Second Time's a Charm


Taking a chance in life is one of the most difficult things a person can do. Humans, inherently, are genetically wired to crave and pursue comfort in every aspect of their life. Any deviation from this course and people, save for the adrenaline junkie commitment-phobes, become sweaty, paranoid, sleep-deprived shells of themselves. Maslow was onto something with his Hierarchy of Needs, and while I appreciate the symmetry of his rainbow colored pyramid of need, I've always considered people's motivations and goals in life to look more like a kaleidoscope - that is, an ever-changing intersection of need and want, realty and false expectations.

Self-actualization, as Maslow has it, lives at the tip of the metaphorical iceberg that we call life and is often our last met personal need despite its tendency to be first to the breakfast table every morning and the last to leave the dinner table every night. If there is one thing I've learned about life it's that there's nothing quite like realizing the power of your own potential to make you second guess the strength of your own potential.

In life there are events, game-changers, which will solely define our expectations for every single event thereafter. The laws of cause and effect would lead you to believe that positive events will define positive expectations and negative events will go-on to define negative expectations. But what about all of the times that we wait and watch for the storm clouds to roll in instead of truly, unabashedly enjoying the good weather? Our tendency to sleep with one eye open is the quintessential example of living life with one foot in and one foot out. Karma, bad things happening to good people, the Oscar curse, Murphy's Law, movie sequels - we're programmed to believe that every good thing in life will be immediately followed by something bad. Similarly, negative events can create a false sense of optimism for the future (unhealthy relationships, yo-yo dieting, movie sequels). Managing our expectations in life is kind of like trying to trim hedges with a weed whacker - a sometimes necessary, but equally exhausting experience for everyone.

That's why, oftentimes, taking the second chance in life is harder than taking the first. Second chances are riddled with self-doubt, irrational fears of falling short or making a mistake, and not living up to the potential you got a firsthand taste of the last go 'round. First chances, in contrast, are not weighted by the confines of our personal expectations, they're polluted by the borrowed expectations of those around us - family, friends, and the sensational storylines of our favorite T.V. shows, movies and daily media coverage - and thus we're less connected to the expected outcome of those borrowed experiences.

Life, and the work it demands to meet all of our basic needs, is all about balance. Our pursuit of happiness and self-actualization is no different. The good news is that balance looks different to everyone and that's okay. In much the way that people's expectations are defined by a mix of their own personal experiences and the experiences of others, a person's definition of balance is a mix of their innate wants and basic needs and their personal opinions about how those things relate to the world around them.

As you teeter on the edge of your next second chance, remember B.J. Neblett's sage words of advice:

"We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences - be they positive or negative - make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow."