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15 Things Everyone Should Reflect On After Another Year Has Passed

15 Things Everyone Should Reflect On After Another Year Has Passed

Growing up takes time. I remember at 15 talking to my aunt on the 15th anniversary of her 21st birthday about the stigma of aging. Later that evening, I asked my grandfather about the hula girl tattoo on his arm.

“That’s your grandma,” he proudly answered before stretching out the skin on his forearm and quipping, “and this is what she used to look like.”

Don’t struggle through another year—shake off those birthday blues with these useful lifehack questions to unlock your mind.

1. Where was I this time last year?

Forecasting is both the most and least important part of planning. To get an accurate picture of where you are, you need to check where you were last year at the same time. Are you still on the right path? If not, what threw you off course, and what can you do to get back up and moving in the right direction?

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2. Am I who I want to be?

When you were six years old, you had dreams of who you wanted to be. Are you that person? You may not be in the exact career, but are you the type of person you wished for? The happiest people live to please their inner child—that person you used to be before everyone taught you about “real” life.

3. Have I lost/gained weight since last year?

What does your body look like compared to last year? If you wanted to lose or gain weight, did you? Did you bulk up like you wanted, or are you the same or worse? There’s no better time than now to strengthen your resolve to get into shape.

4. Did I accomplish my goals for this year?

It’s not just for the new year; everyone makes goals and resolutions throughout the year. Did you accomplish your goals for last year? What did you wish for when you blew out your candle? What did you do to make it happen?

5. Why do I have to age?

Much like pooping, everyone ages. I have no more of an answer than anyone else. Just enjoy the life you have and try to find your smile. It’s the only way to truly live.

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6. Do I need to change any routines?

At certain ages, you become susceptible to different ailments, depending on your lifestyle, gender, social position, etc. If you need to quit smoking or get serious about a project, now’s the time.

7. What do I have to be grateful for?

You have a roof over your head, shoes on your feet, and clothes on your back (and hopefully everywhere else, because otherwise you’re a naked superhero and likely in the back of a squad car). If you’re breathing and awake, you have something to be grateful for. Show your gratitude to the world.

8. What good can I do next year?

Now that you have a firm grasp on who you’ve been, it’s time to decide who you’re going to be. You may want to be an entrepreneur or an adventurer or just get promoted to management at your current job. Whether you want to have a child or be one, make plans, because time doesn’t stop for anyone.

9. Who have I let in my life?

Look around at your friends and family—you’re stuck with some of these people, but others can be exchanged (or, at the very least, you can spend less time with them). Only allow people into your life who bring positive energy and influence. Politely phase the rest out at your leisure.

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10. What do I need?

Start prioritizing your life. We all have so many goals that it’s impossible to keep up with them all. Taking stock of what you have and what you feel you need keeps you financially and mentally organized. You need a ball to keep your eye on it.

11. How do I feel?

How do you honestly feel about yourself? You can lie to whoever you choose, but be honest with yourself. If you’re unhappy with a situation, make the necessary changes to make it better. Sometimes this means quitting a job or packing up and moving. Even if you’re wrong, you’ll survive, and at least you’ll know for next time.

12. What’s my motivation?

Actors ask this all the time, and there’s a reason—you need to know what’s motivating you to get up every morning to keep living. Times will get hard, no matter what path you’re on, so figure out what drives you, and focus on that.

13. Am I aging gracefully?

Sometimes you have to maintain your youth, and sometimes you need to let go. How you decide to live is up to you, but make sure you’re at least doing it with grace and compassion. Nobody likes a Debbie or Donald Downer.

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14. Who are these people?

Do you have any heroes? If so, what were they doing at your age? One of my childhood heroes was Tupac Shakur, and at my age, he had been dead for six years. That’s a sobering thought that keeps me pushing toward greatness with humbleness.

15. Was it worth it?

At the end of the day, was everything you’ve done worth it? Even if you lose, if you enjoyed or appreciated the experience of trying, then you’ve won. If you lost more than you wanted, it may be time to make a change in your life.

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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

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