10 years ago, back in my corporate career I was listening to an HR Director speak. He was new to the company and his first job was moving out a much loved and respected senior leadership team.
“It’s really not personal” he said about events that were happening within the function that were causing a great degree of sensitivity. Relationships were being disrupted and people were feeling uncertain.
“How exactly should people do that?” I asked. I wasn’t being facetious. I genuinely wanted to know because as a department of predominant “feelers,” there was a common default setting to taking things personally. These people had raised families together, worked locally so they could juggle family lives and built relationships that extended beyond work into social events. “You just don’t.” He answered, clearly irritated.
10 years on a client has just reminded me about the need to learn how not to take things personally.
10 years on I’ve changed. I see life differently, particularly since self employment has really been the toughest and most rewarding spiritual journey ever.
In The Four Agreements by Don Miguel, agreement number 2 is not taking things personally. But it’s only now that I appreciate what’s required for sensitive souls, the wounded and the feelers amongst us, to really separate out from the feelings that arise when we’re triggered by something or someone.
Imagine life as this incredible roller coaster ride that you are on from the moment you are born. The way life is designed in it’s very nature is that you can’t help but unfold. Life wants to give more life in it’s design. Seeds become plants. They bloom like we can bloom.
You can’t not do life. It just keeps on happening. So in this precious life, things happen. People grow, they take on challenges, they succeed, they fail, they learn, they get back up, they fall down, they fall in love, they explore, they get sick and ultimately they die.
Most of us think we’re in control of the rollercoaster. We push hard to achieve, we do what we believe is expected of us, we strive for the things and adventures we want and we resist when we’re in a situation that we really don’t like. We fight to change things. But the rollercoaster has its natural rhythms and cycles.
At work things are sometimes difficult and sometimes joyful. People may be sceptical, disbelieving and afraid and other times people are inspired, feeling confident and brave. Sometimes life feels hard and sometimes heavenly. People may get sick, overwhelmed and move on from this world and other times they may reach, achieve new things, be in love or have families.
None of this is personal, it just is.
But as humans the notion that we have some semblance of control in situations where we have none seems irresistible and painful. We react to situations emotionally. We feel let down, sad, frustrated and we don’t like that feeling. Instead of sitting with it, we want to figure out why it’s happening. It’s as if knowing that will somehow make it all better. Our mind wants a reason. And sometimes in that search for meaning we get lost and it feels personal. Why does this keep happening to me? Why when people have been good people and lived healthily get sick? Why am I feeling low when I should be happy?
These questions are like a rabbit hole. They take us deep within our own minds and we feel the weight of this unhelpful thinking. It feels personal.
I’ve learnt that the secret to not taking things personally (yes I’m a sensitive soul) is to know what’s going on emotionally, be responsible for those emotions and shift them. Often I have no control over the situation. But I do have control over my emotions. I know I’m on the bit of the rollercoaster where I’m right at the top and I feel sick scared. I want to cling to something but what I really need to do is put my arms up, trust that I’m safe and scream.
Over the last few years I’ve invested heavily in learning new ways to manage my stress, master my emotions and mindset. I rely on a breath practice and it has transformed my capacity. I’ve caught myself in my own racket of taking things personally. Life has had some big knocks and big highs. I’ve learnt that the biggest thing I can do that limits my progress is withdraw into some limited story about how I fucked up, wasn’t enough and get out of my own lane comparing my life to others. I’ve learnt that there’s an order to life that I’ll probably never understand and it’s not my job to waste hours seeking to find its meaning.
My job really is simple. Be the biggest, fullest, brightest expression of who I am. Share my gifts and not take anything personally.
I invite you to do the same.
I’ve recently started a movement Ignite Your Life. Our home is a Facebook group and if you’d like to join in with like minded souls all seeking to be their real selves and do amazing things click here to join. Hope to see you on the other side!