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10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

At one moment or another, most of us have found ourselves questioning where we are in our lives. Whether it’s our careers or our personal relationships, we wonder why we’re not where we dreamed we’d be. This sort of questioning is fundamental and crucial in directing us towards attaining what we want. Often, the answer to such a question lies in our own doing. Even though it may seem a matter of circumstance, we are to blame for failing to achieve what we desire. It is we who hold ourselves back. It is we who prevent ourselves from achieving our own fulfillment. Below are just some of the ways in which we do things that contradict what we really want.

1. We want that promotion, but we don’t shape our daily work routines around attaining it.

We won’t always go the extra mile when an opportunity presents itself. Usually, a fresh promotion or a new position equips us with a sense of momentum that drives us to work hard, day after day. However, eventually we may lose interest in what we do. Our efforts stagnate if our role has remained rather monotonous. If we settle into a comfortable position at work and fail to do more than expected, there’s no justified promotion around that corner. We must stay motivated and challenge ourselves whenever possible.

2. We want to get out and see the world, but we’re increasingly tying ourselves down.

It’s a widely common phenomenon – the desire to travel the world and take it all in. To do so effectively; however, a lot of sacrifices must be made. The most important sacrifice is our free time. The older we grow, the more we find ourselves bound to our responsibilities. We have rent or mortgage to pay every month. We have a job that cannot be put on the back-burner for longer than two weeks. Relationships and/or children can dissuade us to get out there and really see the world. The longer we wait, the more there is to keep us grounded. We are also less likely to enjoy an opportunity to its fullest potential. Furthermore, we should not regard these obligations and responsibilities as excuses to prevent us from travelling, but rather as obstacles that can be managed (with effort) and rearranged.

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3. We want to pursue our childhood dreams, but get bogged down under notions of pragmatism and practicality.

If everyone lived according to the lifestyle that they envisioned in their earlier years, we would all be driving our Ferrari’s home from a typical day at work, likely at NASA or Nascar. Our dreams gradually dissolve the more we settle for stability. Why dish out all that money for a luxury sports car, when we can get a safe and practical sedan for a fraction of the price? Mentally, this continual practice of settling for what we can afford and what’s practical can prove detrimental. It’s a departure from what we really want. Our list of dreams turns into a list of dreams never achieved. There’s no reason we should refrain from shooting for the stars.

4. We want a great social life and many friends, but we just don’t make the effort.

Oftentimes we may find ourselves sitting around with a heavy sense of isolation. We might feel left out of various social circles. Unless we’re on the wrong end of a high school popularity contest, the blame rests on us. It’s our responsibility to make an effort – to go out when invited, to not cancel plans, and to initiate conversations. Popularity and a great social circle requires sacrifice and effort. We have to give, in order to get. Sometimes it’s impractical due to family or time-consuming career/studies, so we have to prioritize and accept the outcomes of what we choose to pursue.

5. We want to express ourselves and be courageous when it counts, but we’re afraid and we shy away.

Fear is a constant barrier to so many aspects of our lives – success, self-improvement, being true to oneself. We’re often presented with moments where we can raise our voice, give our opinions, or push back. Unfortunately though, we tend to shy away in fear of embarrassment or criticism. This can ultimately result in an ever-lasting memory in which we regret the way we failed to act in a particular situation. At the end of the road, we would ideally like to look back and feel as though we stayed true to ourselves. We hope we will be satisfied with the way we handled situations. We must avoid letting fear hold us back and seize the moment whenever we can.

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6. We want to relax and be mellow, but we let stress carry us away.

Stress can take years off of our lives if we let it eat at us. Many times it’s inevitable, but sometimes it’s completely unnecessary. For instance, there’s no need for us to worry about trivial things. Why get anxious about something completely out of our control? We must limit stress to matters that are within our control. We should focus on what we can solve with our own effort. Eliminate anxiety that stems from matters that won’t improve if we worry about them. This requires a substantial amount of self-awareness and constant vigilance of our mentality, but it’s well worth the effort.

7. We want to be healthy, but we prefer convenience and pleasure.

It’s human nature to be a creature of habit, seeking the constant fulfillment of pleasure. Part of it is genetic, like a predisposition to addiction, for instance. Part of it can be laziness or time-constraint. Why spend an hour cooking a healthy meal, when we can order out? We work on our feet all day, so what’s the use in exercising after work? These types of excuses prove detrimental to our well-being. The things that are really good for us (proper diet/exercise) can only be achieved with effort. The results may not be immediate (maybe you’re cooking tastes terrible, at first) but the long term benefits must be persistently acknowledged.

8. We want happiness, but we don’t let ourselves be happy.

Happiness can be a phenomenally elusive thing. Whether we take things for granted, see the glass as always being half empty, or just fail to stop and smell the roses – happiness is all about perception. For some people it’s much easier to generate happiness than it is for others. Some people have the perfect life. but still find themselves fending off bouts of depression. Others find happiness in the most essential of life’s needs. Thankfully, there are many solutions out there, some of which may include making time for ourselves and pursuing our interests. We must try and achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves, or work towards something greater. The solutions are out there – they just need to be realized.

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9. We want the world, but we have so much that we take for granted. We seek fulfillment but never let ourselves experience it.

This is the most pervasive human characteristic, in my opinion. If we always want something more, we’ll never have enough. It’s something so common and so predominant in leaving us ultimately feeling unfulfilled. So many of us are aggressively pursuing more and more, whilst we fail to look at what we have. We fail to appreciate our accomplishments. We’re bored with our jobs. Even though these very jobs provide a stable income and put a roof over our head. We’re annoyed with familial obligation, even though our family is otherwise a bright spot in our lives, supporting us at every turn. We get mad at our friends – the very ones who provide us with so much happiness. We feel unfortunate, even if we’re living in a modern civilized society free of war and famine. We never have enough time to ourselves, even though we’re writing and reading this post right now. If we’re perpetually focused upon what we want, and not what we already have, we’ll never feel fulfilled.

10. We want to be the best that we can be, but we don’t make it a life philosophy to improve ourselves everyday.

We wonder why we’re not where we want to be. We want to be better, but we don’t put in the work. It need not even take as much work, as it takes a conscious effort to evaluate where we are and why we’re here or there. Without this conscious awareness, we let things spiral away. Time flies by and we auto-pilot our way to a destination far away from where we want to be. What are the main points to take away from all of this? There are several themes that emerge from point to point: self-awareness and effort, being the most crucial. We have to ensure that we’re strictly re-evaluating ourselves, not just when we find ourselves at a crossroad, but more frequently and more aggressively. We have to establish a structure that prompts self-evaluation every so often. This method  takes practice and effort, but is absolutely vital in giving us control over where we go and what we achieve. Furthermore, we have to make an effort in our social interactions, in attaining what we want, and in avoiding the tendency to settle for what is convenient. If you found yourself disagreeing with several of the points made in this post then consider yourself fortunate.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung

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Featured photo credit: MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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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!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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