Today, I’d like to tell you all a little story.
In this story, a wannabe full-timer learns of an RV that sounds right for them. They think, ‘this is it, this could be The One’. They get excited at the prospect of having found their dream RV, but at the same time, they also start to feel some pressure. What if it isn’t in as good of shape as the pictures suggest? What if someone else buys it out from under them? What if they buy it and discover they don’t love the layout as much as they thought they would?
This pressure adds a certain amount of stress to the situation. A sense of urgency builds, and the shopper prepares to go see the RV in a heightened emotional state. They are well prepared though, with a friend who knows something of RVs, and a list of things to look for.
The shopper’s dream RV turns out to have water damage.
They know it’s much better to have caught it now than after purchasing, but they are still crushed. Despite knowing logically that there are still plenty of other RVs out there in the world, they had gotten attached to the idea of this particular RV, and the letdown of things not working out puts a serious crimp in their day. But, they pick up the search again. And in a few days or weeks or months, the next ‘dream RV’ pops up on their radar. But this time they’re more wary, there’s a little less excitement and a little more angst.
Maybe this next one works out, maybe it doesn’t. What I’d like to draw attention to is the emotions the shopper experienced during this tale.
It’s very natural for people to feel attached to outcomes, especially when it comes to a big dream or strong desire. And when we’re attached to an outcome, the stakes feel higher.
But we are not always able to control the outcome.
In this story, the RV shopper did the right thing by having a list of things to check for in the RV and bringing an experienced friend along for a second opinion. But despite being prepared, they did not get the outcome they desired, through no fault of their own. And they felt hurt because of it.
Adopting a pessimistic view is one way of managing expectations. The RV shopper could have gone in expecting that this RV wouldn’t work out, and then wouldn’t have felt so letdown when the RV turned out to be damaged. But looking at the world through that lens drains a lot of joy from it. The shopper would have been less disappointed, but they wouldn’t have gotten to experience the positive emotions either – the excitement of tracking down a good match.
I find that the best way to hold onto the good emotions while minimizing the bad is to put the focus more on the journey and less on the outcome.
What we put our attention on, grows. The shopper invested emotionally in the outcome, which created stress because they had limited control over it. But what if they invested emotionally in the journey instead? They could view the experience of RV shopping not as a means to an end, but an end in and of itself. Instead of a failed attempt at buying an RV, it was a successful attempt at spotting water damage – a pretty handy skill to have when you’re going to be living in one!
This one simple shift in perspective changes the whole feel of the story… and the mood of the shopper. It makes the hunt for the right RV not a drudgery that must be endured on the way to full-timing, but a valuable learning experience that will continue to pay off after being on the road.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you didn’t get the outcome you were hoping for, I challenge you to change the story. How can you extract some value from that experience, and turn it from a negative one to a positive one?
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