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5 Reasons Why You Should Never Follow Your Dreams

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Follow Your Dreams

Dreams. The magical elixir of self-help books, magazines and blogs. “Follow your dreams” they chirp cheerfully. “Live your dream life” they proclaim, tempting you with images of deserted white beaches framed by palm trees and a perfectly positioned piña colada. These self-proclaimed truth tomes practically scream at you to drop everything Right This Minute and pursue the yellow brick road leading you to a life filled with unbeknownst passion and joy. All you ever wanted, and more!

Just in case the piña colada didn’t sell it to you in the first instance there are a plethora of real life anecdotes detailing the stories of people who did in fact drop everything and follow their passion. The bank teller who had a Come-to-Jesus moment over his morning bowl of cheerios, handing in his resignation that very day. Effectively saying cheerio to the 9-5 grind to begin a new life in Africa helping displaced refugees. The stressed out mother who had her very own Oprah ‘aha’ moment and came up with a new business idea that revolutionized childcare, netting her a cool 50 million dollars when she sold the business to Google. There are literally thousands of these types of stories about people who waltzed off into the sunset and lived happily ever after just by following their dreams.

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But really, what’s so great about following your dreams? Here are 5 reasons why you should just keep on doing what you do and never follow your dreams.

1. You will have an abundance of free time.

Think of all that extra time you would have to take out of your already packed to the gills schedule to implement those next steps that are required in dream following. No more sitting on the couch and watching Mob Wives as you tuck into a bag of potato chips. There’s dream’s to be followed! Think of all those nights you would have to stay up late researching ideas for your new business concept, putting time and energy into your passion project. Think how tired you would be the next day. Urgh. More work on top of the work that you already do all day without getting paid? Sounds less like a dream and more like a nightmare.

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2. You will be safe.

Do you really want to give up that regular paycheck on a whim? How do you know your dream will succeed? Just think how embarrassing it would be to give up your comfortable office cubicle after announcing you are off to save the rainforest in the Amazon only to come crawling back 12 months later, tail between your legs begging for your old position back. If you don’t take the risk, you will stay exactly where you are. Safely tucked away in your office cubicle day after day after day until you finally retire 40 years later. Why on earth would you want anything out of life other than a completely predictable outcome?

3. You won’t get weird looks from people.

You want to move to Costa Rica and open a yoga retreat? Be prepared for some eye rolls and barely concealed sniggers. People will look at you strangely and they will think you are weird. You will stand out from the crowd and become a target for ridicule by your friends and family. Not to mention what on earth the neighbors would think. Think how awkward it will be when you find out that you are the talk of the town and people just cannot comprehend why on earth you would want to give up your safe and comfortable life to move to a third world country.

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4. If you never try then you will never fail.

If you don’t pursue your dreams in life then there is virtually a 99.9% chance that you will never fail. Think about it. Never failing. Never having to put in all that effort only for it to fall flat. If you live a life that involves taking no risks you know exactly where you stand. You can predict that in 20 years time you will be doing exactly what you are doing now, only with a few more wrinkles. Think how comfortable and safe a life free of any type of failure would feel as you slide into old age.

5. You will leave a legacy of stability.

Just think of the example you will be setting for your kids, friends and loved ones. They will learn to treasure the important things in life such as routine, predictability and sticking with what you know. They will learn to play it small in life and never to take risks. They will learn that although they may have wanted desperately to be a singer when they were eight years old, it’s just not a realistic life choice. They will learn to lock up these lofty aspirations into the deep recesses of their mind and limit their singing to the shower. After all, does the world really need another Lady GaGa?

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Do I need any more reasons to convince you that living the life of your dreams is just not worth pursuing? Stay safe, play it safe and you will never know anything more about yourself than you know now. Draw that comfort zone nice and tight around you as you relax on the couch for the latest episode of The Voice. When it comes down to it, isn’t watching everybody else chase their dreams far more fun than actually doing it yourself?

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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

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