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By Bob Mueller

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Years ago an older priest colleague, Father Roger had a favorite expression, “And so it is.”  Sometimes he would also say, “And so it goes.” Another younger priest colleague, Father Jeff always says, “It’s all good.” These simple expressions are ones that I have incorporated into my daily vocabulary.  

Do you ever find yourself surprised, frustrated or angry when people close to you behave in the same dysfunctional way over and over?  I often work with people on leadership teams who are frustrated by one another and shocked when their leader or colleagues act the same way over and over.  Each time is a fresh new affront.

As you know, at least in theory, trying to change another person can be exhausting and impossible.  So why make yourself crazy trying? That’s why I use the phrases, “And so it is” and “It’s all good.”    People do what people always do. Yes, your mother will criticize everything you do. Yes, your coworker will be crabby in the morning, and yes, your child will leave trash in your car.

People don’t generally change very much, despite our desire for them to do so.  And when they do, it generally comes from a deep-seated inner longing, certainly not because you want them to.  If they do change for us, it tends to be a pasted-on, short-lived endeavor. There is simply no point in trying to change others.  Instead, when we surrender to the truth that they will do what they always do, we don’t have to be so disappointed, frustrated, angry or annoyed when they continue to be exactly who they are.  It creates not only acceptance but also greater peace of mind.

I have also learned a great deal from Buddhism.  It’s about seeing everyone who annoys, frustrates, angers or otherwise bothers you as someone who is providing you the opportunity to grow some positive quality in yourself – your equanimity, your kindness, your patience, your boundaries, your tolerance.

It’s up to you to figure out what you’re supposed to be learning.  It’s a way to stop focusing on what the other person is doing that bothers you and instead concentrate on what your reaction to that person is trying to teach you about yourself.  

A brave young leader I was working with used it with a direct report of hers who was driving her crazy.  Her first impulse was to complain about this person at every coaching session. But when I suggested that she see this problematic person as her teacher, she took the idea on wholeheartedly and said, “Well, I guess she’s here to teach me to be more patient and precise in my managing, because she is always asking me to clarify what I mean when I think I’ve already made myself clear.”

That perspective enabled her to give her employee more of what she needed, and their working relationship got better as a result.  The leader found this habit changer so helpful that she used it with every problematic person she came across. She grew exponentially as a result.

To be happy, you have only three options when you find yourself in a less than ideal situation: you can change it, you can leave it, or you can accept it.  Acceptance is an act of surrender, the opposite of effort. Non-doing. You really have only these three choices, if you truly want to be happy. As Father Roger would say, “And so it is.”  And Father Jeff would say, “It’s all good.”

P.S.Having a true grit mindset will also encourage you to accept the things (and people) you can’t change.

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