“Judgment is like elastic: It snaps back at you.” —Unknown
All experiences are opportunities. How you choose to perceive your experiences determines the benefit you ultimately receive. Change your perception and you’ll change your benefit. So, how does one go about changing his or her perception to reap greater benefit? You start by removing judgment.
Begin removing judgment by practicing curiosity. Question all the thoughts you have as if you have no idea where they came from. Approach your reactions to things with youthful wonder as you look at your initial judgments. Let’s say that you’re tempted to think that a co-worker is greedy because she always takes the last cup of coffee from the pot without ever making a fresh one. That’s not the only possible interpretation to this scenario though; stop and look at the situation objectively―and be curious.
Facts are only the start
The facts are simple: The last bit of coffee is taken and no fresh pot has been made. Ok, now ask, “What’s wrong with that?” Would it be better for her to have left the coffee and gone without? Would that be wasting a perfectly good chance for a needed energy zing? “What are the possible reasons for leaving an empty pot?” Does she know how to make a pot of coffee? What if she doesn’t have confidence that her coffee would be good enough for the group? What if she didn’t have time at the moment, or couldn’t find the supplies? Do you know for sure that she never makes a pot of coffee? Maybe you just missed the other times that she did. It’s a good idea to let yourself wonder if you even have all the information. Maybe this co-worker wrestles with inner conflicts over adequacy and masks it with bravado or apathy. Then stop and ask yourself, “Why does this seem to tick me off so much?”
Jerk? Maybe Yes – Maybe No
The point of this example is to be sure that you’re looking objectively at things as they really are. Asking your questions with an anticipation of finding an objective answer will free you to see a situation as it is rather than as what you thought it was. I ’m not suggesting curiosity as a tool to banish negative thoughts or to excuse or accept circumstances that don’t serve you. After all, this co-worker may very well be a jerk. Fine―that isn’t so much a judgment but a statement of fact, which carries a very different emotional energy. You shed energy-draining frustration because you’ll be able to talk to this person without judgment and ask her to chip in on the coffee-making front.
As you look at your current circumstances, be curious and you’ll change the emotional energy you carry. If you are not happy with the results you have in your life right now; if you’re lonely or feeling frustrated with your family, friends or job; the pain you experience has a high emotional cost. The way to reduce the pain and emotional cost is to change the way you evaluate circumstances. Remove the judgment and the pain disappears.
Respond vs. React
There is another benefit to this open curiosity: It gives you time to respond rather than simply react. In the coming weeks I’ll explain the benefits of responding versus reacting; but for now, consider that reacting has roots based in your past experiences. These past experiences may or may not have any relevance to the present circumstances. When you react without taking the time to objectively and curiously view what is, you remain stuck in a pattern that further isolates and frustrates life; it’s the elastic that snaps back over and over again.
What do you think? Are you in reaction mode? Are you quick to judge yourself and others? What would happen if you decided to ask curious questions? Try it on yourself today and see what happens.
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