How to be an effective listener

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”– Dalai Lama

Being a good listener is one of the most important life-skill we all can have. In today’s fast paced and high-tech world, communication has become an important means of achieving our goals and objectives. Yet we devote very less time when it comes to listening to one another. When was the last time, you listened to what the other person is saying without any distraction? We often have a tendency to focus more on our words rather than others’ words. In a hurry to get our message across, we often neglect the important part of communication, which is listening, be it while listening to our peers, coworkers, friends or family members. If you fail to understand what is being expressed to you whether at work, or home or school, you will also fail in providing a meaningful response.

According to an ancient Chinese Proverb ‘To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.’ Your true potential is always is directly linked to the quality of your listening skills. In this age of instant communication we are in a hurry to communicate what’s in our mind or focus more on replying than in good listening. We fail to realise, a lot can also be learned by means of listening from others in our day to day conversations.

We often confuse the physical act of hearing with listening. The basic difference being hearing is through ears, but listening is through mind. Hearing only involves perceiving sounds. On the contrary, listening is receiving the information, paying full attention to the words and sentences and understanding them. There is lot of importance given to ‘problem solving’, ‘goal setting’ and other skills to improve our potential or productivity, but very rarely we hear about the importance of active listening and how learning to master this art can improve our overall performance.

Are you a poor listener?

According to a research, we spend much of our waking hours communicating, and more than half is spent listening. Although listening is our primary activity, most of us are poor listeners. Studies show that we are able to comprehend and retain only one-quarter of what was said in about a ten-minute talk. This is mostly because many of us are either distracted by our own thought process or we get self-justifying or busy rehearsing our response that we miss out on what is being said. Sometimes, we tend to shut ourselves to listening when we disagree with the person’s views. Also because our listening speed is faster than the other person’s speaking speed, there is a void which we fill with our thoughts or perceptions. Not able to listen properly leads to arguments, conflicts, and various other challenges in your personal or professional lives. At workplaces, it leads to more errors and wastage of time. In personal life, it may lead to misunderstandings affecting your relationships.

Why listening is more important than speaking?

Effective listening involves ability to concentrate, understand, respond and then retain what is being said. How well we listen has a significant influence on our interpersonal relationships and work effectiveness. Developing good listening skills makes you less anxious, mindful and more self-aware. A great learner is often not the speaker, but the listener. Good listening improves your communication and interpersonal skills at workplaces where it helps you to fully concentrate and engage in a discussion. You will be able to grasp the purpose of your communication so as to put forth your ideas and objectives with more clarity. It helps you provide valuable feedback, to resolve conflicts and eliminate misunderstandings.

Great leaders are people who are intuitive listeners. They recognise that knowledge is gained by listening and not by talking. Good listeners are often perceived as people leaders as they acknowledge and listen to people’s issues and this makes them feel valued. They earn the trust and respect of people by listening, understanding and being supportive of them. By actively engaging yourself in listening to others’ concerns or issues helps you develop leadership quality where you can work efficiently towards coming up with better solutions to solve their problems. Being a good listener improves mutual understanding in your personal, professional or business relationships

What does it take to be a good listener?

Self-awareness is the key to become an effective listener. To be able to sincerely listen to others is not an easy task, it requires persistence, effort and should be able to set aside your views to listen to the other person without being judgmental and by being open minded. It is a mindset which you learn from people by hearing what they have to say by being genuinely curious and interested.

Listening is a dynamic process that involves receiving , understanding, retaining, evaluating and responding. All of these stages happen naturally in a short time during conversation. Here are some tips to improve each of these areas.

Receiving and absorbing the information is the first stage in listening process. Here are some tips to pay attention while receiving the information.

Avoid distractions. Put away your digital distractions, when you are engaged in a conversation. Try to maintain your eye contact with the speaker by keeping aside papers, books, or phones or any other gadgets. Mentally screen out distractions like background noise or activity. No matter how open-minded we can be , we all carry emotional baggage that distracts our listening ability. Words, phrases, tone, or person’s appearance can shut down our receptivity by triggering knee-jerk reactions. Practice identifying and overcoming the knee-jerk reflexes while listening. Each time your mind starts to wander, refocus your attention to what’s being said or to what you are listening rather than focusing on what you are going to say.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues. If you only hear the words someone is saying, you may miss the important meaning being conveyed. Some people don’t overtly verbalise their disagreements but say as much with their actions, body language or physical gestures as they do with their verbal communication. Facial expression, tone if voice, eye contact, and posture all matter. Practice listening between the lines. For instance, someone who tells you that he like your idea while slouching and with his arms crossed against his chest, is actually saying two different things. Paying attention to these cues provides more clarity on the speaker’s emotional state and you can listen to something that they are communicating with their non-verbals.

Avoid interrupting. It is rude to interrupt but most often we model the opposite and tend to overlook our loud, aggressive behaviour. We tend to finish others’ sentences because we cannot slow our mental pace to listen effectively. Interrupting says that your opinion is of more importance than others’ or might imply that what you are saying is more accurate or relevant. It also might mean you don’t have time to listen or don’t really care about what’s being said. A conversation is not a contest which you are going to win. You can’t listen and talk at the same time. So, resist the urge to interrupt and let the other person say what he or she wants to say. When listening to someone talk about a problem or a difficulty, we tend to immediately suggest solutions using our own perspective to make him or her move in the direction we think is good. In most such cases, we respond to our needs rather than the needs of the other person. May be the person just wants to talk or share. Don’t impose your solutions. Before advising, ask whether they like to hear your suggestions or solutions.

Be empathetic. Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her words can be comforting. Giving undivided attention by being compassionate helps you to be an effective listener. Put yourself in their shoes and listen and allow them to express their feelings and thoughts

“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

Avoid being judgmental or biased. Listen without judging or mentally criticising what is being said and without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Learn to separate fact from opinion. Don’t listen with an intent to have your opinions validated, but listen with an intent to learn something new. Many times we don’t pay much attention to those against whom we are biased or prejudiced. Don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out different perspectives and listen to even those who confront and challenge you. Effective listening requires an open mind, you need to be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Even when you have strong views, suspend your judgment, hold your criticism, and avoid arguing or selling your point right away.

Understanding is the next stage in listening process. After you have received the information, you begin to process its meaning and gain more clarity, or asking questions or rephrasing parts of the message you heard to understand the key points.

Asking questions. Ask questions only to ensure understanding or about things that unclear. Asking open-ended questions provides the other person an opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts. For instance asking ‘how would you?’ rather than ‘can you?’ encourages them to expand their ideas. Restating key points as the conversation proceeds confirms that you understood their point of view and also confirms that two of you are on the same page. Sometimes your questions might lead the speaker astray, take responsibility and work your way back to the conversation. Not only asking questions provides clarity but also encourages to reflect on a thoughtful response and provides a different perspective furthering more communication. Paraphrasing the content of the message every now and then indicates that you understood the topic and improves your awareness within the conversation.

Remembering the key elements spoken is possible only by staying engaged or connected to what’s being said in a conversation. While listening for long stretches, concentrate on and remember key concepts or phrases. Make a mental model of what’s being communicated or arrange the small details or concepts into a central theme to easily grasp the incoming information.

Evaluating You can evaluate the information and prepare your response in this stage. Remember that while evaluating, you are still a listener and not a speaker. Relate to the main idea and sort the information based on facts or opinions. Look for any prejudices or biases. You can interpret as to whether any portions of the message, if any were exaggerated or what was their intent and accordingly you can come up with a response.

Responding is still a part of the listening process. After receiving, understanding, and evaluating of the listening process, you will be better prepared to address the important points with proper awareness of the context and with clear understanding of the speaker’s perspective. While responding, be clear of what part of the message you are addressing instead of repeating or completing their sentences. You can either share about a similar experience you had or you can introduce your ideas, suggestions or thoughts.

To conclude,

What do you do in a conversation? Are you more inclined to speak or listen? When you are listening, do you stay focused or does your mind wander? Do you ask questions with an intent to understand ? Can you keep yourself from interrupting or defending or saying anything for a while? Do you encourage others to express themselves or share their opinions freely?

In order to first speak, one must learn to listen. It is when you start to listen, you discover new possibilities. Each of the above stages take place naturally during our daily conversations in very short time. Even though listening is a simple process, it may take a while to become an effective listener, like any other skill, it takes time, patience and practice. Next time when you find yourself engaging in a conversation, use the above tips to improve your listening process and make yourself more conscious and aware of your moments in the conversation.

 

 

 

Break your habit of unhappiness

“Happiness is not a goal. It is a by-product of a life well-lived.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Happiness largely depends upon ourselves and how we perceive the world around us. But most of us feel as though happiness is something out there that we need to really strive for and live in a state of never-ending unhappiness by chasing it. The more we chase the idea of happiness, the less happy we are likely to feel. We all expect success to result in happiness and in anticipation to achieve happiness, we constantly strive, compare, and seek for external validation which only adds to our unhappiness. When we postpone our happiness to something in future like getting a promotion or better marks or to next big thing, we experience discontentment and our wait often becomes endless as we never get to happiness and it seems to be forever eluding. Some people even indulge in unhappy thoughts and habits since they subconsciously believe that by taking the hard road and looking at things pessimistically, they can produce better results. Many times, we seem content to wallow in our own misery and indulge in unhappy thoughts and habits despite having it all.

Why are we addicted to unhappiness?

The more we strive for happiness, the more we get addicted to unhappiness. Our minds became increasingly skilled at predicting and avoiding danger in order ṭo survive. So our minds are still constantly on the lookout for problems. We tend to assess and judge almost everything we encounter: Is this good or bad? harmful or helpful? Not being able to measure up to ours or others’ expectations, we create negative, unhappy feelings and tend to put ourselves down. We spend lot of time worrying about things that, more often than not, never happen. Our basic human tendency is to belong to a group or a clan which makes us constantly worry about being rejected, Am I fitting in? or Am I doing the right thing? Am I as good as others? Because of today’s social media habits, we compare ourselves with a whole host of people who are more smarter, more powerful, or more successful or more admired than we are. We compare ourselves to an impossible standard and end up feeling not good enough, remain dissatisfied and unhappy.

There are several scientific studies indicating that many people have a feeling of being unhappy. According to David Sack, an expert in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine, people who appear addicted to unhappiness tend ṭo find reasons to be miserable when life gets “too good”. He says they prefer to take the victim role and compete with others to see who has it the hardest. Here are some more signs according to him that say you are addicted ṭo unhappiness.

• Blaming others rather than taking the personal responsibility for your choices.

• Having difficulty in setting and achieving goals.

• Struggle to bounce back when things don’t go your way.

• Distract, escape or cope through other addictive or compulsive behaviors.

• Feel enslaved to your emotions and powerless to change.

• Avoid and procrastinate dealing with problems.

• Habit of judging yourself too harshly.

• Struggle to celebrate your goals.

• You have hard time putting things behind you.

• Feel dissatisfied even when life is going well.

• Complain about everything and worry about things that have not happened yet.

Most of the times, we compare, evaluate, criticise ourselves, focus on what we are lacking and get dissatisfied with what we have. Feelings of insecurity and lack of self-esteem also makes you feel undeserving of happiness. Growing up with excessive discipline, unrealistic expectations, or many negative experiences may fuel an unconscious desire to unhappiness. Negative emotions like anger, shame, guilt,and worry have an addictive quality that triggers the reward centres in brain. Negative emotions are fine in moderation, but toxic when indulged in regularly. You might find it hard to be happy if you are consumed by guilt or regret from your past decisions or experiences. By identifying the signs of unhappiness in your life, you can work towards improving your state of happiness.

What exactly is ‘Happiness’?

Happiness is a state characterised by contentment and general satisfaction with ones current situation. Usually it refers to a feeling that is a sense gladness or gratification. However, if we consider happiness as a feeling, its pursuit becomes unsatisfying and harder you pursue feelings of gratification, the more you are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. So, happiness is neither a fleeting, momentary experience nor a permanent personality trait. It is a life of meaning, contentment and purpose. If you live in the direction that you consider valuable and worthy , when you clarify what you stand for in life and act accordingly, you attain a sense of fulfilment that is both deeply satisfying and long lasting.

Why is it important to break your habit of unhappiness?

When you are addicted to unhappiness, you get disconnected from the positive emotions. This decreases your creative thinking and reasoning. Unhappiness leads to stress and self-deprecating thoughts. By breaking your habit of unhappiness, you can learn how to handle such negative feelings differently and in such a way that they bother you a whole lot less. Unhappiness in your personal or professional endeavours is the result of a lack of intrinsic motivation and failure to cope with stress. In a happy state of mind, creative ideas flow in and you are better at problem-solving and decision-making. Happy people are more productive and are less prone to work-related stress and increases your motivation. It reduces depression, and improves wellness and immune activity as you experience positive emotions.

How to break your habit of unhappiness

Intention is the driving force behind being happy. You can break your habit of unhappiness by making a conscious decision to be happy and taking responsibility for your own happiness by changing your behaviour and thoughts. Here are some simple ways to do so.

Set yourself free from unhelpful and unhappy habits

Some of your habits and behaviour pull you down into unhappiness. Like for instance, procrastinating can make you guilty. Being unorganised or over-scheduling can make you feel inadequate when you fail to accomplish your tasks. Too many digital distractions can make you feel anxious, and depressed. Complaining, controlling and blaming others leads to stress. Obsessing about every detail and wanting everything to be perfect can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. When you’re trying to quit bad habits you might get critical with yourself which can lead to bad moods. Instead of self-criticism, reassure yourself by making positive changes. Identifying such stressful habits and behaviours and understanding their triggers can help you implement change in your habits.

Find your flow

Flow is about enjoying what you do and is known as the state of optimal performance and engagement. Focusing and engaging fully in whatever you’re doing instead of dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future by concentrating on here and now, you can experience happiness. Being completely absorbed with what you’re doing and paying attention to what is happening in the moment can help you achieve happiness, satisfaction, and productivity.

Challenge your unhappy thought patterns

Happiness is largely determined by your thoughts and that’s what has your attention the vast majority of the time. You cannot control your thoughts but you can decide what is helpful and choose not to give the unhelpful thoughts too much importance or attention. Recognise thoughts, images and memories for what they are and allow them to come and go as they please, without fighting them, running from them or giving them more attention than they deserve. Label your ‘unhelpful’ thought patterns and consider more helpful ways to look at the problem. Your ‘should’ thoughts are just an insistence that the world bends to your will. Ban such thoughts as they tend to make you unhappy and frustrated. You can do so by setting realistic expectations.

Indulge in physical well-being

The more physically active you get, the greater will be your feeling of excitement and enthusiasm. Research has proved that walking, exercise and meditation promotes good health and improves one’s mood and increases feelings of happiness. In order to break your habit if unhappiness, follow a healthy regime coupled with exercise. Practicing mindfulness in everything you do to raise your level of happiness.

Focus on your values

Clarifying and connecting with your values is an essential step for making your life meaningful. Your values are reflections of what is most important in your heart: what sort of person you want to be; what is significant and meaningful to you; and what you want to stand for in this life. Your values provide direction for your life, and motivate you to make important changes. Happy life involves experiencing the right emotions based on your values and beliefs. Living your values is one of the way to add more happiness to everything you do.

“Happiness is the state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” – Ayn Rand

Practice Gratitude. 

Gratitude can decrease depression symptoms as well as stress. When we focus on our appreciation and gratitude for the things and people in our lives, we activate the reward centre of brain and positive aspects of your life suddenly become more relevant to you. By recognising what you are grateful for, you acknowledge your needs and become aware of the needs of others too thereby helps you feel more connected to others. Start having a daily gratitude ritual -can be an act, can be maintaining a journal. Focus on big and small acts of gratitude and write down three to five things you’re grateful for every day.

Be mindful of your present moment

Developing present moment awareness helps you to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future with hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what you have. When we connect with the world directly through our five senses, rather than being caught up in our thoughts, we let our judgements, complaints, and criticisms come and go, and we fully engage in the present moment. When we are mindful of our own thoughts, we can see them for what they are, and let them go. When we are mindful of our feelings, we can make room for them and let them be. And when we are mindful of our here-and-now experience, we are deeply connected with our inner happy self.

Focus on what’s in your control.

You have little control over your thoughts, emotions, or over other people. You can only control your actions and how you direct your attention. You can break your habit of unhappiness by engaging fully in what you’re doing and taking action in line with your values, no matter how tiny that action is. Through effective action, guided and motivated by your values, you can improve your overall greater well-being and can focus on fulfilment and meaningful life.

To conclude,

We all have different ways of being happy and there isn’t an universal formula. Your life is the result of series of decisions you made that have caused you to arrive where you are. If who you are and what you have is what you want, do more of what you’ve been doing. But if you are not happy with who you are, what you have, and your current conditions, make happiness a conscious choice and work towards making some basic inner changes with the help of above strategies.

To Do

• Think about what unhelpful habits and behaviour of yours that you would want to change.

• Accept and take effective action to improve the problematic situations you encounter.

• Connect with your values; use them for guidance.

• Understand the source of your negative feelings.

• Proactively deal with your problems now rather than avoiding or procrastinating.

• Cultivate a sense of purpose. Keep setting meaningful goals and pursue them vigorously. At the same time, appreciate what you have in your life right now.

• The past doesn’t exist; it’s nothing more than memories in the present. And the future doesn’t exist; it’s nothing more than thoughts and images in the present. The only time you ever have is this moment. So make the most of it. Appreciate it in its fullness.

How self-aware are you?

“Experiencing one’s self in a conscious manner–that is, gaining self-knowledge–is an integral part of learning.” — Joshua M. Freedman

Being self-aware is being conscious of your own identity and how you come across others. Your experiences, abilities, habits, feelings and preferences influence your behaviour. How well you truly know yourself and your effect on others is essential in today’s ‘me’ focused society, where we are seemingly becoming more self-obsessed and self-interested. We give into convenient labels and the opinion of others and tend to put on a social mask to make a definite impression upon others and conceal the true nature of ourselves. Constantly seeking and finding external validation replaces our authenticity with superficiality thereby diminishing our sense of true genuine self.

Many of us face difficulty in defining who we truly are on the deepest level because we don’t have a proper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and are prone to various biases and pre-existing beliefs that affect our ability to have a correct understanding of ourselves. We tend to believe narratives that support our pre-conceptions. Most of our behaviour stems from such biases, preconceptions, limiting belief or thought patterns. Many issues like stress, worry, negative beliefs, and moods can be understood more clearly by becoming more self-aware. The more you know about your existing negatives, the easier it is to improve them or create new positive habits.

Studies have shown that people who understand themselves and how others see them are generally better decision-makers, are more creative and collaborative. Being more self-aware also increases your emotional intelligence by changing your thoughts and interpretations. Even though self-awareness is correlated with many positive attributes like overall success and happiness, it never occurs to most of us to ask if we know ourselves as well as we think we do.

Understanding Self-awareness..

According to the theory of self-awareness proposed by Shelly Duval and Robert Wicklund, “When we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behaviour to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.” Your inner ‘self’ is something that is central to who you are, how you relate to others and to your standards of correctness or values or ideals.

According to Dr.Tasha Eurich, author of the book, Insight, there are two categories of self-awareness, internal and external self-awareness. The ability to monitor your thoughts, feelings, behaviour, strengths, weaknesses, values, passions and aspirations, and how well they fit with your present environment is internal self-awareness. You feel happy or discontent depending on how you measure up to your inner standards. For instance, recognising whether your current job matches your true passion makes you either happy or dissatisfied. The ability to see how others perceive you or how you relate to others is external self-awareness. Knowing how you are perceived and your understanding of others makes you more empathetic and ups your leadership abilities.

“Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our actions, our habits and tendencies.”

⁃ Stephen Covey

Why is it important to be self-aware?

An accurate self-assessment can help you figure out your blind spots and unknown spots. Having self-awareness means that you have a realisation of your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, your motivations, likes and dislikes. The more you understand yourself, the better you will be able to accept some of your weaknesses and can improve those areas. Self-aware people manage stressful situations without giving into the thoughts or emotions that are influenced from external events or situations. It is an important tool in developing leadership skills as it is easier to understand others and how they perceive you. You can increase your work motivation by seeking your true passions and lessening tasks you don’t want to pursue.

Self-awareness is different from self-focused attention which consists of simply thinking about yourself. It is more about paying attention to your inner state with a beginner’s mind. Our mind is skilful in storing information about how we react to certain events. Such information often ends up conditioning our mind to react in a certain way when we encounter similar situation. Being self-aware makes you conscious of such conditioning of mind and preconceptions.

Self-awareness & Productivity

If a particular habit or behaviour or mindset of yours that is self-destructive is holding you back in achieving your full potential, and for whatever reason, you are not aware of it, you end up supporting such behaviour or habit or mindset. But if you develop self-awareness, you can work around such habits and can better evaluate your values, passions and goals which fit and align thereby making yourself more productive and focused. With realistic introspection, you can see where your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are leading you, so you will be able to take control of your actions and can make necessary changes in the direction of your future goals. These changes may include building positive habits, or altering the way you respond to challenges, or to increase your Emotional Intelligence.

Self awareness provides you clear understanding of your skills be it managing, leading, or team-building. It gives you an opportunity to identify any gaps that you might have and areas in which you are effective and where you might need to improve by weighing your choices. You can create better work life balance as you become more aware of your emotions. It can increase your effectiveness in your decision-making and you can be more productive and focus on what you want to achieve.

How to become more self-aware?

Developing self-awareness is like building any other skill, it can be strengthened through practice. Here are some ways to improve your self-awareness.

Gain a different perspective through honest feedback

Gaining a different perspective is important to get a true sense of who you are. Seek honest feedback from people whom you trust or work with or lead. Ask for honest and valid response that is insightful and helpful. Formalised feedback allows you to know your strengths and weaknesses. Be open to receive constructive feedback without feeling attached. Listen to it without justifying, evaluating or defending yourself. This way you can learn to become more self-aware. It is impossible to be completely self-aware without gaining a different perspective on who you are as this will help you shore up some of those unknown traits. You will also be able to differentiate a biased and dishonest feedback from real and genuine one as you learn more about yourself and others.

Practice Self-reflection

Daily self-reflection is important to improve your self-awareness. Develop a regular practice of reflecting on your strengths and core values. Also reflect on your fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs. Try to identify your perceptions. Write down things that you think you are good at or that you need to improve. Write about the thoughts that you come across in stressful situations and how do you react in such situations. Reflect on how people you work with perceive you. Write down your plans, goals and priorities to get a better idea of who you are and what you want to achieve. Self-reflection is a way to connect and pay close attention to your inner world –what you are feeling or saying to yourself.

Practice Mindfulness

Becoming self-aware is about bringing conscious awareness into your everyday living through the process of mindfulness. Paying attention to your inner state in the present moment non-judgmentally allows you to observe your thoughts without suppressing them. By simply being present in the moment teaches you to observe, identify, and respond to underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way rather than to recoil and react impulsively. Meditative mindfulness helps you in making choices that add up to help you build the life you want. Be mindful and accept everything that arises in your inner awareness to experience your unchanging inner self. You can practice regular meditation through mindful daily activities like while communicating, eating, walking or listening.

Ask ‘What’ instead of ‘Why’

Most self-aware people are those whose introspective thinking is based on ‘what’ rather than ‘why’. Studies have shown that asking yourself ‘why’ when introspecting can cause you to ruminate in negative feelings. Self-evaluation through ‘why’ could leave you feeling more depressed, anxious and unproductive. For instance, when you think of a situation that made you feel bad, if you ask yourself ‘“why do I feel bad?” makes you feel self-depreciated. Instead asking yourself ‘’what are the situations that are making me feel bad?’ can help you recognise the factors outside your control that are making you experience that particular emotion and you can come up with necessary changes. When it comes to developing self-awareness, asking ‘what’ questions are more productive to help you focus on your future goals and to come up with solutions.

Acknowledge and own your personal narrative

Everyone has a personal narrative that shapes our personality and gives a direction to our purpose. Our narratives help us discover our strengths, our experiences and guide us towards our future goals. Your personal narrative includes your opinions, reactions, experiences, emotions, your vulnerability and your strengths. It is important to understand your narrative to frame your life experiences. Focus on your life and highlight the times you felt something deeply – happiness, anger, excitement, grief, anxiety or fear. The emotions you experience act as your guide to repeat the positive times and avert the negative ones. Your personal stories not just help give a shape to your purpose, but also gives you the strength and guidance for the future. How do you frame your challenges and setbacks? What are the values you stand by? Which people and events have had the greatest impact in shaping the person you have become? Knowing your personal narrative and owning it can help you gain more self-awareness.

Finally, Reframe your limiting beliefs

Self-awareness is not about simply thinking about yourself. It means that you shouldn’t ignore the assumptions you hold about yourself or your thoughts, habits, behaviour or beliefs that are holding you back. If you have some negative or limiting beliefs about yourself, spend time to think about how these limiting thoughts made you feel about completing your goals or objectives. Did such beliefs caused a hindrance in the past? Reframe such thoughts to preferred positives to try in similar situations in the future.

To conclude,

How well do you know yourself? How deeply do you understand your strengths, motivations or flaws? What do you need to improve? Are you emotionally intelligent?What are you doing that is in alignment with your values? What thoughts are holding you back? What is your narrative identify?

Reflecting on such questions and accepting your thoughts and feelings unconditionally and without judging yourself can help you bring awareness in to your daily tasks to achieve your goals. Like any other skill, developing self-awareness takes time and also at times it can be quite challenging to achieve an honest self-assessment, but by adopting a mindful approach without harsh self-judgment and building the above mentioned practices into your daily activities can help you become more self-aware.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/10/enhance-your-emotional-quotient/

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2019/02/24/how-to-build-new-empowering-beliefs/

 

How to build lasting Motivation

 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. – Francis of Assisi

Whenever we try to make changes in our life, or include a new habit, or change unhelpful habits, or want to learn a new skill, or start a certain project, we need a lot of motivation. Sometimes it is easy to keep yourself motivated, other times, it is nearly impossible to figure out how to motivate yourself and you either end up procrastinating, or deferring or giving up on your new habits or behaviour. It is also tough to stay motivated all the time. There are bound to be days when you don’t feel like working towards your personal and professional goals and there will be off days where your energy and enthusiasm are in downward spiral. Often our motivation and enthusiasm tends to be very high after starting something new, but after a while, it fades away. As a result, we fail to maintain that level of enthusiasm through the action phase and we stop doing what we started to do. When you lack motivation, your great ideas almost seem impossible and impractical.

When we are motivated, it becomes easier to bear the inconvenience of action than the discomfort of remaining same and we come up with inspiring ideas. Motivation is important to become successful in your pursuit of goal-striving. You may want to set the best goals and establish right rewards to motivate yourself or your team or those around you. There are plenty of ways to get motivated. But certain permanent habit changes or to attain certain of your goals or objectives requires consistency. To achieve this, you need to stay motivated for long periods of time.

So, what can you do to be motivated on a consistent basis? To build lasting motivation, it is important that we understand what motivation really is, what factors guide and direct our motivation and types of motivation.

Understanding Motivation ..

Motivation is the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. It makes you to act on your plans be it gaining a skill or working towards your fitness goals or work goals.

Motivation indicates motives or whys of our behaviour like our needs or wants or desires that make us do what we do. It is an inner force that pushes you to do and accomplish things, but by simply having the desire to accomplish something is not good enough to motivate yourself. It also involves initiation of behaviour, ability to persist through obstacles and focus to pursue the goal or desire.

Many factors lead to motivation that can activate, direct and help you in sustaining your goal-oriented behaviour. It is important to understand these factors behind motivation. Sometimes, our behaviour is motivated by certain basic human instincts like anger, survival, safety, fear, and love. Some are motivated to do things because of external rewards like money, fame, and compliments or for future expectations. But many of our behaviours are motivated to fulfil our biological needs and drives like need to eat, drink and sleep. According to Dr. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. our most basic needs must be met before we become motivated to achieve higher level needs. First we are motivated to fulfil basic physiological needs like food and shelter, then the safety needs, then those of belongingness & love needs, and then esteem needs like feeling of accomplishment. Once these needs have been met. The primary motivator becomes the self-actualisation or achieving one’s full potential.

To become motivated on a daily basis, you must be able to identify the factors that influence motivation and any thoughts that are moving you away from it.”

Types of Motivation

When it comes to motivating yourself for health or fitness or career goals being motivated ‘intrinsically’ or ‘extrinsic’ can make all the difference. If you are intrinsically motivated, you do something because you find it inherently satisfying. May be you take up to a sport because you enjoy the challenge, or eat healthy food because you prefer the taste. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful as it involves emphasising on your values, and processes for achieving goals that are relevant to your life in the present and not based on some distant future rewards. But the downside is that there is not always an obvious way to create intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation takes the form of a reward or punishment. Some intentionally pursue certain actions in order to gain rewards. External rewards like compliments or fame or winning can get you started but it only lasts as long as there is an external reward and there are chances that it might decrease your intrinsic motivation. Researchers have found that when people are given external rewards for activities that they already find intrinsically motivating, they became less interested in participating in those activities in the future. Sometimes there can be extrinsic-intrinsic motivational factors like for instance, from desire to help others or support a cause you care about, you would want to create something that will benefit others.

Use of external rewards to motivate desired behaviours can be useful in some cases as they can be easily created to get you started, but intrinsic factors like desire for achieving and willingness to put in your effort can be even more important to build lasting motivation. Your intrinsic motivation can be improved by making your activities sufficiently challenging and interesting.

Short-term vs long-term motivation

Maintaining motivation over the long run is difficult as your drive to achieve your objectives is constantly obstructed by negative thoughts and your anxiety about the future. Some people seem to have all the motivation in the world, while others in spite of having all the goals, remain unmotivated and stuck. Every one faces self-doubt. But what separates high achievers and highly successful is their ability to keep themselves motivated to go after their goals and aspirations. Sometimes we get motivated after reading an inspirational book or when we listen or watch a motivational video, but it doesn’t last long as learning and hearing about others’ success can only motivate you for short-term. Whereas by gaining self-awareness, creating your own ideas and applying them to achieve your goals can result in long-term passion and momentum that lasts long.

You have all these goals you would desperately want to achieve and feel as though you have so much potential, yet there are times when you feel unmotivated. There are some valid reasons for lacking motivation. May be it is your emotional reasoning, or negative thoughts and beliefs, or fear of failure, lack of focus or confidence that is making you demotivated. The key is to understand these reasons to help you become aware of how you got yourself into this demotivated state.

So, how to stay motivated in the long-term?

Without enough motivation, you will fall back to indulging in unhelpful and limiting habits that will only keep you stuck and unmotivated. With the right kind of motivation, you will always find reasons to keep going no matter what obstacles you might face. There isn’t a single method that fits all when it comes to motivation. But if you decide to take the initiative to make necessary changes in your pursuit of achieving your personal or professional goals, you can build right momentum to stay motivated. Here are some strategies to help you build lasting motivation.

Find your motivation

Set achievable goals to work on and spend time to think why these goals are important to you. Identify your motivations for pursuing these goals, either motivations you already have that is intrinsic or sources of extrinsic motivation you could create for yourself. Write down both the goal and the motivation. Always build your habits and set personal standards that supports your desired goals and objectives. If your motivation is extrinsic, don’t overrely on extrinsic rewards. Choose a reward or punishment that will reinforce your intrinsic motivation and try them only during initial learning period or when you have no intrinsic interest in the activity and phase out once you develop interest.

Build routines

The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain

By building routines, you can follow through your work or goals regardless of your motivation levels. Routine building makes your activity repeatable and easy to do. It gets you started and reduces the chance that you skip it and can pull you into the right frame of mind . Your routine should get you moving towards your goals. When your routine gets tied to your goals, by simply doing the routine, you enter motivated state to accomplish your objectives. When you lack motivation, it is harder to decide what you should do next, and you often give up on the task or activity. However, by building routine, you can just follow the pattern, show up and build the momentum to do the work and can stay motivated.

Find your Flow

In order to build lasting motivation, it is important to find your flow. Flow is a state of being “in the zone” where you are completely involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; To find your flow, it is necessary that the challenges or tasks you face are just manageable. Break away from boring old routines and find ways to make them challenging that match your current abilities. By working on tasks of optimal difficulty and adding incremental challenges, you will not only be motivated but also improve your skills and move closer to achieving your goals.

Challenge your Limiting Beliefs

People with self-sabotaging beliefs are often unmotivated and simply lack interest. If you have set of limiting beliefs that are in conflict with your goals, or new ideas, or new beliefs, then you will likely to sabotage your enthusiasm and motivation. This is because when you face situations where your pre-existing belief system gets so strongly threatened, you experience negative emotions making you demotivated. When you have negative beliefs – ask yourself – what’s the evidence for and against your belief? If it is demotivating, replace it with new belief that strengthens your desire to achieve your goals. Being open to new ideas and alternative perspectives increase your motivation and make you willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.” – Brian Tracy

Improve your Psy-cap

Your psy-cap is the psychological capital which is a combination of your self-efficacy,(your ability to take on and devote the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks) hope,(which increases your desire to persevere) resilience, (your ability to face problems and adversity) and optimism (ability to believe that you will succeed). By improving your psy-cap, you can feel accomplished, appreciated, motivated and empowered in your pursuit of achieving purpose oriented goals. This way you are more likely to stick with your routine or habits or behaviour. Surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and focus on your strengths to rejuvenate your motivation

Focus on the efforts not on outcome

Focusing on the outcomes or only on your talents can make you person of fixed mindset or view. This decreases your motivation and it is more likely that you might easily get unmotivated at the instance of a failure, or mistake or when you encounter a difficulty. Instead of focusing on the outcome and imagining your success, try to visualise the effort that goes into making your goals into a reality. Figure out what type of challenges you might encounter. This way you can deal with them easily and can come up with strategies to overcome those challenges. By assessing your efforts, you can build lasting motivation and can improve on your future actions.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goal.” – Zig Ziglar

Finally,

Recharge your willpower

What most people try to do with willpower is that they keep exerting it forever thinking that it never gets depleted. You can only rely on will power to get yourself motivated in short bursts. Over-reliance on will power by convincing yourself that you need to try harder only leads to an endless cycle of over-exertion and failure. Avoid situations where your willpower is used continuously without rest. Indulge yourself in activities that you find relaxing and refreshing that can restore your willpower.

To conclude,

• Set clear goals that affirm your values. make you happier, healthier and feel better.

• Be aware of what committing to your goals will ultimately achieve, beyond the goal itself.

• Build routines to get you started that take you closer to your end goal.

• Strive for higher needs like passion and creativity.

• Focus on intrinsic goals like personal growth and well-being as opposed to external motivators like money and status.

• Make your tasks challenging enough to find your flow.

Strong, lasting motivation is often the biggest difference between your success and failure. When it comes to achieving your important goals, it’s very common to lose your motivation a little way down the line. When you aren’t feeling motivated, remind yourself why you are doing what you do and apply the above strategies to build lasting motivation.

 

 

Enhance your Emotional Quotient

People who perceive emotions accurately (both in themselves and others) better understand difficult situations.” – Travis Bradberry

Most of our lives are driven by emotions as we pursue whatever we hope will make us feel good and avoid unpleasant ones. Imagine what your life would be like if you spent much of your time and energy struggling to fix the weather every time it stormed, snowed or grew windy. Yet most of us attempt to do just that with our emotions. We seek help or look for strategies to fix our feelings when we get overwhelmed by them. But we never seek to improve our emotional state by working directly on our emotions. When it comes to achieving success, whether it’s at the work, or in bettering health, or in developing leadership skills, or pursuing your goals, research has revealed that your emotional intelligence is the key and plays a very important role in learning and managing your emotions and of those around you.

When it comes to better self-control, developing dedication and cultivating perseverance, many of us tend to suppress our emotional responses that might get in the way of reaching our long-term aspirations and rely mostly on reason, logic and analysis as opposed to our emotional understanding. But on the contrary, emotions can be a powerful tool to keep you mentally strong to persevere through your efforts with better self-control. Your mental strength is a matter of your emotional intelligence(EQ). Emotional intelligence affects how you manage your behaviour, overcome challenges and make personal decisions to achieve positive results. Building your Emotional intelligence can help you to manage stress, turn your intention into action and achieve your personal and professional goals. It is an important skill to acquire and matters more than your intellect and in a way it is the direct measure of your leadership skill and productivity.

What is your Emotional Quotient ?

Your emotional Intelligence quotient is your ability to recognise understand your own emotions, the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to manage our inner self, our relationships and to manage emotions of others’. Emotional intelligence or your Emotional Quotient is commonly defined by following attributes.

Self-awareness – Your ability to recognise and understand your emotions and how they affect you. This means recognising how they impact your thoughts and actions and how your emotions can help or limit you from achieving your goals.

Self-management – Your ability to manage, control, and adapt your moods, emotions, and responses in a way that allows you to accomplish a task or reach a goal. This also includes your ability of self-control and to control your emotional reactions.

Motivation – Your ability to harness your emotions to motivate yourself and others to take appropriate action, commit, and work towards goals. Instead of trying to force others into action, it is your ability to use insight and persuasion to motivate others to act in their own accord.

Empathy – Your ability to understand the needs, emotions and perspectives of those around you to better manage relationships. It is the ability to influence through your communication and listening skills.

Social-awareness – Your ability to accurately perceive the emotions of others and use that understanding to relate to others in social situations and the ability to lead, negotiate and work as good team players.

Why is it important to improve your Emotional Quotient?

People with high emotional intelligence make good leaders as they are able to understand what motivates others and relate to them in a positive manner with better decision-making capabilities, providing solutions to problems, resolving disputes and negotiating abilities due to the very nature of their ability to understand the needs and wants of others. Having greater EQ can help you in your interpersonal situations where it is important to understand others and plan your actions accordingly and to maintain mental and emotional well-being. It helps to alleviate anxiety, avoid mood swings, and stress. By better understanding and managing your emotions, you are able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and can strive to work on your weaknesses.

It’s easier to resolve conflicts when you empathise with others’ perspective. It is an awareness of your actions and feelings and how they affect those around you. It also means that you value others, listen to their needs and are able to empathise with them. Negative emotional state can sabotage your clear thought and focus. Developing emotional stability capacitates focusing at will and inhibits strong impulses and urges making you better equipped in terms of how to handle things rather than worrying about what can go wrong.

EQ enhances Productivity

Although your intelligence quotient is important to success in life, Emotional intelligence which is built on the foundation of self-awareness helps you to be more content and fosters your own productivity. Higher Emotional Quotient helps you to be internally motivated which can reduce procrastination, better self-control and improves your ability to focus on your goals. The ability to control emotions or impulses, allows you not to make impulsive and careless decisions and helps in resisting short-term gratification for long-term success.

Enhancing your emotional quotient results in getting to know the people you work with to build better relationships and in helping them to develop new strengths or refining their abilities. Being emotionally supportive and empathetic improves relationship strengths like influence, persuasion, teamwork,cooperation and motivates people to work at their best. Your emotional quotient built on the foundation of self-awareness, develops perseverance, resilience, and the drive to achieve goals.

How to enhance your Emotional Quotient?

Enhancing your emotional quotient is not to attain a permanent pleasurable emotional state, neither it means that you ignore, devalue, or pretend they don’t exist. It involves fully acknowledging your feelings and to act constructively in line with your goals. Although you cannot directly control or change your emotional state, you can achieve freedom from their impulsiveness and domination by enhancing your emotional quotient. Here are some strategies to enhance your Emotional Quotient.

Identify your emotional triggers

If your emotions are unpleasant or uncomfortable, you may want to avoid them by distracting yourself. But suppressing your emotions only makes things worse. The more you try to ignore them, the more uncontrollable they get. Instead get to know what triggers them. Some unresolved issues can trigger an emotionally reaction. By recognising your emotional triggers, you can respond to them in a conscious manner rather than reacting to them unconsciously. This way, you can resist impulses and urges, remain calm and can think clearly during an emotional turbulence. Learning what triggers your emotions and which emotions are driving your behaviour can help you achieve emotional stability.

Free yourself from unhappy emotions

Do you resent doing what you are doing? It may be your job, or you may have agreed to do something and are doing it, but part of you resents and resists it. Are you carrying unspoken resentment towards a person close to you or to a situation? If there is, observe it on both mental and emotional levels. Observe your emotion, which is the body’s reaction to those thoughts. Feel the emotion. Does it feel pleasant or unpleasant? Your unhappiness is not only polluting your emotions but also those around you. Attending to unhappy emotions by a way of communication and expressing fully what you feel, you can free yourself of unhappy emotions and improve your emotional quotient.

Practice self-observation

Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. Do a self-evaluation. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you willing to accept your imperfections? Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, you can learn from your mistakes and constantly strive to build on your strengths. Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to conclusions before you know all the facts? Examine how you react to stressful situations. How do you react when someone or a situation doesn’t measure up to your expectations? Look honestly at your ability to stay calm and in control of difficult situations and how you think and interact with other people. Self-observation improves self-awareness which is the building block of your emotional quotient.

Emotional self-awareness is the building block of the next fundamental emotional intelligence: being able to shake off a bad mood” – Daniel Goleman

Accept your negative emotions

If you call some emotions negative, what you really saying that they shouldn’t be there, that it’s not okay to have those emotions. When you attribute the cause of your negativity to outside factors, you become the target. Instead accept whatever feelings come up, rather than judging them as bad or denying their presence. It’s okay to feel resentful; it’s okay to feel angry, irritated, moody; by accepting your negative emotions, you can avoid repression, inner conflict, or denial. When you accept your negative emotions, you are no longer forced to act them out blindly, and you are less likely to project them onto others. This way, you can shift your attention to what you can do to improve your situation rather than trying to instantly improve your feelings, which you can’t do.

Improve your focus

Focus helps you to recover more quickly from upsetting emotions. Two kinds of focus enhances your emotional stability. First, focus on inward awareness of your thoughts and your emotions and apply them to constructive activities like achieving your goals. Second, focus on others’ emotions, to empathise, perceive and understand their feelings, desires, and motives, and this can help you to have effective interactions and relationships. Through mindfulness, you can focus on your own emotions and focus on emotions of others to be aware of how their emotional state changes from moment to moment. Focusing on your emotions through present moment awareness can influence your emotional state.

Finally,

Practice self-management

You must be able to use your emotions for constructive decisions about your behaviour. Constantly building on your positive emotional state and learning from your negative emotions will make you an emotionally better person. At times, when you are obsessed by worries and anxieties, by staying emotionally present, you can have resolute attitude and better self-control. Develop an attitude of tolerance and ability to make choices that allow you to control impulsive behaviours. By managing your emotions in healthy way, you can act thoughtfully and develop the ability to think clearly.

Conclusion

What is your emotional quotient? Do you fave difficulty in regulating your emotions? Is it difficult for you to gather your emotional strength to work at your best? Do you have the difficulty in reading emotions of others or of your own? Consider achieving emotional freedom by accepting your emotions, and the emotions of others, as a natural part of life. Assess your emotional quotient to know your emotional strengths and weaknesses. Apply the above mentioned strategies in constructive ways to influence your emotional state and to enhance your Emotional Quotient.

To-do

• Work on understanding and expressing your own emotions.

• Manage, adapt and accept your emotions.

• Perceive and understand the emotions of others and use that to build better relationships with those around you to lead, influence, negotiate, or work as a part of team.

• Regulate your emotions by being competent and self-motivated to achieve your set goals.

• Direct your emotions to maximise your productivity, handle difficulties, and to seek solutions to problems.

• Develop tolerance for ambiguity and remain flexible in the face of obstacles.

• Don’t give into your instant gratification, persevere and focus on your goals for long-term success.

Practice being non-judgmental

“You May judge others only according to your knowledge of yourself.”- Kahlil Gibran

We all have a natural innate tendency to be drawn to those similar to us and judge or criticise those who are different. Whenever we come across people who have different values, lifestyles or preferences, we tend to categorise them in a negative way or either criticise or think that they are wrong. Compartmentalizing, better known as judging, aids us in defining who and what we are. Sometimes, we judge a whole group of people by the action of one individual and make assumptions about their behaviour based on single person’s actions. Many of us are aware that prejudice or being judgmental is wrong, but get trapped eventually into biased thought patterns. In order to become non-judgmental and to be aware of our preconceived notions about others, we need to change our view of others and how we ourselves.

What is being judgmental?

Being judgmental is the tendency to criticise or form an opinion or to come to a conclusion about something too quickly without totally being aware of the person or the situation involved. To infer, think or hold as an opinion, or assess or conclude without knowing all the facts leads to assumptions. These assumptions can be on a person’s behaviour, morals, actions or beliefs. Assumptions often lead to inaccurate judgment. Even if your opinions are justified, criticising others ususally makes them wary and defensive of their faults or mistakes.

Jumping to conclusions rather easily, making up your mind before you hear all the facts, or not even keen on listening to what others are saying, all these traits indicate that you are being judgmental. While no one necessarily likes to admit that they evaluate and label others, sometimes it happens so subconsciously that we don’t even realize we’re judfing. Because judgments are ingrained so deeply that it can be hard to break the habit of labeling others or generalizing a person or situation.

“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”– Wayne Dyer

Why do we judge others?

We all like judging others and pass our judgments of others very publicly. It feels harmless to pass our judgment of others as it can give you an instant high and create a temporary sense of power and make you feel good. But, there’s a downside to us being judgmental. It causes unhappiness, guilt, and negativity. We almost become opinionated about many things and people. Due to increased access to one another, we develop a judgmental attitude on just about everything and everyone, from choices, tastes, habits, views and beliefs.

The main reason we become judgmental is because of our own perception of ourselves in comparison to others and could also be a sign of deeper negativity. Here are some reasons why we judge others. We judge

  • When we are ignorant of what the other person is going through.
  • When we don’t understand the situation.
  • When we have unrealistic expectations of people.
  • When we are being superior to others.
  • Being self-centered and not being grateful or curious.

Being judgmental of people and situations only signifies your discontentment and the more you judge, the more you fear being judged. This undermines your self-esteem and makes you turn to your inner-critic giving rise to fallacies and biases. According to a research, the more positively someone described the other person, the more likely they were to be happy, kind-hearted, and emotionally stable themselves. Those who are judgmental were harsh and more likely to be narcissistic and unstable.

Why you should stop being judgmental

Being prejudiced can be bad for your well-being. You sabotage your confidence and potential by being too judgmental of yourself and others. Here is why you should stop being judgmental

  • Being prejudiced, you may stop yourself from trying something new because you already come to conclusions that either you wouldn’t like to do or may not be worth doing a particular task. These conclusions may or may not be true. Instead, by being non-judgmental, you can open yourself to new experiences and try doing something new which you may eventually find it exciting.
  • You cannot build better relations if you are always judgmental as others feel hesitant to share everything about them because you either ridicule them or judge them. However, by being non-judgmental, you create a safe environment to share and they can trust you to do so and can build better relationships with others.
  • Being judgmental leads to non-acceptance of things as they are and makes you resistant to change or adopt yourself to new and different environments and beliefs.  Being non-judgmental leads to acceptance of things as they are and you can develop more resilience to other people’s judgment of you.  This way, you don’t get weigh down by trying to figure out the opinions of others.
  • By frequently forming conclusions or judgments of others, you end up creating lot of negativity in yourself and in those around you. You cannot attain freedom of being your true self and also cannot see others inherent true self. You cannot find your inner-peace as it makes you frustrated and unhappy.

How do you become non-judgmental?

If we realize how habitually we come judgmental, we can try and unlearn that behavior. We cannot solve a problem or help any situation form place of judgment. One of the best changes you can make to help yourself be happier is by learning to let go of your judgment of others.  Here are few ways to let go of your prejudice and become non-judgmental.

Develop awareness of others before you get judgmental about them. Sometimes we grow unhappy with the things we notice in our friends or kids or co-workers because we judge them for what they are doing. It may be their unhealthy habits, or behavior and so on. we start labeling them without understanding what they are going through. We are all human. We must remind ourselves that we all have our own weaknesses; we all make wrong decisions.There might be other reasons behind their such behavior, maybe it is their health problem, either they are feeling stuck, or scared. Focus on their positives to try and understand the reason behind and get curious in knowing what they are going through.

Be aware of your judgmental thoughts. Explore how being judgmental about others makes you feel. If you feel angry or dismissive of someone, if you’re complaining of someone, commenting or gossiping about them, these are the signs that you are judging. Pay attention to such thoughts and instead of coming to conclusions, ask yourself, “why are you judging?”, “What unrealistic expectations you have about others or yourself?’, “what can you appreciate in other person?”, “what would you do if you were going through similar situation?”, “Where is this thought coming from?”, ‘Is this thought fair?’ or ‘Are you making any assumptions?’. Once you understand the irrational nature of your judgmental thoughts, you will be able to actively challenge your assumptions and can see your prejudice irrational.

Figure out the roots of your judgmental thoughts. Look for some past beliefs you have that are influencing your preconceived opinions. Past prejudiced beliefs which you may have learned overtime may be the reason behind you being judgmental. Your true self is a combination of natural tendencies, experiences you have had and the choices you have made. When you have deep-seated beliefs about a group of people or a person, you begin to see those beliefs reflected in being judgmental towards others. Checking whether your beliefs are really true can help you to handle situations that are against your beliefs. This way, you can still respect the person who holds different views and beliefs than yours.

Be mindful of thoughts that are coming to your mind and words that you speak. it is okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. But it doesnt give you the right to judge them just because you dont agree with them. You must be mindful of how you respond, represent, and react to others. When you feel the urge to judge or speak in an unloving way,  practice to pause for a moment, and rephrase your internal thoughts before you communicate it to them. Dont deem someone’s actions as bad or good and avoid using words that are overtly negative or condescending.  The communication must be positive or at the very least not ill-spirited.

Consider others perspective before judging. Everyone has their personality that affects their behaviour. Before leaping to judgment or evaluating someone else’s actions or personality, place yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from and their perspective. Everyone makes choices according to their life circumstances. Not everyone has same experiences you have had. You must accept the fact that everyone has a free will to decide what they want to do and how they want to live. It is all relative to their story, values, and beliefs.  Be empathetic and look for basic goodness in everyone. By developing a helpful outlook to others, you can practice being non-judgmental towards them.

Finally, exposing yourself to different places, cultures, and people, you can begin to break your prejudiced thought patterns and you can adopt alternative ways of thinking. Sometimes what we consider normal in one place or culture may be different in other. The more you are able to accept the differences, the more you can practice being non-judgmental.

Conclusion

Judging is rooted deep within all of us. We pass unrighteous judgment on others based on our observations and interactions which creates the tone for why we place people into categories. But it is always possible to avoid our judgment of others if we practice being non-judgmental in our day to day behaviours and interpretations. Next time when you find yourself judging others, question yourself “am I judging them” and if you are, remind yourself of above mentioned strategies to break the cycle of judging.

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Walt Whitman

Why loving what you do is important

“Love what you do and do what you love. Passion is the key that opens the door to joy and abundance.” – David Cuschieri

We cannot always associate success with either wealth or fame. To live successfully, you have to make choices that help you connect with what you most desire and your cherished goals. Finding and following one’s passion is a key to success and is important to live with happiness and fulfilment. Pursuing your life with passion also makes you more self-aware and self-confident. We might have our passion, but life doesn’t always afford us opportunities to follow our passions and we struggle to find passion in what we do on a daily basis. Also, as we go through life in a busy and monotonous way, our interests and passions take a back seat and we make money and career a priority. As a result, we lose touch with things that bring us happiness and we forget to search meaning and purpose in our life. Sometimes our limiting beliefs,or unresolved emotions, or self-doubt hold us back from living our life with passion.

What is passion?

Passion means having keen enthusiasm or intense desire for something. But it is not just enough to have enthusiasm and excitement, you should be able to channel this desire and enthusiasm to achieve what you really want to. Passion is ambition that is materialised into action. At the same time, passion cannot be considered as a starting point or an end point as your passions evolve as you grow. You might lose your passion for something as your interests change. Some people may discover what their passions are early in life while some discover their interests as they go through their life experiences. In fact even for high achievers, the road to their passion wasn’t easy enough as most of them spent long time exploring different possibilities. In other words, your passion can’t be the totality of your life nor it means that you have to get set on a singular idea. But just wishing or feeling passion for things and not working towards them is not being passionate. Living to your highest potential and working towards things you wish for is what is considered as living with passion.

There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” –Nelson Mandela

Why is passion important?

Whether you are considering starting a new business or turning a hobby into a career, or working on any other dimension of your life, it is important that you pursue them with passion. You cannot give your complete attention to your work or stick with it in the long run if you are not interested. To be successful in your endeavours, passion is not the only ingredient, you also require intellect, discipline, persistence and hard work along with passion.  But at the same time, passion becomes an important ingredient as it can motivate you intrinsically.  We all need motivation in order to stay peristent in our efforts to realise our goals or to pursue our what we love.  But extrinsic motivation in the form of rewards like fame and money can only get you started, whereas passion keeps you intrinsically motivated which can lead to life-changing improvements and well-being and thus provide long-term motivation to stick to your goals. The more enthusiasm and the inner desire you have, the more inclined you will be to persist in your efforts. Passion increases your resilience quotient in the face of any obstacles or difficulties.

Most people are compelled to take up certain jobs for the need of a steady income or to fulfil their responsibilities even when they are not fully interested in those fields of work. Some might end up finding their passion in what they chose. But many continue to stay in them in order to fulfill their needs making them inherently dissatisfied in the long run giving rise to stress, boredom and discontentment. However, in such cases, if they find a way to pursue their interests in their free time, it can make them a lot more happier during the activities as well as for some time later and thus can remain less stressed even in thier regular work hours. When you feel truly driven, you naturally have the zest, energy, and enthusiasm providing you a renewed sense of meaning and accomplishment and this feeling can keep you motivated in other areas of your life as well.

Loving what you do or living with passion improves your happiness quotient giving you moments where time loses its relevance and keeps you less stressed and highly motivated. There are many factors that hold you back from living your life with meaning and passion. Here are some such reasons.

• Not having enough time to pursue your passion.

• Limiting beliefs and negative thinking.

Fear of failure or what if scenarios and self-doubt.

• Indecisiveness or lack of clarity of what you really want.

• Having unrealistic expectations.

• Focusing only on external rewards.

• Unwillingness to leave your comfort zone.

How to live with more passion

We all have a tendency to view life in a complete opposite way from how it should be–simple, interesting, happy and fulfilled. Instead, we become too hard on ourselves making our lives complicated, busy, boring, and not happy with whatever we are doing. Some might discover early in life. But for some, it gets difficult to find what they are truly passionate about. Also sometimes an overt fixation on your passion, whether by dedicating your whole life to it at the expense of all other things can lead to problems. Living your life with passion is not all about being obsessed with the goal, but finding a right balance in life, by loving what you do and being content in focusing your efforts on getting close to your ambitions and desires. Here is how to achieve living with more passion.

Gain clarity on your core values

Many of us lead our lives based on outside influences which often lead us to unhappiness and inner turmoil. By living in alignment with your values and personal strengths, you can be more aware of what really drives you. If you don’t know what makes you passionate–Gain clarity on your core values, strengths, interests, skills, motivations and talents. This can make you more decisive in channelling your efforts towards purposeful action. You can connect to your core values by asking the following questions.

• What inspires you the most?

• What are you best at?

• What do you love and desire?

• What activities allow you to be creative?

• What is your definition of success?

Stop internalising your fear of failure

Most of us are too fearful in pursuing our passions or to make necessary life changes or to turn our passion into a full time career. Fear of failure creates self-doubt which takes us away from positive momentum to live passionately. Internalising failure strengthens your self-doubt preventing you from moving forward creating what if scenarios. If fear is stopping you from pursuing your passion, take time to reflect on the real impact of that setback. Often your fears blow such situations out of proportion. Learn to embrace failure as a valuable part of success and as part of following your dreams. Also, it is not necessary that if you failed in one pursuit, there aren’t any other possibilities. There are many ways to pursue your passions if you are willing to take risks and willing to step out of your comfort zone.

Cultivate skills

Many people have innate talents and hobbies which they turn into rewarding careers, but this doesn’t mean that those without any talents cannot live passionately. Cultivating skill that can make you better at what you do can give you a leg up in your field. Improving upon some of your abilities will help you improve your job satisfaction more than initial enthusiasm ever will. The idea that you will find success only if you follow your heart may be true only if you have a passion to follow. If have no passions, cultivating skills within your current framework can be more satisfying . Getting better at things that are valuable, provides a deeper source of meaning and helps you live with contentment. Stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone to deliberately learn a skill can bring out your passionate self.

Set expectations to preempt distractions

Establishing a set of concrete goals based on your passions can prevent you from drifting off course due to various other distractions. Turn your passion into clear goals and set boundaries so that you no longer at the mercy of outside circumstances. Laying down ground rules of what is acceptable, or what you wont allow yourself to indulge in and setting goals can stop you from procrastinating especially if you are palnning on pursuing your passion in your free time or as your career. Making a mental picture of where you want to be can provide motivation to ‘zone-in’ your passions. Turn your passion into concrete goals, set clear boundaries and outline your plan of action to achieve them.

“Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about.”~ Steve Pavlina

Use your free time

Not everyone has an opportunity to pursue their hobbies full time. For many, time is a constraint to pursue what they really like to do because of their busy schedules. You can use your free hours effectively to pursue some new things that interests you, or explore new activities, pursuits that help you live passionately. Making time for your passion requires simplifying some of your daily tasks and schedules. Sometimes turning your passion into an obligation can also make you find time for it. Trade your free time for your activities that you are passionate about. They could be writing, or taking a hobby class, or engaging in any activity you love. This can leave you more energized and motivated in your monotonous lifestyle.

Overcome your ‘limiting self’

“ Finding your passion isn’t just about careers and money. It’s about finding your authentic self. The one you’ve buried beneath other people’s needs.” –Anonymous

To live with passion is to address your negative and limiting beliefs. Challenge your limiting self that worries about outside influences and allowing others to decide what’s best for you. Sometimes, we abandon our passions to fit in, or to follow rules or for being acceptable to others. Not following your passion because of your limiting self makes you unhappy, because you you might alwasys be comparing your situation with the ideal that is following your passion could be.  By making your decisions based on your authentic self can not only create a fulfillling life, but also makes you more self-aware, confident and more evolved.

Conclusion

What is your passion? Think about your own interesting pursuits. Things that you love to pursue. Think of what inspires you and what you have been wanting to do. Pursue things that brings true meaning and fulfilment whether it is in your work, or the job you do, or any other dimension of your life. Loving what you do can bring out the most authentic version of you, at work and in life. Follow the above strategies to create the space and time to invest in your passions. Align your passions with whatever you are doing to make your life more joyous and meaningful.

Related Links

https://sscascades.org/2019/01/05/reframe-your-limiting-beliefs/

https://sscascades.org/2018/10/08/how-to-stop-fearing-failure/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tame your intrusive thoughts

“The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention in completely.” – E.Tolle

Thoughts are those subjective pictures, sounds and words — and the beliefs, associations, interpretations, opinions and meanings that pass through our mind or hold our attention. Thoughts arise of their own accord and everyday we experience thousands of thoughts and they are the background noise of our inner mental landscape. Whether positive or negative these thoughts clutter your minds, just like your house gets cluttered when you have too many possessions. Unfortunately clearing your mental clutter isn’t as simple as eliminating a possession. You cant throw away a thought. Your thoughts have a way of popping back up as you turn them down especially the disturbing ones.

When unwanted thoughts get your conscious attention, they manifest as moods, emotions, desires, impulses and influence your behaviour. Most of them are unhelpful that are intrusive, involuntary and negative in nature. Such random and problematic intrusive thoughts interfere with your clear thinking, distort your reality, control your moods or limit your potential self.

Being controlled by unpleasant or intrusive thoughts which pop into your mind can result in thought disturbances that are hard to manage. According to a research, most people are mind wavering 47% of their day. Mind wavering can be largely attributed to thought disturbances. However, struggling with, arguing with, trying to drown out or push away such unhelpful thoughts only amplifies them and you may find it difficult to get past such thoughts.

Why are some thoughts intrusive?

Some of our thoughts take the form of fear of the future, or negative memories of the past, or inappropriate that are unhelpful and unpleasant. They seem to appear out of almost no where and cause a great deal of anxiety. Intrusive thoughts are reinforced when you get entangled with them creating doubts about your decisions or your identity or safety. If not managed well, they can cause much distress and they may even lead to certain obsessive behaviours and can negatively impact your well-being.

Are intrusive thoughts normal?

You cannot will yourself not to think any such thoughts or to keep them out of your mind. Eventually thoughts like that drift back into your mind and rise to the surface. Having such thoughts is absolutely normal and many experience unwanted thoughts on a daily basis, but fixating or believing in them or getting controlled by them leads to problems and may cause unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviours. Because of the content of such thoughts is mostly alien or unacceptable and is at odds with who you are, they make you anxious. One of the common myth is that having such thoughts mean that you unconsciously want to do the things that come into your mind. This is not true and in fact trying to fight or avoiding them only ends up in reinforcing them. Knowing how to deal with invasive thoughts can be the key to prevent them from negatively impacting your normal functioning.

How to tame your intrusive thoughts…

Do you ever worry with your thoughts of such intrusive or obsessive nature? You would have noticed that the harder you try to suppress or to distract or substitute such thoughts, the more you tend to get caught up in them. Learning to deal with them effectively can reduce your fearful and negative reaction towards them but also reduces your over sensitivity towards such thoughts. Here is how you can tame your intrusive thoughts.

Accept your intrusive thoughts

Many of us avoid them because we are afraid of negative, fearful, unpleasant, disgusting thoughts; afraid of mental impulses. We tend to avoid intrusive thoughts because we don’t know how to deal with them. An emotional reaction to how you think just keeps them alive. This means that they will appear over and over until you do actually deal with them. Treating them real or avoiding them or trying to change your behaviour based on such thoughts only leads to a compulsive behaviour. You should learn the fact that sometimes the content of such thoughts is meaningless and irrelevant.

Instead of reacting to them as though they are real, Accept them and tell yourself the truth that they have no intrinsic reality and you aren’t purposefully thinking the thought and it doesn’t represent you. Accepting them stops you to react negatively to intrusive thoughts.

Practice ‘cognitive diffusion’

You have a choice in how you choose to respond to intrusive thoughts. This is possible when you are able to identify intrusive thought patterns that end up creating negative emotions or feelings. Here are certain patterns to help you recognise your unhelpful thoughts.

• Thoughts of imagined future or expecting bad things lead you to what-if scenarios causing fear, anxiety and worry.

• Focusing on your weaknesses or perceived flaws results in thoughts of not being good enough. Such patterns often increase your negative self-talk and self-criticism.

• Dwelling on your bad choices and wrong actions leads to thoughts of worthlessness and ruminating over your past mistakes creates thoughts of shame and guilt.

• Habit of lamenting in your sorrows and problems makes you fixate in thoughts based on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. This leads to frustration and wishing things were different.

Stepping back from your repetitive and unhelpful intrusive thoughts, by recognising and identifying them is the process of cognitive diffusion. When you are fused with your thoughts, you tend to believe and take them seriously as you buy into them, obey them and play them out. But by learning to see the thoughts simply as they are — as thoughts and not reality, you can step back into cognitive diffusion. You can hold on to them lightly and do not take your thoughts seriously. You only listen to them if you find them helpful or valuable. Being aware of unhelpful thought patterns when they arise will help you to not to get entangled in and they lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions.

Label your intrusive thoughts

In order not to get stuck in some of your negative thought patterns, it is important to name your thought. When an unhelpful thought pattern arises, simply labelling it mentally can reduce your reaction.

Intrusive thoughts are mostly repetitive and involve certain story lines. When an unhelpful thought comes up with a story line, try to label and let it go without giving much attention to it. It’s just a thought and not reality. Try and open your awareness to yourself and world around. As soon as you name your thought, you step back from being caught up in it and you stop being drawn into the negativity it creates. When you are mentally labelling your thoughts as ‘anxious’ or ‘fearful’ or ‘worrisome’, make sure you do so with compassion and not with aggression or frustration. This helps you to reflect on them with a positive perspective and respond to them peacefully.

Develop present moment awareness

Another effective way to deal with your intrusive thoughts is to bring back your awareness to the present moment. Paying attention to your present moment can get you out of your excessive unhelpful thinking and can ease you out of the internal noise so created. Bringing all your attention to your senses can calm your mind and grounds you in the present moment. In this way, little to no room is left in your attention for all that unwanted and unhelpful thoughts that are intrusive in nature. Being mindful of the present moment brings you back from mind wandering when you get lost in your old habits, beliefs, and negative reaction patterns. Through mindfulness, you build your capacity to change the contents of your thoughts to ‘present’ rather than about a remembered past or anticipated future.

Question your intrusive thoughts

As human beings, we have an inherent negativity bias, with our mental chatter being skewed more towards the negative rather than positive. So despite everything, certain intrusive thoughts can continue to have grip on you. In such cases, you can test reality of your thoughts by asking some helpful questions like ‘Am I creating negative interpretations?’ ‘Is my thought helpful?’ ‘What is the evidence for and against my thinking?’ ‘What is the best part of this situation or person?’ ‘Am I filtering out the positive and dwelling on the negative?’ This way, you can focus on constructive thoughts or actions and can try and find a positive. Doing a goal-directed thinking can also help you see things in a different perspective.

Conclusion

We cannot consistently think only positive thoughts because you cannot control your thoughts but only your response to them. In fact, despite all the efforts, intrusive thoughts float through your mind and rise to the surface. It is absolutely normal for you to experience unhelpful, or unpleasant thoughts from time to time. Even though they make you anxious and uncomfortable, there is no quick fix method to control or quite your thoughts in any lasting way. But by practicing above mentioned strategies, you can, however, tame them and redirect your attention towards positive by not letting them control or giving into them. With a little practice and persistence, you can untangle yourself from unhelpful intrusive thought patterns and can change your focus to more meaningful.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.”