What is critically important to realize is that what we ‘hear’ or ‘listen for’ determines what we say, which in turn, determines our actions, which in turn, determines our future.

—Dr. Barbara Fittipaldi

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist…

1 Corinthians 13:12 The Message

What if what you were interacting with in your life weren’t realities but instead something you made up? Think I’m kidding?

I was doing some research on listening, so I looked at the etymology and came across the Latin word auscultare, which happens to be one of the Italian words for listening. Of course, being and speaking Italian I knew this word. What I didn’t know and is interesting to note is that one of the root meanings for that word refers to be a “scout.” A scout is someone who searches; courageously going into unknown and unchartered places. I imagine the scouts of old, exploring previously uncharted terrain, were often surprised, not sure how to navigate what they found themselves in, perhaps feeling “lost,” unsure how to move forward.

When you think of yourself in relationship, do you see yourself as a scout, exploring mystery, or are you more of an expert guide, navigating blindly and only looking for the familiar signposts you’ve previously charted? Too often I’m the latter. I get on automatic. I fail to really notice, let alone enjoy, where I am and who’s there now and instead move through life as if on a treadmill with me mindlessly going along. I often don’t allow for exploration, for newness. I simply interact on “tried and true” formulas that dishonor both me and the one I am in relationship with by reducing wonderful dynamic mysterious beings to the equivalent of a static thing.

Think of the implications this has, for instance, on building love. If I’ve already decided current reality is a certain, fixed way (the way I see it) then I will probably be perpetually frustrated when I find “reality” to be in a state of flux or it shows up completely different than what I thought. I know I resist this idea, I mean, if my or someone’s reality isn’t static, how do I know how I am supposed to be in relationship?

On the one hand it’s probably inevitable and necessary to decide reality is a certain way: we must and do make determinations about things being a certain way so as to navigate them. The mischief comes when I won’t even allow for evidence that may controvert what I’ve decided. Or when we stop inquiring beyond what we already know. I know most of the time I reduce “reality” to mean only what I’ve decided it is and seldom bother to reassess what I’ve determined is so and who I’ve made someone out to be. I like the certainty this affords me.

Recognizing that what we are interacting with, in large part, is the result of us listening for what we already know, and that what we see is limited by the confirmation bias dynamic of our brains, can open up new possibilities—which can, in turn, lead to new results.

But this takes humility. It takes opening yourself up to feedback you may not prefer to hear. All of this takes courage because it causes you to be in unfamiliar territory. None of us like the tension this causes. It produces uncertainty, an instability, and we feel destabilized—unsure of what we need to do next.

So, if you find yourself in repetitious cycles of stuck-ness, in any sphere of your life, recognize it’s probably because you have stopped listening in an open way. You have most likely reduced your world down to a predictable, manageable, narrow interpretation and that you keep listening for and looking for the evidence that fits with what you’ve decided. You’ve stopped exploring.

Maybe it’s time to retune your radar, get curious… and become a scout!