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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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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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