Slow Down

The day after Thanksgiving my wife and I went for a hike to Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast.  The weather was sunny and in the low 50s with a very light breeze.  We hiked up to a favorite spot where we had unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean and the town of Lincoln City.  For an hour we sat there observing the view, watching some whales spouting nearby, and just taking in the peaceful scene before us.  It was one of those experiences that left me feeling refreshed and recharged.  Neither one of us wanted to leave.   We could have sat there all day.

CascadeHeadNov2015

That experience reminded me of the importance of slowing down and enjoying moments like that when they present themselves.  Unfortunately with busy schedules, constantly beeping electronic devices, and any number of life’s other distractions, these moments are easy to miss, unless we slow down, and actively look for them.

Begin looking for opportunities during your day to slow down and do something that may not be considered productive, but leaves you feeling recharged, refreshed, connected, thankful, or just content.  The opportunities are numerous and can range from enjoying a beautiful scene outside to spending time with a good friend.

These opportunities are out there.  We need only slow down and look for them.

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Connecting With Those You’re With

I was out to dinner with a group of 6 people earlier this week.  At one point during the meal something funny was said, and one of the people at the table laughed out loud with one of those great infectious laughs that make other people that hear it begin laughing as well.  It went on for several minutes.  It was great!

Several times prior to this uproarious event there were instances when most of the people in the group were on their smart phones at the same time, either looking up someplace to eat, or just checking in on social media.   It’s always weird to me when a group of people that have made an effort to gather together spend so much time on their phones seeing what other people, that aren’t present, are up to.

After the meal I was thinking about the person’s infectious laugher and how it created a shared experience that was enjoyable and created a connection between everyone at the table.  I also thought of the times when folks were all on their cell phones.  There was no connection or shared laughter when people’s faces were buried in their phones.   The only shared experience we had at those times was that we were all occupying the same space.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think if you’re going to make an effort to get together and spend time with people in person, you shouldn’t be looking at your phone to find out what other people are doing, or what you might be missing out on.  I personally have never had an enjoyable shared experience with people who are all sitting together focused on their smart phones and disconnected from one another.

With the holidays upon us, we’ll likely have several opportunities to gather with others over a meal, for drinks, or just for the sake of spending time together.  Be mindful during these times about connecting with the people you’re present with, and consider leaving the smart phone in your pocket or purse.

And if you’d really rather not connect with the people you’re gathered with, it begs the question… what are you even doing there?

You Can Tell A Lot From A Little

Consider the following sentence:

“After work, he bought his wife some roses.”

By reading these 8 simple words, we very quickly learn quite a bit of information about this person.  For example, we know this person:

  • Is a male
  • Is married
  • Has some disposable income to buy flowers
  • Is thinking of his wife
  • Has a job

In addition to these details, our sentence also generates a number of questions for us, such as:

  • Why is he buying flowers for his wife?
  • How long have he and his wife been married?
  • Where does he work?
  • What does he do at his job?
  • How old are these 2 people?
  • Does he buy his wife flowers often?
  • Will his wife appreciate the flowers?

In just 8 simple words we now know a decent amount about this person and have several questions to ask that would help us learn even more about him and his wife.

So what, right?  I mean, that’s nice and all, but what does that have to do with anything, and who really cares?  Consider this…

Every day we exchange numerous sentences with other people through digital forms like text, email, social media, as well as through old-fashioned verbal communication.  Therefore, every day we receive a great deal of information about the people we interact with.  If you want to become better at connecting with people, or become a better listener, this information provides a great starting point to do so.

Begin paying attention to what people are saying.  Listen for the facts, but also keep your radar up for the questions you can ask that will help take the conversation deeper.  And when you have a question, ask it.  These are the initial steps in connecting with others.

I’m not saying you have to do this with every conversation you have, but if you’re looking to make a connection or build a relationship with someone, this is a great way to start.

Share Your Struggles With Others

I received an email this week from a friend I serve on a volunteer board with.  She was asking a question about one of the financial reports.  During her email, she confided that due to her lack of understanding about the financial reports, she felt inept to serve on the board.  I knew exactly how my friend felt, because they are in the same feelings I had during my first term serving on the board.

I remember so clearly a conversation I had with the board chairman during my first term.  It seemed to me like I didn’t bring any value and questioned whether I should even be on the board.  He told me that I did in fact add value, and the best thing I could do was to continue asking questions like I had been doing in previous board meetings.  Those comments really encouraged me, so I did what he said.  After a few more board meetings, my own feelings of ineptitude began to wane and I started to feel like I was actually adding value.

I’m so glad I shared with the chairman how I was struggling.  He gave me some encouraging advice, and also communicated that I was needed and offered more value than I realized.  What’s even better is that I got to share that experience with my friend who is currently having a similar struggle.  I was able to have empathy and offer encouragement and remind her of the value she brings.

It felt great to encourage someone and remind them of their value in a particular situation, especially when that value was in question for them.

None of us are perfect.  We’ve all faced struggles that leave us feeling overwhelmed, inept, and even discouraged.  The good news regarding these situations is that once we get past them, we can offer encouragement and perhaps a new perspective to someone who is experiencing a similar struggle.

Pay attention to what the people around you are saying.  Listen for struggles they are facing that are similar to ones that you have experience and be quick to offer encouragement and to reinforce their value.

What a tremendous blessing to be able to encourage someone in their moment of need.