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Tag Archives: Time To Reflect

A little reflective pulling together of the Habits for Advent

Advent frostIt’s a busy season of the year…no-one has time to read screeds and screeds on a blog. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation and anticipation. And we have been wending our way over these past weeks through some pretty challenging and potentially stop-in-your-tracks kind of habits.

So – this week, a simple putting-it-all-together pause….a few words on how the habits might be introduced into your thinking and being at Christmas.

Be proactive:

Advent candlesPreparations, planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, card-writing, school events, work, negotiating relatives, parties and nights out: all in all, we can end up in something of a frazzled heap, not enjoying any of it. Or we can be proactive in seeking to make the most of each moment, enjoy each individual element, and bring positive, encouraging enjoyment to all we encounter. “I get to do this! Isn’t that amazing….”

Begin with the end in mind:

Take a few minutes to ask yourself, what would be your ideal Christmas? What would you most want to remember about the season? Start there, work backwards, and each day between now and then, incorporate some of the key elements that will contribute to that.

Put first things first:

Following on from both of these, what is most important to you today? About who you are, about the people in your life, about what you have? Perhaps take a conscious moment each day in the stillness of all that Advent means and express thanks for all that is precious in your life. And make time for those people and things each day, rather than being swamped by the never-ending urgent tasks that come with this season.

Think win/win:

Advent angelsThere is enough to go round. Generosity of spirit, heart and wallet are never more important than at this time of year. We can choose to give, to share, to offer that little bit more, to do random acts of kindness to the mutual benefit of all.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood:

Christmas with your relatives. Seeing those friends who try your patience. Excess of everything leading perhaps to frayed tempers, irritability. Those who are lonely and have no-one, but struggle to express their need. Perhaps take time to get under the skin of that person and hear their heart and where they are coming from, and offer the gift of understanding.

How you made them feel – growing the character of the Habits.

Think back over this past week with me for a minute. What encounters have you had with people? Think about one really positive encounter, and one really difficult one. What stands out as you remember those exchanges? It may well be that there are specific words or phrases that stick in your mind. Perhaps words of affirmation and appreciation that really meant a lot and hit the spot most needing nurtured. Or equally, harsh words that seemed to pierce straight through your defenses and stab you with criticism or judgement. But I will bet a fair bit that what stays with you the most when you consider both of those encounters are the emotions you were left with.

It was Maya Angelou who famously and insightfully observed:
How you made them feel

For me, this is at the heart of the transition between the internal Habits 1-3 and the external Habits 4-6 in Stephen Covey‘s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that we are currently exploring.

(Habit Number 7 stands on it’s own, and you will have to wait for the New Year for that one! It is very close to my heart, for many of the reasons that I have explored in writing in this blog over the past couple of years, and in part refers back to my training and experience as a physiotherapist. So I’d love you to stay tuned…..)

Anyway.

I am aware that in summarising the Habits, and bringing my own perspective on them, I am seeking to condense the considerable thinking and wisdom in the original book. As such, there is much I will miss, and I commend the book itself to you to read as it really is a life-changing gem.

What is interesting is the emphasis on character. I mentioned this at the start of this series, that the Seven Habits book is much more a book on character and inner personal development than it is a management or systems book. As we move into the second half of the book, there is a transition piece that looks at key issues of character and the foundational importance of developing the first three habits before seeking to implement Habits 4, 5 and 6.

The latter Habits all talk about Doing. The first Habits are about Being, and being always comes before doing if we want to do what we do with any integrity and self respect.

Dr Covey himself observes –

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.”

Which is another way to express Maya Angelou’s comment. Because when people remember how you made them feel, what they are picking up on is who you are, your character. And our character can change. Or, to be more accurate, we can choose proactively to grow and develop our character to be more of the person we want to be.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Taking time to understand the other person – to speak their love language not your own – and not to project on to them what we think we would want in their situation. What does it mean to really get into their skin and understand where they are coming from, and to then choose to behave towards them in terms of that understanding?
  • Linked to this, not making assumptions and taking time to clarify expectations – how often do we get ourselves into real bother with our colleague, boss, partner, family member because we each have different expectations of the situation and have not clarified them? It takes time, courage and honesty to ensure that expectations on both sides are clear and explicit. It is easier to assume that our expectations will be self-evident, but how often does this lead to confusion, misunderstanding and resentment?
  • This of course is about integrity – being true to yourself and also true to what you say. Keep commitments, especially small ones. (And especially with children; they really notice broken commitments, and quickly learn not to trust those involved – a very damaging life lesson). Be true to who you are and be consistent in what you say and do, whether to people’s faces or behind their backs. Not easy but central to good character.
  • Notice and attend to little things. It is often the accumulation of myriad little things that create the biggest impression in relationships, both for good and bad. My wise old grandfather would often say – “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people.” Actually, sometimes it does, but the price is worth it in terms of personal integrity and character.
  • Apologise quickly and sincerely when we get it wrong. Having the courage to say, “I got it wrong” and be specific about how we did so goes a long way to building integrity in relationships and strengthening character

How do you make people feel? Quite an inflammatory question I know, but worthy of some inner musings this week.

Taking time to think, as inspired by Winnie the Pooh.

Think think thinkIt was the wonderful Winnie the Pooh who used to sit looking puzzled, tapping his head and exhorting himself to “think, think, think.” He always comes to mind when I am consciously taking time to think, in a contemplative, reflective sort of way.

This has been a week of celebrations of all different sources and sizes.

Some have been momentous.

A wedding – the start of a new life together for two besotted people.

A birthday – another year older and opportunities opening up in the year to come.

Some have been shared with clients – achieving milestones both large and small, but always with tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment. And always a joy to me in this line of work.

Some have been more challenging – closure on a difficult situation. This could have been very different, and quite difficult. But with time, careful consideration, honesty and mutual respect, a good outcome for all parties was reached.

As I was considering what to muse on this week, I see a common thread in all these celebrations.

Taking time to pause and think.

The following phrase has been a little refrain of mine for a while now – enjoy the process. Too often I find myself already rushing on to the next thing – mentally if not physically – before I have even finished the current thing. And in so doing, often miss the little chances to pause.

To stop and reflect.

To just take a moment, to not miss any little morsels of wisdom we might glean from our various experiences. Enjoying the process for me is about taking time to think, to be consciously aware of what I am doing, why I am doing it, and why it is important. In this lies learning and growth.

At the wedding, there were reminders aplenty of the new stage of life that the couple have entered into, with all the associated joys, challenges, and rewards. But the day itself simply whips past at a phenomenal rate, and how important it is to stop momentarily throughout the proceedings and take a mental snapshot of all that one’s senses are being bombarded with – precious family and friends, delicious food, beautiful surroundings, joy and celebration, and so many emotions.

With the milestones reached, I am reminded of the importance of taking time to take stock of all that has gone before. To ask yourself questions like –

How did I arrive at this place?

What have I learned along the way?

What am I thankful for?

Where perhaps did I miss opportunities?

What might I have done differently?

So too with a difficult situation requiring closure. The temptation is to bury it in a mental box labelled ‘Never go there again’. But the scary, courageous and honest thing to do is to unpack everything that might be tucked away in that box, look long and hard at conversations, decisions, emotions, perhaps wrong assumptions made, and be prepared to learn.

Taking time to think allows us to reflect on our choices and behaviour, and to learn, change and grow.

Like Winnie the Pooh and his thinking: never easy, but always important.

 

 

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