I’ve started writing my next book. This is something that I didn’t think I would find myself saying. As I have been on my new writing journey, I have found a lot of firsts that I am having. Writing my first long form social media post about a year and half ago was a big step for me. Sharing my thoughts with the world wasn’t something that came naturally to me.
I think there was a mixture of not being sure if anyone would want to read what I had to say and a bit of impostor syndrome mixed in. Then I decided to start my own blog, which was advice that was given to me by a really good friend. My first blog post didn’t get a lot of attention at all but it didn’t stop me from continuing to write.
There is something therapeutic in writing for me. Being able to get my thoughts out of my head and onto a page is something I look forward to now. I used to dread the thought of writing and sharing my thoughts with the world, but now I don’t feel that way.
So anyway, back to the new book. If you have been following me for the last 6 or so months you will know that I published my first book Always Improving: Lessons from the samurai. That book was the summary of how I used the 8 virtues of the Bushidō code to create Work:Life Harmony for myself. I’ve had great reviews from the people that have read it and through the process of writing that book, it inspired me to write another book. The theme of the new book is about learning acceptance, building resilience, and creating Work:Life Harmony.
Accepting situations as they are with no judgement
We are not born with the ability to accept situations and circumstances as they are. We are influenced by those around us to adopt certain attitudes and responses to the things that happen, and we form habits and behaviors by copying. If those that we are learning from do not practice acceptance, we won’t learn that skill.
This is something that I have had to come to grips with in my own life. The habits and behaviors I had around situations was colored by the different responses that I saw others having to circumstances. What I wish I would have learned a long time ago is, everything that happens is neutral. Our perception is what adds the negative or positive slant to it.
Acceptance then, is about being able to receive all situations and circumstance as being neutral. If you want to build more Work:Life Harmony, recognizing that the only thing you can control is your response will make a huge difference for you.
One practice that I have adopted into my regular routine is a self-reflective practice from the Japanese culture called hansei. Hansei is a wonderful tool to help you learn how to lead yourself by reflecting on how you are showing up in your day-to-day world. Through this practice I’ve learned how I have been neglecting different aspects of my responsibilities. I found that I was not doing enough to plan future meetings and events for the projects and people that I am leading. So, I made a change to my routine and it feels much better to me and the outcomes are much better for those involved in the work.
See below in the Chapter Excerpt on an example of a hansei practice.
Improving our acceptance will increase our resilience
When acceptance becomes a part of the natural flow of our days and weeks, we become more grounded. We are able to deal with situations in a less emotional state and can think clearly. When adversity comes, allow your resilience to strengthen. Rather than us creating false narratives around our situations, face the truth of the moment. Growth is possible when we lean in to the adversity that is in front of us. Tree or plants that grow at high elevations must be resilient to face the harsher conditions that are presented to them. Over the years, the roots become strong and the ability to endure is possible.
I have found that it’s best to accept that adversity is going to happen and build your muscle of resilience to face the adversity head on and not back down. When we are accepting that adversity is a part of life, we are less likely to assume that we are the only ones going through this trial. We recognize that many others have gone before us and faced similar resistance, and we realize that it will make us better. That is, if you allow it to. Learning acceptance and building resilience helps you to avoid feeling bitter when you approach different situations.
“When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.47
The trials I have been through on my journey to improve have created a thicker skin and a resilience in the face of adversity. I face my situations head on, realize that I am not alone in my struggle, and I will get through this circumstance. It also helps me to live with empowerment and not as a victim of the life that is happening around me.
Learning acceptance, building resilience, and creating Work:Life Harmony
You may have heard of the Karpman Drama Triangle also referred to as the Victim Triangle. If you are caught in such a loop, you will find yourself playing one of three roles: Persecutor, Rescuer, or Victim.
If you have ever looked to find fault in someone else, you were probably playing the Victim looking for a Persecutor. When you are hoping that someone will come to save the day, you are waiting for a Rescuer. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the triangle here, but I do want to mention that without developing both acceptance and resilience we risk living as a victim.
When you adopt a kaizen mindset of continually looking for ways to improve upon yourself every day, you take back the power and feel less like a victim. You look for ways to empower yourself rather than looking for a scapegoat or making excuses. For me, this is the path to Work:Life Harmony because it is where you will feel that you have control. Control over your time, your decisions, and your future.
Since I’ve learned the power of acceptance, my tendencies to make excuses and play the victim have diminished significantly.
I’d like to share an excerpt of my new book, Chapter 1. It may not look completely like this in the final version, but it is pretty close.
“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will flow well.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion, 8
I have always been an analytical thinker. This has often led to black and white conversations. In the past, I would get into discussions with people that would become heated because of my reluctance to see shades of gray. Sometimes that still happens, but I recognize those times more easily now and can quickly correct them. But going back about 10 years, when I worked for Starbucks Coffee & Tea, I had a boss who had the managerial courage to tell me that he saw something in me that I could work on.
I remember that day well. It was towards the end of the summer and our annual review time. “Joe” set up a meeting with me in his office, and we talked for about an hour. We discussed some projects I had led and the initiatives that I was leading. We talked about how there were opportunities to adjust on all those items even though the outcomes were favorable. In essence, looking for Continuous Improvement opportunities within our own work.
The part of the conversation that sticks with me even to this day is when we got to the topic of interpersonal communication and relationships. I had a blind spot that no one had ever talked to me about, even though it was there. Joe leaned in toward me “I’ve noticed that at times you can get frustrated with others and you show that emotion quickly and it’s obvious.” He went on to say “Learning how to control that emotion and turning it into a good outcome rather than a negative one will serve you well in your career.”
What I didn’t see in myself was that I was getting frustrated with progress or the lack thereof on different projects. I would make it known I was frustrated and as a result it would bring down the morale of those around me including teammates, project team members, & leadership. My black and white view, although helpful at times, wasn’t helping me meet people where they were at. I was thinking about how the situation was affecting me personally and wasn’t doing well with accepting situations for what they were.
Since that conversation, I have been working on Acceptance. I wouldn’t say that I have mastered my frustration and my outward expression of frustration, but I am much more able to notice when those times are happening or about to happen and can course correct.
Being able to build this competency of acceptance has allowed me to feel much more confident in my ability to lead a happy life and one that leaves me feeling fulfilled. It also makes the relationships I have with others much more pleasant.
We all want to have a fulfilled and happy life. I’m sure none of us on the planet are secretly hoping for a life unfulfilled. We all have ingrained in us a wish to be happy. But let’s be careful not to confuse happiness and fulfillment as universal goals we all are striving for.
Fulfillment and happiness can be different for everyone. What I find to be fulfilling or what I find happiness in is going to be different from you. That’s okay, it’s what makes the world a beautiful place. Don’t strive to be carbon copies of each other. We are all unique and all have our own individual purpose that we are working toward.
But, just because we are all unique and no two people are the same (except twins) doesn’t automatically mean that we will see that purpose come true. Consider that when we go against who we truly are at our core, we ignore our human nature and then deviate from our authentic selves. This in turn will prevent us from seeing that unique purpose come to life.
One of the best ways to stay connected to your authentic self is through accepting truth. Acceptance of yourself, your surroundings, and your current situation in life. Without acceptance, we risk trying to go against the nature of things. Musashi knew this when he wrote The Dokkōdō right before he passed away.
Dokkōdō Principle #1: yo yo no michi o somuku koto nashi (世世の道お背くことなし)
English translation: Do not go against the way of the human world that is perpetuated from generation to generation.
Musashi is saying we need to accept ourselves and what is happening around us and not to deny being who we were meant to become. Basically, to learn the principle of acceptance and learn to accept everything the way it is. The samurai practiced arugamama (在るがまま), a Japanese concept that emphasizes the naturalness of feelings and the acceptance of one’s feelings as they are, non-judgmentally. For me this is what acceptance means. To allow a situation to be what it is, and not attach any other meaning.
No one else on the planet is going to be you. No one else is able to be me. I have discovered since learning more deeply about my ikigai, I am finding more and more who I am at my core. The more I explore my ikigai, the more deeply connected I become to my core values, and vice versa. There exists a symbiotic and reciprocal relationship.
For sometime in my life, let’s call it the middle part, I was striving to be something and someone I wasn’t. That left me feeling hollow and not at all my true self. When I made the decision to change, embraced who I was and who I was becoming, everything changed. The hollow feeling went away, and I was able to feel deeply for the first time in a long time.
The message here is: Rather than trying to go against your human nature, recognize it’s much easier to embrace it. Looking inside to understand your authentic self is a way for you to be able to embrace your true nature. This is not going to be an easy journey for you though. This takes discipline, work, and dedication.
You might be thinking to yourself ‘So how do you do that then?’ Well, I can tell you what I do, I have learned to practice self-reflection. To look inside myself to see if I am embracing my surroundings and my authentic self or not.
The Japanese concept of hansei: a self-reflective practice, encourages you to make changes in your life. But it isn’t only a set of questions that you ask, although that is a big part of it. Hansei works if you think about the questions from the perspective of opportunities for change. Admitting that you have a gap in your life is the first step. Then you view it with a sense of emotional connection. If you aren’t connected to the fact that there’s a gap, and you are not invested in closing it, you won’t ever do it. When you are emotionally connected then you will look for opportunities to improve. Here is a list of questions which can help you practice hansei:
- What did I say I was going to do today that I didn’t?
- What did I actually do instead?
- What am I proud of that I did today?
- What am I not proud of?
- How did I lead people?
- How did I follow others?
- If I could do today over again, what would I do differently?
- Looking to tomorrow, based on what I learned today, what will I do differently?
Because of my hansei practice, I have learned to keep the idea of work:life harmony at the forefront of my mind. It’s about fitting my work into my life rather than trying to fit my life into my work. Some people’s lives are constructed so that they live to work. I’ve constructed my life to work so that I am able to truly live.
The kanji character for harmony is wa (和) which can be interpreted as seeking harmony and peace in the world around us. I have been writing this kanji at the end of my journal entries for the last year. This is to remind me to strive to find harmony in whatever situation I find myself in. Over the years since my conversation with Joe, I have found little ways like this to remind myself to accept things as they are.
This is how I am choosing to live. This is how I am reminding myself of who my authentic self is. Through this practice, I am able to process my frustration with more ease than before. Sure I still get it wrong, I am not perfect. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to strive to become better each day.
I will leave you with a quote: “Accepting oneself as one often involves releasing yourself, especially when there is an illusory self, which you hold desirable. You need to let go of the illusory self, in order to accept yourself to be happy.” – Ken Mogi
Acceptance of things as they are can give much insight into protecting your mind against seeking the wrong path. Stay true to yourself and you will be better equipped to resist those temptations. What are you going to do to build more work:life harmony for yourself?