In life, when we find ourselves in a circumstance that is not what we had hoped or expected, we have three choices:
- Accept the circumstance for what it is.
- Don’t accept the circumstance for what it is and try to change it.
- Don’t accept the circumstance for what it is and remove yourself from it.
There are only ever three choices. And yet instinctively we fight against them and try to create new or different ones. You’ll notice, “Force everyone into seeing my point of view” or “make everyone do what I believe is right” are not choices. That is because trying to change a circumstance can only be done for those things that are completely within your control, and unless you’ve mastered Jedi mind tricks, making others our puppets is not healthy, reasonable, or ever really possible.
Why? Because how everyone else feels or behaves is not our business. In any one situation, there is only one thing that we have absolute and complete power over: our own self. I cannot control you. You cannot control me. We are not hypnotists that can get management to cluck like chickens and fire that schmuck in Sales who expenses trips to the strip clubs or sack Joe in Accounting for making racist jokes. And it drives us insane.
As humans, we love to be in control and hate to be wrong. As such, our egos drive us to insist on things being “fair” or “right”. We delude ourselves into believing our righteous indignation will propel our team, our family, or our organization forward onto the path of our own personal “enlightenment”. We convince ourselves that complaining is healthy and secretly hope that if we “constructively” criticize enough times to just the right people, something â€“ somewhere – will change. So we gather evidence for our crappy thoughts through behind-closed-doors conversations to show the generalized other why things need to change. “See? Everyone feels this way.”
But clearly everyone doesn’t; otherwise things would be exactly as you want. Therefore, when things don’t change according to our plans, we stew in our resentment and continue our fruitless argument against reality until the inevitable happens – everyone makes his or her own choice to change or you make yours, willingly or not.
So whatever choice you make, I encourage you to make it on your own terms. To paraphrase the well known prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, may the Universe grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, the willingness to go when the getting’s good, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Or something like that.