How many of us have set New Year's resolutions or goals for our lives that all too quickly are forgotten or put aside until the next year? The following set of principles will help you achieve your New Year's resolutions and much more. Read them over carefully. Challenge them, as at first reading you may not fully understand or agree with some of them. Now, or on January 1, select one of these principles and put it into action for a full week. Notice how things in your life improve and move you closer to achieving your desires. At the end of each week focus on a new principle until all seven are a way of life for you.
1. There is no failure, only feedback.
Have you ever done something that didn't work out the way you had planned? How often have you interpreted this as failure and possibly beat yourself up or blamed others? Far too many of us have been trained to judge our results as either success or failure. How would your life change if you viewed failure simply as feedback - an opportunity to learn how not to do something and become flexible in developing new ways to achieve your intended outcome? The next time something does not unfold as planned accept it as feedback, get curious and ask yourself questions such as, "What do I need to learn about myself, others, my work or family environment, so that if a similar situation were to occur in the future, I can get a better result?"
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Thomas Alva Edison, scientist and inventor
How different would your workplace be if failure were viewed as feedback? Would you, and others, be more inclined to explore new ways to get your work done more efficiently and effectively, with more fun?
2. You cannot not communicate.
Often we think we communicate only when we speak or write. This is not so. Consider the following situations: 1. You are in a staff meeting sitting off to one side, with your arms folded and an angry look on your face, and not participating in the discussion at all. 2. You have chosen not to respond to telephone and e-mail messages in a timely fashion, or at all. Even no communicationsends a message, and it is often not a positive one. Who are you really hurting?
Through your tone of voice, actions, facial expressions, gestures and body language, you are always communicating. Take time to step back and see the impact of your actions on the larger system. Is this really the impression you wish to create or the message you wish to convey?
3. Be flexible - If what you are doing is not creating the results you desire, do something different.
Have you ever been stuck in life, doing the same things repeatedly and each time expecting to get a different result? This is the widely known definition of insanity. If you want your life to be different, doing the same things more often, harder, or louder is not the way to change it. You must choose to do something different. If you try one key in a lock and it doesn't fit, would you keep trying the same key repeatedly? Or would you be flexible and try other keys until you find the one that works?
It is the same for your life. Be flexible; explore different behaviors and strategies to unlock what you truly want in life or who you are destined to be.
If you are a parent, consider the following: There are no resistant children, only inflexible adults.
4. The meaning of communication is the response it produces.
Your intended communication is not always what is understood by the other person. And what is more important - your intention or what is understood? It does not matter what your intention is, what matters are the results you generate from your words, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. By taking the other person's response as feedback and being flexible, you can change how you communicate until you achieve your desired result.
Consider the following situation: as a man, I notice a female coworker is wearing a new dress, so I decide to pay her a compliment (my sincere intention). I say to her, "My, you look terrific in that dress." However, her reaction isn't what I expected. She seems annoyed and leaves the room. I do not know what is going on in her mind, but obviously she heard my message very differently from what I had intended. Perhaps from her experiences and beliefs, she interpreted what I said as "hitting on her" or being suggestive. The next time I see her, I can continue with the same behavior, or simply ignore her and harbor all manner of bad thoughts about her. Or I can recognize that my remark did not produce the result I had intended and find different ways to communicate with her so that we can have a productive working relationship.
5. Every behavior has a positive intention.
No matter how strange, hurtful or inappropriate a person's behavior may seem to you, for the person engaging in that behavior, it makes sense from their perspective - their beliefs and values - and is predicated upon satisfying a positive intention for them.
The key is to appreciate that there is a positive intention behind the other person's behavior - for them, maybe not for you. This does not mean that you must view the other person's behavior as positive or acceptable. On the contrary, you may find it quite distasteful. You need to look behind the behavior to discover the positive intention or, if it's not apparent, look for an intention that makes sense in their reality. This intention may be for themselves, for you or for someone else. Once you have an understanding of their intention, you can explore alternative ways to help the person achieve it.
As an example, let's say you are having a discussion with someone and he suddenly raises his voice, knocks things off the table and runs from the room. From your perspective, this certainly cannot be viewed as positive behavior. What could possibly be the positive intention behind this kind of behavior? Now look at it from the other person's perspective. Given his background - his experiences, beliefs and values - perhaps he felt unsafe or overwhelmed in the conversation with you. Given the resources he had available at that moment, this may have been the only option he felt he had in order to create some space or to flee to a place of greater safety.
What can you do to avoid a similar result next time? You can accept what happened as feedback, respect his perspective, explore the possible positive intentions behind his behavior and look at other ways to achieve your outcome while satisfying his positive intention. In other words, be flexible.
It is useful to take stock of your own behaviors on a regular basis. Notice the results you are achieving, identify the positive intention behind these behaviors and ask, "Is there a better way to achieve my positive intention that minimizes the negative side-effects?"
6. Everyone does the best they can with the resources available to them.
People already have the resources they need to succeed. However, their perspective of the world (beliefs, values and limiting constraints) or temporary state of mind (overwhelmed, sad or angry) may prevent them from seeing what is really possible or prevent them from fully accessing their capabilities and resources. In these situations, a person may make decisions or take actions that, from another viewpoint, are much less than they are capable of and that may even be experienced as hurtful.
With hindsight, that person could have done many things differently, but it was deemed the best choice at the time. We do not always make the "right" decision or take the "right" action; simply, decisions and actions are taken based on what resources we have available to us at the time.
7. You are in charge of your mind and therefore your results.
It was you who chose the beliefs, values and decisions that determine your perspective of the world and how you experience different events. It is also you who can change these to gain a different perspective and thus reap the benefits of results that are potentially very different, brining significant changes to your life.
Your Next Step
You can simply read the above principles or you can begin to put them into action and make them a way of life. In doing so, you have the opportunity to change your reality, your results and your life!
By Roger Ellerton PhD, CMC
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