146. Hear Ye, Hear Me.

We are all familiar with the importance of listening.

Indeed, from an early age we are taught to listen, to pay attention to what is being directed at us.

To improve our skills we can take courses on “Active Listening, “Effective Listening”, and even “When to Listen.”

In fact, with all the attention that is placed upon listening it is fairly safe to assume that most of us are pretty good listeners.

Today I would like to introduce a new habit, one that I place far above listening as listening is a skill most of us have mastered but this new habit is rare indeed.

It is The Habit of Hearing.

The Habit of Hearing is perhaps our greatest ally in turning resistance to support and conflict into harmony, and yet it is one we practice so poorly.

Last week I was in a store looking to purchase a new laptop. I asked the sales associate about a particular brand. He seemed determined to sell me a different brand and when I offered some resistance to that brand he completely ignored my concern and continued speaking its praise. I tried a second time and was met with exactly the same response.

Needless to say I left that store empty-handed.

Later that afternoon I was leaving a message for a contractor. I have an unusual first name and my custom has long been to spell my name whenever leaving a message. I said, “My first name is Rael, R.A.E.L” and I heard her repeat it back to me R.E.A.L.

I chose not to correct her as I’ve grown accustomed to that response and do not feel it is my duty to teach others the importance of hearing what they’re listening to.

Yesterday morning I called a supplier with the question about our bill.

The moment I stated my reason for calling the person on the other the phone immediately launched into the details of a “special offer” only available to “our most valuable customers” and spent 90 seconds telling me how special I am and why I should not hesitate to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime offer.

When I interrupted (for the third time) to repeat my question about my bill he finally stopped talking long enough to say, “I will have to transfer you to another department.”

The Habit of Hearing is vital not only to success in our lives but also for our levels of enjoyment. Hearing what is being said to us grants us access to the other parties’ thoughts and feelings thereby offering us the best possible opportunity for resolving conflict and improving relationships.

In writing this blog I am reminded of a meeting I had many years ago with a salesperson representing a photocopy company. They had brought a machine over as a demo and after a day or two he had stopped by to see whether we liked it.

I reminded him that we had specifically requested a machine that could duplex (print double-sided copies) and this model couldn’t.

I will never forget his answer. He looked at me and with a huge grin on his face replied “That’s one of the great features of this machine. Not having a duplexer means you have an opportunity to get out of the office for a while and head over to Staples each time you need double-sided copies which is a great way to take a break.”

Really?

He had listened to, and not heard, our insistence on a duplexing machine and then downplayed its importance by completely disregarding our concerns.

And guess what? He didn’t get our business.

Listening is easy. Hearing is hard. It requires discipline and focus.

It also signals respect

The Habit of Hearing. It’s not optional.

Can you see what I’m saying?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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145. Discomfort can be so comforting.

It’s a question I have been asked several times over the past few weeks since we began discussing The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. The question is important, “Why is this necessary in order to successfully implement change in our lives.”

The answer is as simple as the question is valid. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable allows us to both accept and endure the pain and discomfort that most often accompanies our efforts at personal change.

Whenever we undertake to change something about ourselves we are in essence endeavouring to exchange one habit for another.

It is not possible to lose, abandon or get rid of a habit.

At best, we can exchange an existing habit with a new one and the process of doing so often causes a sense of pain or discomfort which is our internal messaging system signalling us of its unwillingness to move away from a habit with which we have become comfortable.

The old saying “Old habits die hard” plain and simply is not true. Not only do old habits not die hard, they don’t die at all. Instead, what they do is shrink down into the deepest recesses of our minds where they patiently wait for an opportunity to pounce back and re-claim what they’ve always believed to be rightfully theirs.

We’ve all met people who lost vast amounts of weight only to gain it back, or folks who have fallen off the wagon after lengthy periods of sobriety. Just recently I met a man who told me that he started smoking after a 20 year period of smoke-free living.

What all this means is that changing habits is really not a pain-free endeavor.

We need to constantly resist the strong temptation – those powerful urges – to not stay on the cozy couch but rather to force ourselves out of the house and into the gym or to push away the offer of chocolate cake with a polite “no thank you,” or to simply ignore that craving for a cigarette until it passes.

To do any of these, and all the other things we need to do to form new habits which lead to the permanent changes we desire, we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable state of wanting to not do what we know we should be doing and wanting to do what we know we shouldn’t be doing.

The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable does this for us and it is the acquiring of this habit that will separate those of us who do what they set out to do from those of us who constantly talk about it.

And to talk about it.

And talk about it.

The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable is the biggest barrier between having the life we presently have with all of our old habits, and the life we want with all of the new ones.

And if we aren’t willing to become comfortable by being uncomfortable with the challenges of acquiring new habits, we may as well simply give up and become comfortable with being uncomfortable with the habits we have.

Our lives are a reflection of the choices we make and if we wish to introduce, implement and sustain positive change, then we must pick one form of discomfort to become comfortable with and stay with it regardless of how uncomfortable being comfortable becomes.

There is no other way.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

144. A 2Way Habit.

Last week we introduced The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable serves to remind us how often we need to do the very things we don’t want to do or to not do those things we want to do.

It is so vitally important if we wish to move from having what we don’t want to have or from not having what we do want to have to a place where we do indeed have what we do want to have and don’t have what we don’t.

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is an acceptance of what has to be in order to get to where we want to be.  There is a dark side to The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable and, for too many of us, that dark side keeps us from getting to where we want to be and inspiring us to stay there.

What that means is that the flipside of The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable enables us, to our detriment, to repeatedly do the very things we know not to do and to keep doing the very things that we know we should be doing because it is more comfortable to keep doing. We even become comfortable with the very same consequences of our behaviours that we have come to hate.

Let’s use an example that is familiar to many of us.

We commit to dropping those 10 – 40 pounds we have been carrying around for as long as we can remember.

We begin, with great fervour, a new way of eating and experience some success.

We are in the office when our boss walks in and informs us that she has decided to treat us all to pizza in recognition of our hard work. A moment later six pizza boxes arrive and find their way to a table, the delicious aroma slowly wafts through the air, assaults our nostrils and our comfort with being uncomfortable begins.

We’ve been here before – many, many times. Should we? Shouldn’t we?

An old saying reminds us that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  As has happened so often in our past, we negotiate a deal with ourselves in which we agree to eat the pizza now in exchange for not eating anything for the next 10 days.

We know from repeated past experience this will not happen, but in the moment, seduce ourselves into thinking the 10 days are real and not fiction and doesn’t start until tomorrow, whereas the pizza is here now and in the present.

Perhaps later the pangs of regret kick in and make us feel guilty but we are also comforted by knowing that tomorrow is another day and we can start this whole charade all over again.

The opposite of comfort is not discomfort, it is pain.   And it is not until there is no comfort – only severe pain – to be found in the repeated discomfort of eating pizza that we can hope for permanent and sustainable change.

And so for The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable to change our lives, we must find the comfort that exists only in the long term life and not be deceived by the tantalizing false comfort of the life we want to leave.

An old Chinese prophet says that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second best time is now.

The same is true with our lives. The best time to make the changes we wish might well have been in the distant past, but we didn’t, and so the new best time is right now.

Right now, face reality with ice-cold objectivity, commit yourself to doing what you know to do, and burn all bridges to the way back to your old ways.

Oh, and when it gets tough, suck it up and move forward.

It won’t take long before you will be enjoying a level of comfort you never imagined possible.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

 

 

143. Being uncomfortable can be comfortable.

My friend Joel is one of those people who lives his life by always facing his fears head on regardless of how difficult the task may be.

He is the living embodiment of a new habit I would like to introduce today: The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

I first met Joel several years ago at a workshop I attended. His was the first hand raised when the facilitator asked for a volunteer to come up on the stage and participate in a demonstration of extemporaneous speaking.

Joel bounded up on the stage exuding a level of confidence that belied the fact that on the inside every cell in his body was quivering with fear.

He performed flawlessly and when I introduced myself during the next break and complimented him on the fine job he had done he sheepishly grinned at me and explained that his only reason for dashing up to the stage was to overcome his lifelong fear of public speaking.

We exchanged contact information and several weeks later I called Joel and suggested we meet over coffee.

I was fascinated to hear his story of why he chose to overcome his fear of speaking in front of an audience numbering several hundred people.

His answer has become one of the mainstays of my own philosophy and I am forever grateful to have learned the lesson I learned from this role model.

Joel explained to me that he learned early in life that in order to get ahead and succeed it is imperative, for most people, to learn how to endure pain, i.e. the pain of doing the very things they need to do to be successful and yet which feel unnatural and uncomfortable.

He pledged to himself that fear, unwillingness and discomfort would never keep him from reaching upwards towards his goals and, through repeated experience, has taught himself that while discomfort is a fact of life, it is quite possible to go through this by becoming comfortable.

The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable has enabled Joel to build a very successful career in the high rejection business of direct sales and has also helped him overcome his fear of heights by skydiving, his fear of water by scuba diving and his fear of rejection by choosing a career in which rejection is part of each day’s work.

As I got to know him he told me that his motivation to live this way came from observing his father, “an extreme introvert, afraid of his own shadow,” who would never venture even as much is one millimetre outside of his comfort zone.

He watched his father turn down opportunity after opportunity as he struggled to overcome the demons of fear which controlled his life.

Using his father as a reverse role model Joel, committed to facing his every fear head-on and to doing so with a sense of comfort that spurred him every greater accomplishments.

The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable is a gift to ourselves without which many of us will deny ourselves much of the “what could have been” that fear and discomfort might prevent us from ever attempting.

With a smile on his face Joel explained to him to me that there is one fear he still has, and doesn’t want to lose; his fear is that he will lose his willingness to be comfortable with being uncomfortable which would then prevent him from doing the things he wants or needs to do in order to produce certain results in his life.

Those of us who have faced some of our own fears have very quickly learned that those very things we fear rarely occur, and if they do, their effect is almost always minuscule when compared to what we anticipated.

The Habit of Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable is a great idea.

Why not start right now?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.