I’m doing this because this is what I got.

I was talking with a friend recently who’s feeling stuck at work. Middle-aged, everything seems hard. Struggling to find the next opportunity and dissatisfied with the current one.

They’re unsure how to escape this rut.

I listened to a podcast this week where an actor from a recent action movie shared insights into his grueling training process. Beyond the restricted diet and intense workouts, he endured injuries. One stunt left him with glass piercing through his hand. On another morning, he woke up with his arm completely swollen from a staph infection.

When the hosts, surprised by his commitment, asked why he doesn’t just choose lighter roles, like a sitcom, his response was: “No one thinks I’m funny. I would love to do a sitcom. Everyone’s like, ‘He’s so serious. This guy is so serious.’ I’m doing this because this is what I got, guys.”

“This is what I got.”

Daniel Kahneman, the renowned behavioral psychologist, passed away last week, on March 27, 2024. A giant in psychology, his legacy of enlightenment and inspiration will endure. He leaves behind an indelible mark on the field and our understanding of the human mind. An interesting experiment of his came up on the No Stupid Questions podcast recently.

Kahneman had participants place their hands in painfully cold water for 60 seconds. Then, they repeated the process, but this time, after the initial 60 seconds, the water was made slightly warmer for an additional 30 seconds, totaling 90 seconds of discomfort.

Asked which experience they’d prefer to repeat, they chose the 90 seconds. Wait. What?

Both scenarios involved the same initial 60 seconds of pain, but the latter included an extra 30 seconds of discomfort. However, participants remembered the less painful ending more vividly, influencing their preference.

This phenomenon was also observed in studies with colonoscopies. People preferred a longer procedure that ended more comfortably, despite identical durations of discomfort.

What does this mean for our actor, Jake Gyllenhaal? Who was recently on the Smartless podcast reliving those painful moments of training for his latest movie, Roadhouse.

We hear Jake, who made this record-breaking film for Amazon and has a significant career, feels confined. At 43 he clearly still thinks there’s more to achieve but hasn’t yet broken through to a type of role he desires.

But, like many of us, he likely focuses on the challenging peaks and the recent, painful moments of his roles, overshadowing past achievements and breakthroughs.

My friend, feeling stuck, has overcome obstacles before. He has the tools to navigate this, but the recent struggles loom larger in his memory than his past victories.

It’s comforting knowing Gyllenhaal’s sentiment echoes a universal experience. It’s normal. It’s common. Even the most successful among us encounter feelings of stagnation, especially by mid-life, craving new challenges and opportunities. It’s also a reminder that, despite our tendency to focus on the more recent ‘painful’ episodes, we likely have a ton of evidence of resilience from which to draw. But the memory of past victories, are easily dimmed by the shadow of current struggles. We need to remind ourselves that all of us have a capacity to move forward, adapt, and thrive.

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