is Subject to Change

dreamstime_xs_76945264My husband and I saw a sign in Key West stating:

“Everything is Subject to Change.”

Yep, that pretty well sums it up.  Anything and everything can change at any time.

Although we can plan for what might happen, I think the best thing we can do is to try to be mentally and emotionally flexible and deal with changes the best we can when they occur.

Find a New Balance

dreamstime_xs_32614115We need to balance all aspects of our professional and personal lives.  We need to balance not only our time but also our energy, mental focus, and finances. We know this.  We try to do it.  The trickiest part, I think, is that our lives change and then we need to find a new balance.

If we change from being single to being married, it means finding a new balance.  If we go from being married to divorced, that necessitates finding a new balance.  We need to find new balances when we have children, as they grow, and again when they leave home.  We find new balances as our parents age and need more assistance.  Often if we start a new job or career and it requires more of our time, we need to find a new balance.

My husband is recently retired.  Of course, he has a major balance change.  Unlike some people, though, he is not having any difficulty in finding things he wants to do.

I’m finding that I also need to find a new balance related to his retirement.  I still want a writing career.  However, I also want to spend time with him.  We enjoy traveling, hiking, golfing, and other activities that we feel we should do now while we physically can.  My challenge is finding how to balance all the things I want to do.

My current plan is to consider myself semi-retired.  I have found that it helps me feel less guilty about not spending as much time working as I did.  I haven’t quite found a balance that feels “just right,” but that’s o.k.  Often finding a new balance is as much of a process as it is a destination.

Planning Backwards

dreamstime_xs_54563294Although we usually think of planning as starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, it can be beneficial to start with the end and continue backwards to the beginning.

Most of us probably do this frequently in small ways.  For example, to determine when we need to get up in the morning to get to work on time, we might plan something like this:

  • I start work at 8:00, so…
  • I need to arrive at work at 7:45 to park the car, punch in, etc. to be on the job by 8:00.
  • It takes 45 minutes to drive to work, so I need to leave home at 7:00.
  • It takes 90 minutes to get ready and take care of the pets, so I need to get up at 5:30.
  • However, it’s snowing, the roads will probably be bad in the morning, so I need to allow an extra 30 minutes to drive to work. I need to set the alarm for 5:00.

This process can also be beneficial for our large dreams and goals, especially if they are very specific.

For example, if someone wanted to design motorcycles for a specific company, good information to obtain could be:

  • Is this an entry level position? If not, what entry level position can lead to the desired position?  What advancement is necessary within the company?
  • What experience is required to be hired by the company? How can it be obtained?
  • What education/degree is required? Where do most of these graduates attend college?
  • What needs to be done to be accepted into that college and that degree program?
  • What needs to be done to be able to attend that college? (For example, would it require moving? Financial assistance?)

The plan, of course, would include the details on how to make this work.  Additional questions might include the following.  Would an internship meet the experience requirement and could that be completed during college?  If the person is in high school, what classes could she take and what grades would she need to be accepted to the college?  If she is already in the workforce, can some of her work experience assist her in being accepted to the college?  Are there classes she needs to take before she will be accepted either into that college or into that program?  What financial assistance is available?  What support, if any, will she need from family?

The next time you need to plan something, try planning backwards and see if it helps you develop a better, more detailed plan.

Why?

dreamstime_xs_91972430Why do you do the things you do?

I think why we do things is usually more important than what we do.  If we don’t know why we are doing something, how do we know if we are doing the right thing?  If we don’t know why, we are just going through the motions.

I encourage you to think about why you are going to do something before you do it.  Since we usually have more than one “why” keep asking yourself “why else?” until you have a complete answer.  Are those good reasons for doing what you are planning to do?  If so, do it.  If not, reconsider doing what you had intended.