This exact question came up in a conversation with a client today who called to share a number of things going on with him, both in his personal life and at his job. At home, he is caring for his elderly mother and he and his wife argue about how best to care for her. At work, he feels overwhelmed by his responsibilities and can’t seem to get the attention of his boss who doesn’t seem to follow through on agreements he has made that would help this situation. Any of this sound familiar?
I explained to him that in every situation such as these, you always only have two choices. That we think we have a third – suffer, complain, get frustrated, be unhappy – is what gets us in trouble. What are those choices? They are best expressed in what is known as the serenity prayer that goes: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Here, I recommended that he sit down with his wife and have and a frank and open conversation with her about how he was feeling about the mother and see if the two of them could reach agreement about how to handle the situation. If that worked, the next step might be to have a conversation with the mother if they felt that would help.
As for his work situation, I told him that the first thing he needed to do was to sit down with his boss, just like with his wife, and tell him exactly how he was feeling and again see if he could reach agreement as to a course of action. During that conversation, he further saw that the real problem was taking action on their 2011 commitments and that he had never shared those with his managers and asked for their help.
By the end of the conversation, he realized that the only thing that had been missing on his part was action consistent with his commitments and that getting into action might just get it all handled. Surely a course of action preferable to suffering. Try it and see for yourself.