A while back a long time client dropped by my office in search of coffee and a chat.
His life had gone off on an unexpected tangent and he felt the need to sit across from a friend and vent.
It seems that his long time boss had finally retired and instead of my friend being promoted to fill that vacancy, his company had ‘gone outside’ in search of ‘fresh blood’ and his new boss was a newcomer to both the company and the industry.
The relationship was not going well and my former client was experiencing significantly elevated stress levels which had resulted in his doctor prescribing meds for his skyward bound blood pressure.
He further explained that he was taking this stress home from work with him and, being the kind and loving person he is, was generously sharing it with his family.
His family, thankless lot that they must be, apparently were not appreciative of this new sharing and, consequently, relationships with his wife and kids were now strained to the point of barely tolerating each other.
All of this had driven him to commit the act that brought him to my office that morning.
He couldn’t believe what he had done.
He told me he was beside himself with disappointment.
He had started smoking again.
I knew this was serious so I forced myself to focus on what he was saying as I had been distracted by trying to understand how it was possible for him to get beside himself.
Realizing I could go back to solving that puzzle later, I turned my attention to his situation and we began to examine many of the choices that were available to him.
As he was deeply committed to his career and his company, seeking employment elsewhere was not an option he was willing to consider.
We talked about the trap we all so often fall into. The one where we take two absolutely unrelated events and join them together in a cause and effect role as if one was responsible for the creation of the other.
In other words my friends was assigning blame for the stress he was feeling to the less than pleasant relationship that was evolving with his new boss.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s a common mistake, but a mistake nevertheless.
And so we talked.
And he agreed.
The stress he was experiencing had nothing to do with the relationship with the new boss.
It had everything to do with the MEANING he had put on this relationship.
And while he may not have chosen the relationship, he was solely responsible for choosing its meaning.
And he then connected that meaning, his interpretation of the relationship, to the relationship itself as if the relationship had caused the meaning.
And this meaning was causing him great stress.
Not to mention the stress he was sharing at home.
And so we talked about how, perhaps, the relationship was something he could not change but he could instantly change the meaning of that relationship.
And by changing the meaning, the impact the relationship was having on him would also change instantly.
And, while sitting right across from me, he did.
And it did.
And he smiled. And then he laughed, perhaps for the first time in months.
And we talked about smoking.
And he said, “I know exactly what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that we only ever do one thing; we do what’s important to us in the moment and I decided that it was more important to smoke than not to smoke.
“I get it.
“I allowed my reason for smoking to become bigger than my reason for not smoking.
“And I turned myself into a victim by blaming this relationship for my smoking.
“And I can change that right now, can’t I?”
I didn’t say a word. There was no need.
I had just witnessed something we can all do.
It’s called self healing.
And that was five months ago.
And he dropped by again this week.
And took me for lunch.
And told me that, while he and his boss will never exchange Christmas cards, they have reached a point of pleasant neutrality.
And he loves his job again.
And his family love him again.
And – this is the big one – he hasn’t smoked since he left my office.
Pretty neat heh?
Life! It’s all about perspective – the meaning we place on our experiences.
And WE always choose the meaning.
Which means we all have immense power.
I like it.
Till we read again.
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