(This is an excerpt from an article I read recently. I thought it was an interesting observation on human nature, challenges, and motivation, so I thought I’d share it with you. You can read the complete article here.)

three bearsImagine you are playing tennis. If you try to play a serious match against a four-year-old, you will quickly become bored. The match is too easy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you try to play a serious match against a professional tennis player like Roger Federer or Serena Williams, you will find yourself demotivated for a different reason. The match is too difficult.

Compare these experiences to playing tennis against someone who is your equal. As the game progresses, you win a few points and you lose a few points. You have a chance of winning the match, but only if you really try. Your focus narrows, distractions fade away, and you find yourself fully invested in the task at hand. The challenge you are facing is “just manageable.” Victory is not guaranteed, but it is possible. Tasks like these, science has found, are the most likely to keep us motivated in the long term.

Tasks that are significantly below your current abilities are boring. Tasks that are significantly beyond your current abilities are discouraging. But tasks that are right on the border of success and failure are incredibly motivating to our human brains. We want nothing more than to master a skill just beyond our current horizon.

We can call this phenomenon The Goldilocks Rule. The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.

How do you respond when the AC goes out in your house (like mine did last night)?

spilled milk

How do you respond when you have a flat tire?

How do you respond when something gets stolen?

How do you respond when things like these happen?

It’s natural to be disappointed when things go wrong. But I think we’ve spoiled ourselves into believing that we have to be angry, frustrated, and upset. I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I know it’s not. I think there is a second option.

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas lights.”

I was listening to a writer tell recently of how he had just finished writing his second book. He was traveling when he completed it, and before he could return home, his laptop was stolen. He had not backed up his computer and the only copy of his book was on that stolen laptop. 80,000 words gone, just like that. Months and months of work.

Most people would have a meltdown. Anger would rise up, they’d be in a terrible mood, they’d mourn the loss of all that work and effort.

Not this guy. “Everyone’s second book is terrible,” he said with a big hearty laugh. “So I just tell people I’m starting on my third book.”

That’s awesome. Was he disappointed? Sure! But he decided to laugh about it. He decided to learn from it. He decided it didn’t have to be a big deal. He decided his disappointment didn’t have to be a disaster.

I believe that is a beautiful, Christlike way to live life. And I want to be more like that.

So the next time your AC goes out or you have a flat tire or your laptop gets stolen… laugh about it. Let it go. It’s okay to still be happy. You are not morally obligated to have a meltdown. You are not morally obligated to pout and stew and mope and complain.

Let it go. Laugh about it.

Then start writing your third book.

 

Just quit.

July 20, 2016

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14

Imagine you and I took a glass of water and sat down in your front yard. What would happen if we set it on the ground, and knocked it over? The water would spill out and go everywhere. It would immediately soak into the soil. Now imagine if I said, “Hey, put all the water back in the glass.” Impossible, right? No matter how hard you tried, you could never get it back. Once it has been spilled it can never be recovered.

Just as you cannot take back spilled water, you cannot take back words spoken in anger. You can ask for forgiveness and apologize for them, but you can never un-say them. So Solomon says, “Hey, because we can’t get the water back in the glass, let’s make sure we don’t spill it to begin with.”

There is a tipping point in every argument. There is a point of no return in every conflict. And Solomon’s wisdom advises us to abandon ship before we ever reach that point. Nothing edifying of beneficial happens once that point has been reached.

Solomon is not telling us to run from conflict. Conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and can even be healthy. Solomon is telling us to run from the quarrel conflict can lead to. This is the part of conflict where reason is replaced with passion. Where logic is replaced with insults. Where anger fires up in our heart and begins to control our minds and tongues.

When you feel that moment coming, Solomon says run! Get out. Literally leave the room, or the vehicle or the table. Call timeout. Say something like, “Hey, I fell unhealthy tension rising. I’m going to need some time to think and pray about this.”

Readdress the issue later with calm heads and hearts.

The word picture Solomon is using is a break in a dam. It trickles at first, then breaks open wider, and is soon gushing uncontrollably. Anger in conflict is like that.

So abandon the ship of quarreling before it ever begins to sink. Get out of the house before the fire even starts.

Take it from the wisest man who ever lived: you’ll be glad you did.

Where are you looking?

July 19, 2016
If you want to be distressed, look within.
If you want to be defeated, look back.
If you want to be distracted, look around.
If you want to be dismayed, look ahead.
If you want to be delivered, look to Christ.

The path of least resistance makes rivers and men crooked.”

Abraham Lincoln

If you…

July 15, 2016
  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… You are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness .. You are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… You are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
  • If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death… You are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
  • If you can read (and apparently you can)… you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.
  • If you have a little money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place… You are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

God give me one more thing… a grateful heart.

Sometimes the hardest part isn’t learning the new, it’s unlearning the old.

Unlearning

There’s something I’ve found successful learners have in common:

They learn from other people, without trying to imitate them.

They are voracious learners. – They are never the center of their universe. They are always interested in others. They are always curious, always surrounding themselves with people better than them. Always studying greatness, always learning from others.

But they don’t try to be others. – For example, they can study the writing style of a great writer. But they don’t try to write in that writer’s style. They disseminate the principles and apply them to their own writing style.

When it comes to learning from others, imitation is limitation. But application is power.

The Coward’s Way Out

July 12, 2016

Cynicism, sarcasm, and pessimism are the path of least resistance. They are the cowards way out. They represent mental and emotional laziness. They are easy.

Hope requires courage. Hope requires vulnerability. Realistic optimism requires discipline.

Swimming Upstream

July 11, 2016

Most things that don’t involve risk or vulnerability aren’t worth doing.


If there is no opposition, if there is no possibility of criticism or rejection… you are probably swimming with the tide and not breaking any new ground.