Stupid reality

Life is so much easier when it is going well and to plan, running smoothly. It's only when you face defeat or you start to feel that burning itch of dis-satisfaction (as opposed to the other burning itch which requires cream and antibiotics... although I suppose that presents its own challenges to your world view!) that you need to start thinking about things. And for many of us, that's precisely when the trouble starts!

When we have been motoring along, satisfied or at least reasonably so, we will have been heading in what felt like the right direction. We will feel comfortable with the signs of progress or finding signs of progress in the absence of signs of retrogression!

And then it happens, that interruption, the intervention that drops the anchor on what we have been trying to achieve. There may have been one or two things which have slowed us down before but we have explained those away. And now here it is, the unavoidable thorn in the paw. We have a choice in our response at this point. Three paths - keep doing the same thing, perhaps harder or faster, and hope for the best; change our expectations or change our actions.

Pearls Before Swine - June 19, 2009
(Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. See more at

Before we make any decisions though, we need to forgive ourselves. We are where we are. The sackcloth; hairshirt and ashes does not help anybody unless it is accompanied by a good whole-hearted analysis of how we are going to do something different in future.

"Meaningful change occurs when people accept themselves, take interest in why they do what they do, and then decide that they are ready to do differently" - Ed Deci

Without that you are just abusing yourself and the speed with which some people jump to self-flagellation leads me to suggest that there is a degree of pleasure being taken from it.

If you fit into that category of people, that's fine but be aware of two things:-
1) You'll go blind! and
2) If it is something that you enjoy, be aware of what you are doing to yourself and your performance which might be bringing about this outcome!

Doing more of the same thing, only faster and more furiously may be the right thing to do or it may be lunacy. Looking at your situation will determine that. But there are too many people who leap instinctively to this as the default option. With this, as well as with changing your expectations because "what were you thinking, you were never going to be good enough to do that anyway", you might just be revealing something of yourself. No, stop checking your flies, that is not what I meant. It is an indication of what Carol Dweck labels a "fixed mindset". That is, there is a belief here, perhaps implicit, that your chracteristics and qualities e.g. intelligence; confidence; endurance; willpower etc have been handed to you set in tablets of stone. Everything you do is a success or a victory, a battle to display your worth.

And that is fine while you are displaying what you can do by winning (and winning within an acceptable upper range - but that's another story altogether!). But losing dents the armour and each successive one chips away until you are left naked and exposed. Of course, at risk of this you may find that you create a narrative as an extra shelter for yourself (and it may become another one of those thigns that you have "explained away" I mentioned above). Perhaps it was the referee's fault or the linesman; or somebody in the crowd made a noise; or your face did not fit; or it is political, or whatever.

If you are after progress you need to accept that you can grow, that you can be more than you were in that last performance or that game BUT in order for that you happen you will need to work. You may never be one of the elite but without trying you will never know how far you might have gone.

Saying "I will/could be a contender" is widely accepted as a positive statement of intent, albeit some people will smile condescendingly because they have fixed your worth. By contrast, looking back and saying "I could have been a contender" is sad, really quite sad.

"Of course, the real challenge is to stay in the range of this long-term perspective when you are under fire and hurting in the middle of the war" - Josh Waitzkin

So, to recap:
i) Stop beating yourself up - there is a long queue of other people who will gladly do that for you
ii) Change the way you look at your current position
iii) Do something - the same (with no regrets) or something different.

This way if you can't change the scenery, you can change your perspective. And who knows, you might see a way out from there.


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