Listen to People Who Challenge Your Thinking

How often is your thinking challenged in the course of a day, week, month, or year?  Are you regularly exposed to ideas and opinions that differ from your own, or do you usually listen to and communicate with people who think just like you?

I enjoy podcasts and have several that I subscribe and listen to each week.  Some of my favorites are the ones where the show host interviews a guest who tells about an accomplishment of theirs, and how they went about achieving it.  In these interviews, people often share their ideas and beliefs.  I like hearing the different thinking the guests bring because it allows me to be exposed to people and ideas that I might normally not be exposed to.

Often times, the ideas and beliefs being shared don’t align with my own thinking.  This challenges me to examine my thinking and ask myself why I think the way I do about a certain topic.  It’s been fun and has really expanded my thinking and ability to better articulate why I hold the thoughts and beliefs that I do or don’t hold.

It’s easy to dismiss someone or something that you don’t initially agree with, but I’ve often found that when I stop and listen with the curiosity to understand a different idea, a surprising thing happens: I actually begin to think.  I think about whether:

  • There is truth to their point.
  • Their thinking reveals holes in my own beliefs the thinking.
  • What they say bolsters or solidifies my current thinking.
  • There is any nugget I can take from their idea and apply in my life to help me achieve the results I desire?

We all have opportunities every day to be exposed to new ideas through the people we interact with, the books we read, and the media we watch and listen to.  Begin being mindful of the people that make you think, and start listening to them.  You certainly don’t have to agree with them, but at the very least, allow their ideas to engage your brain and cause real thinking to occur.

Don’t be too eager to automatically dismiss an idea that doesn’t completely align with your current thinking, or that is new and different.  Instead, examine the idea through the lens of your own life and see if there might be some pearls you could begin to apply.  You may be surprised by new options and opportunities that were never possible as a result of your old thinking.

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How Are You Growing?

What do you look for when you set goals for your life?  What are their attributes?  Are they:

  • Easy to attain?
  • Within your comfort zone?
  • Not too challenging, so as to be assured of success?

If these were the types of goals I had set, or if I hadn’t set any goals at all, the question I’d be asking myself is, “If I’m not challenged, how am I growing?”

Part of growing and getting better at something, or getting better at life in general, is to do things that challenge us.  When we’re challenged by a new thought, goal, or idea, it causes us to do things differently than we have in the past.  That difference often causes discomfort, and that’s good.  While this discomfort is not always enjoyable, many times it is what leads us to the greatest growth and positive change we experience in our lives.

Take getting into shape, for example.  You can go to the gym and keep lifting the same light weights you started with and do the same light-level cardiovascular workout you’ve always done, because it is easy and you know you can do it, but how are does that help you grow in your strength and endurance and cause you to become the healthy individual you desire to be?  Where’s the challenge?  Where’s the growth?

Knowing that when we are challenged, growth occurs, where in your life could you stand to be challenged?  What challenging goals can you set for yourself today that will cause you to grow into the person or life you seek?   Once you’ve set those goals, decide in advance that you’ll persist through the discomfort that will occur when you are challenged, and know that doing so will result in rapid growth toward the person you’re striving to become.

Small Efforts Can Yield Big Results

Recently, I joined an online auditioning site for voice over (VO) talent.  The site provides a way to bring VO talent together with clients needing VO services.  Before joining this site I spent very little time actually practicing my VO skills, since I was primarily focused on where to find clients.  As a result, my VO skills didn’t improve as much as I would have liked.

Immediately after joining the site, I created a system for myself where I audition for a certain number of VO gigs per day, every day.  It’s not a large number of gigs.  It’s actually on the small side.  However, one thing I’ve been surprised by is how much my reads have improved after such a short time of consistently following my system.

The act of daily auditioning, which equates to practice, has started to compound.  It’s this compounding effect of relatively small numbers done consistently over time that will yield significant results.  This principle is true for anyone, whether you’re seeking to improve your VO skills, lose weight and get in shape, start a business, or become a better parent, spouse, or friend.  Never underestimate the power of small effort consistently applied over time.  It’s an often overlooked strategy.

Are there areas in your life where you could stand to make progress, but perhaps feel you can’t commit large amounts of time to commit to it?  Decide on a small amount of time, or other measure of output, that you can commit to working toward your objective on a daily basis, and get started today.  Don’t worry about how small your efforts are, or how big your objective is.  Just focus on causing a consistent effort.  You’ll be amazed at the progress you make in 1, 6, or 12 months and beyond.

Slowly Coming into Focus

Our lives should be moving toward something.  That “something” should be the life we envision for ourselves that consists of using our talents and skills applied in service to others, doing something we’re excited about.

Although this sounds good, what if you’re currently not living this life?  What if there’s discouragement caused by the gap between your envisioned life and the reality of your life today?  If that’s the case for you, I have encouraging news.

Here come some obvious truths about achieving our desired life that often get lost:

  1. We need to apply specific and consistent action that incrementally moves us toward our objectives.
  2. It takes time.

I heard the process of creating your desired life described recently as seeing a Polaroid picture coming into focus.  Remember those?  You take a photograph and wait several minutes as the picture comes into focus, revealing the image you just took a picture of.

It’s like that with achieving your desired life.  Most likely, the change from your current situation to where you want to be isn’t going to occur over night.  However, if you’re persistent, your life, like the Polaroid photo, will begin to come into focus and take shape, until it matches the vision you have been persistently pursing.

If you feel like you’re not where you want to be in life at this point take the following steps to cause progress:

  1. Have a vision in your mind of what you want your life to look like.
  2. Take action every day, no matter how small, which moves your life closer toward how you envision it.
  3. Remember that it takes time, so be persistent and stick with it.

Following these steps will not only cause the picture of your desired life to come into greater focus, it will cause the picture to become a reality as well.