Recently, I turned the page from 43 to 44 years old. Another full trip around the sun complete. In other words, an opportunity for reflection.

Frankly, it’s bonkers to think I’m 44. On one hand, I don’t feel a day older than 22. Conversely, my back aches say otherwise. Can you relate? 

Because of this, I thought I’d share reflection on a few things that feel like newer lessons for me as I “age into wisdom.” Is that actually a thing?

In all seriousness though, I feel like I’m learning more now than I ever have before. Likely because I’ve come into a realization over the last few years. The lesson being, I really don’t have to have my s**t together all the time. Releasing of expectations and realizing continuous learning is part of the journey.

So, this blog post consists of a few observations I’ve made recently. To some extent, observations of other people, but really, more about myself. New truths I’m exploring and learning about the world.

I would sum them up in three key points:

First, pausing for reflection is like drinking water. You know it’s good for you but making it a habit is hard.

Second, while feedback is a gift and should be viewed as such, it’s difficult to give direct and honest feedback.

And finally, people just need to be heard.

I hope you find a supportive tidbit for yourself in my birthday reflection.

LESSON 1 – REFLECTION AND THE POWER OF PAUSE

If you’ve read any of my blogs or talked to me from a coaching lens, you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about the importance of pausing for reflection. Sorry, not sorry?!

It’s just that I know what it’s like to keep doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. Correct, it’s the definition of insanity. Banging your head against walls or glass ceilings or whatever structure is standing in your way and getting mad at the structure, but not addressing the root of the problem.

This is where I lived for quite a while. Not pausing for reflection but expecting answers to drop in my lap like a beautifully wrapped birthday present. Furthermore, not giving myself space. And when I finally did, BAM, a lot changed.

Now, I sit at my desk hour after hour, day after day and listen to people share similar sentiments. 

“I know I want something different, but I just can’t figure out what that is.”

“I just don’t have time to think for myself, but I need a change.”

It’s easy to empathize with these statements as someone who had those same thoughts. Undoubtedly, it’s also easy to pick out when someone is throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks versus being intentional.

Even with all that said, reflection takes time. Moreover, it’s the last thing on the to do list and we most likely don’t make it down that far on our list in a day, week, month, year.

LESSON 1- REFLECTION POSSIBILITIES

While that may feel a bit gloom and doom, all is not lost. In fact, the solution lives in creating a habit.

There are people who journal on a very regular, even daily basis. Amazing! Kudos to you if you do. I am not one of those people. Obviously, I would love to be one of those people, but I’ll be honest. Even though I love to write, daily or even weekly journaling has never been my strong suit.

I’m telling you this for a reason. You must find the thing that works FOR YOU. First, create a habit fitting to your lifestyle. Then make it a priority. Otherwise, you won’t sustain it. Without the habit fitting your lifestyle and being authentic to you, the act then becomes a chore and not something bringing you joy, inner calm, and answers.

Think about a few factors as you work to implement your reflection process.

Do you prefer a guide and some thought provoking questions to get you started? Or do you prefer something more freeform?

What does accountability look like for you? Would dedicated time on the calendar hold you to creating a time of reflection? Or do you need an event, like a workshop or friend date to facilitate this?

How often do you want reflection time? Weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly? On your birthday?

I’ll share with you an interesting observation. Often when people feel unsettled, their job is the first area they place blame for life dissatisfaction. And while it is sometimes the case, it’s not always. The job is just an easy scapegoat when we don’t take a deeper look under our own hood.

What will you do to make reflection a more regular event in your life? If you would like a tool, check out this Self-Evaluation Guide to get you started.

LESSON 2 – DIRECT AND HONEST FEEDBACK IS VALUED BUT HARD TO GIVE

I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “feedback is a gift.”

Of course! But sometimes the feedback gift can feel like a stocking full of coal. Even if it’s exactly what we need to hear for growth as an individual. Giving and receiving direct and honest feedback can be tough.

Admittedly, I grew up in a household where direct feedback wasn’t necessarily a strong point. To be fair, this may be more a sign of the times in the 80’s and 90’s than a direct reflection of my own family.

Anyone else perfected the dance around subjects like a professional ballerina?

While the intent for the dance around direct feedback is likely from a heartfelt place of saving feelings, I would now argue it leaves a lot of holes.  

Struggling with feedback is actually pretty common the more and more I coach with leaders, but on the other side of this struggle lives two problems.

First is the harbored frustration of one never being able to fully express when they feel wronged, hurt, or frustrated by someone or something.

Second is the receiver feeling contempt or frustration from you but little context on the why. A misfire so to speak. “Saving of feelings” by not actually saying the words, but body language, tone, and other factors telling a mixed message story.

LESSON 2 – DIRECT FEEDBACK AND BOUNDARIES POSSIBILITIES

While it’s relatively easy for me to put on my coaching hat and talk someone through the importance of clarity in their feedback message, it’s quite another to put it into practice. In fact, I just had a conversation with my own coach about this yesterday and laughed about the irony.

“Old habits die hard Heather. What are you afraid is going to happen if you are honest?”

Those old habits do die hard, but the key is in knowing the old habits and behaviors EXIST. In other words, self-awareness. In this case, taking the time to be thoughtful about my messaging in feedback. I’m not to the point of giving direct feedback on the fly and in the moment when it’s an emotional subject for me.

That’s a huge stretch.

However, knowing the importance to my own wellbeing of giving the direct feedback? That’s new. And freeing. And scary. Even exhilarating in some cases.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned more and more about the power of boundaries. Why they are not only important, but also how implementing them is actually not selfish. In fact, it’s healthy for all involved.

“Saying yes to something means you are saying no to something else. Use your yeses wisely.”

This has become a mantra for me. Albeit not to perfection, it sure has supported me in feeling more authentic and aligned with my own values.

LESSON 3 – PEOPLE NEED TO BE HEARD

Truth be told, I thought I was a good listener years ago. I was not. Probably still am not (remember, old habits die hard).

The interesting thing is, I was listening with the intent to respond in 99% of those interactions. Furthermore, I was guilty of hearing, but not listening. There are key differences to the words hearing and listening.

Hearing boils down to perceiving sound. That’s it. Like hearing a bird chirp outside. Being aware of a sound coming from the other room.

Listening, however, is active, focused, and intentional. Taking this a step further, someone really skilled at listening stops their mind from wandering into their own agenda. Absorbs the thoughts coming from the other person and not just in word, but in entirety. Emphasis, tone, body language. In turn, a full communication experience.

Think back to a conversation with someone you knew wasn’t really listening. Sure, they were hearing your words, but it may as well have been the talk track of Charlie Brown’s teacher… wa waaaa wa waaaa wa.

Now think of a conversation where you truly felt heard. There was even a pause after you stopped talking while the other person processed a bit and formulated a thoughtful and intentional response before just filling the dead air with words.

Which experience made you feel appreciated and truly heard? 

People, in general, just want to be heard. And while we all have opinions and want to express them at every moment, do we really even listen to each other enough to know how true the following statement is?

“Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one and they usually stink.”

Typically, people aren’t looking for advice or to hear about your comparison story to theirs. On the contrary, what they want… is to be heard.

What can you do to check yourself on your listening skills? Are you listening to respond or truly listening?

REFLECTION SUMMARY

I will continue to learn and evolve on this next trip around the sun and all of those to follow.

In this time of thanksgiving and moving into holiday non-stop action, I hope you take the time to appreciate what you have and how far you’ve come. 

Pause and take the time for reflection. Allow yourself the space to acknowledge your frustrations and where expectations missed the mark. On the other hand, don’t forget to celebrate your growth. We tend to forget to pause and celebrate before moving on to the next improvement or task. Celebrate and find your joy.

Direct and honest feedback. While it is a gift, find what works for you. What harbored frustration are you feeling? And how can you express it in a manner authentic to you but more direct and honest? Check out some feedback resources here.

And finally, listen with intent. Equally as important, find people who listen to you with as much intentionality.

I hope you enjoyed this reflection. Have a wonderful holiday season!

 

We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.

– Max Depree

 

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