Chapter 39: An unexpected insight into what life is all about

I went fishing at my brain’s pond of ideas, hoping to catch a good story for my next blog entry. As I waited for an idea to hook my writer’s appetite, a snippet from a recent conversation with my friend pushed through to the forefront of my mind:

“Rikki, I’m in a pickle. There’s this guy who I really like, and I’m keen to get physical with him. He’s interested as well, but I’m afraid he could get too invested into me. He already seems as if he’s about to develop feelings for me. The problem is that he’ll likely want a serious commitment if I keep spending time with him, whereas I know that I won’t return these feelings. I don’t want to mislead him by nurturing false hopes. I couldn’t bear hurting his feelings.”

These concerns of my friend entangled my head into a discussion about emotional pain. I revisited my own experiences with hurtful disappointment, stumbling across the memories of boys who broke my heart in the past and the faint image of shadows who I used to call friends. Although these people had wrecked my heart in the past, I now felt oddly grateful for their betrayal because, in hindsight, I understood how much these heartaches had taught me about myself.

Considering how immensely I have grown from all of my past heartaches, I concluded that everyone must experience grief in order to evolve on a personal and emotional level. Pain is inevitable, everybody will get hurt sooner or later, and everybody will inflict emotional pain on somebody sooner or later too. At the bottom, emotional pain represents nothing else but the consequence of two party’s clashing expectations. Considering that any kind of unfulfilled expectation helps us to correct our interpretation of reality, emotional pain is essential for guiding both our perception as well as our juggling of feelings.

I was convinced that my friend’s concerns about potentially hurting this guy should not block all her intended behaviours, forcing her back into a tiny radius of action. After all, it wasn’t my friend’s responsibility to protect others from all possible pains in this world. Yet, at this very point, an inner voice intervened my line of argumentation as it warned me of the dangers in becoming too egoistic. I instantaneously reconsidered my stance towards the matter. If I promoted emotional pain as some banality belonging into everybody’s life like egg into an omelette, readers could wrongly interpret my words as propaganda for inconsiderate behaviours. Promoting a free pass to hurting others was none of my intention, however. Therefore, I realised what a fine balance it was between dropping the care about fellow humans too much and accepting that nobody could be spared from emotional pain.

With my own mind split into opposing notions about one’s responsibility for other people’s emotions, I hit a dead end in my contemplation. I could not comprehensively articulate how much we are obliged to adjust and, if needed, restrict our own actions in order to prevent wounding somebody else. So, I shovelled this pile of thoughts to the side even though the topic of emotional pain had initially sounded quite promising to appear as fresh content on my blog. I then returned to where I had started, on the outlook to a new article.

As I searched for innovative ideas, another memory popped into my head. I remembered how a former work colleague had enquired about my secret to getting up at 6 am for a workout before office duties. Her exact words had been: “How do you do it, Rikki? How can you get out of bed so early and exercise?”. I lacked a better response than: “I simply get up and do it because I need my sports to feel good”.

This particular memory called in my inner philosopher to explore the mystery of motivation deeper. I began stringing my conceptual understanding by defining motivation as the product of predicted benefits minus predicted losses. In any given situation, our brain calculates the positive outcomes we can expect from an action, while it simultaneously forecast the potential risks of same action. Comparing these two weights against each other, our brain will either flush a wave of motivation throughout our body, or not. The more the gains outweigh the risks, the more motivation will fuel us for carrying out a specific action. That is because we, as humans, strive to be as energy-efficient as possible. Nobody likes wasting resources on something that does not pay off. The crucial ingredient in this whole equation lies in the quantification of benefits and losses – a measurement which derives from our attitude, values, and beliefs.

Gathering those thoughts, I sketched a piece of writing in my head, where I drafted a key message along the lines of the following:

“We are the master of our own motivation, hence why we can calibrate our motivation by adjusting our mindset towards the action in question.”

But my intentions of writing this piece got foiled by a heavy counterargument from my very self. Unfortunately, motivation is not a mere child of attitude; hormones govern our motivation at least equally as much as our mindset does. If our hormonal functioning is disrupted by certain illnesses, acquired conditions, or inherited predispositions; our mental state will suffer too. We then can feel constantly tired, lacking motivation to do anything, strictly due to hormonal reasons. In this case, even the most determined mindset will not be able to compensate for the lack of motivation.

In the end, I found myself standing in front of a conflicted train of thoughts again. Both of my two unhatched article drafts yielded the same final conclusion: it depends. The validity of my arguments, regardless whether I addressed emotional pain or motivation, depended on the specific context given at hand. With every shift in the contextual focus of attention, the weighting of my arguments fell into a new formation of balance. Balance, it was all about balance.

Balance suddenly struck me as the one overarching keyword to all existing angles of a topic, to all possible scenarios, yeah, to life itself. Everything in life thrives on a healthy balance of respectively involved factors. No matter what example topic you pick, the right answer always wriggles along an evenly-composed chime of winds that are blowing from all possible directions. Everything in life depends; it depends on the context – your context. Life presents us with many variables all the time, and our mission is to figure out how we can accommodate these variables best to find harmony amidst them.

After this last epiphany, I reeled the line as I had finally found the next story for my blog. I left my brain’s pond of ideas, sat down, and started writing about this unexpected insight I had – an insight into what life is all about:

Finding balance.

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