Monday, June 2, 2008

It's Complicated....

Why does life feel like it's become so complicated?

There is more to do than hours available to do them, settled issues rebound in new ways, relationships don't feel as close or relaxed as I want. On vacation, idle thoughts reflect back to find causes: Does life inherently become more complicated with experience, circumstance, and responsibility? Or is it personal: poor planning, bad decisions, procrastination, inability to say 'no'?

One thing that I do notice, even on vacation, is that my perception of complication, and an accompanying increase in emotional stress, seems closely tied to my freedom to act.

RoadwayWith open road ahead and signs beckoning to unexplored villages, I feel happy and stress-free. Caught in stationary traffic, I am fatalistic: there's nowhere to go and I just find a good podcast and wait it out. I feel relaxed and confident either way. The stress comes when I'm on a single-lane road with a slow truck ahead, blocking the view, and an impatient car behind, flashing lights and riding my bumper. I can pass, but finding the spot and making the maneuver is full of constrained choices and risks, and I'm meanwhile missing the views and distracted from conversations.

Broads May 08 16 Similarly when sailing. An open waterway is an invitation to tack or to run, to drop anchor or to motor ahead. A full waterway is simply a time to reef and to turn on the motor, proceeding single file down the right side of the channel keeping distance ahead and behind. A stressful setting is when there are a variety of boats, not all watching where they are going, the wind shifting unpredictably, 'too many things to watch and to guess at simultaneously.

imageSo, my Theory of Stress is that life is simple with few constraints or many, but in between, life is complicated.

What lessons do I take from this? Mostly 'knowing myself' and understand how I react to circumstances. No question that I most love the times starting a project, organizing partnerships, or executing a plan with a talented and enthusiastic team. Negotiating progress reviews and process completion with backwards-looking auditors and self-important gatekeepers is frustrating and error-filled.

Without making too much of it, I think that the answer is that I am in a situation where the freedom to act, to choose my own future, is constrained by the unpredictable (and uncontrollable) actions of others. It's not avoidable, but knowing the consequences and establishing the right outlooks is probably the best alternative to simply getting stressed about it all.

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