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7 Ways To Live A Fruitful And Successful Life

7 Ways To Live A Fruitful And Successful Life

The success business is an emerging area of influence and entrepreneurship. Talk show host and comedian Steve Harvey has created his “Act Like a Success” brand, which includes seminars, coaching, and books. Richard St. John, an expert who has conducted research about success, may be best know to global audiences via his TED talk, “8 Secrets of Success,” which has been viewed almost 8 million times. Although success can be defined and taught in numerous ways, it is not only connected to money and fame.

Through taking deliberate actions, anyone can become a success.

Below are 7 simple steps to make every day of your life matter, and to live a more fruitful and successful life:

1. Reflect purposefully on what you currently do, and on your values and beliefs.

For a day, keep a small journal with you. As you watch TV or interact with others, take time to reflect about what you think or hear. Also, reflect on your perspectives and determine if you like your responses. To help you to identify your values, listen to others and imagine what you would do if you were in another person’s situation. If difficult situations occur at work, do you respond in a way that reflects your true values and beliefs? If not, what held you back? After reading your day’s reflection, determine what you want to change and what you don’t want to change.This list will be the beginning of creating a happier you.

2. Surround yourself with people who celebrate you and don’t just tolerate you.

Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner. – Lao Tzu

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Abuse is not limited to physical blows. Life is too short to be unhappy and to be surrounded by negative people. Take inventory of the 10 closest relationships in your life. Classify them in one of three ways:

  1. People who give you energy
  2. People who neither take away or give you much energy
  3. People who take energy from you.

If you discover that you have too many people who drain you in your daily life, it’s time to remove many of them. This might not mean that you stop talking to them altogether, but deliberately reduce the amount of time that you allow them to pull energy from you.

On the other hand, if you find that you have few to no people in your life who are bringing positive thoughts and energy into your life, add new people to your personal and/or professional network. Your positive contacts should include people who care enough about you to tell you what you need to hear- not what you want to hear.

Evaluate your top 10 contacts for one week like this, and notice the positive changes that will occur in your life.

3. Bloom where you are planted.

This advice is some of the best that I have received. When I moved to Lafayette, Indiana, from Nashville, Tennessee, ten years ago, and realized that there were limited cultural resources available for black women, I was angry and disappointed. I had moved from a metropolitan city to a place where approximately 2.5% of the people in the county were black. In ten years, I have relied on cable television, social media, and satellite radio to stay connected to the resources that were important to me. Although we still don’t have a great soul food restaurant in town, I have learned to use Pinterest to find ways to expand my cooking and professional skills while staying connected to the things and people that I love.

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Whether you are in a situation that is uncomfortable or you are engaged in activities that don’t align with the expectations of where you should be or what you should be doing, identify positive aspects of your situation. Seek advocates and mentors who can serve as bridges between your current situation and your proposed situation.

Also, develop a gratitude and success journal so that when positive occurrences happen in your life, you can refer back to your enjoyable moments. You may archive pictures, letters, cards, e-mails and other artifacts that reflect celebratory times in your life.

4. Set reasonable short-term and long-term goals.

Many people think that success happens by chance.

I’m not one of those people.

People need to develop both personal and professional short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals may consist of plans for the next 1-6 months, while long-term goals may consist of plans for the next 5+ years. My professional short-term goals are to graduate three engineering doctoral students next spring and summer and to set up a project management plan for a $1.4 million grant that is to be awarded in the next few weeks. My professional long-term goals are to grow my educational business to multi-million dollar status and to become a Dean, Provost, and/or President of a university.

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To achieve your short-term and long-term goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my ultimate dream?
  • What would I be willing to do for free if money was not an issue?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What do I want my legacy to be?

Document these responses in an app, or an electronic/ paper journal. Translate your thoughts into actionable tasks so that you can track your progress.

5. Thank people for their support.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

A few years ago, when a top official at my university took time out of his schedule for me to interview him, I thanked him by writing a thank you note and by sending him a small box of homemade chocolates from a local candy shop. Three years later, he became the president of a major university. Last year, I asked him to serve as a reference for me for an amazing new position, and he didn’t hesitate to speak on my behalf. I have no doubt that his reference carried much weight in the decision process.

Nothing makes people feel better than gratitude. When you appreciate others, they want to help you. Good seeds produce good fruit. In a world when many people are selfish, want to be first, and want to acquire the best of everything for themselves, gratitude stands out in a big way. Establish your gratitude reputation by writing handwritten letters or sending electronic cards of appreciation to people who have supported you, given you a gift, or have influenced you in a positive way. Although your intention for being kind to someone should not be to get something from someone, the people who you thank will not forget that you took time out of your busy schedule to think of them and to appreciate their presence in your life.

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6. Resurrect your dead dreams.

As children, we are taught to dream and to dream big. At some point in our lives, however, the practicality of adulthood settles in, and we start being safe in most, if not all, areas of our lives. Success, however, sometimes requires us to become radical in our thinking and in our actions. Think back to that one thing that you wanted to achieve when your teacher asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. For me, it was to become the Governor of Alabama. I don’t know why, at the age of 7, I wanted to achieve that goal. As I’ve gotten older, however, I realize that I really enjoy people and politics. I want to make life better for others, and I want to create and implement policies that improve education. Last month, I seriously thought about what a political future might look like for me. Look out, Kanye West, I might see you at a presidential debate in 2020!

In the same way, take time to reflect deeply about your dreams. List them, note which dreams are still burning within you, and connect to people and resources that can help you to achieve the short-term and long-term goals connected to your dreams. Don’t forget to share your dreams with the people who give you energy.

7. End each day in peace.

Life can be stressful, but happiness is a choice. You must decide on purpose not to let others’ baggage become your baggage. Shut down e-mail and all technology at least one hour before bed. Engage in an activity that calms you and allows you to reflect on the positive occurrences of the day. This might be writing in your journal, enjoying a warm beverage, or meditating. No matter how bad your day may have been, know that the next day brings an opportunity to start over and to change the world.

In conclusion, you have the power to become a success regardless of what you look like, how much money you make, or who you do or do not know. Your success begins with deliberate choices to make positive changes in your life.

No one is stopping you but yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via images.unsplash.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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