A young woman who just bought a lottery ticket for a chance to win a multi-million dollar jackpot was recently interviewed on the 6 o’clock news. She was genuinely enthusiastic about the possibility of winning the jackpot. In fact she considered winning such a realistic possibility that she expressed her fears related to the potential big-time success. “I worry that I will not know how to handle that much money,” she told the interviewer, seeming as genuine in her fear as she was in her enthusiasm.
Another young woman sits in my office talking about her search for a job. She has arranged several interviews, and has already made a good impression with two potential employers, but she is not very optimistic about her chances of landing a job.
What’s wrong with these pictures? The hopeful young woman with the lottery ticket seems to believe in her one in some tens of millions chances of becoming so rich it scares her, while the woman in my office who will certainly land a job, and probably a very good one, tends to expect failure.
How many of us can identify with this? We invest our energy in expecting the long shots to come through, and are very stingy with our expectations when it comes to realistic day-to-day possibilities. And we do this with both positive and negative expectation. Consider how much energy we waste in our lives worrying about things that never even come close to happening. If you could recoup just half of the energy you have leaked by way of needless worry, how much extra energy would you have? I don’t know about you, but I have leaked enough energy in my lifetime to light up Times Square for a decade.
It takes a lot less effort to believe that I am due a windfall soon --- that God surely has some success waiting just around the corner for me --- than it takes to invest in believing in myself in the nitty-gritty real world. Don’t get me wrong. I know that “somebody has to win the lottery,” and I see no harm in believing that it will be you. That is, I see no harm in expecting the long shots as long as you are also investing your valuable energy in believing in yourself in the course of your daily life.
If you identify with any of this, try this: Imagine that you are visited by a human-energy-efficiency expert who can evaluate how you invest your valuable daily allowance of energy. (This consultant is of course just a new member to your ever expanding inner-committee.) Like a good consultant, follow yourself around for a day or two, observing and making some notes. Then, from the perspective of the consultant, make a list of recommendations for how you might use your daily allowance of mental energy more efficiently and constructively.
In my experience, most people hire consultants, get their recommendations, then ignore them. I suggest that you listen to this one.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thom Rutledge is a psychotherapist and author of several books. His new book, Embracing Fear, will be available June 2002. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.webpowers.com/thomrutledge (Please note that the link provided by the author is no longer valid. There were no other current links given at the time it was published on this site.)