My Thoughts on How to Live a Purposeful Life
Start with empathy
In The Complete Leader programme (which we are bringing to Ireland), I have decided that one of the areas that I need to work on is my empathetic skills.
I’d like to share some thoughts that I had after reading the chapter on empathy in The Complete Leader book.
The first is this: when somebody feels understood, they relax and feel more open to discussion, they feel less threatened and trust is built up.
When trust is high, there are very few subjects you can’t discuss.
Listening for the right reasons is one of the most important aspects of empathy.
Quite often we just want to show our knowledge or jump in. Listening to understand means listening for feelings and for facts.
The second thing that I loved from this chapter is when Ron Price said to suspend our judgements. You must learn to listen intentionally.
It reminds me of the word respect – in Latin ‘Re’ (back) and Specere (look at). We should try to listen to people as if it’s for the first time and avoid bringing up all the baggage from the past.
The last tip I’d like to comment on is this: Ask lots of questions! I’ve been practising this a lot lately.
We always want to share our infinite wisdom but, as I read somewhere once, listening is at least as intelligent an act as talking!
To be empathetic, you must learn to pause
I remember watching a presenter who I had a lot of respect for as a presenter. He always came across as very smooth and very slick, and when I had the opportunity to ask him about it, he told me that he practised a lot.
He gave me an example of the pause – that gap in between saying something and saying something else.
What I want to share with you is the following:
I had a very busy morning with meetings. When I arrived at the office I rushed right in and plonked myself at my desk.
When a member of my team tried to talk to me, I shooed them away because I was busy and in the middle of something.
The pause is really important.
You need to stop, as you can’t be self-aware if you’re rushing.
If you’re not self-aware you can’t self-regulate.
And if you can’t regulate your behaviour your interpersonal skills and relationship will struggle. When you pause you create -space for awareness.
From that space you can become self-aware and respond more appropriately.
So, practise the pause!
Set your own pace
I was out on my motorbike on Sunday and I had an interesting experience that I would like to share with you.
The first thing is, I was out riding with a group, and what I’ve experienced when I’m out with a group is that I don’t have my own ride.
I’m riding at somebody else’s speed and I probably don’t pay as much attention as I do when I’m riding on my own. Somebody else is dictating my pace.
I want you to think about this word ‘pace’. It has struck me that in life, we make mistakes when we allow somebody else to dictate our pace.
For example, I fell off my bike when I was out on Sunday because the pace of the group didn’t suit me.
Most of us work well at a particular pace.
Understanding the scenarios in which we work best is really important. Don’t allow yourself to be put into an environment in which the pace doesn’t suit you – whether it be a job or your relationships with other people.
The result is that you’re not yourself and you end up having a tumble, like I did on my bike. You end up leaving a job or bad relationships.
Think about the pace of your life. What’s a pace that suits you? Is there a way that you could modify your environments to suit you?
I, for example, like time to reflect.
Unlike many others, I can’t respond very quickly. When somebody presents me with something I need time to process what I’m feeling, experiencing and thinking about it before I can respond effectively.
It’s important for me that I avoid putting myself in situations where people need or demand immediate responses, as this kind of scenario just doesn’t suit me.
So, think about this idea of pace and try to modify your environments so that the pace suits you. I guarantee you that it will make a big difference to your peace of mind.
My kids don’t listen to me, do yours?
We all know the expression ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. I want to talk about a practical application of this that I have experienced recently: my children don’t listen to me!
Similarly, I had a meeting yesterday with a long-standing client and I’m not sure if I’m any use to them anymore, because they no longer listen to me.
We had a conversation about where they are and what they’re trying to do and I just realised that we’ve had the same conversation many many times.
I remember years ago my dad encouraged me in a friendship I had with a neighbour of ours. He was about the same age as my dad, an ex-army officer and a lovely man. I always listened to Stephen and he always gave me good advice, but I didn’t listen to my dad!
When we’re in a leadership position it is our responsibility to recognise whether the person we’re working with can hear us.
And if they can’t hear us we need to make sure there is somebody out there that they can hear.
If they can’t take feedback or direction from us then it’s up to us to make sure there is somebody else who can support them.
The purpose of life
I had a particularly interesting conversation with a client over the weekend. We were having a chat and he started talking about the meaning of life.
He asked me if I have any thoughts on what life is about. I shared the following:
We live on this amazing planet with this amazing solar system, galaxy and universe.
The more we learn about it, the more we figure out that creation is in fact a creative process.
Creation isn’t something that happened in a particular point in time. Rather, it’s clear that the natural order of the universe is evolution.
Life evolves, life develops and life dies.
Planets come and go and I’m sure galaxies do too.
I believe that the purpose of life is to be creative and to participate in the creative process.
The way you do this is by identifying where it is that you add value. It can be raising a family, building a business or building an empire!
The creative process is fun. There should be a sense of satisfaction coming from it.
So, think about this. The purpose of life is to be creative and to play your part in the creative process.
If anybody has any thoughts on this I would love to hear them, so please get in touch.
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