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Opening Your Mind

Opening Your Mind

There’s a common saying that human beings were given two ears (and two eyes), but only one mouth to show that they should listen (and look) at least twice as much as they speak. I think that for managers and leaders that ratio is far too low. Looking and listening should happen maybe ten or more times for every time you open your mouth to make some pronouncement or decision. Yet in our rushed, stressed, action-obsessed corporate cultures, it sometimes seems that leaders speak at least ten times as often as they listen. Is it any wonder that so much time and effort is wasted in mistakes and false starts?

A leader who is out of touch is a liability to everyone, including him or herself. A manager with a closed mind is like a ship sailing at full speed for the rocks. More mistakes and losses are caused by people who have closed minds and open mouths that by all kinds of incompetence. I think rather few managers and leaders today lack enough competence. Mostly they are well-trained and highly skilled in their specialist areas. Where many are grossly deficient is in being sufficiently open-minded and willing to listen. All their skill and experience goes to waste as a result.

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Then there’s arrogance: being too proud and full of yourself to listen to anyone except a small clique of chosen associates (and sometimes not even to them). That trait is a certain killer. There are always people who will encourage you to tune out the rest of the world and listen only to them. The trouble is that they nearly always have a hidden agenda and a strong attachment to their own self-interest. A manager who surrounds him or herself with people like this is playing an extremely risky game. You may boost your ego still further (such sycophants are expert at polishing the boss’s ego), but the price you will pay is being cut off from reality and fed a constant diet of warped data that suits the interests of your minders.

Successful leaders understand that it is never anyone else’s responsibility to save them from becoming blinded by ignorance and surrounded by minders and toadies. That is their job alone, and they make it their highest priority. If the data reaching you is wrong, limited, out-of-date, or twisted and censored by others, any decisions you make will be as poor as the data they are based on.

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How do successful leaders behave?

  • They seek out the information they need. They don’t rely on others to bring it to their attention.
  • The know that the more glib, polished, and authoritative the person speaking, the more closely he or she should be questioned. Confidence tricksters and sharp salespeople are very persuasive and articulate. The person who knows the truth may not be either, but is still the only one worth hearing.
  • They never judge the worth of a piece of information by the status of the person they get it from, only by its reliability and importance.
  • They know that laziness in seeking out and testing information opens the door to being manipulated by those who are devoted to self-interest and not to the truth.
  • They never make a final decision until they must. Until then, they keep their minds, ears, and eyes open and alert to possible changes that would require a different choice.
  • They value evidence above convenience.
  • They know judgment and emotions are poor bedfellows.
  • They are aware of their own biases and take care to allow for them in making a decision.
  • They may have strong opinions, but they hold to them very lightly. They never cling to any opinion when the evidence is pointing another way, and they drop it instantly if it proves unsound.
  • They use at least 80% of their time to look, listen, explore, analyze, reflect, and consider. Only then do they speak.

Look around you at all the people with their mouths constantly open, and their minds,eyes, and ears tightly shut to anything that doesn’t immediately support the opinions they are so eager to proclaim. That’s how many fools there are in the world. Sadly, many of them hold important positions of leadership too. Just don’t join them. They are headed for certain disaster.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his posts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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