In my previous draft, I wrote about how our work demands slowly creep up on us over a period of time, and before we know it, we are so absorbed by our work that we lose perspective. We are so busy doing the everyday work that we don’t have space to think about if the work we are doing is the work we want to continue doing in the first place, and this reminds me of the boiling frog metaphor. We continue to ignore things (or settle for the status quo) until we experience crisis. Put another way, we prefer learning things the hard way (from experience).
Here’s the thing: no one gets fat overnight. It just doesn’t happen. Success is not an accident, nor is failure. It’s a result of our daily habits, positive or negative. Besides, it’s easy to keep doing the same things every day because we are creatures of habit. It’s easy to stick to the motions and live on autopilot without questioning the status quo. It’s also easy to be slaves to our process, but is that in our best interest?
We all know about global warming (or its euphemism, climate change) and its inevitable effects on the planet, but what are we doing about it now? By “we”, I mean the world leaders who have the ability to make high-impact decisions. Global warming is a problem that can be solved (if we want to solve it), but like the case of the boiling frog, we won’t act until we are forced to face the impending crisis. I chalk it up to human nature. We rarely act until it’s crisis mode. We solve problems last minute instead of dealing with them as they come up, let alone preventing them from happening in the first place.
We ignore things and hope they go away, but they never do. We live in denial, forgetting we will have to inevitably confront the reality, but we kid ourselves. We have to do something in these situations. It’s fallacy to think they will disappear on their own. This is why we get stuck in sub-optimal situations and do nothing about it until we find ourselves at a dead end.
It’s easy to be a slave to our process, but it’s insane to keep doing the same things over and expecting different results. It just doesn’t work.
The point is we don’t change until the last minute when we are in crisis mode. When left unchecked, not paying attention to the important and non-urgent things over time becomes important and urgent. Not eating right most of the time and doing consistent exercise every week will likely affect your health over time. Either we build habits by design or they make us by default. The choice, as always, is ours.
I am sure there have been situations in your life where you ended up as the boiling frog. Maybe you lived in denial and consumed those calories over time and gained weight thinking it would have no effect on you. Maybe a relationship hasn’t worked out, but you have continued to invest in it (rather than learning from your mistakes and moving on). Maybe you’re working in your business all the time, so you never end up working on it. Whatever the case may be, our lives are fraught with boiling frogs.
Here are some ideas for dealing with the boiling frog:
When we don’t end up living a life by design, we will end up living by default, so we need to be proactive. We need to pay attention to things when they come up. Moreover, we can’t just stop at thinking about them — we also need to act and make decisions sooner than later, never mind not making any decisions at all.
We need to remember that life’s challenges won’t go away on their own. Besides, they are meant for us to grow continuously, and not doing so would be missing the point entirely. Treat every challenge as an opportunity to grow.
We need to pay attention to the important and non-urgent things in our life. For instance, think of the three areas of life (self, work, relationships), and think about the various habits you want to develop in each. For instance, some of the things I do every day include creative work, exercise, journaling, reading, and reflecting. Without doing those things, my growth would be backwards in every way (physical and mental). I also proactively plan my weeks, months, and year in advance so I can decide up front where I want to invest my time.
The best thing you can do is to prevent crisis from occurring, which will require you to proactively focus on the essential things. The next best thing you can do is to act now to overcome the challenge you’re facing. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the problem and/or hope it will go away on its own.
Don’t be like the boiling frog. Step back every now and then and take stock of situations in your life. Jump while you still can. The best option is to keep doing the right things most of the time to prevent a crisis. The next best thing we can do is to accept and embrace life’s current challenges so we can grow beyond them. Life is difficult. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be a reason to grow, right?