Friday, January 28, 2011

You think you know what you know, but you just never know.

I love the movie Forrest Gump and it's not just the great acting, amazing soundtrack or hilariously quotable one-liners throughout. The main reason why I think it's so great is that Gump is an idiot, just like you and me, who manages to stumble into a number of scrapes and successes in life through sheer dumb luck. Granted, some luck is good, some bad, but in the end, it's all just luck.

Gump was right, "Life is like a box of chocolates" but he was wrong about WHY. Life is like a box of chocolates, but usually, we do know what we're "gonna get", thats what that little paper insert or the list on the back of the box is for. The problem is not that you don't know what you're going to get, but that once you get what you thought you wanted, it's not at all what you expected. So you look at the little chart, "hmm, dark chocolate hazelnut cream, that sounds fantastic" then two seconds later you're spitting the nastiness out in the trash.

This is a major issue we have as people, we think we know what we like, need, want, or what will make us happy. The problem is that we are wrong...a lot. This is ok, if we can accept it and move on. When we are wrong, if we could back out of the decision as quickly as we did with the wrong chocolate, how much time and suffering we would save. But we don't, for many many reasons, most involving our ego. Backing quickly out of a choice that was clearly wrong would mean admitting that we were wrong, and who likes to do that? Also, maybe the result of a bad decision has some good parts, so we stick it out, take the bad with the good. 

Here's another piece of the puzzle; once people have an experience, they convince themselves that they knew what the outcome was going to be all along. I did a little experiment last week, asking a handful of people, "So, how do you think the Bears are going to do against Green Bay Sunday?" and there was a range of different reasons why everyone thought the Bears would win, some technical and some more emotionally based. Then I asked those same people again on Monday how they felt and I got another range of answers, but everyone apparently KNEW that Chicago would not beat Green Bay.

The end result is people reading "self help" books wondering why the hell they are not happy when they have all the things they could ever want. I went through this phase and cursed myself, "how dare I be unhappy when there are so many people the world over who have nothing, I should be thankful, dammit!" All of our lives, we all have been subconsciously imprinted with visions of what a happy life is supposed to be, but the truth is that those are someone else's ideals. A bum in an alley is likely to be more happy than you at this moment, but we can't believe that.

So, the unfortunate summary that I have for you is that whatever you have in life, good, bad, or somewhere in between, it really is just dumb luck...but you already knew that, right? 

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