In my frantic preparations to produce content this morning I was frenetically reading through some of my favorite writings of philosophy and inspiration. Finally, I came upon Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People.
I just want you all to know that I LOVE this book. In dealing with people, I have found no better guide. I have read it twice fully and have reviewed the principles so many times, I could not even begin to guess the number. Chapter 1, “Don’t Kick Over the Beehive,” tells us how ineffective criticism and condemnation is. Essentially, we don’t respond well to it. So, that got me thinking.
Why is criticism so ineffective? I will say that my answer is that I don’t respond to it, because I am unwilling to change simply because someone else wants me to. For me to change the way I think about things, it must be my idea. “Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do!” Nobody’s gonna tell me what I should do! That decision is up to me. If it’s not my idea, I don’t respond very well.
So, try and ask yourself this question (even if someone else may have brought it to your attention): If this is the way I should live, why am I not living this way?
For example, I’ve realized that I don’t spend enough quality time with my kids. I’ve examined why this is so: I work, I am tired, they are boring, I don’t like what they like, they are busy, etc. In the end, however, my values tell me that I should spend time with my kids as a father, teaching them what I know, playing with them more, etc. Somebody can tell me, “You work too much, and your kids need you,” but I am the only one who can change the situation. So in order to change this I must commit: from now on, I will spend more time with my kids. Even better, I can be more specific:
- I will spend 45 minutes every day learning Spanish with my kids (which, in fact I now do).
- When my children are speaking to me, I will stop what I am doing and listen, or I will politely tell them, “come back to me in XX minutes when I finish this, OK?” (this one is definitely a challenge for me).
My point today, is not that we should avoid criticizing others (which we probably should), or that we should increase the time we spend teaching our children (which we definitely should). My point is this (repeat it to yourself if you wish):
- If I know I should be living my life a certain way, only I can make that choice to do so.
- If this is what I should do, then I must do it.