The B-option

November 13, 2015
The B-Option

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the B-option. As I’ve mentioned before, when I was young, school was easy for me, and I was an A-student. It lead me to be very asking of myself, and I am usually striving for the best outcome possible no matter what I get involved in. I dream big, I fix myself great objectives, and I expect amazing results.

The thing is that I do believe that it’s worth it to envision my dream life, to have those huge goals. I am afraid that if I do not dream big, I am creating my own glass ceiling, limiting myself to small.

But dreaming big comes with its own price: dissatisfaction. In fact, we might even wonder what comes first: dreaming big and never really being satisfied, or being unsatisfied and dreaming big in the hope that it will get better in the future? It’s a never-ending circle, always wanting more, never being quite satisfied, and therefore wanting even more.

As Barry Schwartz mentions it in The Paradox of Choice, a mall full of Buddhist monks will not make a lot of profit: when we are satisfied, when we are happy, we are not looking for more.

It can have some positive side effects though, as some studies show that unsatisfied people tend to be more creative, because they want to answer that need that is not fulfilled otherwise, looking for a way to get back to a normal state of mind. Creativity is even linked to mental disorder in some cases. And what about those great creatives, the tortured artists, that are known to create the most when they are unhappy? Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Newton: based on the analysis of their lives, they would have suffered from mood disorders, or bipolar diseases.  It’s creativity out of chaos.

I see it happening on a daily basis: I get in the yoga studio, full of this vibrant energy brought by creativity, my head about to explode of ideas. Then I step on my mat, and as I slowly start to get back to a normal state, focusing on my breath, I find an inner peace I never thought I could find a few minutes ago. I create space. And I let go. An hour later, as I get out of the studio, I am in a totally different mood. I no longer crave new projects, new challenges. I feel great, fulfilled. My mind is calm. I am happy, and I do not care at that precise moment whether or not I will develop my full potential one day.

But what if I was in that state all the time? If I was truly satisfied with my life as it is right now, enjoying every moment I get to simply be there, on a daily basis, without worrying about the future, would I stop creating at all? Do we have to choose between happiness and creativity, passion and satisfaction? Can an interesting life also be a happy life, and vice versa?

“I think choosing a life that is interesting to us and choosing a life that makes us feel happy are probably very different choices. […] People who want to have an interesting life are always looking for more choices and better choices, and they make decisions for their life based on maximizing choices.” – Penelope Trunk, Do you overemphasize happiness?

That’s my challenge: finding balance between happiness created in the context of flow and creativity and happiness created through the practice of satisfaction and simplicity.

In order to achieve that delicate balance, I am exploring these days the B-option, the middle ground. This fine state between always wanting more, embracing the maximizer mind, and being satisfied with what I already have, happy with what is and what is no right now.

The B-option is in between striving for excellence, which would be the A-option, and settling for something without doing much effort, which I would refer to as the C-option, based on our school grading system. I’ve never been happy with a B before, but slowly the idea is growing on me. What if B meant less pressure, and more fun?

B as in bold and audacious

To get As, you do have to work hard. But you also have to know in advance that you will be able to achieve your goal, if you put in the hours and sweat. You can already predict your success, with a direct correlation (or almost) between the work you do and the result you will get.

If your objective is to keep on having As, then simply keep on working the way you do, or maybe harder if you are not there yet, and eventually you will get there.

That however can be very limiting, since you must stay within areas of experience and knowledge. Out of your comfort zone, you cannot predict anymore if you will get an A or not. As soon as you start taking risks, the risk of failing goes up as well.

“ If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen

That’s where life happens. Based on my experience, that’s also where you get to have the most fun. When life surprises you, when the path changes direction, that’s when I feel mostly alive. I do not wish for it to happen on a daily basis, but when it does, I embrace it. Now I do not have to wait for life to bring me those opportunities, I can create them myself. The only thing I need to do is allow myself to fail, again and again, learning along the way.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

B as in bendy

Letting go of perfectionism also means bringing more flexibility into our lives. When I get obsessed with one strict definition of success, I am missing on many other possibilities to get a fulfilling life.

Slowly, I am learning to let my definition of success evolve over time. With time and patience, I am learning to open myself to a larger experience that is not available to me if I stay focused on precise and definite goals.

Just like we need to keep a flexible spine to maintain our health and youth, I believe we need to culture a flexible mind to get a rich and authentic life experience. It is something I tend to struggle with, as I need to have some landmarks to feel comfortable and be my best self, but with practice, I believe I will get better at navigating on unsettled ground.

B as in being

Then in the end we come back to the idea of embracing the journey, not the destination. But I would like to bring an important nuance to that proverb. It appears to me more about making the process matter as much as the end result, than only focusing on the process. It’s neither only about the path or the goal: it can be both. That’s the advantage of the B-option: you are enjoying the path and are also very happy when you’ve reached your destination. You fix yourself objectives based on who you are, what you stand for, your being, and what you wish your life experience will be like, then you let life take you somewhere along that path. Just as you would dancing with someone: sometimes taking the lead, sometimes letting the other guide you. Dancing your way through life.

Let’s make the B-option our first option. Let’s integrate that into our core beliefs, that B is great, that B stands for Being, with all it has to offer.

Let it B/be.

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