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Are You Stuck? 10 Distinctions Will Help Change Your Mindset

Are You Stuck? 10 Distinctions Will Help Change Your Mindset

No paths in the forest

    Sometimes we cannot see the path in the forest, so we need to take a different look

    Have you ever felt like there is no way? You chase your dreams, but it seems that everything’s against them.

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    If that is not your case, then you probably belong to the small-sized group of achievers. But, for many of us, the need for “something” that turns everything downside-up is a must.

    As a coach, I have seen the benefits of distinctions, which is nothing more (and nothing less) than looking at certain pairs of words from a different point of view. It may seem worthless, but most of the time the “something” we need is just to take a new perspective, and we can start by using words in a more favorable way. So here is the list of my top 10 distinctions:

    Opinion vs. fact

    According to Newfield Consulting founder, Rafael Echeverria, we are living in “interpretive worlds” which means, at the end of the day, there’s a high scarcity of facts so most of the “facts” are actually opinions. The key point is facts are either true or false – and, in the latter case, they are called “lies.” But opinions are neither true nor false. Opinions can be well founded on facts (my laptop has been working for three years, so it will keep working tomorrow), and they can be shared by many people (one of the best restaurants in the world is “El celler de can Roca”). But they are not true. And they are not false. They’re just opinions. So next time someone (or even yourself) says “you will not reach your goal,” you can be sure it is an opinion, so you can choose to either quit or just keep going.

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    Victim vs. responsible

    The distinction here lies in the ability to act: a victim receives everything as “something that happens,” no matter what it may say or do. On the contrary, responsibility – or, even better, “response-ability” is a call for action, a way of giving response to whatever may happen. Victims don’t take action because they are overwhelmed; response-able people know the answer is action. A victim thinks the blame is outside, while a responsible person knows the answer is inside.

    To be vs. to be being

    “I am stupid.” “You are a liar.” These kind of definitions make us stay away from other possibilities. A liar lies. Always. Period. But if we say “you are lying,” we are open to new future possibilities. And maybe there is a big difference between “I am useless at work” and “I am doing an unproductive task.”

    Commitment vs. obligation

    This one is straightforward: we only do well the tasks we feel committed to. We do not perform well whenever we feel forced. When my boss tells me to do something, sometimes I feel like it’s an order, so I am obliged to obey. But I can choose to think it is something I actually want to do, for whatever reason (salary, keep good mood at the office, etc.) The quality of my job will depend on my choice.

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    Why vs. for what

    Instead of over-analyzing reasons behind our actions and feelings, we can focus on the future benefits and costs, so that the final balance is good for us. For example, let’s assume I feel angry with my boss; I can see the benefits of that feeling are that she will be away from me most of the time, so I have less assignments from her. But the cost is that I arrive home and I am still angry. Now I can start thinking about new possibilities to have the same results at a lower cost. Why not start saying “no” to those extra loads of work? Why not ask for an assistant?

    Learn vs. forget

    Have you ever seen these two words as synonyms? Have you ever realized sometimes we need to forget in order to learn? One of the worst enemies to learning is the “I have done it the other way for the last 20 years and I am not going to change that” way of thinking. For example, in order to learn Russian, you must forget the sound of “H,” “M,” “P” and “X” in order to properly learn they sound like “N,” “T,” “R” and “KH.”

    Dream vs. challenge

    A challenge can be defined as a special kind of dream: it comes with action, which means planning deadlines taking resources, setting objectives, measuring results, etc. So you can have lots of dreams, and they will hardly become true unless you transform them into challenges and start living them.

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    Complaint vs. claim

    Do you feel the difference between, “You do nothing at home!” and, “can you lay the table?” A claim is a specific call for action, while a complaint is unproductive blaming. Next time you need to ask for something, try to make a claim instead of a complaint.

    To make a petition vs. to command

    The difference between these two actions is inside ourselves, and not in the style. Is it not true that “could you please lower your voice?” is just a question, or that “Shut up!” is an order; the distinction lies in our reaction when the receiver says “No.” Can you stand it? Then you were asking. Can’t you? Then you are commanding. And in the latter case, you are somehow forcing the other –or even yourself- so the final result will not be the best (see distinction number 4). Next time, let’s make sure whether we are going to ask or to command before making the sentence.

    Demand vs. excellence

    If you are demanding, your focus is on things that have to be improved, the unfinished jobs, the bad results – and happiness is far from this. On the contrary, if you think of excellence as being conscious about your achievements, you will be ready to go to the next step. Excellence does not mean to hide or deny reality, but being humble enough to say “okay, so far so good. And next time will be better.”

    I hope these tools can help you open new possibilities to reach your goals. Which one is the most compelling to you? Are you using some other distinctions in your life? I welcome your comments!

    Featured photo credit: Ok or KO / francesc rossell-pujos via dropbox.com

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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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