Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seek first to understand

I have always believed in the need to understand who I am -- not just in context to my physical boundaries, my role in the world, but also from the perspective of what makes me tick. I have also been limited by my belief that I need to understand who I am, because it has held me back from being free of 'who I am' so that I can become who I want to be when my habitual behaviours hold me back from seeing how who I am on the outside is hurting me and holding me back from becoming who I truly am within me.

Hmmm, sounds rather convoluted doesn't it?

When I went through the program, Choices, last year, I found a whole new world of understanding opening up before me. I learned to accept my 'being', and gained tools to focus my 'doing' so that I could have the opportunity to build the life of my dreams.

One of the most powerful aspects of that experience was the permission to be who I am in a deeply loving and caring way, without fear of never being enough. Through going through the processes, and continually scanning my world for those areas where my internal tapes (those annoying, critical voices that whisper in my head about what I can, can't do, be, can't be) and my self-defeating games limit me, I have been able to expand my life to encompass all of me, warts and all, with love and joy.

What a gift.

Last week, in the Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People course that I took, I was strengthened in my resolve to continue to grow and learn as much as I can about how I can be a more effective human being, doing what it takes to create a world in which I have a sense of community, commitment and caring. Not just for me, but rather to create a world of beauty in all my relationships.

The processes outlined in Covey's work are very similar to what I learned at Choices. The biggest difference is the 7 Habits program focuses primarily on my professional life -- though Covey is very clear that who we are in our personal lives is who we are in all areas of our lives. The 7 Habits deepened my appreciation of the power of the tools I've learned at Choices, and gave me more tools to put them into action in my life on a daily basis.

Life is a journey. Not a destination. How I respond to events along my journey is predicated upon my ability to shift my paradigms to allow for more information to filter through the fog of my resistance to change my beliefs that the world is as I see it, not as it truly is. In shifting my paradigm, I open myself up to new opportunities, fresh insight and a whole new way of doing things.

I noticed the change yesterday. I had asked my eldest daughter how her course went yesterday. Her response was immediate. "I don't want to talk about it," she said. "We did some really emotional work." (she's taking an acting for film course)

My natural response would have been to ignore her desire to not talk and ask her a question, to grill her on what was so emotional about the work and to tell her that talking about it was the best way to get through to understanding. Instead, I remembered what I'd learned last week about 'empathic listening'. I wanted to engage in a conversation with her. I wanted to HEAR her and learn what was true for her, not tell her what I believed I knew to be true for her.

Rather than jump in with a question, I paused, and thought about the 5th Habit -- Seek first to Understand. "It sounds like it really affected you," I said to my daughter as I put my arms around her and gave her a hug.

"It did," she said and began to share her insight about the day and what it meant for her.

As a mother, I always want to tell my daughters what to do with their lives -- doesn't mother know best?

Truth is, when I tell them, I disempower them. When I listen to understand, I make space for them and me to deepen the intimacy of our relationship. And, they have the opportunity to find out for themselves how powerful they are.

The question is: Where does your belief in what you know limit you from hearing what others need to say to be heard?

1 comment:

Tim said...

Excellent blog! Keep it up.