Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, were traveling together down an extremely muddy road after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. He was fuming. He could no longer restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I put the girl down hours ago,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”
Are you living like Ekido?
Many of us are just like Ekido. We carry the burden of our resentments, our disappointments, our failures around with us, feeding them for hours on end with thought after thought after thought. Whether it was something that happened yesterday or thirty years ago, our human tendency is to perpetuate old emotions and continually relive our emotional pain.
Last week, during our client WiP, I noticed number of our clients were wasting precious effort and energy being frustrated by situations which didn’t go the way they hoped. One had missed out on winning a contract. Another was frustrated by something his wife had said the day before. Another was fuming about the actions of an employee who’d been causing issues for months.
It’s not just business grievances we hold on to. Embarrassing moments from our teens, childhood traumas, throw-away comments from our parents, grand-parents, friends and teachers. All of these we bring with us into our present moment.
To understand why this is a problem, let’s revisit Tanzan and Ekido.
When Tanzan carried the woman to the other side of the road, he was in the present moment and was able to take decisive action. He wasn’t hampered by thoughts about whether or not he should help her, or who’s fault it was that there wasn’t a bridge for her to walk over, or what was she doing out on the road on her own. Nor was he burdened afterwards by wondering what others would think, or whether he had made the right decision.
Ekido on the other hand, had spent hours relieving the moment and feeding the outrage in his head. Imagine if the two monks hadn’t been able to stay at the lodging temple that night because they’d arrived too late. Or they were able to stay but weren’t able to eat because they’d arrived so late. Could you imagine how Ekido might have reacted? Would he have been calm and composed? Unlikely. Maybe he’d blame Tanzan for stopping to help the woman which made them late. Maybe he’d blame the woman, saying she shouldn’t have been out when the roads were so muddy. Maybe he’d curse the weather which caused their journey to take such a long time.
We can all think of how Ekido would have reacted because we’ve all been there.
We’ve shouted at our kids because we were running late for work.
We’ve overreacted at work because we let lots of little annoyances go unchecked.
We’ve started arguments with our significant others over seemingly insignificant slights because we’re stressed about what’s happening in the business.
When we hold on to how things ‘should be’ and denounce the events happening around us, we lose our ability to see clearly and act decisively in the present moment.
As Rob and I frequently say to our clients, you’ll keep repeating the mistakes until you learn the lessons. And, in complete transparency, the vast majority of us will never learn all the lessons. So this is continuous work. It’s work Rob and I have been doing on ourselves for over thirty years.
Your experiences are your experiences specifically to help you become the best you can be. Rob and I have been to hell and back in business. We’ve experienced things so seemingly horrendous you wouldn’t even wish them on your worst enemies. But, as I frequently say – and genuinely mean – I’m grateful for every one of those experiences because they’ve allowed us to become the best coaches we could be and live to our highest life priorities.
In life, we rarely reflect on our lives when things are going the way we want them to. It seems to be the human condition that we only find our limiting beliefs and behaviours when life butts up against them and forces us to see what’s really going on.
Fortunately, Ekido had Tanzan to help him see how his behaviour was impacting on him. “I put the girl down hours ago,” he stated, “are you still carrying her?” In my experience, having a mentor is the only way to quickly and dramatically shift your perspective. Someone with an experienced perspective of the path you’re travelling down is invaluable in ensuring you’re making decisions based on the reality of your situation.
If you’d like to have a confidential discussion about how we could assist you in your journey to having an incredible business that finally rewards you for your years of hard work and sacrifice, get in touch. We’d love to support you in achieving the life and business you deserve for you and your family.
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