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pexels-photo-433495.jpegI wrote previously about my May goals: essentially Being Great, which to me means being healthy, being present, participating in my community, nurturing my relationships, and contributing to others. As I think about how to Be Great, I discussed five personality and life traits that enable us to Be Great: being Compassionate, Listening, being Assertive, being Creative, and Persevering.

These are BIG ideas and they bring to mind BIG changes and whole movements of groups of people. But don’t forget to think small too. We can make a BIG difference by doing small things consistently. 

Decide how you want to Be Great, what you want to do to Be Great, then do something small everyday. And you will make a BIG difference!

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This article first appeared as “Five Traits of Great Lawyers” on April 20, 2018 at Attorney@Work. It has been adapted below to apply to all people, not just lawyers. You can see the original post here.

What makes a great person? Is it intelligence, good people skills, effective communication? Of course, we must have a certain level of intelligence and motivation, along with experience and opportunities. But the truth is, the traits that transform a good person into a great person may not be the ones you think.

Here are five traits that make a person stand above the rest. Cultivating these traits provides the opportunity to really understand others and life, and lead an effective life.

1. Compassion

Compassion is an emotional response whereby one perceives another’s problem and authentically, genuinely wants to help resolve the problem. This is part of what people do: friends come to us with their problems, or to avoid future problems, and we help resolve or avoid the issues, whichever the case may be. If you don’t find yourself in this helpful position often, you may not think that compassion is important. But it is. The compassionate person focuses on how others feel and is accepting of their perspective, whether or not he ultimately agrees with it.

Compassion is the foundation for good people skills. Without compassion, you cannot put yourself in another person’s shoes or fully understand the problems they face. Without compassion, you cannot understand your adverse positions, anticipate what will happen, and take pre-emptive steps to avoid future problems. Without it, you cannot provide the best solutions.

2. Ability to Listen

Effective communication skills are essential to good relationships. One of the most important aspects of communication is listening. Of course, what we say, how we say it and when we say it are important. But we can only do it right if we listen first. Listen to the people that matter to you. Listen to your family, friends, adversaries, and colleagues. We must take in much information, analyze and synthesize it, and exercise good judgment to help. It starts with listening.

3. Assertiveness, Not Aggressiveness

I often hear people say, “She’s not aggressive enough to be effective.” That’s not right. You don’t need to be aggressive — though you must be assertive. Assertive people state their opinions and make themselves heard, while remaining respectful of others. Aggressive people attack or ignore others’ opinions in favor of their own.

Much like those who lack compassion, overly aggressive people cannot understand another’s position when it varies from their own. That makes them ineffective at understanding the problem and thus incapable of providing an effective solution. Even more detrimental, overly aggressive people act without respect for others. This damages interpersonal relationships, ultimately leading to an uncooperative environment that makes resolution or agreement impossible.

4. Creativity

We need to be creative to find real solutions to the issues that arise in life. Each problem is unique; each must be handled differently, and each solution carefully crafted. We must learn to think outside the box. The best way to create unique solutions is to approach each situation with compassionate listening, which enables you to really understand the issues and what is needed. That level of understanding can lead to long-lasting solutions that work for all interested parties. Stalemates often arise when one person fails to approach the problem with compassionate listening and, instead, becomes unnecessarily aggressive. Don’t be that way.

5. Perseverance

Success is achieved with perseverance. We must keep working, keep trying and keep going. We must be able to walk away when things are not working, take a break and come back fresh and ready to “fight,” negotiate or whatever life requires.

Now go out there and be great!

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runner-race-competition-female.jpgIt’s May. Springtime is finally here. This month, while I’ll continue my Earth Day projects, I’m focusing on Being Great. To me, that means being healthy, being present, participating in my community, nurturing my relationships, and contributing to others.

On Being Healthy: I started my health goals earlier this year in February, and took them up a notch last month by joining a small running (actually, jogging) club. We have a coach who sets individual schedules for us, and we check in each day via Messenger regarding our times and how we feel. What this has taught me is the importance of an accountability partner.

I don’t like running/jogging. But I’ve improved and jogged a 5k on Earth Day with my club members. I’ve run in the rain. I’ve run in the snow. I’ve run when I didn’t want and didn’t have time. Because I knew my accountability partners were doing it, so I couldn’t just shirk my duties.

Most people will let themselves down, but letting others down is less likely to happen. I’ll discuss my other health goals in later posts, and how you can achieve your goals too, but, as you think about your goals, also consider who would be a great accountability partner for you. It makes a world of difference if you have a friend on the journey with you.

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Time and money balanceIf you are like me, you are constantly trying to find that ever elusive BALANCE in your life. That (apparently unattainable) place where you are able to spread your time and talents across all parts of your life and take care of yourself, eveyone you love, be a great person, and never feel like your TO-DO list is longer than a piece of paper stretching around the world four times! One thing I have learned — especially since becoming a mother — is this: if I want to get closer to balance (and not feel overwhelmed), then I need help.

Of course, asking for help is not part of my DNA. I have to work at it. Sometimes it doesn’t even occur to me that I could ask for help. I could spend lots of time trying to figure out a way to fit just 30 more minutes of productive time into my day, rearranging my schedule, staying up later, skipping the gym, or many other unfruitful ways to make 24 hours into 24.5 hours. But how about this?

Instead of trying to figure out how you can do even more, how about trying to figure out who can help you so that you don’t need to do more?!

For example, who can I ask (or pay) to:

  • clean the house
  • do my shopping
  • watch the baby
  • do my administrative tasks
  • organize my closet
  • cook dinners
  • pick up dry cleaning
  • walk the dogs

These are just some of the things that I could use help with. I could ask my husband, babysitter, friends, and neighbors to help. I could pay them, or barter. Or I could hire someone who does these things for a living, like  a cook or virtual secretary or dog walker. Get creative!

What can you use help with, and who can help you?

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What Is Love?

I’m curious. If you had to describe the feeling of love, how would you describe it?

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