Work on Yourself

Apr 09, 2001

Ever have one of those days where something hits you out of nowhere and it just knocks the wind out of you? It’s so demotivating. You feel like you got kicked in the stomach. These are what I would call “bad days,” and we’ve all been there at one time or another. Sometimes it’s someone you work with who summarily dismisses you as if you were a child. Other times, it’s a good client who feels as if he or she didn’t get what they paid for. And still other times it’s someone who works for you who is terribly unhappy for one reason or another. These things happen— you can’t avoid them. And they can be upsetting. Architects, engineers, and scientists will often admit that dealing with people is not their strong suit. So the question is how to keep these kinds of things from ruining your day (or week, or month). I can admit that at various times in my life I have let these kinds of things impact me. But I have also thought a lot about my response to them. The problem is often in the mirror. Here is some of my best thinking on the subject: You can’t control everyone else’s behavior. What’s the matter with you that you let everything bother you? Learn to work on what you can change and let go of what you can’t. You may not be able to control the behavior of the person who is rude or hurtful to you, but what you can control is your response to it. Don’t let it destroy you. The same thing applies to dealing with someone who is overly sensitive or hurt by what you have said or done. Learn to say you’re sorry and move on. Some people are always going to be victims, and it’s not your role to make sure they are happy. Detach yourself from the situation. Why let other people decide how you are going to feel? That’s a personal weakness. Be strong! Often what upsets us most in others is what we are upset about in ourselves. Have you really considered how you could have contributed to the problem? Are you someone who needs to control everything and everyone to an extreme? Maybe you need to relax a little bit. Take a walk or do something else that makes you happy. Sometimes when the inevitable unpleasantries of interacting with other people get you down, the best thing to do is to go do something else. It will take your mind off of the situation and allow you time to gain some perspective. A walk, a bike ride, or a trip to your local art gallery may be in order. This will help you deal with the situation better. Surround yourself with as many people who have the right orientation on life as you can. You may not be able to avoid some of the people you have to deal with, but you can choose who you associate with otherwise. Pick positive, nice people. They won’t suck all of your energy. Conversely, however, realize that they aren’t going to want to hang out with you forever if you are the energy drain who is constantly crying “why me?” Just accept the fact that no one is going to feel good all the time. That’s life. Without this kind of acceptance, you are bound to be continually disappointed by how others treat you. Get over it, accept it as normal, and realize there are probably a lot of good things that you ought to be thinking about instead. Put those messages into your mind over and over, instead of the negative ones. You will get a different reaction out of those around you. No one ever said it would be easy. As you move up in your company and take on more responsibility, how successfully you deal with these kinds of daily situations impacts a lot more people than just yourself. It’s worth it to spend a little time working on you. The success of your firm may depend on it. Originally published 4/09/2001.

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