My Biggest Challenge
My biggest challenge is to practice what I preach.
My whole life was dedicated to developing, documenting, and training others to practice mutual trust and respect. And that means first and foremost, accepting other people’s differences.
This is very easy to understand but bloody difficult to practice.
People annoy me when they think, act, or react differently than how I want them to.
When I get annoyed with people, the first word that comes to mind is “Why?”
“Why don’t you….? Why are you doing this, or acting like that or…?”
There is no end to the “why’s” and it is not strange that there are no satisfactory answers.
My frustrations are most acute towards people who are the closest to me. Let’s start with my children.
“Why, why, why… do you ….? Why don’t you….? Why, why, why?” And usually, there are no good answers that will satisfy me.
Even closer to me than my children is my wife. In this case, the roles are reversed. It seems that God has sent her to this world to “fix” me. To change me. From her perspective, everything I do needs to be improved or changed.
She claims although I am not fully aware of it, that I do the same to her.
There is one person who is even closer to me than my children or my wife. It is me. I have endless self-talk that I should do this and not that. That I did not do what I should have done, etc.
If you suffer from not accepting peoples’ differences easily, do the following exercise.
Go to a main, busy street, in the city where you live. Get yourself a window seat in a restaurant facing the street. Watch people eat, talk, walk, laugh, etc. Just watch them. Do not talk to them. Do not ask questions about why they are talking, eating, or acting the way they are. Just watch them. Just watch.
You may find that you are not upset about their behavior. Why not? Because in this experiment you accept them the way they are.
Now compare this experience to what happens when you watch people who you are close to. Let’s say members of your family. Oops! Now you are getting emotional, having reactions and that word “why” is starting to pester you.
You are not as indifferent, detached and relaxed as you were before. Right?
Here you have a prejudice how they should behave. You are starting to judge because they are a part of you, and you of them. You may become subconsciously concerned that their unacceptable behavior reflects on you. And so, you are no longer indifferent.
For some people, it is easier to live in a foreign country than in the country where they were born or grew up. In a foreign country, they do not care how those “others” behave. In the country you identify with, the pain and criticism are ongoing.
We grow up when we ACCEPT our parents. When we stop fighting them, stop accusing them for our own faults, and realize they did the best they could do and that is all there is to it.
Growing up is not an issue of chronological age but of how fast you learn to accept others, starting with accepting yourself, your wife, your children, parents, siblings and the inconsiderate driver who cut you off yesterday.
What is, is. Do your best to change what is, without criticism, without judging, without eating your heart out. Just observe, breathe, realize how interesting the differences are. Do what you can do to change but without raising your voice and blood pressure and let it go.
When you feel the start of self-criticism just note it and ask yourself: Can I do better next time? If the answer is yes, great. If not, accept it, at least for now, until the situation changes or maybe you will change too.
There is no end to personal improvement but for real growth to happen, one must start with self-acceptance.
Rejecting yourself or others for not being what we wish them to be is the best predictive variable that the problem or discomfort will probably not get better and will likely get worse.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes