To Change Other People or Just Love Them As They Are?

 
If you want something to be different than it is, you might as well teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end, the cat will look up at you and say, ‘Meow.’ Wanting something to be different than it is, is hopeless.
— Byron Katie

One of our greatest sources of frustration is our need to make people act according to our own ideals.

There are weddings in which everything goes the way we want them to. From the moment we receive an inquiry from the couple, to handing over the final product.

But no matter how hard we try, we run into problems, such as:

  • Couples that bargain over the price
  • Couples that don’t reply to emails
  • Service providers that use our pictures without asking for permission first
  • Competing photographers with cheaper prices
  • Guests who act rudely to us
  • People who are in our way, blocking our view of the altar with their cellphones.

People who don’t match our expectations often cause us:

  • Anger, disappointment, and frustration
  • To feel burnout, and unmotivated to keep doing what we do
  • To feel judgmental, critical, and condescending toward others
  • To create conflict, and act in a way that is harmful to others

But is it the people themselves who are harming us, or our own thoughts that spin in our head about them?

We grasp our own ideals so tightly, our perception of how everyone should be acting in this world. We praise and justify anyone who does manage to keep up with our standards. But the moment someone deviates just a bit, we feel a sense of rejection and unacceptance of actual reality, as it actually is. An illusion is formed within us – that only once these people change, we could be happy and at peace. Unfortunately, this is already a lost cause. The more we try to force a person to change, the more resistance we face.

It seems that our entire lives, we’ve grown up with the approach that only anger and unacceptance propel us to improve and make positive changes in the world. But have we ever tried anything different?

Imagine a world in which set your expectations and ideals free. How would you feel without the need to make people change? How would you feel in a world in which you only deal with your own issues?
Accepting what’s different doesn’t mean being apathetic. Accepting what’s different is accepting reality. It releases us from arguing with ourselves. Releases us from inner battles, and clears some space for acting mindfully and reaching a solution, without stress and out of love.

A task for the upcoming week:
Throughout the entire day, pay more attention and be more aware every time you judge another person, or wish that him or her would change. There is no need to do more than this right now. Just make a note to yourself – “I’m judging.”
This could happen in your work environment - with clients, colleagues, other service providers, or guests at the event. In your closer circle, with your parents, children, spouse, or good friends. It could also occur with any stranger, like the postal clerk, other drivers on the road, people standing in line at the supermarket, politicians, celebrities, and more.

When you feel like you’re ready for the next step of self-improvement, try the following steps each time you feel the will to change someone else:

- Examine your thoughts: We tend to fixate on stories we run over and over in our head – “He shouldn’t be doing this…” - or “He should act in this way…”. Sometimes, it’s enough to just pay attention to these thoughts in order to exit the confused whirlpool they create. Examine them, listen to them, and let go. The more you practice and increase your own awareness, the more you’ll learn not to place yourself in this thought whirlpool in the first place.

- Explore your feelings and emotions: Do you feel disappointment, frustration, anger, fury or confusion? Is your body cramped, your muscles tense, your jaw tight and your pulse fast? It’s not pleasant, neither for the soul, nor for the body. Take a few breaths and try to release the stress that has accumulated.

- Curiosity and understanding: Each person has their own point of view, perceptions, behavioral patterns, and culture. There is no right or wrong. There is only difference and distinction between that person and yourself. Try to put aside your own ideals, and be curious. Try to understand the other side, and find the best in it. This doesn’t mean you must agree with each other, but you may find you have much in common.

- Self-empowerment: Challenges are our best teachers. They are a wonderful opportunity to show us ‘dark’ places that we have yet to handle. Each time we criticize or blame another person, we could ask ourselves if we are doing our very best. Do we appreciate all the other professionals, and are willing to pay them whichever amount they ask for, return emails and messages to everyone who contacts us, execute every task on time without distractions, maintain our own home’s cleanliness, behave politely to every stranger we encounter, always drive safely, take care of our own bodies or souls? And so on. (The list is endless.)

- Reaching a solution mindfully: Stop, and wait until the storm within you passes before you react. Without anger, you’ll be able to find the most effective solution for anything that bothers you. Sometimes, you’ll need to get creative and find original ways to create change without conflict. Other times, the solution would be serving as an example for others. And sometimes, the simplest and most correct solution for that precise moment will be letting go, and getting on with your day without acting at all.
Just remember to do everything out of love and without obsessing over things. No matter the result, you did your very best.

I don’t pretend to be some sort of righteous man. I still find myself occasionally judging another person for doing something I don’t like. But when I don’t fixate on the will for that person to change, and when I give up the need to be right, I feel free and happy. I believe that things have a way of fixing themselves, and happen just as they should happen. I love what is already there, and learn to act out of balance, love, and kindness, for myself and for others.
 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
— Reinhold Niebuhr
 

Morning Routine for a Healthy and Productive Day

 
Walk upright, with calm, dignity and joy as though you were an emperor. Place your foot on the earth, the way an emperor places his seal on a royal decree. A decree can bring happiness or misery. Your steps can do the same. If your steps are peaceful, the world will have peace
— Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the things I’m grateful for is not having to drive to work every morning. I can just wake up, and immediately sit down in front of the computer.

And that is exactly what I did for a long period of time. I’d set an alarm for 8 AM, and wake up at 10, after at least 10 snoozes. Sit in front of the computer with a bowl of cereal, spend an hour browsing my Facebook feed, while the cornflakes vanished into my mouth without me even noticing. Answering emails and other messages on Facebook and WhatsApp, and only then, reluctantly begin editing wedding photographs. Those were not especially productive days.

And then I met my wife, who is also in the wedding business as a videographer.

Thanks to her, I began getting up no later than 8 AM, and even then, the day would feel longer and more filled with opportunity.

After a while, we decided to get up even earlier and start the day with a half-hour walk in the park. Breathe some fresh air, be in nature, and get our blood flowing. Talk of important things, laugh about less important things, or just be quiet and enjoy each other’s company. In time, we loved this so much that it became 50 whole minutes, followed by 20 minutes of yoga and stretching. True bliss. From a stiff, heavy body, to a light and energetic body all day.

Some time passed, and I began adding meditation in my morning routine as well. I sit on a pillow, and dedicate 15 minutes to listen to myself before I’m bombarded with endless information for the rest of the day. Getting used to focusing my consciousness on this precise moment, and dealing with any challenge that might arise with clarity and peace. At the end of the meditation, I’d dedicate several seconds to remind myself of all the things I’m grateful for in my life.

In the past two years, I also began loving to read books, mainly non-fiction ones. And so, I began getting up even earlier, to make some time each day for opening my mind and learning new things.

And then I felt it was time to start writing a blog. Something that is entirely new and not easy for me at all. If I’d make plans to write in the evening, it would somehow end up not working out, and I even found myself deliberately avoiding the task, procrastinating, and tending to other insignificant matters. So, I decided that every now and then, I’d write these words for a blog in the mornings, instead of reading a book.

I dedicate the beginning of the day to developing a certain new skill, with the intention of doing something good for the world, and for wedding photographers like me in particular, who wish to enjoy what they do and avoid occupational burnout.

Right now, my morning routine looks like this:

6:00-6:05    Wake up and brush my teeth
6:05-6:20    15 minutes of meditation
6:20-6:30    Drinking a green juice my wife makes for the both of us (made of apple, carrot, beetroot, celery, ginger, lemon and olive oil)
6:30-7:40    50-minute walk, followed by 20 minutes of yoga with my wife
7:40-8:10    Shower and breakfast (oatmeal cooked in water and cinnamon, with pecans, almonds, dates, banana and tahini)
8:10-9:00    Writing or reading
9:00    Beginning of work day

Several tips for creating a morning routine:

Alarm clock on the other side of the room. Getting up early is never easy for me. Every morning, there are those 2 crucial minutes in which I make excuses in my head why I should return to bed. It’s so easy to succumb to this trap. But if I pause for a moment, closely examine these excuses and the sense of fatigue in my body, I find that they always end up vanishing, replaced with a feeling of expectation for the new day. The chances of success when lying down are much, much lower than when standing upright. Therefore, place the alarm clock on the other side of the room, so that you’re forced to get out of bed to turn it off in the morning.

Gradual change. Developing habits takes time. For two weeks, try waking up half an hour earlier and see how you feel. This is already a great step. If you see that it works well for you, every two weeks, try to wake up half an hour earlier.

Slow mornings. Imagine a morning with no stress. Without feeling the need to always rush to do things quickly and on time. Without running from place to place, from task to task. Allow yourself to take it slow and do things in your own time, while feeling fully aware and focused.

Making dreams come true. Do you have a dream or a new private project you’ve been wanting to fulfill or carry out for a long time now? You don’t have to dedicate one whole day a week for it, if your schedule is already too full. No more excuses. Add the planning stage for your dream into your morning routine, or even its actual execution, if possible. This way, with every day that passes, you’ll get that much closer to your goal.

What makes you feel happy in the morning? Do you wish to paint, play an instrument, practice yoga, run, read, take photographs – and are always postponing it, somehow never ending up actually doing it? Because you’re exhausted or because other unexpected things just pop up and stand in your way? You don’t have to wait till evening. Add something you really love to do into your morning routine, something that’ll get you excited to wake up every morning for.

Offline. Try a morning routine without emails, Facebook and WhatsApp messages, or any other distraction. Just like that, cold turkey, without peeking even once. You might discover at first how dependent you are on these (like I did), but in time, you’ll most likely feel freedom and peace without them. You’ll find that nothing bad will happen if it’ll all just wait for a couple of hours.

* I try to sleep at least 7 hours every night, and therefore avoid dragging photograph editing late into the night. You can read about making editing time more efficient in this post.

* This whole ritual is an ideal situation to aspire to, and therefore not compulsory or inflexible. Of course I give it up or change it if I return home at 2 AM from photographing a wedding the night before.

 

Following Other Photographers’ Work

 

Take a moment to remember the first weddings you photographed. Did you have any idea what you were doing? Did you know whether you should direct the couple or photograph them au naturel? Whether to use strobes in the middle of the day or trust natural lighting? Whether to photograph using fixed lenses or a 70-200? Luckily, most of us began photographing in the digital age, in which one can easily be inspired by wedding blogs and social networks.

So we searched and browsed online, and started following well-known photographers from around the world whose style we liked. We were exposed to their work and took something from each one of them, until we developed our own individual creative language. As time went by, we also began following photographers who’ve become close friends, makeup artists we met at work, wedding event halls and blogs we’ve contributed to.

Today, within only 5 minutes on our feed, we can see dozens of different weddings; endless pictures of enamoured couples, excited guests and fantastic locations. However, in time, instead of being happy for them, we begin ignoring all of this and immediately enter the judgmental and critical wedding photographer’s role. All the happiness and creativity radiating from the feed slowly evaporates, only to be replaced with criticism, jealousy and comparing ourselves with other photographers.

Entire stories run through our head:

  • I photograph much better than he does
  • I wish I could take beautiful pictures like his
  • Yet another delusional rookie photographer
  • Seriously awful editing of photographs
  • Why don’t I get to photograph in these exotic places?
  • I need to buy more equipment to photograph like this
  • How come I don’t have as many likes as he does
  • I don’t get how he has that many likes.

These stories are useless. They only further us from developing and growing in a way that is just right for us. They motivate us to waste energy on irrelevant matters. We encounter a thought process that differs from ours, and immediately, negative critique arises. Our truth, worldview and photography method, which we have carefully nurtured and developed over the years, are momentarily shaken. We feel attacked at the sight of photography that is completely different from ours.

To be rid of these unhealthy behavioural patterns, we must first be aware of them. Notice what goes through our head and body each time we encounter another photographer’s work on social media. Stop, and look within.

If you begin to tell yourself some sort of story, categorise it: make a note of its character in your heart using one word, such as “criticism”, “jealousy”, “comparison”, “anxiety”, etc. Be kind to yourself. There is no need to judge yourself or feel bad about it. Just be aware of the stories running through your mind. Feel which type of sensations happen within you at that moment, for example: tense shoulders, shorter breath, cramped stomach or a faster pulse.

Let go. They’re just pictures online. Their intention is not to hurt you.

Now you can fill the space with beneficent comments:

  • Compassion and happiness in your own success: It is easy to be enticed by the delusion that happiness will come when you achieve the ideal you are chasing after. Happiness is already in the here and now, in your daily development. Be grateful for the path you have followed until now. Remember all those small and big accomplishments you’ve gained since the moment you decided to photograph weddings. Listen to all the couples who never cease to praise you after making them happy by documenting their lives’ most special moments. Be whole with where you are in your career today, and be curious about what is yet to come in your future. With an open heart and a true intention to grow, you will arrive at even more amazing places, one step at a time and with much patience.
     
  • Compassion and happiness for others’ success: You cannot possibly see what other photographers have gone through until this moment by looking at their pictures online. I’m sure that their success did not happen instantly, and only occurred after a lot of work, along with frustration and difficulties. Perhaps they’re even experiencing the same difficulties now, despite it looking all peachy on screen. In your heart, wish them happiness and peace. In your heart or via a private message, praise their success and the amazing work they do.
     
  • Get off the stage: Nobody dictates the rules in the world of photography. Each photographer chooses a style that he or she loves. Every betrothed couple chooses its favourite photography style. Learn to let go of your image. Release your point of view when there is no need for it. Discover the sensation of freedom when you let go of the need to justify yourself.