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Listening To The Words That Young Voices Speak

Listening To The Words That Young Voices Speak

I was out back in the yard pushing my son on the swing after playing an exhausting game of tag, and I started thinking about the words “less” and “full.” It dawned on me that for many years, those two words governed the way that I had lived my life. I was consumed with the desire and drive for more but unwilling to exchange anything in return. Sadly, it is also the way most folks live their lives today — being full of unimportant personal clutter rather than having less of it.

The spiritual empty

I had taken for granted all the richness in my life by having a narrow focus of what was important. I call it “the spiritual empty.” It is when you know you should be doing something differently but you’re either not sure how, you’re afraid, or you just don’t want to. I had become consumed with the corporate demands of schedules, meetings, running an operation. Deadlines. Money was my focus, and the result was a disregard for family.

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While I was leaving for work one morning, my son asked, “Dad, why do you work all the time? You’re never here.” I was floored. The drive in was the longest half hour of my life. I decided to make a change. I decided to give more and take less.

How could I help this tender 6 year old reach his potential and assist him with enriching his life? I had ideas, yes, but they all scared the hell out of me. I thought, “What am I going to do?”

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Today, in my young son’s eyes, I am the best at being a dad. I play with him, encourage him, teach him. I set the best examples that I know how for him in the situations that we encounter.

The first step

Remember the two words I mentioned at the beginning? What started out slowly and somewhat inconsistently, but has now gained valuable relevance in my life, is when I chose to add the word “thought” in front of both. This simple step could possibly work for you too.

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One brick at a time

I started small, but I realized that being finished with something wasn’t necessarily the end of it. Here’s what I mean.

The majority of our lives are made up of compartments. The trick is to combine them. To gain a rhythm. Leaving your job as I did disrupted that rhythm. I don’t recommend this approach — it is not for everyone. The joy that I have found in doing so, however, is worth more to me than a high salary. Take it slow.

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Maturing into unselfish behavior using this method has been a springboard into becoming more attentive, patient, and, to my surprise, significantly more helpful. The smile in the eyes of my child tells me all that I need to know. The words that are uttered by a little one, however softly, can add a quality to your life that was unthinkable before. Who are the “matter” people in your life? May I suggest gaining the approval of them first by listening, then make your move.

As you are reading this, check those two words. If you’re good, that’s great! If you’re not, then maybe try adding a third like I did.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

More by this author

andre lewis

Former Inside Operations Supervisor UPS

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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