Despite the doom and gloom sound, having the outlook that things can always get worse is actually meant to offer encouragement. I know it sounds about as sensible as one of Troy McClure’s self-help videos like “Smoke Yourself Thin” and “Get Some Confidence, Stupid” (Sorry for using a Simpsons reference). However, if you will stick with me for a minute I will explain why this fatalistic sounding approach is actually a very positive one.
I personally adopted this philosophy (I use the term philosophy lightly) when I was a sophomore in college. It was during spring semester with finals fast approaching. As most students are around that point in the semester I was almost completely convinced no one in history had ever had a more difficult schedule than me. Having two papers due and four exams all within one week seemed like an almost insurmountable obstacle. No one in history had ever been faced with such a challenge. Not The Constitutional Congress, Edison inventing the light bulb, or Great Brittan in the Battle of Brittan. None of this could have compared to multiple choice exams in business law and biology.
After the end of yet another week comparing my suffering to Gandhi, I sat down to watch a movie one Friday night (hopefully you can see by this point that I wasn’t really as busy as I thought). The movie I picked was Braveheart, so clearly I had four hours to kill in my incredibly busy schedule. Little did I know watching that movie would be the most important moment in the whole semester. Sitting there watching the same movie for the third or fourth time I started to really think about what the Scottish were facing. If anyone had the right to sit around and sulk about how unfair their life was it was them. It wasn’t long before I started to feel rather foolish for thinking my situation was so dire.
Seeing real tribulation was only part of the revelation however. If the Scotts had given up and just sat there wallowing in their misery about how unfair life was, they would have still been a million times more justified than I was. The fact is they didn’t just sit there; they got up and did something about it, just like all people history remembers fondly. I felt rather stupid to have wasted so much time and energy in self pity. The stupidity was only compounded by the fact that I live in Texas. I mean come on, we love a story about people brushing off challenges like it’s just another day at the office. We don’t like the guy who turns and runs when things get tough. We’re the home of the “one ranger, one riot” frame of mind.
The next day I decided I was going to start looking at things in a new way. I still had two papers and four exams, but that’s all I had. I could have had 10 papers and 10 exams, no car to get to school, working two jobs to afford food, and endless other trials. So that’s what I focused on, that it could have been worse. The irony of the whole situation is, when you start thinking about how your situation could always get worse things actually get better. You stop wasting energy and creating stress which makes you much more efficient. Now maybe you don’t have to be as dark and gloomy as myself to be positive, but if more people started seeing the glass as half full we would all have a better time.