Working with our Learning Curves

Note: this blog post is a transcription of a podcast made in January, which you can listen to here

The NVC Academy- which offers online courses on Nonviolent Communication, held a telethon last year and invited trainers to donate prizes. In addition to donating copies of my book, Urban Empathy, I also donated speaking on a specific topic. The topic, as NVC Academy suggested, was what I consider my greatest learning curve, and also what I celebrate most about myself.

I am glad celebration was included. I think gratitude is, as Marshall Rosenberg called it, life-fuel. It gives us energy. It inspires and motivates us. And focusing on needs met is a powerful way I find to make changes in life. Given that it’s the start of a new year, when many people have made new year’s resolutions, talking today on the podcast about learning curves and needs met seems timely. I think doing both– looking at learning curves, celebrating what you’ve achieved, and also making doable requests for yourself for the new year, are in effect a kind of NVC “resolutions.”

Focusing on Needs Met: Gratitude

Over the winter holidays, I became very aware of how much I value peace and calm in my life. As an NVC trainer and musician, I travel a fair bit. And sometimes I can be stressed, juggling different tasks and roles, and keeping up with all the things that matter to me. During the holiday, I really connected with what a relief it was to take a break, with my schedule opened up, focusing on one thing at a time (in this case, getting my receipts together to file 2016 taxes).

Connected to this enjoyment of peace and harmony and focus, I came up with a new strategy: this month I am experimenting with holding two days open each week in my schedule, free of calls. By fitting in all my work calls into three days– calls with my coaching clients, prospective training clients, and meetings with trainers I’m collaborating with, I can enjoy two days a week of that uninterrupted space to get caught up with things in my home and office, and also focus on creative pursuits—like my new album, and I hope, the next book I want to write!

So – this may seem small to you, though for me it’s a a big celebration–a new, creative strategy that came directly out of celebrating a need that matters to me.  Just really connecting to how much I value space and peace in my life is significant in itself.  For me, it’s connected to self-care and self-worth. I matter enough that–with all else I am doing in the world to contribute–that it is worth taking time for my well being and rest too. And then taking a very concrete step to create this space is also exciting for me.

It’s been tempting to open up those days to meetings when my schedule fills up, and so far am really enjoying having those two open days each week. It’s meaningful for me around self-care and conscious choice. I think before, I was very focused on all the things I wanted to do and achieve—and had been willing to forfeit a certain amount of peace and ease in my life for that– and this has shifted for me. I am not willing anymore. There’s also an integrity piece for me here. In sharing NVC with others, I am, in effect, teaching peace-making. Just as I want to be sustainable in my work so I can continue doing it, I also want to be in integrity with creating peace in my own life. I am not willing to give that up at the expense, so to speak, to other needs–such as peace, self-care, space, and well-being.

Learning Curves:

Well- I have LOTS of learning curves. Some, such as self-empathy, have been learning curves for years that I keep taking deeper. I keep working on my triggers, and creating more space in myself between when I get triggered and when I respond and react.

I want more authenticity. Authenticity for me is the truth of my being – how would I respond, how would I be in the moment (with myself and others), free of all those old historical triggers? How would I respond if fully self-connected and in choice?

One reason I like being an NVC trainer is that I am constantly revisiting the concepts and practices of NVC myself. Sometimes that can be painful– when I miss the mark. And I still like the reminder!

Another aspect I continue to work on is letting go of taking things personally. That can be so easy to do–taking things personally! I have been renovating an old house for almost 10 years now and at first when things went “wrong” with the house I took that personally! Why would this contractor do this? (“Why would they do this to me” was implicit in that). Or how did I miss that? By taking things personally, I mean blaming myself. Thinking that other’s actions or events in life are a reflection of my own value or behavior. I am happy to say that– as an upside of dealing with things over this long– and having bought an old house with numerous surprises– that I think I am overall past this point. I don’t take it personally any more.

Now that seems almost funny to me. How could i have taken something that really has nothing to do with me personally? How is a rotten roof an expression of who I am? But because I had an old core belief– that “bad” things happen to me because I am somehow was responsible–and being in effect punished– I did take it personally, It took me years of experience and empathy to figure all this out– and years of repairs — to make all this conscious. I can see this now- in talking about it– as a “gift” that the house has given me. A gift that I did not see or even think I wanted or needed– and now I can see it as  a gift!

Here’s one more example that’s warming for me. My girlfriend let me know –more than once– that I was giving her more information than she could take in, in the morning. This is simply a difference in style- and physical wiring or capacity. I wake up early- usually around 5:30am- and am completely on. The light switch goes on in my body and it’s all systems go! I am awake- fully awake. My girlfriend though needs some time to warm up in the morning and get her gears turning.

At one point, I know I would have taken this personally– it’s an old core belief: I’m “too” much. Overwhelming. Maybe too needy. But thankfully I’d done enough work on these old friendly beliefs that I could just hear her beautiful needs in what she was saying to me. And this has taken some practice– because I’m often so raring to go and share things with her, that I can forget. But we’ve come up with a very tangible strategy- a clear positive doable request. When I wake up in the morning- almost always before her- and I see her wake up, rather than diving into conversation, I wait until she says “good morning.” Good morning is the cue that she’s open for business, and ready to connect.

How about you?

SO- what are your learning curves?  I don’t consider them linear by the way. They are curves! That means that often we’ll work on something, take a chunk out of it, it comes back again, and we take another chunk. According to Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, this is the hero’s journey. It’s also a circle– he comes, by the end of his heroic tale, full circle. We are all the heroes- the protagonists- in our own lives. We repeatedly make that epic journey– that epic journey towards self-discovery, greater choice, connecting with others, and consciousness.

This is a kind of social evolution. We individually evolve—and our consciousness moves collective consciousness forward.

So what are your learning curves? What are you circling back to in your life now? And what are you celebrating and grateful for– in terms of needs you have met this year?

I invite you to journal about this– what you’ve achieved and where you want to further develop. And I’d love to hear your learning curves and gratitudes. Feel free to share them on the Work Collaboratively FB page or in the comment section for the blog.

Thanks for listening. And if you enjoy this, please share it with others that you care about in your life!

Again, this blog post has been transcribed from the original podcast version, which you can listen to here

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