What do you do when someone drives you nuts at work? Do you fly off the handle? Maybe let it all out by gossiping with a friend? Go for a run, or even better take a kick boxing class to blow off some steam?
These solutions may give you some immediate relief but they are not very effective in alleviating frustrations or anger in the long run.
I’d like to start with a story I recently read about the Tao of Forgiveness from Derek Lin’s book ‘The Tao of Daily Life’–
“One day, the sage gave the disciple an empty sack and a basket of potatoes. “Think of all the people who have done or said something against you in the recent past, especially those you cannot forgive. For each of them, inscribe the name on a potato and put it in the sack.”
The disciple came up quite a few names, and soon his sack was heavy with potatoes. The sage asked the disciple to carry the sack with him wherever he goes for a week.
The longer time went by, the heavier the potatoes seemed to have become. To make the matter worse, those carved potatoes also started to rot and smell bad. Not only were they increasingly inconvenient to carry around, they were also becoming rather unpleasant.
From this experience, the disciple learnt that “When we are unable to forgive others, we carry negative feelings with us everywhere, much like these potatoes. That negativity becomes a burden to us and, after a while, it festers.”
In this story, removing the potatoes from the sack symbolises the act of forgiving, but more importantly the sack itself symbolises our inflated sense of self-importance, which allows us to hold on to and carry the negativity.
“The Tao of forgiveness is the conscious decision to not just remove some potatoes… but to relinquish the entire sack.””
How many of us carry heavy and smelly sacks on our backs? I sure did until I couldn’t bear the smell any longer…
The key messages I took from this story were: a) ’empty your sack’ by forgiving people- move on quickly and b) learn how to control your Self/ego so you can abandon the sack altogether.
In my previous post I mentioned Chade-Meng Tan talk at Google’s ‘Search Inside Yourself’ course. Meng says that to be effective in business, you need to be in control of your emotions. Being in control does not mean that you’re emotionless; it means that you can choose to how you react to situations.
For example, rather than say ‘I am angry’ we should say ‘I am experiencing anger’ as it is important that we are aware and conscious of what we feel. This awareness gives us a decision point as to whether we want to experience this feeling or not. It allows us to develop the ability to control our emotions and switch off if we choose to say not be angry in a certain situation.
Meng quotes the Dalai Lama point that: ‘while we cannot stop an unwholesome thought or emotion from arising, we have the power to let it go, and the highly trained mind can let it go the moment it arises.’
Just by raising your awareness and consciousness and implementing this imaginary on/off switch you can significantly improve the quality of your life, happiness, productivity and performance.
Forgiveness is not just for big issues, what I’ve learnt is that forgiveness can also be practiced everyday with everyone for very small things. For example, someone cuts you on the road or is rude to you in the supermarket queue – rather than build up anger and go home not knowing what’s bothering you, forgive the person on the spot (in your mind, you don’t need to say anything to anyone) and move on.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else: you are the one who gets burned.” —Buddha
The idea is not to suppress the emotions, but to be conscious and mindful of them so that you can develop the ability to control and positively channel emotions.
It is not to suggest that you do not deal with systematic people behavioural issues in the workplace- these no doubt need to be addressed, but you will be in a much better position to deal with it more effectively if you are mindful and in control.
A highly mindful person would be able to observe themselves in a situation objectively as if they were a third, uninvolved person watching the situation.
“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.” —Epictetus
by Ayala Domani