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I Observe...

52 Little Practices for a Year of Big Change.

This is a follow up from last week's practice to notice judgements. This week you continue to notice your judgments but don’t stop there. Take a few moments to remove your personal filter as much as possible and re-story your experience with pure observation.

For example:

Judgment: “The office is a mess.”

Observation: “There are loose papers on the desk. There are multiple unstacked files in multiple places. There is a plate of old food on the shelf.”

What difference do you notice between these two sentences?

The first is an evaluation of the situation. The speaker has evaluated and labeled the situation as a “mess.” But Margo Kaufman is quoted as saying, “One person's mess is another person’s filing system.” The second one describes what a photograph might look like. With it both the speaker and the listener have the option to decide what they think of the state of the office.

Here’s another example:

Judgment: “They don’t work effectively together.”

Observation: “They didn’t turn in their report on time.”

Here the observation is a little more than a photograph. It involves action and an agreement, things that can’t be captured in a photograph.

The reason this distinction between judgments (or evaluations/assumptions) matters has to do with the energy we hold in our body when we take the next step, whether that next step be an engagement with another or an action connected with whatever it is we have judged. Labeling the office as a “mess” may put you into the energy of “something is wrong and has to be fixed” rather than “something is wonderful and could be appreciated” or “there is something here I’d like to know more about.” I’m not saying any of these energetic approaches to the situation is better - just that there is a difference. Knowing that there is a difference and knowing you have the power to shape how an experience impacts you empowers you to create the perspective which serves you best.

Labeling the experience with a judgment of it also shapes what that next step will look like.

If I have assumed the reason “they” didn’t turn in their report on time was because “they don’t work effectively together” I am likely going to jump into solving the “work together effectively” issue rather than asking them, “what happened?” By asking “what happened” I have a better chance of finding a solution which will address the true situation.

Judgments/evaluations can also turn inward. Here’s an example:

Judgment: “I’m not good at this.”

Observation: “I didn’t complete it as quickly as my partner.”

Turning your judgments/assumptions/evaluations into observations has at least two levels to it. This week I’m asking you to work on the “photograph” level. That’s where you look at your judgment and turn it into an observation of what has happened without any of your processing about it. I.e. “they didn’t turn in their report on time.”, “there are dirty dishes on the table”, “I’m not good at this.”


Spend a few moments every day to write down 3 judgments and then rewrite them as 3 observations. For each one, read both versions and pause. Notice your body, your feelings and your thoughts when you read each one. What difference do you notice?

Let me know what you think!

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