“Listen, Then Do Something” // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

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If you’ve botched your New Year’s resolutions already, maybe it would be helpful to take a different approach.  Instead of throwing in the towel and feeling guilty about how you didn’t achieve your feeble intentions, why not select a focus — a theme for the year and keep plugging on towards it?    This method gives guidance and direction, without the pressure of impending failure hanging over you head.

If you are looking for a theme, how about this one?   Listen and Do.  It is simple and sweet and will keep you going for the full 365.

1) Listen:
You and I have been given two ears and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. However, I’ve discovered that talking is easier than hearing.  Listening is far more difficult than explaining.

Why is it so hard to listen? Consider this. We speak at 100-150 words per minute. We are able to comprehend at 250-300 words per minute. We think at 600 words per minute.

So, if you are a fast thinker (600 wpm) and the other person is a slow talker (100 wpm), you still have 500 words per minute left over for thinking about other stuff. For efficient folks, that’s a lot of wasted communication space. Therefore, fast listeners zone out, and end up thinking about things besides what the other person is saying.

When someone zones out, they respond like this: “uh, huh”, “Yes, dear”, “I don’t know” – all the while, filling up the empty communication space with other thoughts. True listening is hard work!

Declaring 2016 your Year of Listening, doesn’t mean listening to the 100 words and then zoning out. Instead, it means listening to the 100 words – really hearing those words – processing them– seeking to understand the depth of those words – thinking about them words – mulling them over!

As Margaret Wheatley said, “Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”

Listening means hearing the whole thing without creating a rebuttal while the other person is still talking. It means not cutting people off mid-sentence because you already know what they’re going to say. It means, in the words of Steven Covey, “Seeking to understand before seeking to be understood.”

The best kind of prayer, by the way, is listening prayer, seeking to hear to God’s voice to discern his wisdom. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

2) Do:

But we can’t just stop with listening.   We need to do something about what we hear. We won’t make any progress if we let the communication flow in one ear and out the other.
Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24)

A lot of folks spend tons of time thinking and discussing, but don’t get around to doing anything about it. They spend too much energy “chewing the fat” and not enough “burning it.” It is far better to be a doer than a hearer only (James 1:22.) I believe in a practical faith. That is, a faith that you can put into practice every day. It’s action oriented!

Life is about action. What we do is more important than what we say or think. Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” It’s better to attempt something and fail than to attempt nothing and succeed.

A friend once told me that Divine guidance is like a rudder on a boat. If the boat is tied to the dock, the rudder is not much help. Unleash the boat, however, and set sail – then the rudder does its work! You have to be moving in order for the rudder to operate! You might even start by moving in the wrong direction, but the rudder will guide and correct your course. If you want to discover your destiny, you need to hoist anchor and set sail. In other words — do something!

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