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There is a person in my life whom I’m having a hard time understanding and dealing with.
I won’t go into the details about who they are or what I find so difficult to deal with because it’s not salient to this conversation (and please don’t ask me who it is – I’m not going to tell you).
Suffice it to say that after uncomfortable explanations, conversations, etc. all of which have been in vain, I’ve finally accepted the fact that I cannot get the person to change. So, what I’ve decided to do is change myself. The enduring takeaway I’m working so hard to live is the adage be the change you want to see in the world.
Instead of pushing someone else to do something they are clearly unwilling or incapable of doing, I’m using this blog space to publicly commit to work on changing myself.
By doing four things:
- I am going to stop judging the situation or the person.
- I am going to stop complaining about what bothers me – both to them and in my own head.
- I am going to accept the reality that the only thing over which I have any control is myself.
- I’m going to do my best to repurpose my low tolerance for negativity by not allowing negative thoughts to build up in my own mind.
To do that, I’m going to strive to be honest, open, and willing to be vulnerable to the discomfort when necessary. I accept that the other person might still do or say something I don’t like and really piss me off, but I’ll redouble my efforts to keep it in perspective by focusing on the things I like and love about them.
To make it as easy as possible to remind myself of what to do, I’ve even created an acronym for my plan of action: ATV. The letters stand for Accountability, Transparency, and Vigilance.
So many great thinkers – from the Stoic philosophers to Gandhi to Viktor Frankl – have written about the importance of understanding that our behavior is completely within our own control. Instead of blaming my annoyance and bad moods on someone else’s conduct, I’m going to hold myself accountable and take full responsibility for how I react. This blog is part of my desire for Accountability, and you are now my Accountability Partner.
As Donald Robertson wrote in his book on emperor Marcus Aurelias of the Roman Empire: “…we shouldn’t try to resist (our troubling impressions) but rather simply accept their occurrence.” Simply put, “what matters isn’t what we feel but how we respond to those feelings.”
Second, I’m going to try to be Transparent. That is, my goal is to be as open as possible to the understanding that while this person’s activities might ordinarily anger me, I can just watch what they do and not judge or react.
Dr. Shoma Morita, who founded a school of psychology in Japan based on the idea of letting nature take its course and doing the right thing, put it this way: “Know your purpose; Feel your feelings; Do what must be done.” Like many Eastern disciplines, Morita’s work focuses on our ability to be aware of things without acting on them. Moving forward, I am going to try to follow Dr. Morita’s prescription.
Finally, my goal is to be ever Vigilant so that I can end the cycle of observe and react, observe and react. Just like I broke my nail-biting habit when I was much much younger, changing my behavior here will require constant attention. But if I’m successful, I believe I’ll eventually reach a state where I’m aware of both what’s going on and what my old response would have been without falling into the unfortunate rut that my past comportment rooted out.
I am on a mission of patience and understanding.
A mission that begins with the idea that I can change a situation simply by changing myself.
Will it work? I don’t know, only time will tell. But I am committed to doing what I can to maintain my relationship without personally suffering nor reacting in such a way that causes the other person to suffer.
Keep an eye on this space and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Bruce, I have the same problem with a relationship! Your ATV plan sounds very challenging and somehow putting emotions aside may be impossible. My wife’s suggestion to me is “zip it!” Let me know how you progress and I’ll try to do the same.