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8 Life Lessons You Should Learn Today

8 Life Lessons You Should Learn Today

    You grasp many life lessons only after making a mistake and realizing, “Oh crap. I wish I’d done something very different.” For some lessons, that’s not that big of a deal. In other areas, you’d be a lot better off if you could get started working to counteract the problem before it happens.

    Here are eight of these life lessons you should consider addressing now, while you don’t need to:

    1. Cut your living expenses – dramatically.

    If you’re in the US, there are so many material goods so readily available it’s easy to get caught up in accumulating as much stuff as you can. As long as your income is rising, that can be manageable in the short-term. Sooner or later though, there’s a very real possibility you’re income won’t be rising for at least some period of time.You then have to make quick (potentially painful) decisions about what in your lifestyle gets cut to avoid accumulating debt.

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    Far better (although maybe not easier) to pare back elements of your lifestyle well before you need to do so. Not only does it curb potentially over-ambitious expectations for you (and your family) about what is “necessary” to be happy and fulfilled, every dollar of expense you eliminate is a dollar to be saved or invested for the proverbial “rainy day.”

    2. Ask for help from your professional and personal networks.

    It’s one thing to build a network and accumulate hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere online, plus those which exist in real life. But having a name and skeletal contact information in an online list isn’t really an active network. A functioning network comes from knowing you can reach out to people for help and they’ll actually recognize you and respond. It also means first doing your part to benefit those within your network.

    So before you find yourself out of a job or in some type of jam where you need help RIGHT AWAY, get active with individuals in your network sharing ideas, offering help, and asking for their assistance in areas which aren’t critical. Getting a comfortable and regular dialogue going with specific people will make it much easier to make the “big ask” when you’re in a real pinch.

    3. Seek out a career change.

    The last few years have obviously seen a tremendous amount of uproar and change in the career prospects of millions. Jobs which seemed secure (in part because particular employers and industries appeared secure) have turned out not to be. With so many uprooted at once in tremendously challenging economic times, finding that next job has taken much longer. That’s why it has been important (and will likely remain so) to anticipate what your first steps will be if you’re suddenly out of work.

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    When you don’t really need to, create a plan B (and maybe even a plan C) and work multiple options so if a potential career derailment strikes you, you’re able to transition as seamlessly as possible to your next best alternative. Sure this means more work and effort, but better to be prepared ahead of time than thrown into a life crunch with no realistic preparation to exploit.

    4. Hone your selling skills.

    Many people not in sales jobs have the mistaken belief they aren’t salespeople. In reality, if you work, live, or interact with others in any way (that should include everybody reading this) then you are certainly trying to convince people to adopt your point of view. That means you’re a salesperson.

    The implication is you’ll benefit from doing some reading and practicing selling skills right now. Doing so will help you improve at understanding others’ points of view, identifying what needs and benefits are important to them, and being able to anticipate and respond to objections they pose. Plus, if you ever find yourself needing to more actively sell (i.e., you want or have to start your own business), you’ll be so much further along in achieving sales success.

    5. Get smarter.

    Do you hear that popping sound? That’s your knowledge about whatever it is you do evaporating as new technology, new practices, new marketplace realities, or any of a thousand other things render your knowledge ineffective or downright incorrect. What do you do? Make an active and very concerted effort to continue learning during and after you are in school. Social media both makes ongoing learning easier (through ready access to experts and information you’d never have been able to reach before) and harder (since many “experts” have no clue what they’re talking about).

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    As a result, use every means you can to not only stay current on what you’re doing right now, but also try to anticipate what you may be doing in the future to get a head start on learning in newer areas. Pay particular attention to techniques on how to learn more effectively and faster, which apply across multiple fields of study. Far better to have a familiar command of a new discipline than learning from scratch in an accelerated time frame.

    6. Exercise.

    I always hated exercising, so I never did any in my 20s and most of my 30s. My resistance was bolstered by the fact my weight was manageable, although my waist size slowly increased by 6 inches in the years after getting married. When my wife finally got me to work out and then signed me up with a trainer, the initial physical assessment showed I was out of shape and had about 25 pounds to lose.

    Slowly but surely over the course of a couple of years, I lost all the weight and dramatically reduced my body fat percentage. Only problem? There are areas (such as “love handles”) that show no signs of going away no matter how well I eat and work out. If I’d been exercising all the way through, I’d have been in a lot better shape, controlled some of those problem areas, and had much less of a hurdle once I started exercising way too late.

    7. Pray.

    Don’t you hate when you only hear from someone when they need something? Me too. And we’re not the only ones either. When things are going well, take a little time to work on your spirituality, irrespective of what or wherever you choose to do it. Getting in touch with something bigger than you even if it only lies within yourself always helps put things in the proper perspective. And understanding the consolation spirituality provides when everything’s going your way allows you to understand the kind of spiritual second wind that can be yours when nothing’s going as you planned.

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    8. Be humble.

    When things are booming, you’re not typically thinking about what life might be like when your situation isn’t going as well. That can lead to overlooking others who are important contributors to your success, especially if they tend to stay in the background and embrace a servant leadership approach to how they conduct themselves. The irony is that at those times when things are going super for you, you’re best served by noticing the “little people” and adopting some of their orientation to humble service. Doing this will reduce the number of people who will be rubbed the wrong way by you reveling in your success. It will also ensure you’ll have many more friends should your fortunes turn because you’ll be supported by others who care about you and not what you’re accomplishing.

    Summary

    My advice? Select at least a few of these areas to begin addressing right now. Which ones to select? That’s up to you based on what’s going to be most important to you when things aren’t going like you hoped!

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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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