longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable & deadlines

 

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Portuguese:

saudade

 

… a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable.   Love affairs, miseries of life, the way things were, people already dead, those who left and the ocean that tossed them on the shores of a different land – all things born of the soul that can only be felt. 

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Anthony De Sa

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“He marveled at the indifference of the world, the way it kept on, despite everything.”

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Anthony Doerr

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Ok.

I am fairly sure everyone desires the great intangible things in life. The things, or thing, you just cannot put words to but you know is out there and you will intangible seek individual“know it when you see it or feel it”. Unfortunately, well, the intangible also tends to be elusive.

It is also very very difficult to clearly define or put words to it <hence many people choose to focus on some specific milestone or objective>. I think I would suggest the intangible is elusive because the world is indifferent to our desires. Oh. Even worse? It is relatively uninterested in offering the intangible in tangible form. The world simply tends to fork over tangible crap to us and it is up to us to peel it all back and bask in the intangible good stuff found within.

But that takes time and is more difficult.

Therefore.

We tend to seek tangibles. And more tangibles. And then more tangibles. This means that we are almost destined, despite that in our soul we deeply long for something indefinable, to settle for tangible proof that we are showing some progress.

I do not really care what the proof is … just that we settle for it.

 

What Is Elusive? The definition of “elusive” is:

elusive: evasive, slippery, difficult to find, catch or achieve

 

Speaking of desiring proof – that is why we often create deadlines. Deadlines are powerful things as we face our longing for the indefinite <and the definite>. More often than not we use the deadline to insure we do not waste too much time on something we are not sure can be easily defined. But think about what a deadline really is.

 

Today the term is now used, mostly, to refer to “the time by which something must be completed.” In the historical sense a deadline refers to the boundary around a prison which, if prisoners crossed it, they’d be shot by the guards.

Wow. Okay. So while deadlines are everywhere in the business world we no longer get shot it does seem like we just get shit when we cross a deadline.

Now.

Psychologists have done a boatload of research on the effect of deadlines on people. Invariably the majority f people actually improve performance as a deadline nears. They explain this by something called “the Yerkes-Dodson law.” This law suggests performance increases as arousal <excitement, stress, tension, nervousness> increases. Well. At least up to a point … from which performance declines as the person, and senses, are overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed_by_ursulavBasically this suggests we become more aware of consequences of failing to complete what we want to do as time slips away and act upon that awareness <with some focus because the consequences of not meeting the deadline while may not include being shot certainly includes a load of shit>.

In addition. Deadlines tend to eliminate procrastination mostly because we dislike the unpleasant feeling of consequences of not meeting a deadline. Stick with me because this all has to do with our longing for something indefinite.

Ok. Now comes the next horrible thing that happens as we pursue what we truly long for. We have a deadline in our heads and we encounter something called the planning fallacy. We suck, extraordinarily so, at estimating how much time to allocate for things because our brains, in general, are quite overly optimistic with regard to our own capabilities. Therefore we underestimate time. In addition … we do this because our brains have a nasty habit of looking back on past poor time allocation and failed deadlines and blame external causes <and yet the next time the thought will be that this time we will be unencumbered therefore meet our deadline successfully>.

All of this circles back to that ‘arousal’ consequence, which we hate, as it rears its ugly head one more time as our optimistic assumptions crash into the actual reality of the situation.

I bring it back to ‘arousal’ because all that painful consequence stuff occurs … WHEN YOU ARE PURSUING A TANGIBLE GOAL.

The waters get even murkier if you are setting some deadline on how much time you want to spend on pursuing this elusive indefinite thing.

But. We are truly optimistic folk.

What one person thinks of as elusive and indefinite another sees hope and opportunity. And depending on where you are in Life your feeling can change. The one consistent steady thing is that at all times there is a longing for something more … some longing for something so indefinite as to be undefinable.

So what can we do?

We have to take responsibility for our lives and choices and this indefinite thing. We cannot subvert the longing and suffocate it with the tangible. The longing should not dictate our lives and behavior but it also should not play a role in our lives and actions.

To be clear. That isn’t easy.

Life can throw a bunch of curve balls and … well … some high hard fastballs. The biggest fastball Life throws at you is … well … what I call “Life comparison shopping.” You shop your life against other lives.

critisize judge self othersIn the good ole days it was called “keeping up with the Joneses” <using one’s neighbors as a standard of comparison for the consumption of material goods>. This sounds silly, but we are human, and it is hard not to notice when your neighbor buys something.

But they are not the only standard of comparison. Television shows, magazines, websites, and pretty much anywhere you consume information inundates us with stories about what other people have, wear and do.

Yes. While we know we shouldn’t care mostly because, while we may not articulate it this way, we know conspicuous consumption ubiquitous.

Tangible proof is, well, tangible proof.

The tendency to compare yourself to to other people is fundamental and is going to occur whether or not we intend it. And, yes, in some cases, social comparison is useful. In the absence of objective standards of success, social comparison  helps us to evaluate and improve ourselves. And yet, at the same time,  sometimes social comparison suggests you are inferior in some aspect <wealth, intelligence, appearance, etc.> which can create some feelings of envy or ‘lesser than.’ Okay. This is where the tangible proof path absolutely frickin’ kills us on this pursuit of something undefinable.

Lesser than feelings erode the belief you can ever attain what you long for <I mean your head says “c’mon … if you cannot even be good enough to do that how can you be good enough to attain something you cannot even define .. all you can do is just discuss as something you ‘long for’?”>.

Then we remain on the middle path too long. We start missing out on the dreams. We shelve the longing and inevitably that which is undefinable remains undefined and that which we long for simply becomes an immature pursuit for only those who are dreamers. You justify this decision, and personal behavior, as you walk the middle path by always thinking that eventually you will get around to pursuing this longing … and eventually reach this undefinable thing that will makes you happy.

And then time is gone. And the longing, which is easily dismissed as “shit, I couldn’t even define it anyway”, is still there but the opportunity is gone.

Look.

Pursuing something so indefinite as to be indefinable is tough. It is not for the faint of heart. To do so you need to accept that while some results are very tangible others are less so. The secret is to get your head straight from the outset on how ‘performance’ is to be measured then build in the means for measuring activity. I say that because I think the measurement is much more important than setting a deadline.

I mean, well, how can you set a deadline on something you cannot even define? <someone smarter than I would have to figure that out>.

In the end I use this quote:

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“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high.”

Jimmy Reid

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Part of being a human being is this inherent longing for “something.” Maybe it is captured in that one word:  saudade.

all things born of the soul that can only be felt.”

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t do the day to day stuff that needs to be done nor am I suggesting that deadlines aren’t quite useful for some day to day shit, but I am suggesting that stuff shouldn’t be done at the sacrifice of our longing for “all things born of the soul that can only be felt.”

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Written by Bruce