[I took the image above from a page with an essay by Bryan Caplan on the EconLib website.]
It's a totally natural human tendency to attempt to downplay the desirability of things we think we'll have to work too hard to achieve. In fact, it's such a common phenomenon that we have an expression for it, "sour grapes." The fox sees the juicy and delicious-looking fruit hanging from the vine, but when she can't reach high enough to pluck and eat the yummy treats, she tells herself that they're probably sour grapes. This way, she can convince herself that she's not missing out on much.
I sometimes find myself taking a similar mental/emotional out when I think getting where I want to go will take a lot of time or effort. The problem is, that if I tell myself they are sour grapes at the finish line, I'll never have a chance to experience that taste and decide for myself. I'll miss out on what are, honestly, probably exactly what I'll want to eat at the end of my travails.
If, on the other hand, I focus on how great grapes can taste or how refreshing they'll be, I'll double down my efforts to figure out new methods to pick them. I'll do stretches and a warm-up, build a ladder, ask taller people if I can stand on their shoulders, get smarter people's advice to devise a new tool or plan. I'll use my resources and the help of people around me to get those grapes. I won't give up.
When I get my grapes, if they're not perfectly sweet or if they have some mushy spots, I need to remember two things:
- Getting them was worth the work. Putting forth a good effort to achieve lofty goals is never wasted time. Working hard towards getting what I want helps me learn about the world and about myself. It helps me to achieve subsequent goals. It helps me learn resilience.
- I already worked hard once, I can do it again. I now know how to struggle past obstacles to get the next bunch of grapes, which might be the perfect grapes indeed.
From now on, I'm going to try to remember that when I start to tell myself that I don't really want x or y or z, that's just my sour grapes talking. I need to mute that voice and focus on how much I love sweet, juicy, sometimes cotton-candy-flavored grapes. And then I'll do what it takes to get them.
What efforts have you found yourself trying to downplay? How did you push past that voice? I'd love to read your comments.