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5 Amazing Things You Gain By Doing The Unthinkable

5 Amazing Things You Gain By Doing The Unthinkable

Last year, my family learned how to scuba dive. Along with my husband and our three grown sons, we wanted to learn a new skill — something we could take with us for years to come and enjoy together on future vacations as well.

When catching up with friends and I would tell them what I was learning, every single one immediately told me, “I could never do that.”

All of them had already given themselves permission to not even try.

They wrote off not just my scuba diving experience off, but every other challenge they could have imagined or dreamed.

To them, the idea of doing something hard on purpose seemed unthinkable.

On occasion, I would get asked, “Why are you doing that?” And after listening to my answer, some people were left in bewilderment while others didn’t quite see the attraction to forcing myself to learn a new skill. After all, no one was making me do this.

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I will admit that learning to scuba dive was not easy. I have bouts of claustrophobia and have a fear of drowning. Who wouldn’t, right?

When I am nervous or afraid, I become somewhat sarcastic — what some people interpret as “wit.” I’m just keeping it real. That way, no one sees just how scared I really am.

With scuba diving, one of the skills you must be tested on and pass is filling your mask with water while you are underwater and then getting rid of the water in your mask — while you are still underwater. It sounds impossible. I didn’t believe it could be done either. If you are a nose-breather like me, the last thing you want to do is suck all of the water in your mask in through your nose. Although you have your regulator still in your mouth so you can breath, mastering this skill pushed me hard. I even practiced at home so as not to panic in class.

Eventually, the day came when we actually went out onto a small boat into the Gulf of Mexico where I needed to put everything I had learned to the true test. When it was all said and done, we had all completed six dives to depths of 80 feet below the surface, seen numerous sea species, and I for one learned more about myself than I can remember. In addition, I gained a few things as well.

There are five things we gain by doing things that challenge us and might even be considered “unthinkable.” Here they are.

1. Positive attitude

When we challenge ourselves, we struggle with our fears. We are trying something new and the uncertainty that lies on the other side of any feat could be enough to sway us to never try anything new again. However, once we accomplish what we set out to accomplish, our attitude shifts. Everything that once held us back has no hold over us — and we know it.

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The way we think about everything going forward changes. The mental game we play can ruin even the smallest of things we hope to accomplish. Doing something most would consider “unthinkable” changes all of that. Our perspectives are no longer jaded with the opinions of others and instead are filled with the positive mindset one only gets by achieving success. Immediately, we begin to believe where doubt once lived and our mindset is completely different — to the point of never being able to return to the way it once was ever again.

2. Confidence

Growing more sure of oneself is not something that comes when the task at hand is easy or predictable. In fact, quite the opposite is true. When we take on a task that seems too daunting for most, our belief in ourselves most likely will be questioned. However, when one replaces that seed of doubt with something much more firm and strong, then the doubt no longer can be planted again. We begin to trust our abilities and push ourselves to be even more than we were before.

As we grow more confident, our sense of adventure heightens and some of our acts become even more daring and brash. We become someone who will not give up and allow any momentary setbacks to propel us forward. Any doubt we once had can’t even find a place to hide anymore.

3. Excitement

When we accomplish something scary or hard, we get super excited in ways we don’t while doing just normal everyday things. That excitement just grows as it releases endorphins into our body and we need to “feed that high” the only way we know how — to do more exciting things.

Doing what was once deemed as “unthinkable” creates a frenzy that stirs emotions of thrill and enthusiasm. Without realizing it, that feeling is something we become addicted to as we begin to make different choices that perpetuate that sense of “feeling alive.” It begins to stimulate more ideas, allowing creativity to creep in everywhere we look. At times, our excitement can be lead by impulses otherwise never imagined.

4. Courage

It’s hard to be strong when you aren’t sure you can do something, but after you do it, you become less fearful of anything else. Whether you go looking for a challenge or one just shows up on your doorstep one day, you remember what it took to do something hard and you remind yourself of not only what you’ve done, but who you are.

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When you do something “unthinkable,” fear no longer comes along for the ride, hoping you will turn back or chicken out. It knows better. Staying calm and level-headed in times of crisis or chaos will allow you to dig deep and find what your spunk looks like, baring your gnarly teeth of the guts it took all the way. You just wait patiently for the next dare and greet it with open arms, almost as if to say, “Let’s see who gives up first. It won’t be me.” You become braver in every aspect of your life.

5. Motivation

We are inspired by the acts and words of others. Especially when they do something we consider to be “impossible.” What was once something we deemed as impossible now has a different look. Without knowing so at the time, our mere witness to such experiences change us in ways we never imagined they would and we begin to want to accept challenges as well. New ideas are born. Our perspective changes and our inquisitive nature becomes more daring and bold, even if others don’t see it right away. We notice the boring and routine in our lives and we begin to ache for the actions we long to take.

Motivation is found in the smallest of acts we take — we begin to exercise to lose weight, beginning with running a simple mile. We begin to learn more from other likeminded individuals and, like sponges, soak up everything we can. Every ounce of knowledge becomes another stepping stone in our quest to move forward and achieve what no one else has believed to be possible. Once that motivation has begun to take shape and move, it becomes something that cannot be stopped or derailed by anyone.

Conclusion

At one time, all things were unthinkable — whether it be fire or a round wheel. Invention and the willingness to try new things often led to failure. However, in learning, we give ourselves chances to do better and often exceed our own expectations.

Once we start to feel the above, our mindset completely changes. The world becomes our playground and amazing things begin to unfold. Most likely, the things we never could have imagined become our foundation for the way we choose to live going forward.

We have heard what others said couldn’t be done. We believe their words to be true.

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However, when push came to shove, we proved them wrong. There is a bit of irony thrown in that in order for one to do the unthinkable, once must, in fact, do the unthinkable.

In doing so, the most amazing things change our way of thinking and our outlook in the future, ultimately changing us in the process.

At one time, learning to scuba dive seemed unthinkable to me. Not even a blip on my radar.

Do something hard once in a while. Challenge yourself in ways everyday life doesn’t.

You may think “it can’t be done” or find another reason why you shouldn’t even try. However, giving yourself a chance to find out and gain these five attributes that you will carry with you for the rest of your life will only make you better. Then, the only question will be, “What do I do next?”

Featured photo credit: Dino Reichmuth via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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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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