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Eliminate, first, your self-induced suffering. Part 1 – Relationships

Are you lighting the fuse then complaining about the burn?

Eliminate, first, your self-induced suffering. Part 1 – Relationships

This blog is not the classic trope of “Put on your oxygen mask before you help others,” but instead, a more inward-looking exercise.

One of my current favorite motivational speakers is Duke University’s women’s basketball coach, Kara Lawson, who proposes that [her players] / [you] / [me] spend most of our lives waiting for things to get easy, to be easier, when in fact we should “handle hard better.” (Click here for her whole speech)

I’m all in, that’s me 100%, and if you have kids or work with teenagers, you’ve likely thought the same. “Just get tougher!”

Her idea that life will never get easy, but we should get better at hard things is good, but not a complete plan. I’d suggest that life can get easier, if we take the time to, and do the hard work of, reducing our self-induced suffering.

I know what you are thinking:

“I don’t self-induce suffering! Who would do that?! Other people are doing this TO me! Circumstances out of my control are doing this TO me!”

Take from a self-induced suffering denier, you are doing [some] of this to yourself.

Self-induced Suffering

Family Relationships. My wife and I have been married now for 24 years. We have been through love and loss, birth and death, financial failures and successes, agreements and disagreements.

In the same time, we’ve seen friends’ marriages blow up, fester with contempt, and fill with animosity.

I remember making a choice years ago when I was particularly frustrated with Janine about something. I thought, “I’m just going to assume that she is always acting in the best interest of our family even if I don’t understand her position right now.”

I was creating suffering and relationship contempt because of my choice to think my wife was somehow NOT acting in our best interest when we disagreed.

Many of us work with family and it is so tempting to belittle family members behind their back when we do not agree with their methodology or processes. My Dad and I do things and manage things, we even value things differently in terms of success and ultimate goals!

I could create enormous suffering for him, me, and the team with public criticism, inciting staff to ‘take sides, and thwarting his efforts to ensure my ideas look better, but why? I would be self-inducing suffering for us all, and the world is hard enough in farming!

The hard question is: Are you inducing suffering inside your own family?

Employee Relationships. I can guarantee I do not always consider my interactions with my employees as “relationships,” but they are.

Even growing up, it’s hard to remember back that far, but I feel like I got the sense that employees were ‘tools’ to be deployed. In all my economics classes, Labor was an input that you moved up and down on a graph and treated as faceless as any other number. People were not staff, they were tools.

In the real world, perhaps you’ve noticed, people are actually people. Any time you might interact with a person, you’re either forming, managing, or injuring a relationship.

If you choose to yell, berate and use foul language at work with your team, don’t be surprised if you deal with “employee problems.” You are inducing suffering for your team, and therefore yourself.

You can self-induce suffering by not providing good, safe tools and equipment. You can induce your own suffering by not trusting your employees and demanding to be consulted on every decision.

The hard question is: Are you inducing suffering inside your own team?

The temptation is to absolve yourself of responsibility. I’ve heard it a million times, and I’ve THOUGHT it a million times:

“Hugh, if you only knew my situation…”

“Hugh, if you knew what my father does to me on a daily basis, I have to stick it back to him…”

“Hugh, If you knew the back-biting my mother in-law doles out at every…”

Look, I get it. Your situation is unique and different from mine, but your position in that situation is precisely the same. YOU can choose to stop the SELF-induced suffering.

I understand that there may still be some “OTHER-induced” suffering that applies to your situation, but you can work on the self-induced suffering.

YOU can choose to no longer engage with family in-fighting.

  • “Dad, I understand that you and I don’t do things the same way, but I think we’re working in the same direction, right? We both want this corn crop to be the very best. Help me understand why this [JOB] must be done before [THAT] happens beyond we’ve always done it that way?”
  • “Mother-in-law, I love you so much and I love your son more than the world, I know we can agree on that. Could you tell me a story about what you learned from your mother-in-law that helped you raise four kids?”

YOU can choose to engage in employee encouragement.

  • “I know we’ve always done things this way, but it seems like you have a different idea, MANAGER. Let’s talk that through and maybe give that a try this time to see what happens.”
  • “What tools would make this job 100 times easier? Are we just missing something from the toolbox?”
  • “If guests park wrong every day, how can we make the parking lot better so we don’t have to deal with this problem?”

Suffering is always present. No one told us as kids when we were so desperate to be “Treated like adults” that the Adult-ing part came with so much baggage. The goal is not to eliminate suffering, that’s impossible, the goal is to reduce that which we can control.

As Coach Lawson says, “Life doesn’t get easy. You have to handle hard better.”

I’d submit that this is true, AND we can reduce the amount of suffering along the way by specifically taking action to reduce our self-induced suffering around relationships.

The trick is taking action and being mindful of ourselves, our reactions, and our words in relation to our families and employees.

In Part 2, we’ll address behaviors that bring about suffering in our lives and how to apply behavior modification to make life more enjoyable.

Have a great week,


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