Are you playing life on ‘hard mode’ or ‘easy mode’?
This is another thought from the same “Feel Better Live More” podcast I was listening to yesterday. I listened a bit more today and this time Shane Parrish was telling a story of when his son took a Maths test and got a very low score. The boy was upset because he had “tried his best”.
Later on, when he was no longer feeling the disappointment so deeply and was able to have a conversation about it, Parrish asked, “When you say you did your best, what does that mean?”
His son said he’d made sure he packed everything he would need, he had read each question carefully, made sure he understood what was being asked and then did his best to answer.
“Interesting,” said Parrish, “so, for you, ‘doing your best’ started when you were packing for the test?”
“Hmm. So you chose to play on hard mode.”
The boy looked confused and they then had a conversation about all the moments leading up to the test where there were opportunities he could have taken to put himself in a stronger position for a better outcome on the test.
Revision, sleep, a good breakfast etc. were all possibilities, along with many other things.
Most of us want things to go our way when it counts but we turn our backs on the opportunities to stack the odds in our favour and then get upset when things don’t pan out the way we want.
How this relates to joy
I think joy is more difficult to experience and express when we feel rubbish about ourselves – we’re usually too busy thinking about all the ways in which we suck – or at least that’s how it is for me.
I also think this lesson has ramifications way beyond the world of achievements and success. I think it applies to our relationships too, and today I applied to my relationship with my daughter.
Now that she’s a teenager and starting to attend parties and becoming interested in dating, our relationship is showing signs of strain. She wants to keep things private and I feel the need to know more than she is sharing. The tension this creates makes our relationship stressful for both of us. Yet, being her mum is one of the most important parts of my life and I cherish it.
Playing life on ‘hard mode’ in this case involves just keeping myself to myself and going about my business, ignoring the fact that she spends most of her time in her room – maybe even being grateful for the fact that I can “get on with my own thing.”
That’s what I’ve been doing.
I could feel us growing apart and me “doing my best” only really involved making an effort when our routines brought us together – breakfast, the end of the school day, dinner and car journeys.
Aside from dinner and the afterschool, “How-was-school? Good-except for-the-annoying-boy-in-maths-class” formality, those times are largely spent in silence or singing along to whatever music we’re listening to.
I’m told this is “normal” and “all teenagers are like that”, but I don’t think it feels joyful for us as parents, and I don’t think it feels particularly joyful for our teens either. I think there’s joy in connecting with people, feeling seen, heard and understood.
I want that for my daughter and she certainly deserves to have that from me.
So today I took her out for tea and cake after school and we chatted. It felt a little forced at times – but that’s because it was. Our relationship is still on ‘hard mode’. We both enjoyed it though and we’ve decided to make it a weekly thing (I think the cake is the big draw for her but who cares :).
I suspect this one small change has the capacity to open more doors for us to find our way onto easy mode and I suspect it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to bring more joy into our relationship when we do.