In classic Greek Mythology, Sisyphus was a man who was sentenced to spending eternity rolling a heavy rock up a hill, just to see it roll back down and do it all over again. The idea of struggling so much just to end up exactly where you started is a depressing thought, and unfortunately at times a very familiar experience. We all hope that our pain, effort, and sacrifice will result in something bigger and better than what we had prior to that investment of ourselves. We go to school to learn, so that we have more knowledge as a result. You go to law school to become a lawyer, so that you can do meaningful work helping others (and hopefully make a living, have a respected career, etc.). History is filled with examples of people who have dedicated their lives to doing something difficult, seeing some results, and having long-lasting impact on the future (an excellent example). It is not the expending of energy against a significant barrier that is psychologically damaging; it’s when you get nothing in return. It’s when your efforts feel meaningless. Many people have spent their lives fighting against some insurmountable foe. But if that effort has meaning, then the struggle can be energizing at times. However, if that struggle lacks meaningfulness, discouragement and burnout are the result. Many of us have had the experience of working really hard at a job and feeling no passion for what we do. The result typically is a slow draining of your energy and your joy. Continue reading »
It is the normal human experience to feel a range of emotions from elation to deep sadness. Some people feel this range of emotions to a lesser degree (find it hard to feel intense emotions) while others feel it to a greater degree (find it hard not to feel intense emotions). Typically, by the time a person has reached adulthood, he or she has some sense of the likely emotional patterns that they experience. A common experience that makes people feel alarmed is when they have an unexpected emotional experience. For example, if a person generally copes well with stress and adversity and s/he all of a sudden has an unexpected reaction to a stressor. I have heard many people say something to the effect of, “I usually bounce back after a setback, but this time I’m not bouncing right back.” Whether the change is due to the situation or to the person, the fact is something is different. Continue reading »
Multiple times throughout our day we are all faced with decisions to make. Some decisions are easy and do not require much energy, while others are quite taxing and require considerable mental fortitude. Understanding the factors involved in these tougher decisions can help break through the barriers that often keep us from making a decision. One unhelpful tendency that can occur is the experience of over-thinking or over-analyzing a decision. This involves spending too much time considering the options (the pros and cons of potential choices) to the point where a decision is never made, aptly referred to as “Analysis Paralysis”. A desire for perfection and a fear of failure often fuel this tendency. It’s important to recognize that when we are faced with options, it is inevitable that each option will have both pros and cons associated with it. In other words, there is no perfect option, so stop looking for it. It’s important to recognize the pros and cons of each option, to accept that whatever you choose might not work out, try to see failure as a learning opportunity to embrace and not something to avoid at all costs, and try to see your decision as one step in the process and not the final step.
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