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How To Save Thousands on Personal Development

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How To Save Thousands on Personal Development

    Crossing the Line

    In life, there often seems to be a line where many things move from being a positive to a negative. From a healthy part of our existence to an unhealthy one. From a functional and normal process to a dysfunctional and abnormal one. From something that should be life-enhancing, to something that becomes potentially life-destroying.

    Food

    Take food, for example. Over the years, I’ve worked with many people who have turned their healthy eating habits into completely unhealthy eating disorders. Somewhere along the way, they went from being focused on eating well, to being totally obsessed with, and preoccupied by, food. Something which is fundamental to human existence and survival (eating) somehow becomes their biggest challenge in life. The very thing that will sustain most of us, might well destroy them.

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    Exercise

    The same thing happens with exercise. The unfit person becomes fit. Before long, they feel better, look better, function better and get lots of approval and recognition – all highly desirable (and potentially addictive) outcomes. So, they decide to get a little fitter and leaner and train a little more. And more again. They reason: “Well, if one hour of exercise is good, then two hours will be twice as good and three must be amazing!” Before long, they train whenever and wherever possible. They begin to lie about their exercise habits. They experience anxiety and even anger when they can’t do their workout. They start planning their life around their exercise regime. It affects them mentally, emotionally and socially. They lose perspective and the healthy pursuit of exercise has now become an unhealthy obsession.

    Money

    We see this type of unhealthy behaviour in a range of settings and wrapped around a plethora of everyday issues and responsibilities. For some people, making money will transition from being a normal, everyday responsibility and necessity to a complete obsession. They will eat, sleep and breathe it. Money will become their identity. Their self esteem. Their sole focus. Or should I say, soul focus? And, in the middle of their fanatical pursuit of the almighty dollar, they will become physically, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. They will lose themselves. Their success will not be success at all. Their practical and sensible goal (to earn and save money) will have become an unhealthy and destructive obsession.

    Religion

    And speaking of destructive and dysfunctional habits, behaviours and beliefs, I guess I could play the religion card… but do I really need to? Thought not.

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    Personal Development

    So, let’s talk about the potential dangers of personal development instead; the reason I started this long-winded monologue. “But Craig, surely immersing myself in personal development can’t lead to any kind of undesirable or negative outcomes, can it?”

    Er, only about a thousand.

    Like anything else that we might focus on, the pursuit of personal growth can produce a myriad of negative outcomes when we go about it the wrong way. Some people will become quite fanatical and emotional about their new-found insight and reality. Which might compel them to evangelise their un-impressed family, friends and colleagues with an ever-expanding range of theories, ideas, stories and shonky research. And, naturally, that’s always well received.

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    For the most part, being excited, educated and passionate about something is good, especially when it leads to some kind of positive behavioural change and desirable outcome. When the information (like the mountains of stuff on this site) is the genesis for practical application and lasting transformation, then personal development is serving its intended purpose. It’s positive. It’s practical. It’s transformational. It’s a valuable resource.

    The Reality

    But when we step back from all the motivational language, the theories, the mantras, the affirmations and the emotion, can we honestly say that personal development products, programs, services and resources typically (that is, most times) result in significant and lasting transformation for the individuals who partake? Of course, there is no independent data or research to answer that question accurately or quantitatively (to my knowledge) but if I had to take an educated stab my answer would be… no, most people don’t create significant or lasting change. That’s not to say that they can’t but, rather, that they won’t.

    Life Ain’t No Theory

    For some people, the answer will be yes but it’s my experience, observation and opinion that far too many people delude, delay and deny themselves in the theory of transformation (yes, even people who frequent this cyber-classroom) when they should actually be rolling up their sleeves and immersing themselves in the practical, messy, uncomfortable reality of the change process. The doing part.

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    Stop listening, watching, reading, researching and studying, and start applying what you’ve learned.

    After decades of teaching, coaching, learning, studying and watching this stuff in action, I’m of the opinion that, for personal development to be a genuinely effective transformational tool – in a practical, measurable and experiential way – the change process should be somewhere in the vicinity of ninety percent doing stuff (the practical) and ten percent learning stuff (listening, watching, reading, researching, studying). Of course, the percentages might need to vary a little depending on the individual goal and what stage of the journey we’re at with that goal but, for the most part, I think 90/10 works.

    Sadly, for many people, the percentages are more like 1/99. That is, one percent doing and ninety-nine percent… not doing.

    What are your percentages?

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    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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