jamie-wolf-2Start Today and Make a New Ending!


Listen Intently, Part 3 of 6

“You must listen with the intent to learn rather than to show what you know.” – Sam Parker, Give More Media

A student may learn enough to complete four years of college without learning to listen to experienced people who can advise him on his future. An employee may attend leadership courses without learning how to get along with coworkers. Entrepreneurs may learn enough to get a business started and may even ask for help to take their business to the next level. But unless they listen intently, they’ll never do it.

Listening with the intent to learn – receiving feedback from events or people in such a manner that shows you are coachable – may determine the difference between your success or failure. Let me give you an example.

Years ago I was concerned about my weight and I wanted to establish a budget so I asked my business coach for help. When I told her I’d developed a habit of buying a cookie every morning from the food court near my office, she asked me if the benefits I felt from taking a break and eating a cookie outweighed the guilt I felt for indulging in needless calories that cost me $5 a week. When I said I really wanted that cookie as a reward for enduring very long days and focusing so much energy on everything and everybody but me, she coached me through three courses of action:

• I could eat the cookie, continue to feel guilty, and punish myself without changing my behavior.
• I could decide not to eat the cookie, saving $5 a week and avoiding the calories.
• I could decide, for some amount of time, that I would eat the cookie, enjoy it, feel rewarded by it, and give myself full permission to continue the behavior. If I wanted to, I could set a time limit – say, for the next three months I’d eat cookies daily and then stop.

Her point was that I needed to acknowledge my behavior. I needed either to decide to stop it or to fully embrace it. Imagine paying a coach to help you work through your conflicted emotions about eating cookies! Of course, that was not the issue. The issue was how I responded to situations, received feedback, created strategic processes to reach milestones, and redirected my behavior – or not.

Are you wrestling with issues that you should either fully embrace or take steps to change? Do you complain about the unfairness of your situation without accepting your part in the actions you’ve taken to get you there? Whether or not I chose to stop eating cookies, Marilyn had no vested interest in the choice that I made. I could have told her I’d quit, knowing full well I had no intention of doing so. But at the end of the day the advisor doesn’t suffer the consequences of our not listening or being coachable. We do.

If you are coachable, you can find many tools to help you. If you decide to start a business, for example, you can consult the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) for free. Most Chambers of Commerce support small businesses and many community and technical colleges offer programs for entrepreneurs. Contact the Small Business Administration to see if they offer a FastTrac® course. (fasttrac.org) Or approach your local attorney, accountant, or banker for advice and suggestions.

If you’re not quite sure how to be coachable, here’s all you have to do:

• Acknowledge that you are the central figure in your life. If you keep ending up in bad relationships, what is the one thing they all have in common? You. If you keep ending up in financial difficulties, what is the one thing each instance has in common? You. If you keep losing customers or not finding new ones, what is the central theme? Yep – you have the hang of it now – you. So what does this mean? No – it doesn’t mean you’re the biggest loser! It means you are making decisions, or more likely not making decisions. You’re letting things happen by default that lead to predictable outcomes. Now that you no longer accept dismal and harmful results, you can make different decisions. If you don’t know what those decisions could be, go ask the experts. The difference is, this time you will internalize their messages, become accountable, and act on them!

• Be fully accountable and responsible for everything. This does not mean you are at fault for everything. It does not mean you are to blame for everything. It just means you were there. You played a role. If there’s something you didn’t like about the results, examine what you could have done differently. Then do it next time!

• Be honest. I’m not asking for confessions. This isn’t about saying 10 Hail Mary’s and going back to business as usual. That serves nobody. This is you, loving yourself enough to stop deluding yourself. Dishonesty is evidence of insecurity. It means you’re trying to be someone you’re not. It means you feel you fell short and you’re trying to pull one over on yourself. Or it means you just haven’t asked the right questions before. Now that you acknowledge that you are central to every act in the play called Your Life, and now that you have decided to be accountable and accept responsibility, it is no longer painful to be honest. It’s just what happened. As Maya Angelou said, “When you knew better, you did better.”

It’s amazing how much pain goes away and how much more energy you have to implement lessons learned when you’re not beating yourself up or covering for yourself, when you don’t have to attach judgment to something you did. You just have to listen intently.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson


Beaufort resident Jamie Wolf is the author of ‘Start Over! Start Now! Ten Keys to SUCCESS in Business and Life’ and ten accompanying guidebooks.  If you’re ready to be Master of your Fate and Captain of your Soul, she invites you to come on board! Jamie offers online courses and coaching for entrepreneurs and people interested in starting over or in starting their own business. Visit her at http://www.thestartover.com

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