Workplace Wisdom

The Second Best Chicken Soup Ever

Last week, I made chicken soup again. If you read my earlier post about Fighting Fear with Chicken Soup, then you know what a big deal it was for me to make it the first time around.

I couldn’t find my carefully written notes from the last time, but even so, it was easier this time — less nerve-wracking and anxiety-provoking. Unfortunately, the thrill was gone. While the soup-making was still a labor of love, it was significantly less exciting, and the emphasis was on the labor. Something that frightened me so much initially was now, if not routine, then somewhat predictable.

Maybe that’s because whenever you do something the second time around, the bar has already been set. Now you know the way it’s supposed to be. There’s no more upside. The potential seems to be only for, well, less. Not less soup — less experience.

Funny how the sense of big potential, of possible gain, is often accompanied by a little frisson of fear, a sense of anticipation, even a feeling of being on the edge — and how without it, the charge, the energy, and the excitement are lost.

Maybe that’s another reason I like the grappling hook method of project management, in which growth and fear are inextricably linked. A heightened sensibility might be stressful, but it can also be very productive. That’s why we need to live with and through some things that scare us — they function as stretch goals, taking us beyond ourselves. That’s how we grow.

Maybe that excitement acts as the motivation we need — and I certainly need — to keep learning and trying new things. There are so many realms in which you can push yourself a little further. If your exercise routine has gotten too comfortable, maybe it’s time to ratchet it up to the next level. If your level of candor and openness seems to have plateaued, maybe it’s time to press yourself a little harder. If you’ve been holding something back, maybe it’s time to give a little more.

Where’s the balancing point between the thrill and fear of the new and the calm, measured, perhaps even dull routine of the already-experienced and well-understood? Theoretically, mindfulness — the ability to be in the moment and experience the experience — can make any experience wholly worthwhile, regardless of its emotional quality or the level of reactivity that it triggers.

After all, the soup was delicious the second time around too. And I’ll be making it again for the next holiday gathering. Here’s to consistently wonderful soup — and to thrilling new experiences.

Onward and upward,

LK

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