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Changing Your Personal Reality – Part 1

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Changing Your Personal Reality – Part 1

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    My Head Hurts…

    While the subject of “Personal Reality” might seem somewhat esoteric, philosophical and even confusing to some, it’s something that’s not only relevant to every one of us, but also something that impacts on virtually every area of our existence and human experience in a tangible and practical manner. All the time. Just as we each have different DNA, so too do we each inhabit our own “personal” reality. That is, the way we experience our world. Notice I say “our world” because the world and our world are two very different places. For the most part, one is absolute (forgetting that whole global warming thing for a moment) and the other is in a constant state of flux and transition; often changing drastically in a matter of minutes. You and I both know people who exist side by side with someone else (often in the same house), yet each of those people live in a total different reality. You may well be that people. Er, person. Why? Because physical environment (for the most part) doesn’t determine reality, we do. We make things good or bad. Hard or easy. A lesson or a failure. An opportunity or a problem.

    A Universal Reality?

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    How you and I will experience things is determined by each of us individually, not by what “appears” to be going on to the rest of the world. There is no universal reality because every moment of every day you and I are interpreting, processing and reacting individually to a non-stop stream of information and stimuli from our physical world; the place we inhabit. Not to be confused with the place we live; our head. It could be suggested that the majority of our living (how we each experience life) is actually a cerebral, emotional and spiritual experience, not a physical one. Although some people work very hard to make their life all about the physical; which invariably leads to misery (another exploration for down the track).

    We Create Hard. And Easy.

    Yes there are universal situations, circumstances and events but there is no universal reality because things only have the meaning that we give them. Just as things only have the power (influence, control) in our lives that we allow them to have. Which also means that there are no “difficult” situations (for example); only different situations to which we each react individually. Some well, others not. Difficulty is a human construct; a label that you and I each assign to the various happenings in our world. Despite what most of us believe, there is no universal “hard” or “easy”; only our personal interpretations of, and reactions to, what goes on in our day-to-day practical lives.

    Where we Live

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    By “living in our head” I mean that our experience of the world – that is, how we see various situations, circumstances and events, how we allow those things to affect us, what they mean to us and how we react to it all – is individual, unique and self-determined. Which is why we can see two people going through what appears to be the same experience at the same time (some might erroneously say, the same reality) – a very similar court case for example – yet they are both impacted in totally different ways. One learns a valuable life-lesson, grows emotionally, becomes more aware, compassionate and enlightened, while the other suffers from extreme physical, emotional and psychological stress – all self-created by the way (situations don’t create stress, people do) – loses confidence, becomes angry and bitter and slides into a depressive state for a period of time. Why? Because the two individuals weren’t actually going through the same “experience” at all; they were each creating their own experience. One positive. One negative.

    The Puppet

    puppet1

      Until we acknowledge that we each have the power to determine our own reality and create our own experiences, we will continue to be a puppet having our strings pulled by situations, events, circumstances and other people. We will continue to be the Reactor and not the Creator. Step one on the path to enlightenment, consciousness and lasting change (from the inside out) is to acknowledge that we can control our own destiny, we can each create our own reality, our world is not “the” world and our history will only become our future if we allow that to happen. Step two (in the Harper book of life-philosophy) is to understand that good or bad, hard or easy, happiness or misery are all choices – and to then live accordingly. And remember; by not making a decision, you are making a decision. Be mindful that the decisions you don’t make will have just as much impact on your personal reality as the decisions you do make. One way or the other. So don’t delude yourself. If you have the ability to think, reason and choose, then you have the ability to change your personal reality for the better. If you consistently choose to not take action, to not use your potential and to not take back the power you’ve given away, then you vicariously choose mediocrity and misery and have nobody to blame but yourself. Subscribing to the “things will work themselves out” philosophy is ignorant, naive, apathetic and shows a distinct lack of courage.

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      You are the author of your life. Start writing.

      But What About My Sick Aunty?

      Okay, I can hear some of you saying “but what about people who are diagnosed with cancer; surely their reality is decided for them?” And I would reply, is their disease their reality? Does it define them? Determine them? Is their reality determined by what’s happening to their (temporary) house? Is it possible for a terminally ill person  to experience joy, pleasure, connection, fulfillment and happiness? A personal reality of calm and contentment perhaps? Of course it is. One of life’s great curiosities is that we often see terminally ill people who are much happier (happiness being the one universal goal) than their healthy counterparts. Why? Because they have let go of that which made them unhappy; fear, insecurity, greed, anger, bitterness… ego; the destructive crap. They have created a new reality to inhabit. A much better one. While they will deal with the disease in a practical and intelligent manner, they will also have an ever-present awareness that they are not their body or their disease, therefore they do not need to be miserable. And yes, I know that this paradigm messes with our very Western thinking but that is our loss – and another example of logic and science getting in the way of potential. Cultures much more evolved than ours have understood and embraced this wisdom forever.

      One Doesn’t (need to) Equal the Other

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      In truth, the absence of physical disease doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness or success (we see evidence of this every day), just as the presence of disease doesn’t necessarily equate to misery or catastrophe. So while cancer may affect my body, there is no need for it to determine my reality. I will choose my reality, my reality will not choose me. A disease is not me and I am not it. Just as the chair that I currently sit on is not me, neither are cancerous cells that might inhabit my body, me. While others may rationalise misery and catastrophe, I will choose happiness and calm. Because I have that option. Because my reality is my choice.

      As is yours.

      Tune in for Changing Your Personal Reality -Part 2 next week.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

      Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 1) Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2) Do You Make These 10 Common Mistakes Before Weighing Yourself? If your Childhood Sucked – It’s Time to Stop Blaming Your Parents! Exploring Relationships with the Single Weirdo

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      8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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      8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

      How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

      Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

      When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

      Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

      What Makes People Poor Listeners?

      Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

      1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

      Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

      Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

      It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

      2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

      This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

      Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

      3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

      It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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      I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

      If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

      4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

      While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

      To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

      My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

      Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

      Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

      How To Be a Better Listener

      For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

      1. Pay Attention

      A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

      According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

      As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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      I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

      2. Use Positive Body Language

      You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

      A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

      People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

      But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

      According to Alan Gurney,[2]

      “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

      Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

      3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

      I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

      Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

      Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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      Be polite and wait your turn!

      4. Ask Questions

      Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

      5. Just Listen

      This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

      I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

      I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

      6. Remember and Follow Up

      Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

      For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

      According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

      It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

      7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

      If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

      Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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      Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

      Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

      NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

      1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
      2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

      8. Maintain Eye Contact

      When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

      Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

      By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

      Final Thoughts

      Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

      You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

      And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

      More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
      [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
      [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
      [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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