As parents we never stop wanting the best for our kids – our relationship changes and evolves as we all grow older and wiser, but we still want to help them learn and develop. We helped them learn how to walk and feed themselves, to ride a bike, to manage their pocket money and mind their manners. Now they’re older and venturing out into their world, there are more lessons that I’ve learned, and am still learning every day, that I want to share with them, and that I wish I’d known much earlier in life. Many of the clients I work with as a coach are also just discovering these things in the process. Here are just a few thoughts…
- LISTEN! Really listen – listen to understand the “intent” behind what someone is saying to you. Ask yourself, what’s really going on here? What is this about? Giving your full attention to someone, rather than finishing their sentences or saying “I know”. Perhaps you don’t want to hear what’s being said. Nobody likes being told what to do, but learning to listen intently, and repeating what you understand them to be saying, really helps you develop a connection with someone. If someone’s telling you what to do, why is that? They may be right or wrong, that doesn’t matter; you have to make up your mind about whether you accept their intent or not. People who really care about you will offer advice, but then allow you to make your own decisions and to learn from your own experience. Listening is a two way street – if you want people to listen to you, then you must really listen to them first. As Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
- OPEN It’s ok to be wrong, to make a mistake. Don’t feel that you have to save face by winning every argument. It’s ok to let other people have the last word – it’s not always easy but consider how much the argument really matters. School and life in general programs you to want to be right, but all the best discoveries in life have been made by failing their way to success – scientists have to first propose a theory which is then tested, and they may get it wrong many times before they get it right. Tennis players may play a bad shot now & again, but the successful ones quickly learn from that, let it go and move on to win the next shot. No one else will remember the mistakes as much as you will. If you’re afraid to be wrong, then you may never try anything new. Open your mind – question everything – much of what you think you know may be wrong.
- THOUGHTS Be aware that you can manage your thoughts. Our thoughts are habitual – they can trigger our responses which then affect our lives – if your thoughts are not serving you, you can change them. Life is made up of causes and effects – it’s all about learning how to choose a response that works for you, rather than one that is potentially damaging. Notice your reactions to people and events in your life, and ask yourself why you respond the way you do. If you find yourself resisting something, ask yourself, why is that – what’s really happening here?
- OTHERS Don’t worry too much about what other people think of you – you may constantly be confined by other people’s limitations, or what you believe they think! What’s important is what you think of yourself; no one really does things or thinks things because of you, they do things because of themselves. If you value yourself and are doing your best, then other people will take their cue from you.
- INTUITION It’s important to think, but don’t just think; tune into your feelings & intuition – what’s your gut telling you? When faced with a difficult situation, a decision, any challenge that life will bring, you may get stuck trying to think your way out of it… yet we often talk about knowing in your heart, feeling it in your gut, knowing deep down… somehow we feel we have other knowledge in us that’s not just to do with intellect. Many people who have made mistakes or done things they may regret would say that on some level something was telling them not to do it, but they let their thoughts and voice in their head talk them into it using logic.
- CHOICE If something’s bothering you, you have a choice as to how you respond – you can decide to tolerate it, take action to change it or walk away, or be thankful for it; notice how it makes you feel and why you have this discomfort, and what it’s telling you about yourself?
- ACCEPTANCE of yourself, of others, of situations and events exactly as they are in the moment is critical to staying cool under pressure. It’s not good or bad, it just is. Most of our stress and discomfort comes from having expectations that aren’t met – and from wanting things to be different, resisting how things actually are. When you can notice the “critic”, the voice in your head that passes judgement on others and yourself, you will notice that it serves no purpose – it’s a waste of your energy. Everyone, including you, is a product of their genes and environment – if you can learn to accept & understand them as they are, without feeling you have to change them, then you’ll find most things in life become easier.
- CONTROL Have goals, but don’t forget to make the most of now! There’s no point wishing your life away – your life IS a series of NOW moments. This is not about acting irresponsibly – just that you have clarity of what you want to achieve, but are somewhat detached from the outcome. I always think of the movie “Up” – Carl finds what he’s looking for, but not in the way he thought it would happen. Someone used the phrase “holding it lightly” – how you’d hold a balloon… Be aware of your desire for control… this can get out of control… wanting things to be predictable, and knowing what’s going to happen; this can prevent you from ever taking a chance or going outside your comfort zone. You need to develop trust that you will be able to plan for the future, but handle the bumps and turns that will come your way. What’s needed is a balance between control and letting go.
- ASK for what you want, use your voice – take action when you feel compelled to change things for the better; but accept that the outcome may not happen the way you think. You can accept someone in the moment having a row with you, and choose not to be stressed by it, but ask them to treat you differently in future. It doesn’t mean they’ll do it, but at least you have made it clear to them.
- TRY things outside your comfort zone; that’s how you develop; but listen to your instinct – you may need to try something a few times before you start to get the hang of it. That takes courage, persistence and confidence, and maybe you’ll decide it’s not for you, but at least you made an informed decision. Equally notice things you’re drawn to – art, music, crafts, sports, people – see how new skills, talents and opportunities will come when you do this.
- RELAX Learn how to relax – switch off – practice mindfulness or yoga, or running or being outdoors, laughing, singing, whatever allows your body & mind to take a break from thinking and working. This is when you’ll find yourself being most creative, and solutions to problems or new ideas will often present themselves, when you’re not thinking.
- GIVE without expecting anything in return. If you’re in need of help on something, then ask for it. If you’re in need of help, offer help to someone else. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of – your intuition will tell you when you are drawn to do something for someone; you will get it returned to you somehow, and maybe not in the way you expected. This is a belief you can choose if you wish, like Karma – rather than believing in “every man for himself”. If you choose to believe it, then it does make life seem easier, rather than the stress which can come with “dog eat dog”!
- TALK If things are bothering you, find someone you can trust to talk to, and who will listen to you without judgement, or trying to “fix” you, or telling you what to do – writing your thoughts can also help too – you start to see how you’re thinking. Talk with someone who will help you sort your thoughts out and get clarity and a new perspective; someone who will listen the way you can listen to others… and so we are back full circle to number 1!
These are just the main things; I’m sure lots more will occur to me and you’ll have other life lessons you’d like to share! They say we keep repeating the same mistakes until we are ready to learn from them and do something different.
Maybe people tried to tell me too, but I just wasn’t ready to hear it… but hopefully my teenage kids, and a few adults too, will be ready to hear at least some of it, if not now, then at some point! And as Baz Luhrmann would say … “trust me on the sunscreen”.
Would love to hear about the top lessons you’d like to pass on…