Positive View Can Destroy

The right glute was screaming its displeasure in the most painful way yesterday that I had to opt to skip weights, run, and my stride/drill workout. It hurt almost as much as the glute to abandon my normal routine. I tried to submerge my sorrows in the 25 meter Hart House pool. I was definitely submerged in water as I pool ran length after length but the sorrows only floated above me.They would not be submerged. No matter how many times I tried to tell myself things would get better after x minutes or x lengths.

On the walk home, after I finally allowed my eager self to stagger out, with thoughts about my organizational behaviour final floating in my mind, I re-came to a sudden realization. The majority of people tend to always think things will get better or that things will stay “good”. But is this a societal taught behaviour or is it an innate belief?

In the subset of my Organizational Behaviour class the topic of decision-making was approached. Under this umbrella the concepts of bound rationality, anchoring, framing, and escalation of commitment were discussed. Escalation of commitment is defined as the tendency to invest additional resources in an apparently failing course of action. This type of commitment is usually taken on because the decision maker convinces himself that things will get better and that the losses can be recuperated if the path is continued

From an outside point of view it is very easy to say that I will never do this.It seems like only the most gullible and dim individuals would fall into such a trap, for how hard is it to foresee that a previous action is sunk and irrecoverable. I would like to pose this situation, you and a friend have identical literature preferences, upon reading the New York Times you learn of the exciting sensual novel 50 Shades of Grey. You then head to the local bookstore and pick up a copy, when you return home, just as you have sat down with your coffee and cringed at the first chapter of the book your phone buzzes. Your friend with identical literature preferences has texted you to tell you about the 50 shades of bad writing exhibited in the newly purchased book in your hands. What would you then do? a) put down the book and do something productive or equally enjoyable as reading b) finish the book anyways because you have already paid for the book and will feel guilty for not reading something you purchased, how bad can it be anyways?

The majority of people will choose option B. By choosing option B you have fallen into the trap of escalation of commitment. Inadvertently you chose this option because you believe things will get better.

The above was just a simple example. In the real world the consequences of believing that things will get better or that things will stay good are much more dire. Take the US housing bubble crash that occurred in 2008. Despite all the popular blame set fire to Wall St. I don’t think the Suits are the root of the crash. The US government, consumers, and lobbyists for the right to housing purchase are at fault.  This clause escalated the US housing prices and the idea of wealth among Americans. It was presumed by all parties that this wealth will increase or at the very least stay at the level. American homeowners, financing Americans, the government, Wall St were all victims to this presumption. Think about it, if this assumption was not made the government would not continue putting its foot into the market, Americans would not have treated their homes as ATMs or let their personal consumption levels fly to the sky, and Wall St would not have gambled so highly on derivatives. Just a simple, very human, assumption has single handily reduced the world’s wealth to a fraction of what it was.

I am guilty of assuming that things will get better or at least will not get worse. Just yesterday I tried my hardest, actively, to convince myself that the physical drain I was feeling in the pool and the pain in my glute would drift away; that things would get better. After a grueling 45min I could not stand the physical exhaustion and pain anymore. I stepped out of the pool. I had, gasp, cut 15min out of my workout. I stopped believing that things would get better.

That was one of the best decisions I made that day.

I almost fell down as I stepped onto the tiles. Everything turned black and my head spun for a few seconds. I was suffering from low blood sugar. Things would not have gotten better if I had stayed in the pool; they would have worsened.

Things sometimes get better but sometimes they worsen. But I cannot always assume that they will get better. Society is either conditioned or its members have the innate belief that positivity is desired but one must consider if this trait is detrimental.

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