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Crucial Conversations – Maintaining Your Honor Through Difficult Times

Crucial Conversations – Maintaining Your Honor Through Difficult Times

Last time, I wrote about honor and its importance. In a world where shallow self-centeredness and broken promises are commonplace, those who manage to act with honor will shine through; especially if they can maintain that honor through difficult circumstances long-term. I have had reason to think on this recently, due to an unconscious breach of my own honor. A promise I had made was forgotten, and through that neglect I caused a significant amount of strife.

It is inevitable that we will break promises, miss deadlines, and fail to meet expectations 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect. So, how do we maintain our honor in such circumstances?

In the past, I have found helpful advice in a lovely little book by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler called Crucial Conversations. The book talks about what a crucial conversation is and provides some methods for handling them well. Per the definition in the book:

Crucial Conversation – A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

Many of us dislike confrontation in any form, especially if the confrontation occurs between us and someone we hold a high opinion of. But truly impactful conversations often tend to happen in concordance with an element of confrontation. In these situations, we all have our own coping mechanisms: the silent treatment, sarcasm, anger, etc. But really, everyone involved in the conversation has a desire to be heard, not attacked, for their differing opinions. If we utilize some simple tools (and a whole lot of patience and empathy), everybody can walk away from a crucial conversation better off.

A central concept of the book is called the “Pool of Shared Meaning,” which contains the ideas, theories, feelings, thoughts, and opinions that have been openly shared. The more people contribute to the pool, the more information there is to work with, which can lead to new insights. As you can guess, these insights can be much more useful in finding a well-rounded and effective solution than by jumping to conclusions. The more time we take to add to the pool, the better the result for everyone involved.

Next, we need to ask ourselves what we really want. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on why we feel hurt or disappointed (or otherwise) can be very enlightening as we hone in on specifics that will be our guide throughout a conversation. Once we have a “North star,” so to speak, we can keep our proverbial eye on that as the discussion progresses and more information gets added to the Pool of Shared Meaning.

The last element I will mention here is safety. How many times have you been in a dialogue where you felt attacked, belittled, or otherwise put out? There are two elements that need to be universally established in any crucial conversation in order for it to bear good results: mutual respect and caring. Once everyone feels respected and that their best interests are at the heart of others in the conversations, the tension in the room will go down drastically. Then we can actually have a good conversation!

If you start your tough conversations with these elements, you will be well along the path to a successful resolution to whatever conflict that has cast its shadow on your life. There are only a handful more concepts outlined in the book that further enhance the foundation I have provided for you here. If you would like to understand a bit more before picking up the book, you can read an excellent summary on Wikisummaries.org.

And, as always, we here at Protagonist are dedicated to helping you through difficult life circumstances. If you should ever desire our assistance our simply need someone to listen, let us know at hello(at)protagonist.life

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments
7 Tips For Handling Procrastinatination

7 Tips For Handling Procrastinatination

If you’re an average human being, you probably know what it feels like to procrastinate. There’s always that one task—or three, or ten—that you’ve left until too late, and now it’s the last minute. Or maybe you’ve only barely begun the procrastination process, and need to convince yourself to start your work before it becomes too stressful.

The other night, I found myself lying awake at midnight in my favorite life avoidance position (face-down, with my entire face smushed into a pillow), unable to sleep because of all the end-of-semester school assignments hanging over my head that I should have started days before. I had reached the point where procrastination was no longer viable, and I absolutely had to start working, but my mental self-flagellation only added to my stress. I already knew I had to get to work, and I knew why I had to get to work; I just needed to remind myself how.

The hard part is, how do you go from Point A (realizing that you have a lot of work to do) to Point B (actually doing it)? I’m glad you asked! Here’s the pep talk I gave myself, which helped me get in gear.

  1. Take a deep breath.
    The more I stress about not wanting to do something, the less I want to do it. Take a moment to breathe, relax, and recognize that you can do this. (You truly can, no matter how hard it seems or how little time you have. Humans have an incredible ability to overcome ridiculous odds.) Picture how good it will feel to have this unwanted task done and out of the way.
  2. Create the right environment.
    Find a clean, clutter-free (and distraction-free) spot to work, and then tune it to your specifications. Do you need bright light to concentrate, or do you work better in dimmer, warmer light? Do you prefer a quiet space, or to have music playing? If you’re the latter, consider checking out video game soundtracks, which are specifically composed to boost concentration, or go the easy route and put on a productivity playlist that someone else has already thrown together. I do better with comfortable lighting, white noise, and zero access to Facebook. (If you relate to this problem, try manually logging out of social media. Each time you get bored and unconsciously click to your favorite social media website, the login screen will remind you that you have more important tasks to do. StayFocusd is another great Chrome plugin for helping with distraction.)
  3. Break it down into smaller goals.
    Admittedly, I’m pretty terrible at this, and I tend overwhelm myself with the scope of the task that needs doing, but when I can focus on one piece of the assignment at a time, it always feels more manageable. I find it helpful to write down a ridiculously detailed checklist of all the parts of my project, and then I cover all but the current step with Post-It notes.
  4. Remember that starting is the hard part.
    Once I delve into a project, it’s always relatively easy to keep doing it. It’s basic physics: an object at rest stays at rest, but an object in motion can do anything she sets her mind to. (Or something like that—science was never my best subject!) Once you hit your groove, you’ll find it easier to keep going.
  5. Start in the middle.
    Begin with whatever catches your interest most. Find one exciting aspect of the project, and use it as a jumping-off point. If you have to write an essay, don’t start by planning the introduction; start by planning that rad bombshell of an argument you want to drop in paragraph three, and let your enthusiasm carry the momentum.
  6. Take breaks.
    Breaks help both your productivity and your health while you work, but I’ve never liked timed work sessions (such as the 80 minutes of work and 6 minutes of break suggested by the linked article). My attention span waxes and wanes when I work; sometimes I can focus for a solid hour or more, and sometimes I need to get up from the computer again after fifteen minutes. Learn to recognize when you need a few moments of distance from your work, and take the opportunity to physically remove yourself from your workspace: stand and stretch, or grab a glass of water, or take a bathroom break.
  7. Recognize your achievements.
    When I do manage to break a project up into bite-sized tasks, it helps to have a reward at the end of each section. I might tell myself, “I’m going to finish drafting these three pages, and then I’ll go for a walk and enjoy some fresh air,” or “I’ll make some tea in my fanciest teapot,” or “I’ll cuddle the heck out of my boyfriend.” In the interests of health, I try not to reward myself with food except at actual meal times, but if chocolate motivates you the most, go for it! Having a reward to look forward to makes it all worth it.

Keep in mind—just because I originally compiled this list to encourage myself to do schoolwork doesn’t mean you can’t adapt it for other projects! Maybe you procrastinate when it comes to shoveling snow or wrapping a mountain of holiday gifts; you can still focus on the small tasks by starting with the front step or the present you’re most excited to give, and even if you can’t change where you do the work, you can always crank up some tunes on your iPod or radio. Plus, winter is a great time of year for hot cocoa breaks!

And no matter what you keep putting off this month, remember that Protagonist has your back! If you need help overcoming a problem that feels too big for you, or if you need the reassurance that you can handle it, drop us a line at hello@protagonist.life.  We believe in you, and we’ll help you tackle your challenge like a true hero!

What advice do you give yourself to avoid procrastinating?

Posted by Calligraphie in Reflections, 0 comments
Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Have you ever heard or said the phrase, “They’re my kind of crazy”? For some reason, my brain has fixated on this phrase for the last week and, as such, I have felt driven to write in order to examine it. What the heck does it mean? Is the person clinically insane, or just strange or weird in some agreeable way? Perhaps they maintain a collection of exotic butters?

To put the phrase in my own context: I typically say it to a close friend while having a great time with others, or while watching a video or performance that is perhaps just on the edge of being socially acceptable. You know—one of those “hilarious, but not something I’d ever show my parents” kind of things. “They’re my kind of crazy,” to me, means someone has a similar mindset and is just one or two steps ahead of me, either in terms of thought process or of courage. I want to be like them because of the abilities they have or way they think.

It is so easy to admire others…or even be jealous of what they have that we don’t, and I have spent so much time training myself to not be jealous, but to funnel that energy towards attaining the things I admire in others. For the skeptics among my readers, I will tell you a little story about how I got to that point. In my early college years, I was a lump. Not because I stayed indoors without human interaction, playing video games (although that’s mainly what I did), but because I didn’t do anything to try to improve my life and be happier. I should have been as green as the wicked witch from all the envy I had for the “normal humans” who seemed to effortlessly enjoy life, but I never took the time to find out why they enjoyed life. I never even took the time to figure out why my life sucked in the first place! I refused to.

It was not something I wanted to deal with.

Long story short, my life reached a rock-bottom point where I was forced to look at myself and the pit I had dug. And yes, in my case, the pit was dug by yours truly; I didn’t just fall into it, because it was the culmination of a lot of complicated things I could have influenced. At that point, I realized that I didn’t have a kind of crazy to be drawn to, I was crazy. Crazy enough to let myself slip to that point.

We all have our skeletons—some scarier than others, and some less controllable than others. In any case, a bit of observation and retrospection can lead to some life changing-epiphanies. I encourage you to find a journal or legal pad or some writing surface (yes, I mean writing by hand, because writing engages the brain in ways a computer can’t) and just write out a list of what’s on your mind – good or bad. Did a coworker annoy you today? Write it down. Was your lunch extra tasty? Write it down. Worst or best day of your week, month, year? Write it down. Has something been nagging at your brain for weeks? Yup, you guessed it! That’s it. That’s the whole exercise. You don’t have to do anything else unless you feel like it.

The act of writing thoughts down gets our brain to engage with them, both consciously and subconsciously, which sets gears in motion to move you from wherever you are to a better place. Our subconscious developed to keep us safe, and when you take even the tiny moments to recognize things that are bad, it will start to take notice. Now, I’m not saying that this exercise will change your life overnight. Few things, short of winning the lottery or getting hit by a bus, will do something that drastic. However, if you do this with some regularity, you may start to notice small things changing for the better. In my humble opinion, small, incremental changes, whether good or bad, lead to far less chaos and far more stability than big, abrupt changes.

For those of you that want faster change or are just over-achievers, here’s your extra credit: once you’ve written your list (or word cloud—it doesn’t have to be neat and orderly as long as things are on paper), pick one or two thoughts from the page and spend some more time on them. Think about how those things affect you and, in turn, how you can affect them. Then start doing something about it! Few things change the way we want them to without our direct interaction.

So. What’s your kind of crazy?

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments