I ran across this advice column in the Job Market section of the newspaper while I was waiting in a very busy Starbucks. (I couldn’t find it on the newspaper’s website. Citation: Daneen Skube, “Working Connections: We can’t avoid all pain, but we can manage it.” Seattle Times, page G1, May 18, 2003.) The question is:
It seems the more things I fix, the more things I find are broken. This is discouraging, to say the least. Do you get to a point in professional relationships where it gets easy?
Daneen Skube answers that people tend to believe that “clever people figure out how to avoid suffering,” and that advertisers try to sell “the promise of pain avoidance or reduction.” But in fact, Skube says, we can’t avoid pain: “The Buddhists have it right when they assert that life is suffering.”
We can, she says, choose to minimize long-term pain by accepting short-term pain. If we find constructive ways to process life’s difficulties as they come along, instead of trying to dodge them, we can move on to always-new challenges instead of encountering the same problems over and over again. Skube says there is never any shortage of new challenges in her own life, but at least “it is not ‘same stuff, different day;’ [but] ‘new stuff, different day.’”
My favorite part:
Perhaps you need a different goal that judges you less harshly for being an avid learner, not a finished product….Consider leaving the burden of completion behind and being more willing to appreciate the process.
I thought it was unusual for such spiritual advice to appear in that section. I like the clear reminder that if things seem unfinished, it’s not that anything is broken—it’s actually good to look around and see new challenges.
Remembering to appreciate the process, instead of insisting on completion (or perfection) as the only way to be happy, is one way to relax and shed some stress.