A Digital Spring Cleaning

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor. It’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living”- Peter Walsh

It is that time of year where the temperature starts to rise and we open the windows to let the fresh air in. Spring cleaning seems to be a rite of passage for those of us in New England. Smelling the spring air waft through your living space is a wonderful moment as it signals that warmer days are upon us. As spring fever sets in we work to put away winter clothes and to sweep away the thoughts of a cold winter.

Spring often represents new beginnings and a fresh start. It is an exciting time where the world comes alive again. This year not only did our household start spring cleaning early (shout out here to my wife!) I took it upon myself to clear out my phone! Yes-my electronic device received a thorough cleaning. In many respects digital clutter is just as bad as physical clutter. It distracts our mind, makes things harder to find and can cause stress with the sense of being overwhelmed.

In my digital declutter effort I focused on two areas; unused applications and photos. What a world of difference this effort has made. I can now see the background photo on my phone and I can easily locate the applications I regularly use. Also, removing all photos (delete or back-up) that held no value makes all of my favorite photos easier to find (imagine trying to find your kids in a larger crowd…so much easier when the crowd is gone!).

Through this process I found two gem worthy items from my photos that I have populated here. This first one is from the book Philosophy for Life by Jules Evens. The four steps below outline the Socratic tradition. In many respects the Champion Dad mindset is a stoic mindset and wonderfully align with these thoughts.

  1. Humans can know themselves. We can use our reason to examine out unconscious beliefs and values.
  2. Humans can change themselves. We can use our reason to change our beliefs. This will change our emotions, because our emotions follow our beliefs.
  3. Humans can consciously create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting.
  4. If we follow philosophy as a way of life, we can live more flourishing lives.

The second thing, posted below in green, I have no idea where I found it or who wrote it! So if anyone can identify who this is please let me know so I can provide credit (Contact). I am putting it here because it is a great reminder that we only have one life to live. To have the greatest impact on others we must first start with taking care of the self. This one really hit home with all of the trials I have gone through this winter:

You’re going to realize it one day- that happiness was never about your job or your degree or being in a relationship. Happiness was never about following in the footsteps of all of those who came before you; it was never about being like the others. One day, you’re going to see it- that happiness was always about the discovery, the hope, the listening to your heart and following it wherever it chose to go. Happiness was always about being kinder to yourself; it was always about embracing the person you were becoming. One day, you will understand that happiness was always about learning how to live with yourself, that your happiness was never in the hands of others. It was always about you. It was always about you.

WOW! So true! Follow your bliss and then be of service to the world to help others do the same thing!

Get cleaning and let the fresh air fill your soul will excitement and love!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Daniel von Append via Unsplash

5 Techniques to Improve Your Listening Skills

Guess what? I am a terrible listener. I am especially bad when I am in the middle of a task or if someone is talking to me while I am watching my kids. You see, I am sharp enough to believe that I can “multi-task” but if I am not fully locked on to the person just about all of my retention goes bye-bye.

This drives my wife bonkers and leads her to not feel valued. A real life example of how something small thing can corrode a relationship is as follows:

A few weeks ago while I was unloading the dishwasher my wife was explaining (for the second time) how to make iced-tea the way that the kids and her like it. I half listened and gave her all the verbal cues that I got it. In that moment I conceptually understood what she was saying and thought I got it but the reality is it never stuck. One week later, my wife asked me to make some iced-tea before I went to bed. I thought “I got this!” but I had a problem: I couldn’t remember the right mix of tea to use. So I asked through text but being late I never received a response. As such, I took my best guess and made it incorrectly…you can imagine the delightful conversation that ensued the following day.

You may think that my example is no big deal and it is just iced-tea but is this really about tea? No, it is really about my inability to listen and make my wife feel heard and valued. Small things and big things; we if do not listen we are hurting the relationship. Feelings of not being valued do not care about circumstance.

Here are a few things that we all can work on to ensure that we truly listen to the other person. When we employ these techniques not only will we retain what they are saying but they will also feel honored.

  1. Stop what you are doing and square up with that person. This first step is really critical. First, stopping what we are doing allows us to shift gear and focus solely on the person talking. Second, squaring up with the person (turning so our body is is facing them directly) signals to them that they have our full attention. Squaring up also will help our brain focus and drop the other task it was in the process of doing.
  2. Mirror what the other person is saying. This is as simple repeating the last two or three words of their last sentence. Example: Wife: “Let me show you how to make the iced-tea correctly”. Me: “Iced-tea correctly?”. Mirroring in this nature invites the speaker to tell you more and makes them feel honored. Also, when we verbalize and repeat what we hear we to start to lock it in our long term memory.
  3. Label ANY emotions that you pick up on. Using the example above labeling would sound like: “Seems like you are frustrated” or “Sounds like you are agitated”. What is so great about this technique is labeling negative emotions will decrease that emotion for the other person. Labeling positive emotions will have the opposite effect; they will increase! Additional tip: Don’t use phrases like “I think I am hearing” as these do not work. Placing “I” when labeling puts the focus on us and we don’t want that. Remember, the focus needs to be on the speaker.
  4. When, and only when, the speaker is done speaking, paraphrase what you have heard so they know that you understand. The goal of paraphrasing is to make sure we got everything important that they said. We will know when we have done a great job when you hear back “That’s right”. That’s right is confirmation that they have been heard and that we understand what they are communicating.
  5. If needed, write down what you need to remember. This is so simple and allows us the grace to return to our task without worry that we will forget the conversation. From my original example, I now have a note on a bulletin board in our kitchen on how to make great iced-tea!

Good listening is a true art form. It takes practice to do it well. I am still not the best listener but I am sure working at it. Employing these techniques will work wonders. They will make the other person feel validated (stronger relationship) and help us meet any expectations we have agreed to.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ellie Lord via Unsplash