Like water off a Candle’s back

Teachers tend to ruminate. To replay events and encounters and wish they they’d done things differently. They also tend to take things to heart.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” he advises against this. In fact, the second agreement he suggests that we make with ourselves in order to live a happier life is to never take anything personally.

I reckon we’d save ourselves a lot of time and angst and heartache if we stopped thinking that everything was about us. If we recognised that 95% of what people say and do is in fact completely about their own lives, experiences, attitudes, beliefs and moods. And this goes for adults just as much as for kids!

Imagine what a difference it could make if instead of each of us mulling over “what did I do wrong?”, we switched our thoughts to “what’s going on with that person, and how might I be able to help”?

This would enable us to remove the hurt, guilt, shame, insecurity and other negative emotions from the situation, freeing us up to replace those feelings with compassion, empathy, tolerance and understanding.

Now at this point I want to add a caveat. I’m not at all suggesting that feedback and constructive criticism presented to you about your craft should be brushed off and disregarded. Performance reviews and other genuine feed-forward that will help you to grow should be embraced with open arms. Teachers should be reflective and critique their pedagogy on a regular basis.

The trick is to know when to take something on, and when to let it go.

The way I approach it is like this.

Someone says or does something that makes me bristle. I ask myself:

* What is this person really saying/communicating? If I’m not sure, I observe and I ask. Seek clarity before making a judgement. Many times I realise that I misunderstood and don’t need to go beyond this step at all.

* Is this something I can control/fix/change? If the answer is no, be understanding, be kind to yourself too, and move on.

* Do I really need to control it/fix it/change it? Does what they’re saying really matter? Will it matter a week from now or a month from now? If no, move on. If yes, can they fix it themselves? If yes, move on. Can a compromise be reached? If yes, figure it out and move on.

* Do I respect their opinion? If they’re lacking perspective or experience or they just like to complain and criticise, move on. If they’re misguided or ignorant, move on.

* Will I be able to let this go and move on? If yes, move on. But if it really gets under your skin, triggers something that you didn’t realise mattered to you, pokes a stick at an important element of your self-identity, then confront it. Delve into it. Don’t avoid it. Think about why it’s so important to you. Take a deep breath and approach the issue with a sense of curiosity, understanding and self-improvement rather than pain, resentment, frustration or anger.

Processing these questions and acting accordingly also helps me to keep to Ruiz’s first agreement when I’m the one doing the communicating: “be impeccable with your word”. This means that I am careful in what I say to whom and when. It means that I don’t engage in conversation that’s white-anting or unprofessional or cruel. It means that if I don’t mean it or it’s not important, I don’t say it. I pick my battles.

And all of these choices I make about controlling what I think and how I feel… they set me free.

Free to focus on what’s important; being the best Candle I can be.

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