12/01/2007

Become more assertive (with yourself)


Assertiveness has always been a trait that I longed to refine for many years. I dreamed of the day when I could look a potential intruder of my time straight in the eye and tell that person in no uncertain terms to "shove it." After reading several books and doing extensive research online, I realized that I still did not feel quite comfortable expressing my feelings to others the way I wanted to. I lacked assertiveness in certain areas because of my fear of upsetting those around me. As a result, I became upset with myself as I allowed potential opportunities to engage my assertiveness pass me by time and time again.

After enduring several failed attempts at asserting myself, I realized that there had to be a better way. I felt like I was missing a major piece to this puzzle that the books were not focusing on. I would become frustrated with myself if I used the word "should" in a sentence because the word was considered too passive. Finally I told myself that I would not change my level of assertiveness overnight and began to redirect my attention elsewhere.

As I progressed in my journey to improve the areas of my life that were lacking, I realized how little time and effort I dedicated to my personal agenda. I would wake up and pretty much lounge around until it was time for work. At work, I responded to emails, phone calls, and other requests as they came in. In the evening, I would return home, make dinner, and do little else until time for bed. The cycle would then repeat itself day after day. I exercised no real control over my own life and the direction it was going. How was I expected to become assertive with others if I had not done so with my own self?

The course of my life changed when I began to mold my days to look more like what I wanted. I began by starting my day at 5:00 am. Starting my day this early gave me the opportunity to pray, meditate, and do my devotions. I also had enough time to exercise in the morning and focus on my intentions for the day ahead. By the time I walked into work, I already spent adequate time preparing and visualizing what I wanted the day to look like. I also implemented the some basic time management techniques of doing the most productive work first (not necessarily the most pressing). I made sure to create objectives in my mind, before I started any task, of how long I wanted it to take and how it would look like when I was completed. I constantly looked for more areas of my life where I could create my expectations of what I wanted and worked to meet those expectations the best I could.

As time went on, I no longer wondered if I said the word "should" in a non-assertive sentence. I was designing a new life for myself simply by visualizing intentions and planning my steps. Assertiveness developed as a natural by-product of taking some control over my own life. The assertiveness skills I developed were not the result of repeating exercised learned from a manual. My ability to assert myself was organic in nature. As I cultivated my life to appear more like I had envisioned, I found it only natural to politely tell another person that I could not complete an unreasonable request because of inherent conflicts with my schedule. You will find that as you exercise control over some areas of your life, you will want to conquer every area in your life that is not benefiting from your direct and active involvement.

Designing your life to your specifications is not easy but the results you achieve will help to maintain your motivation. I recommend you start today by planning out the rest of your day. Plan a healthy meal and some time to journal. Reflect on the year that has passed and your intentions for the year ahead. Plan out the most productive assignments at work that you could possibly do but had not had time because you were constantly responding to stimuli. Plan how you will respond to in the event of unexpected interruptions (both internal and external). Imagine the feeling of empowerment you will have once you complete those items. Plan your morning routine. Plan every area of your life by creating specific intentions and strive to obtain them as best you can. Once this habit is developed you will never have to wonder about how to respond assertively to anything that seeks to take control of your time, resources, or life.

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