Every day, practice being the person you someday want to be

We should all have a vision of our future selves. An upgraded version of who we currently are. What do we want to be more of (kind, patient, healthy, friendly) or less of (selfish, nervous, fearful)? We should aspire to be better than we currently are.

But once we have identified areas that need improvement, how do we make the changes? The key is daily practice. Long-lasting change doesn’t happen immediately; it develops gradually. Behavior modification takes time. 

Here are two areas of my life that I want to improve, so I practice them daily.

Be a better listener.

Recently, I had a conversation with the help desk at a major cruise line. It went something like this:

Don — I’m calling about reservation QRDTGG. The Regal Princess ship leaves Ft. Lauderdale on April 17 and ends in Barcelona.

Agent — I’m here to help you. Do you have a reservation?

Don — Yes, it’s QRDTGG.

Agent — What is the departure city?

Don — I’ve already told you.

Agent — What is the departure date?

Don — Are you listening to me?

The conversation continued to deteriorate. The agent might have been hearing what I was saying but he wasn’t listening.

This frustrating encounter caused me to analyze my own conversational skills. Do I listen intently to what others are saying, or does my mind wander to other things?

I want to be a better, more focused listener, so I’m practicing that every day.

I also want to make my “resting face” more pleasant.

Our resting face is how we look when we’re not intentionally manipulating our face to look pleasant or engaged. It’s our default setting: the way we look when we’re alone. The challenge is, when we’re around people and particularly when we’re in conversations, our resting fact is inadequate. We need to change to an engaged face.

Sometimes a resting face unintentionally creates the impression that we’re angry, annoyed, irritated, or contemptuous, although we may simply be relaxed, resting, or not expressing any particular emotion.

I realized I had a problem in this area when Mary and my daughters would sometimes ask. “Don are you upset? Is everything okay? Are you mad at me?” My bland countenance left them wondering. If my family is struggling with interpreting my mood because of my sour countenance, I’m sure other people are too. 

So, I want to permanently change my resting face into a pleasant, more open countenance. I want to have a subtle but constant smile. It will take time, perhaps years. But I’ll practice every day. 

Here’s my challenge to you: Identify three or four areas of your life that you want to change and on a daily basis practice the new behavior. 

10 Replies to “Every day, practice being the person you someday want to be”

  1. Don,
    Your conversation to the “Help Desk” sounds EXACTLY like one’s I have had too. It could have been to a store, a bank or any other large business. We try to include all the required personal info on initial contact so that we might be able to streamline the conversation.
    It never works as planned and we are always asked for info just given. I am 200% for that quick and frustrated response I give back to them. “Didn’t you listen? I just gave that all to you!”
    You’re capsulizing this call and my short tempered response is spot on. I’m not proud of my part of this call. Thank you for highlighting my less than admirable part of the call. I promise to next time chill out during a call like this and join the ranks of pleasant callers. It’s like you were in my house listening to me. Next time better. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Bill, for taking the time to write. I visited a doctor recently and sensed that he intently listened to everything I said. How refreshing it was. Take care, Don.

  2. It took me a long time and lots of practice to become a good listener. I still am a person who likes to talk a lot but when I recognize it is time to listen, I close my mouth and open my ears.
    I was very successful as a salesman selling to professionals, and I attribute that to learning how to listen.
    I trained salespeople during my time as a manager and 30 percent of my course was spent on how to be a good listener because I was never able to find any books on that subject.
    Thanks for letting me comment.

    1. Thanks, Ed, for sharing your thoughts. You were a successful salesman because you have a nice balance between talking and listening. I’ve noticed that in our conversations at church. It’s really easy for people to enter your space and you always balance the conversation nicely. Thanks for being my friend. Don

  3. Your observations on our “resting face” hit very close to home. My resting face may not be deliberate, but it is powerful. My goal is to fine tune my resting face.

    Enjoyed the article once again. God bless.

    1. Thanks, Susie, for taking the time to write. I have to work on my resting face every waking hour. It takes reprogramming the mind. Don

    1. Thanks, Mark, for taking the time to comment. I have to work on my resting face every waking hour. Take care, Don.

  4. Great post, Don. Your findings corroborate what I used to teach my mentees. Communication theory, based on a Bell Labs scientist’s research (Claude Shannon: 1930s & 40s), shows that communication is carried in 6 channels (cognitive cues): words, tone, cadence, volume, body language, and facial expressions. As it turns out, words only carry 7-10% of the message, and since listening (receiving) is the other end of a communication channel, we communicate volumes by body language and facial expressions- the cognitive cues that show the communicator (message sender) we are engaged.

    And for free, the 6 cognitive cues tell us why we shouldn’t be surprised when miscommunication happens while we’re using a single cognitive cue medium such as email or text. The mind doesn’t leave the missing cognitive cues blank, it actually fills in the missing cues based on experience, perceptions, bias, and prejudice. No wonder so much miscommunication takes place in families and organizations. (And there’s a whole lot more where that came from!)

    1. Mike, thanks for adding such interesting thoughts to the conversation. You’ll probably see your words in a future post 🙂 Take care, Don.

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