Opinion: Know when

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Why does it seem more difficult to accept a loss when we expected a win? Our team is in the lead for the entire game when, well into the fourth quarter, an interception gives the opponent good field position. Within a few moments they manage to complete a short pass which, with a well-executed field goal, puts them into the lead. With seconds to go, our home team fails to regain its rightful position. We lose that which belonged to us.

Conversely, the fans of the opposition are jubilant. To gain dominion when submission was expected is a sweeter fruit. They celebrate in blind joy that their hard work, prayers and good nature were rewarded with triumph while our team, now taunted as losers, struggles to reconcile what went wrong.

Isn’t much of life the same? Our anticipations, when dashed, are more bitter than any equivalent defeat not hoped to be a victory. For some, the fear generated is highly motivating – more hours spent in preparation and planning. For others, the fear generated leads to premature retreat – there is no reason to try if loss is inevitable.

If we don’t consider that we can, can we? Still if we imagine that we can and we do not, is the emotional harm greater? Is the key to happy equilibrium to know the limits of our rational expectation, work to overcome those boundaries and remain prepared for failure while fully believing in our capacity to succeed?

Much success in business and life comes from the ability to stand tall between these forces. Musician Kenny Rogers posited that happiness is found in knowing when to hold them, knowing when to fold them, knowing when to walk away and knowing when to run. He may be right.

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