Happy New Year! Every January, instead of making a bunch of resolutions, I like to develop a theme for the New Year.
Sometimes, I make the theme rhyme, such as, “Knock ‘em Alive in 2005” and “Make it Great in 2008.” This year, I’m going off rhyme. (although I could say “Things Will Be Fine in 2009” or “Walk the Line in 2009.” Nope, I’m not going to rhyme it this year. Instead, I want LIVE it.
Here’s my 2009 New Year’s Focus: “Listen and Do.”
Yep, that’s it. Simple and sweet. Listen and Do.
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 easer than hearing. Explaining is easier than listening deeply.
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, the fast listener zones out, and ends 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” – and all the while, they’re filling up the empty communication space with other things. True listening is HARD WORK!
As I declare 2009 the Year of Listening, I don’t mean listening to the 100 words and then zoning out. Instead, I mean listening to the 100 words – really hearing those words – processing those words – seeking to understand the depth of those words – thinking about those 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 everything 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 a listening prayer. Seek to hear to God’s voice. Listen for direction and wisdom. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Now, I was just going to call 2009 the Year of Listening, but realized that we are called 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 what must be done. They spend too much energy “chewing the fat” and not enough “burning the fat.” It would pay us all to be DOERS and not HEARERS 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 the anchor and set sail. In other words, you’ve gotta DO something!
So, there you have it – My 2009 Plan: Listen and Do.
Maybe, just maybe, that plan will do for you too!