October 18, 2017

Getting over something

HourglassHow far do you need to go into the future before the present will seem like the past?

When we’re struggling to get over some incident or upset, I find it can be a great help to think forward into the future—far enough into the future that present or very recent painful events seem definitely to be in the past and at a distance.

In the form of a question, it can be: “How much time will need to pass before we have moved on from this experience: A month, a year, ten years? The very act of asking the question tends in itself to move us on. Some might respond “never,” but actually there’s always a distance of time at which it’s over, even if it’s a hundred years. Then we can work back.

There’s a great line in the Tao Te Ching which sums this up…

“This too shall pass.”

If we have the courage to explore the future state, it can help us displace the present painful one.

How do you get over something?

If what happens isn’t what you expected

A mistake we sometimes make is expecting people to act in a way that isn’t aligned with their interests. They won’t do that. Not ever.

You hear people saying things like, “They should do such and such”. What they really mean is, “It would suit me very well if they acted in line with what I want to see happen.” Well, it isn’t going to, unless they have direct authority over the other person or they share the same values.

One example that comes up often is commentators saying that entrepreneurs and business owners “shouldn’t sell their businesses”. Instead, they’re thinking, they should press on with the slog of growing their operations and continue, or even increase the risks they are running with their personal finances for the public good rather than take the rewards of their efforts. The commentators are dreaming if they think this is going to happen, unless the personal interest aligns with the public interest.

Another example is expecting market traders to act in line with the interests of the wider economy. That isn’t going to happen either, unless it suits the individuals concerned, and there’s no point in talking about it as if it is. You hear this issue overlooked in the media on a daily basis.

Please don’t make the mistake of expecting people to behave other than in line with their own interests. It won’t happen. If you need someone to do something different from what they’re doing, you’ll need to change their interests somehow or help them understand what their interests really are – show them the value, change the rewards or even appeal to the importance of their relationship with you. Remember also some of the interests are unconsciously held values – ones they’re unaware of – probably the most important ones, in fact. I’m not saying people never have altruistic interests. Sometimes, or even often they do, in which case they will act in line with them, but if they don’t, they won’t.

My suggested takeaway: Understand the interests in a situation and expect a future that flows from that. If you want to influence that future, work on the interests. Anything else is a waste of time and will lead to confusion.

If what happens isn’t what you expected, it means you didn’t understand the interests properly.

Has that happened to you? It certainly has to me.