Accepting the things you cannot change

Some things you can control and some things you cannot.

In a classroom, you can’t control the way a student chooses to behave. But you can control the way you proactively set up the environment and the learning activities to promote engagement, the way you praise positive behaviours, the supports you provide in order to promote success, and the way that you rapidly, firmly and compassionately respond to any misbehaviour that may occur.

When working in a team, you can’t control what your colleagues think, feel, say or do. But you can control what you think, feel, say and do.

Rather than dwelling on what your teammates lack, what they don’t contribute, how they fall short; think instead of what they do have to offer, what their strengths are, what can be achieved and learned because of them.

You can choose to release your stress through physical activity, creative self-expression, affection and laughter. In this manner, you won’t dwell on unhelpful feelings as they fester and make you sick.

When you’re tempted to use your words to judge, criticise, attack or bemoan, try something different. Giving others the benefit of the doubt, speak kindly and with empathy, considering things from other points of view.

Remember that it’s not your responsibility to change others. You can influence them positively by offering them support and guidance, but they will still behave in whichever way they choose. And you have to find a way to accept this.

Not because you are allowing or permitting or accepting bad behaviour, but because you are taking care of your first priority- yourself.

When someone else is not carrying their weight and it falls on you, you can choose not to carry it either. At this point you need to prioritise. When juggling the multitude of balls in the air that many of us are dealing with day by day, ask yourself- if I drop this one, will it break or bounce? And if it will break, does it matter?

If it will bounce (for example, it can be done later or given to someone else), let it bounce. If it were to break and no-one would miss it, let it shatter. If it’s fragile and valuable and essential, work out a way to keep it in the air.

This may require asking for help. It might mean working smarter instead of harder. It may involve better time management, or even prompt you to put down all of the other balls you’re juggling- just for a short while, until it’s done.

When you find yourself in a position where you are unhappy with the systems and procedures in your workplace, you again need to accept what you cannot control. Things will not change overnight. And they will not change because you did not cease to complain and restate the problem to anyone who would listen.

At this point, you have to move from judgment to curiosity. Think about why these systems and procedures exist. Where did they originate? What is their purpose? Why might they continue to be in place?

From that place of understanding instead of critique, you may be able to consider compromises and alternatives. Your mind will be open enough to consider a way forward, a potential solution to the problems that others continue to ruminate on.

And, importantly, your thoughts, feelings, words and actions will be productive.


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