No paths in the forest

Sometimes we cannot see the path in the forest, so we need to take a different look

Have you ever felt like there is no way? You chase your dreams, but it seems that everything’s against them.

If that is not your case, then you probably belong to the small-sized group of achievers. But, for many of us, the need for “something” that turns everything downside-up is a must.

As a coach, I have seen the benefits of distinctions, which is nothing more (and nothing less) than looking at certain pairs of words from a different point of view. It may seem worthless, but most of the time the “something” we need is just to take a new perspective, and we can start by using words in a more favorable way. So here is the list of my top 10 distinctions:

Opinion vs. fact

According to Newfield Consulting founder, Rafael Echeverria, we are living in “interpretive worlds” which means, at the end of the day, there’s a high scarcity of facts so most of the “facts” are actually opinions. The key point is facts are either true or false – and, in the latter case, they are called “lies.” But opinions are neither true nor false. Opinions can be well founded on facts (my laptop has been working for three years, so it will keep working tomorrow), and they can be shared by many people (one of the best restaurants in the world is “El celler de can Roca”). But they are not true. And they are not false. They’re just opinions. So next time someone (or even yourself) says “you will not reach your goal,” you can be sure it is an opinion, so you can choose to either quit or just keep going.

Victim vs. responsible

The distinction here lies in the ability to act: a victim receives everything as “something that happens,” no matter what it may say or do. On the contrary, responsibility – or, even better, “response-ability” is a call for action, a way of giving response to whatever may happen. Victims don’t take action because they are overwhelmed; response-able people know the answer is action. A victim thinks the blame is outside, while a responsible person knows the answer is inside.

To be vs. to be being

“I am stupid.” “You are a liar.” These kind of definitions make us stay away from other possibilities. A liar lies. Always. Period. But if we say “you are lying,” we are open to new future possibilities. And maybe there is a big difference between “I am useless at work” and “I am doing an unproductive task.”

Commitment vs. obligation

This one is straightforward: we only do well the tasks we feel committed to. We do not perform well whenever we feel forced. When my boss tells me to do something, sometimes I feel like it’s an order, so I am obliged to obey. But I can choose to think it is something I actually want to do, for whatever reason (salary, keep good mood at the office, etc.) The quality of my job will depend on my choice.

Why vs. for what

Instead of over-analyzing reasons behind our actions and feelings, we can focus on the future benefits and costs, so that the final balance is good for us. For example, let’s assume I feel angry with my boss; I can see the benefits of that feeling are that she will be away from me most of the time, so I have less assignments from her. But the cost is that I arrive home and I am still angry. Now I can start thinking about new possibilities to have the same results at a lower cost. Why not start saying “no” to those extra loads of work? Why not ask for an assistant?

Learn vs. forget

Have you ever seen these two words as synonyms? Have you ever realized sometimes we need to forget in order to learn? One of the worst enemies to learning is the “I have done it the other way for the last 20 years and I am not going to change that” way of thinking. For example, in order to learn Russian, you must forget the sound of “H,” “M,” “P” and “X” in order to properly learn they sound like “N,” “T,” “R” and “KH.”

Dream vs. challenge

A challenge can be defined as a special kind of dream: it comes with action, which means planning deadlines taking resources, setting objectives, measuring results, etc. So you can have lots of dreams, and they will hardly become true unless you transform them into challenges and start living them.

Complaint vs. claim

Do you feel the difference between, “You do nothing at home!” and, “can you lay the table?” A claim is a specific call for action, while a complaint is unproductive blaming. Next time you need to ask for something, try to make a claim instead of a complaint.

To make a petition vs. to command

The difference between these two actions is inside ourselves, and not in the style. Is it not true that “could you please lower your voice?” is just a question, or that “Shut up!” is an order; the distinction lies in our reaction when the receiver says “No.” Can you stand it? Then you were asking. Can’t you? Then you are commanding. And in the latter case, you are somehow forcing the other –or even yourself- so the final result will not be the best (see distinction number 4). Next time, let’s make sure whether we are going to ask or to command before making the sentence.

Demand vs. excellence

If you are demanding, your focus is on things that have to be improved, the unfinished jobs, the bad results – and happiness is far from this. On the contrary, if you think of excellence as being conscious about your achievements, you will be ready to go to the next step. Excellence does not mean to hide or deny reality, but being humble enough to say “okay, so far so good. And next time will be better.”

I hope these tools can help you open new possibilities to reach your goals. Which one is the most compelling to you? Are you using some other distinctions in your life? I welcome your comments!

Featured photo credit: Ok or KO / francesc rossell-pujos via dropbox.com

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