Some years ago I got very interested in Buddhism. I was struggling with anxiety at the time, and I felt that meditation was something I should explore. Back then I was under the misguided impression that Buddhism and mediation had to go hand in hand, and that one didn’t really exist without the other.
Over the years I learned to look at mediation differently – more as a work out for the mind – and gradually drifted away from Buddhism and toward applying my own mediation practice to my life.
Over the past few weeks however – as I’ve managed the stress, insecurity and self-doubt that often go hand in hand with starting a new job – I’ve been reminded of some of those important and powerful teachings that I was gifted when I was a student of Buddhist philosophy.
One in particular has been incredibly helpful, and I want to share it.
It’s the understanding that every single person in the world is driven by a desire to achieve two things in life:
To be happy; and
To be free of suffering
We all have different ideas and views about what we NEED to make us happy, or to remove any suffering we experience (false ideas I might add because what we actually need to be happy is simply a peaceful mind), but at a basic level we fundamentally all strive to achieve these two things.
While it’s a pretty basic message, it can be applied in a way that makes it tremendously valuable.
Truly understanding this can be incredibly helpful in a situation where we are faced with new people and new experiences (such as a new job), because it allows us to reframe many of our interactions – especially any we view as difficult or anxiety provoking.
Every single person we encounter at work (or anywhere in life) is simply doing their best to be happy and to be free of suffering. We may find that person difficult to connect with or intimidating – or perhaps even find their behaviour to be rude or unhelpful – but for them, their firm belief is that they are doing exactly what they need to do in order to be happy and to be free of suffering.
Holding onto the knowledge that they simply want to be happy and free of suffering (just as we do) can make it much easier to take the stress or worry or fear or even anger out of situations we find difficult or uncomfortable. It makes it much easier to understand what drives someone and to find a way to identify with them.
They simply want what you want! Their idea of how to get it might be a million miles from yours (especially when the human ego gets involved) – but it’s the same core desire that drives them.
If I ever find myself thinking false thoughts like ‘this person is too senior to meet with me’, ‘I’m out of my depth here’ or wondering ‘why did they do that’, ‘why did they say that’ - I gently remind myself that the person wants exactly the same things in life as I do. It really helps remove the worry, fear or anger and enables me to focus on what I need to do.
So the next time you find yourself filled with dread before going into a meeting or before making a call – take a minute to re-frame the person in your mind and you might find that the dread drifts away.