Be tolerant to others and strict with yourself

I was talking to a friend at the weekend who was getting really stressed about the behaviour of someone they work with. Whilst I tend not to comment to friends, to go in to “coach mode”, they asked me what they should do and then were a little surprised with my response.

I just quoted one of my favourite dead Stoics.

“Be tolerant to others and strict with yourself.”

That is. Some people are unreliable, others are self-centred and some are just idiots, and there’s little you can do to change them. That’s their problem and it’s not in your control. This took me a long time to learn. I left a really good job that I was successful at because my new boss just did and said odd things. I found him annoying and I let that kernel of annoyance grow in to a full blown forest of irritation, resulting in me moving to a new job. As it turns out it was a good move, however I wasted a lot of energy in feeling bad, frustrated and angry in the process. Anger and frustration pointed at something that I had no control over whatsoever.

The same goes with situations that you have no control over. People waste inordinate amounts on energy focusing on external events that they just cannot change. And this means they have less energy to focus on that which they can change.

But you can control your reaction to them. If someone acts ridiculous, let them. Just don’t perpetuate or feed that habit by reacting to it. What you do is in your control. Be strict about it.

Leave other people to themselves. It’s ok to hope for the best in people, but important to also plan for the worst.


Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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