What do you want to achieve or what I learned from mindful mediation.
A few years ago, while working on my masters degree in neuroscience, I assisted another research group working on the effects of MBSR on dyslexia and ADHD. One of the perks of helping out was that I got to participate in the course. Ever since then I’ve been hooked and have been practicing mindfulness in every aspect of my life. I have received many gifts from my practice — The ability to be fully present, the understanding that yesterday and tomorrow are valid and real but should not completely obliterate the right now, the understanding that thoughts and feelings are like clouds that pass through my mind and should be treated as such, namely, temporary effects, but in this post I’d like to discuss one of the great tools MBSR has awarded me — the ability to accept reality just as it is.
So yeah, if everyone just accepted things exactly as they were, we wouldn’t have fire, electricity, indoor plumbing and well, just about everything we take for granted. The world needs visionaries who argue with reality and won’t just accept things as they are.
I consider myself one of these people. I’ve always been a problem solver who tries to look at things from the outside and offer a new solution to what’s been done since the dawn of time. But this skill, while much appreciated by many of my employers, should be used sparingly. We all know that annoying person who just won’t accept anything and never plays ball. Ugh, what a drag! We’ll do anything to avoid that guy (I’m not proud of it but that guy used to be me). And so, paradoxically, that behavior makes them the least likely to create change.
According to eastern philosophies, most of your suffering comes from the gap between what the world is and what you expect it to be. Let’s take an obvious example — A family earns a salary of $80K and both breadwinners get a substantial promotion and raise. Suddenly they’re making $120K and boy are they happy. Another family was making $150K and during a financial hardship, were forced to take pay cuts and were reduced to $120K. You can imagine how miserable this family is. And why is that? They live in the same neighborhood, make the same amount of money, so why the contrast? The answer is simple — their expectations from reality, or should I say, the gap between their expectations and reality.
There are some things you just can’t change, and one of them is who you work with. You can’t fire your boss, you can’t fire your co-workers, and usually, you can’t even fire your own employees. Certainly if the only reason is because they’re annoying.
So what can you do?
Accept them as they are. I’m not saying you should like them. I’m not even saying you should appreciate them, but stop bashing into reality. They are who they are, and a co-worker or boss is not what’s going to change them. Even if there was such a possibility, it would take months if not years and would probably not be worth the effort. I’m not saying you shouldn’t establish ground rules on working together when things cross a certain line. But if you just have a dislike to this person, or have an opinion on their style, after doing your best to establish a common ground, accept the differences as they are. And everytime you feel that itch to raise an argument or clash into them, ask yourself this simple question — what would I like to achieve?
It’s that simple. Imagine your co-worker as an asset that your company bought that functions in a certain way. That’s the model, and no-one's upgrading anytime soon. So you can yell at the copy machine all you like, but it’s not going to change. Instead, try to understand the asset in its entirety without any emotional charge, and ask yourself while taking a deep breath — this is what I have in order to win. In an ideal world, I’d be working with someone else, but in reality, right now, I have a task that needs completion and I need this person to help me achieve that. How can I achieve a win, taking into account the reality the situation.
So this may seem like the quitters way out, but I call it being practical. Choose your battles. Most things are worth a compromise. Usually you should save your energy for the real hurdles you’d like to surpass.
But most of all, life just gets easier. When someone makes you insane because of how they do things, take a deep breath, count to ten, accept them for who they are and try to figure out the best way to get a win considering the circumstances. These situations become less stressful and easier to navigate. It’s really a win-win.
This strategy has helped me reduce stress, and also win points for future conflicts, where I was seen as someone who usually plays ball, so if it’s so important to me, they usually humor me and “let this one slide”.
As an advancing manager and not an advanced manager, I would love to hear you thoughts and experiences about this matter.