Friday, August 29, 2008

Go In With Eyes Wide Open

I like to read medical and health news on pretty much any topic. I'm just kind of a nerd that way. So I was reading this New York Times piece yesterday with this headline: Regrets After Prostate Surgery. It's basically about men who are told that post-surgery, they will have a great chance at normal, ahem, function, but then find that they don't. The article then goes on to say:
The Duke researchers said that the study shows urologists need to communicate more carefully the risks and benefits of the treatment prior to surgery so that men have more realistic expectations of what to expect.
In other words, the doctors weren't properly defining what "function" meant, and so the numbers for normal function were, excuse the pun, inflated, and therefore misleading.

What does this have to do with following your bliss? Well, first of all, that quality of life is clearly important and worth prioritizing! But perhaps more importantly, that it's so crucial to have truly realistic, unbiased information before making a decision.

I remember when I began my research into the freelance world that I paid special attention to the warnings and cautions provided by those who had experience. Many of them said the same things: not a good choice if you're bad at time management or being alone. Lots of feast-and-famine cycles. Disadvantages in taxes and other cost outlays.

Some people are good at blocking out what they don't want to hear, because they think it might dissuade them from making a choice that they really want to make. I see this all the time, and it inevitably leads to disappointment. While information is no substitute for actual experience, at least I knew I would have bouts of loneliness, or that I'd have to pay more out of pocket for Social Security and taxes than my non-self-employed friends. I didn't like it, but I expected it, and was willing to make these trade-offs for the benefits.

Expectations have so much influence over your happiness in life. This isn't to say that the pessimists have it right--"If I have low expectations, I'll always be surprised when things go well," as they say--but rather that if you have properly analyzed the whole picture, you will be more ready to deal with the negatives when they inevitably come your way. Every job, every person, every choice has a downside. Every single one. It's whether you understand that before you commit to a decision that makes the difference.

So whether it's a spouse or a new career or even that adorable little puppy who would never, ever eat your favorite sweater (RIP, favorite sweater), examine all angles and prepare yourself. When the bad stuff crops up, it won't crush you like a meteor falling from the sky. Instead, you'll see it coming from far away, and because your eyes are open, it'll end up looking more like a shooting star that gives you the opportunity to move out of the way. Aware and protected from unrealistic expectations, you can more fully appreciate the beauty of the big picture.

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