Thursday, January 27, 2011

Really listening

In habit 5, Covey suggests that we "seek first to understand, then to be understood."  This is a very helpful concept to me.  We often think we are listening to someone else, but we really aren't.  I have come to the realization that I am a pretty terrible listener.  Covey explains that we approach converstations with others with a personal autobiography going on inside our brain.  Before we even try to understand where that person is coming from, we are thinking about what it has to do with us, what we will say in response, and what has gone on in our own lives that relates to that person.  Wouldn't relationships be completely different if we listened to people with the complete goal of understanding THEM?  What if I approached a conversation by resolving not to think about myself at all?  It would be so much easier to relate to others.  I often go into conversations with a pre-conceived notion of what someone is going to say, the mood they will be in, and what I will say back that will be nice, helpful, and genuine.  I don't have bad motives; in fact, I really want to be there and help people.  But do I really try to understand them first?  Covey says, "Before the problems come up, before you try to evaluate and prescribe, before you try to present your own ideas, seek to understand."  I think communication between every human being would be completely different if we really tried to listen and understand others before we tried to be understood.

What's really important

Probably the most important concept I acquired from Covey's book is his take on priorities.  Habits 2 and 3 had the biggest influence on me out of all 7.  Habit 2 ("begin with the end in mind") discussed the overall values we have in our lives, and making decisions based on those things.  When I look down the road 50 years, I know for a fact that the relationships I formed throughout my life will be more important than the test grade I made in music history when I was in college.  But I don't always spend my time building those relationships.  Now, I do place a lot of importance on my school work.  I always have, and I want to continue to succeed.  It goes deeper than wanting to make good grades; I am preparing to go into music ministry, and I genuinely want to be the very best that I can be.  I feel like it is a calling rather than a job, and I want to do it with excellence.  So, I really do place importance on that aspect of my life right now.  I do need to remember, however, that, as Covey said, "people are more important than things."  To that, you might say, "Duh, of course they are."  But it is easy for me to schedule out my entire day with absolutely no time for people.  And when I say schedule, it's intense.  We're talking scheduling out every meal, every assignment, every little job I have to get done, every minute of the day.  Last semester, I didn't allow any time to just be there if someone needed to talk, or to just sit there and decide spontaneously what I would do next.  Here's my solution... I still have to schedule out a large portion of my day, or I will get nothing done.  I am in college, which means I have a schedule of classes.  I also have to plan when to do certain things or I just won't get around to them.  But my goal is to leave some time in there when I don't have anything planned.  When that time comes, I can use it for whatever feels right at the time.  If I'm feeling productive, I can use it to do some work.  If I need a break, I can use it to relax for a minute, talk to a friend, or do something I enjoy.  If something comes up that needs addressing, I will have time to genuinely help someone or be there to talk. 
So, in a sense, I am going to try to schedule some unscheduled time, as paradoxical as that is.  We'll see how it works out. :)

Taking Initiative

The first assignment I have is to comment on a book I read over January: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  I really liked the book, and I got alot out of it.  Hopefully, I'll be able to apply it both now and later on in life.  The first habits is to "be proactive," and one of the first things Covey talks about is taking the initiative for our own lives.  He says that we should approach things "inside-out," examining our own motives and actions.  This really spoke to me because I often blame my mood or my circumstances on other things.  I feel stressed b/c of all my school work, or I feel this way b/c this person hurt my feelings; when in reality, I am the one who controls my life.  If there is a problem, I should look at what I can do about it.  If there is a need, I should look at how I can fulfil it.  I can rise above my circumstances and be the kind of person that I want to be.  Don't get me wrong... I am, in general, a very happy person.  I usually have a smile on my face and I like to wear yellow, and I really feel blessed to have such a wonderful life.  But I can choose to use that happiness to help others, to lift their spirits, and to solve my problems myself.  I don't have to let a busy day make me feel stressed out, because I can take the initiative to manage my time, take some time for myself, and realize that everything I have to do is making me into the person I will become.  I don't have to let someone else with a grumpy look on their face ruin my day, but instead try to lift their spirits with a smile.  It all comes down to the choices I make, and the initiative I have to make a difference.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So what do I do with a blog?

Hi.  My name is Whitney and this is my first blog entry.  If you are reading this, I appreciate it, but just to warn you, there's not much exciting stuff going on here.  You might have more fun on youtube, just sayin.  Also, if you're reading this, you better not be a creeper.  And if you are, I will have you know that I can totally take you down.  I own a bass guitar and a tennis raquet.  So watch out.  Anyways, I created this blog for a class, so we'll see how it goes.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you like the pink stripes because that was the cutest background I could find. :) Have a great day!