Sometime ago I wrote about my batting average as a metaphor for life, particularly frustrations. I had reached a point where everything seemed to take way too long, be way too complicated, and fail way too often. Mostly it passed.
There’s an insight right there. The trouble passed like an ebb tide. Lots of other people had it worse, though knowing that doesn’t make any (non-sadistic) people happier. The tide turned. Focusing on positives and achieving some small victories helped. In baseball, one rough inning doesn’t indicate much of anything. Just play ball!
I was too focused on the moment. Living in the moment fosters cognitive flow and is great fun when things are going well. But a lot of my frustration occurred when the moment didn’t match my expectations. (For example, Project A took 10 hours longer and much more effort than expected.)
Do people need expectations of how much time and energy a project will take? Yes and no. When trying to reach goals, people select tasks that seem likely to help. When choosing among tasks or courses of action, people gain from cost/benefit analysis.
But once the work begins, people who keep those expectations too firmly in their minds hold themselves back. If people do better than expected, they might slow down because they convince themselves they’re missing something or that they can take it easy. They feel anxious or a bit lazy. If it’s going slower or harder than expected, people often get frustrated and angry. People then turn the anger on themselves (self-condemnation) or on others (mad at the world). Any of these reactions and emotions limit people’s happiness and productivity. Yet sometimes people blindly continue one course of action without ever adapting. That can lead to dead-ends and wasted effort as people endlessly repeat the same unsuccessful action. Where’s the balance? More next time!