According to Wikipedia, Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) in the field of computer science refers to the fact that computers, since they operate by logical processes, will unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).
I have co-opted GIGO to mean that, if you feed your mind garbage, then your mind will produce undesirable thoughts. Since the Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on,” then feeding your mind garbage results in a garbage-filled life.
Be Careful What You Feed Your Mind
If you want to know the biggest Influencer in your life, the answer would be, “Your mind.” Your mind is with you 24/7 and influences every aspect of how you experience life. When you sleep it influences your dreams.
Western society spends an unreasonable amount of time obsessing about what we eat. Is it too much or too little? Is it good for me or bad for me? One of the fastest ways to make a lot of money is to create a book or video or class that promises a beautiful body while you eat whatever you want.
What we don’t pay nearly enough attention to is what we feed our minds. Oh, we have lots of opinions about what children should be feeding their minds. We know that small, impressionable minds shouldn’t be exposed to violent films or TV shows. We are horrified when parents of teens allow them to play violent video games.
All of the above falls under the category of what our parents said to us that we hated: do as I say, not as I do.
This Really Matters
I am in recovery from a major depression that lasted for 30 years. I can tell you without equivocation that what you feed your mind makes a huge difference in the quality of your life. Since your mind is your constant Influencer, it is imperative that you give it material that will help rather than hurt you. Paying attention to what I focused on was the beginning of my recovery from depression.
Your Mind Doesn’t Know the Difference Between Pretend & Reality
I will never forget the day this was driven home to me with a 2X4 (metaphorically, not literally—a 2X4 would hurt!). I was in a really foul mood. A foul mood is so much worse than a bad mood. It is—well—FOUL. Since I had begun to really pay attention to cause-and-effect in my life, I was confused. I couldn’t pinpoint any reason for feeling so dark. There was nothing going on at the time that would explain it.
And then it hit me! While on the elliptical trainer at the gym I had been listening to books on tape. At the time I was listening to a James Patterson novel. I can’t recall the title but I DO recall it had a lot of graphic violence. Since my brain (like yours) doesn’t know the difference between pretend and reality, at some level my mind thought it was happening to me. The foul mood was the reptilian part of my brain signaling me that I was in imminent danger.
Since that day I am careful about what “entertainment” I choose. Friends who don’t necessarily subscribe to my opinion on this but honor my choices will call and say, “Don’t go see this movie, you will hate it.” I walk out of movies that make me uncomfortable (and ask for a refund) and have been known to throw a book or two across the room when the ending was far from happy. There are authors I will never read again, even though (or maybe because) they are great writers.
Nutritious Food for the Mind
We live in a wonderful time when information is as close as our computers. There are numerous websites, videos, blogs, podcasts and online articles that can inspire and uplift. There are books, movies and TV shows that can do the same. The more we feed our minds a nutritious diet, the less stressed we will be and the more we attract what we want.
In the work we do (paid or not), why not focus on the positive aspects of what we’re doing? What if we celebrated each step of progress? What if we allowed ourselves to feel the thrill of a job well done? Imagine the quality of your life if your mind, your biggest influencer, was consistently applauding your efforts.
Question: Are you careful about the diet you are feeding your mind? Do you remember a time when you realized your mind was being negatively influenced? What prompted you to start paying attention to this? I am gathering these kinds of stories and would love to hear about your experience.
For private coaching, or information on having Silver work with your company on employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com
Whether trying to be a leader or simply a friend, offering unsolicited advice rarely works. When we try, it falls on deaf ears. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that it triggers anger or resentment from the recipient of our brilliant solutions.
So what do you do if you want to help?
This is where the act of asking clarifying questions comes in.
When you ask clarifying questions, you are giving the other person an opportunity to think things through, perhaps uncovering an idea that hadn’t previously occurred to him. This is something at which good coaches excel.
Let’s face it, when faced with a stressful dilemma, we don’t always do our best thinking.
So what kinds of questions do you ask? To answer that very good question, let’s return to what we all learned in English class about writing good stories.
English 101: Remember the “four W’s and an H”?
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY & HOW
These five words are all excellent beginnings for questions because they cannot be answered “yes” or “no.” Answering them requires some consideration.
Let’s say a co-worker comes to you really upset because the boss gave her negative feedback about a project. You truly want to lend support and your natural inclination is to give her reassuring advice like, “This is only one project; don’t take it so hard,” or “Consider the source; the boss is always negative.” Neither of these statements really helps your colleague to work through the issue.
Instead, you might ask questions like:
The important thing to remember is NOT to try and cleverly hide your advice within a question. Suggesting a solution by asking, “Who do you think could put in a good word for you?” is just your sly way of giving your opinion. Curb your urge to do this. (It’s SO hard!) First of all, it might not be the greatest suggestion (what?!?!?) and secondly, it may fall on deaf ears. Finally, if she does take your suggestion and it makes things worse, who do you think she’s going to blame?
You’re trying to support, not do it for the other person. The best way to do that is to help them explore for themselves what the best course of action might be. This is Leadership 101 and an excellent way to practice your leadership skills.
I am eager to hear your experiences with this. Where have you given advice that helped, and when did it backfire? Have you used clarifying questions, and how has that worked?
Undeniably, the fastest way to decrease your influence with anyone is to give unsolicited advice. Whether or not you are in a leadership role, using questions, not directions are the better way to influence. In fact, give it a try at home first. If you apply the process outlined below, your family will send me thank you notes.
Have you ever had this happen? You’ve given specific and clear directions to someone about how to perform a task. You’re pleased when that person even acknowledges your suggestions. Yet, when the task is completed, you discover it’s been done in a completely different way!
Margaret J. Wheatley, a writer and management consultant who specializes in Organizational Development has identified the three things others do with your ideas:
3. Criticize (this is the one that creates the most mischief)
Given this reality, why are you wasting your breath? The best quote about this type of situation came from one of my mentors, Esther Hicks who said,
“An answer to a question no one asked you is a wasted answer.”
Think about that. There you are sprinkling your fairy dust of “incredibly good ideas” over others. Are they paying any attention whatsoever? If they seem to be listening at all, it’s probably because they are formulating all the reasons why your idea won’t work. They may even be planning how they’re going to entertain co-workers later with, “You won’t believe what he suggested I do!”
If you doubt this, try an experiment–the next time you’re gifting someone with your good ideas about what they should do, pay very close attention to that person’s face. They may be looking right at you but are they listening? Better still, follow up to see whether they implemented your idea. You will likely find that they did one of the three things Wheatley has identified.
Here is the process for influencing: instead of telling another how to perform a task, outline the end result you are expecting. Then ask, “What are some ways to get this done?”
Let’s say you need a co-worker to produce a report that lies within his/her area of responsibility. You’re not the boss but you need the report. You say, “I need a report on ______________ by next Friday. Can you walk me through some ways to make sure that happens?”
Or you need something from your boss and you know she doesn’t like “upward delegation.” Yet, she’s the only one who can provide what you need. You might say, “In order to finish X project, I need the following information _____________. Can you help me figure out a few ways to get it?”
Insider Tip #1: (hold onto your hat!) People LOVE to be asked for their advice. That’s why we give it out for free–there are not nearly enough people asking us for it!
Insider Tip #2: Never ask for “the best solution” or “the solution” as if there is only one.When they think there is only one correct answer, people freeze; their minds problem-solve more effectively if asked for potential solutions (plural).
When you think about influence, what comes to mind?
Many of you think of influential people as those who are in high-level positions—at work, in politics, at church, and in your community. Sometimes it seems you need lots of money to wield influence. (It certainly doesn’t hurt.)
Or do you think of influence as the ability to control circumstances? If you are influential, you wield greater control. BINGO! Influence does give you more control over circumstances.
Why am I so passionate about finding the most effective ways to impact circumstances? Primarily because there was a long period of my life during which I felt out of control; I felt like a victim. It felt awful. When you are a victim, you lack the ability to do something about what’s happening to you.
When did you have a similar time in your life?
At the heart of what we all want is control over our own destinies. If you ever wonder why some homeless people are adamant about staying on the streets versus accepting shelter when it’s offered, it is often because they are determined to control their own destinies.
Controlling one’s own destiny is why I am so crazy about the power of questions. Without a doubt, the easiest and most impactful way to increase your influence has to do with asking the right questions—of others and of yourself.
When I was feeling victimized, I often wondered, “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” Here’s the problem with questions like that. When you ask your mind a question, it will answer you! So you can imagine the kinds of negative answers I was given in response to those questions.
I wish I had known some alternative questions:
I have a similar wish about my work as a manager and as a parent. Instead of giving others instructions and suggestions, I wish I had asked questions that empowered them. I see now that my team and my children wanted control over their destinies and that too often I robbed them of that. Maybe they couldn’t control the things required of them (we all have rules and laws we have to follow) but certainly they deserved to have some influence over how they performed their assignments.
You needn’t be in charge of others to influence them. You have daily opportunities to influence. In fact, you already do—the question is are you influencing in a positive direction or a negative one?
Here’s an example: instead of asking, “How was your day?” ask, “What was the best part of your day?” This is a particularly good question to pose at the dinner table with your family but it can be used in other situations as well. However you utilize it, the conversation will turn in a wonderful direction. I’d love to hear from you after you do this. What were the results?
You may remember a very popular series of books and programs by the late Dr Richard Carlson called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. While well intended, it is an approach to life I don’t necessarily agree with. Let me tell you why.
As a species, human beings have proven to be extraordinarily well equipped to handle catastrophe. We somehow survive life-challenging illness, war, financial ruin, the deaths of loved ones…the list is endless. BUT get a flat tire on the freeway and we fall apart.
One time I was sitting in a 12-step meeting and a woman was sharing about her financial troubles. She said, “It got so bad I almost had to cancel my cable TV!” She seemed perplexed when the rest of us laughed. To her, that would indeed have been a catastrophe.
One of the ways I am supporting my life partner through his cancer journey is to prepare nutritious meals. For some of you, that would be no big deal. That’s because you are cooks, something I am decidedly not.
So I was turning this relatively minor logistic into a big deal and it was causing me a lot of stress. What I finally did was sit down and figure out how to do it more easily. I now keep a list of things I need so that when I go grocery shopping, I don’t forget anything (thus avoiding exasperation and extra trips). I plan our meals for the week. When I get onions and garlic, I chop them all at once and keep the ingredients in the fridge to use when I need them again. Simple things but I am here to tell you, when I start to prepare a meal and everything I need is ready to throw into the pan, I grin from ear to ear (and feel smug, let’s not forget that particular small joy).
Seemingly these examples support Dr. Carlson’s philosophy of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Shouldn’t my 12-step friend and I simply lighten up? Would that we could. I think our inability to not sweat these small things point to something very different. If we don’t practice Passionate Self-Care by making sure the smaller details of life are taken care of then we very quickly turn life into a catastrophe.
What I have come to understand is that when you have things in your life you have no control over (cancer, not having enough money, etc.) it is perfectly natural to let small things upset you. You can either learn to turn a blind eye or you can set things up so the small things are under control.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to make sure the logistics of your life run as smoothly as possible. Over the years, as I have gotten increasingly better at this, I’ve noticed that my emotional wellbeing has increased. Here are a few examples designed to get you thinking:
Assignment: Look into your own life and figure out the things that are causing you the most stress. Use your creative mind to figure out how to head these stressors off at the pass. Write me and let me know some ways you have done this or will in the future.
In the long run, the most important word in the term Passionate Self-Care is self. Both the good news and the bad is that it’s all up to you.