Sometimes you don’t just have to close doors; you might even need to slam some.
We do whatever it takes to keep the maximum number of possibilities within our reach. It is very difficult for us to permanently close a door, even when it wastes our time, it does not take us anywhere, and it even bothers us.
Who has not heard something like … “always maintain the doors open after leaving”.
I have been told that many times just because it is established in the theoretical manual of the society, but when you deepen this statement, it seems that it could become counterproductive and threaten progress and personal growth. In my experience, sometimes, in addition to closing them, it is necessary to slam them to make it clear that the door was well closed, without a doubt.
In this article, I try to explain why:
(Note from the author: if this article does not sound like W.Shakespeare or E.Hemingway, please keep in mind I´m Spanish, and speaking and writing my mind in English is not easy :). I apologize in advance for any language-related error. The original article, in my mother tongue, can be seen here).
Aversion to loss. Do not let go of a branch until you have another one well held
We seem more quadrupeds than bipeds when it comes to gripping branches and not releasing them. According to this study by Jiwoong Shin and Dan Ariely, we are willing to pay the price for merely keeping doors open, or several branches seized, even if the options are not especially interesting.
In this paper, the question is whether a threat of disappearance changes the way people value those options. In four experiments with “door games,” they showed that the possibilities that threaten to disappear, make those who make decisions invest more effort and money in keeping these options available, even when the options seem uninteresting. It is shown that this tendency, in general, is indifferent to the information on the results, to more significant stimuli, and the relevance of the cost. Initial evidence is provided that the mechanism underlying the tendency to keep the doors open is a type of loss aversion rather than a desire for flexibility.
Dr. Ariely says:
“In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash, in life, the costs are less obvious: lost time and lost opportunities.”
If to the aversion to loss we add that the great majority prefers to move away from any type of controversy – since the controversy generates stress and the stress bothers us – we position ourselves in an unfavorable scenario, needing to please others to be accepted due to fear of rejection, even if the cost implies our dreams and principles.
A fearful society
Fear is a powerful tool of mass control. If you want to spend a terrifying time, turn on the news of any channel.
Those working are afraid of losing their jobs, those who do not work are afraid of not finding it. We are afraid of everything, all the time.
Who has not seen a colleague criticizing the boss on his back, and when he appears through the door, his thoughts become more aligned than Orion´s Belt. Hand in glove, lifelong buddies … yeah, yeah, whatever…!
In this context, those who believe that to be socially validated cannot refuse anything end up being managed, against their principles, to do things that they do not want to do.
The term aversion implies a feeling of rejection or disgust. Luckily for us, long-term feelings are more comfortable to work through mind control than immediate emotional reactions and other limbic system whims, as fear.
So, how to prevent this aversion to loss from conditioning our decisions?
1-Develop a life philosophy through principles and ideals
“We should not be afraid of death, but never begin to live” – Marco Aurelio
Living without philosophy is like flying without a gyro directional, or a compass. Most people do not have a clear life philosophy. They spend their days chasing money, status, temporary pleasures, and avoiding discomforts. But where to go? What is your direction?
We forgot to hit the “Go to” button on the GPS, and we no longer know how to perform dead reckoning navigation.
Our society, in general terms, is a slave to the immediate. We get distracted by any bullshit so as not to face the real problem. Any excuse is acceptable as long as it buries the big questions:
Is this how I want to live?
Where I am is where I want to be?
The risk of a life without philosophy is to reach our deathbed and realize that you have wasted it. Adopting existential principles can lead us to greater inner freedom and greater clarity to face the challenges of life.
2-Avoid being a “two-faced yes-sir”, reaffirm your life philosophy and the ideals that you have adopted for yourself, not those that are imposed on you
“Lean too much on the approval of others, and it will end up becoming a bed of thorns,” Tehyi Hsieh.
Acting against our principles to avoid criticism is a form of slavery. Our conscience is more important than our reputation.
Leaving a door half-closed is like leaving a wound open. We need to understand that making a decision implies moving forward with what we have agreed with ourselves, and we should not have the vice of continually looking back towards what we have just left.
Reaffirming your principles may seem unpleasant initially and sometimes even unfair. When your actions align with your core values, you will have determination; with determination, you likely get into discussions by questioning established dogmas and paradigms.
If you leave the flock, you are likely to generate opinion, and as it never rains to everyone’s taste, you will inevitably have detractors and even “haters.” You cannot change this without being a “two-faced yes-sir,” and we must not suffer excessively from what is outside of our control if we do not want to spend our days as miserable human beings.
In the long run, you will realize that you have naturally separated yourself from the people that don’t represent you and have surrounded yourself with individuals from your tribe, creating genuine ties and a more productive environment.
“The goal of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape from the group of fools” – Marco Aurelio
3-Make a good assessment of the potential scenarios
Generally speaking, with the right attitude, there are no bad options but inadequate assessments. Remember that the gifted is the one who typically chooses companies and not the other way around. Evaluate all variables with objectivity and precision and once the decision is made, focus on the present. We will never take the certainty of having made the right decision.
In line with the previous paragraph, I love this video narrated by Allan Watts – Choice.
The following is an example of my assessment of two exciting job opportunities.
Each person has its scale of values, and as it is appreciated, it is a complex equation of many variables.
In my opinion, simplifying everything to the economic offer, comfort, and short-term return, is a common mistake and the cause of failure or/and frustration for many.
First, we should know what we want.
4-No, it’s no. Knowing how to say NO.
To say NO without giving further explanations is an assertive right. With a “nop”, it would be enough. Or if we want to provide our response with a little more empathy, we can say, “I’m very sorry, I would love to, but I can’t.”
Opportunistic bosses usually have a good nose to condition the weakest. If it is known that you live asphyxiated by mortgages and loans or have other needs, plus you also labeled yourself as the one always saying “yes” no matter what, consider yourself in trouble in the long run. It will generally play against you.
Another of our assertive rights is not having to take responsibility for others, which does not mean that we are selfish and do not help others. But if you don’t allow yourself, you can’t help others either.
Buddhism says that we are to help and serve others, but it also tells us that we must find a balance between ourselves and others.
5-Maintain the manners but acting with firmness and determination
I have repeatedly heard that “if you lose the manners, then you stop being right,” and I agree, in part.
When facing a disagreement, the S.O.P. (standard operational procedure) of society tells us that we should be empathetic and seek consensus as a rule of thumb. Still, sometimes, in real life, it could help to show our teeth a little or slam a door while leaving to the rhythm of Lilly Allen’s Fuck you.
After all, bosses usually have a retinue of followers who will tell them what they want to hear, the way they want to hear it, the moment they need to hear it. Some true leaders will appreciate the courage it takes to face specific uncomfortable topics.
And it would help if you indeed were very Stoic to deal with certain bosses. Too much for me. And notice I said boss, not a leader. Perhaps Epíctetus or Marcus Aurelius would be able to act with courage, determination, and justice also from a perfect self-controlled attitude, justifying others’ questionable actions as a product of ignorance or lack of wisdom.
It is said that the master of Epíctetus, through torture, snapped his leg, while Epícteto himself warned him calmly, without expressing pain or emotions, that he would end up breaking his leg. And indeed, it broke.
Most of us definitely cannot reach these extremes, probably not just because of pain management, nor because of fear, but because of the feeling of bowing in the face of injustice. In specific scenarios, “the Stoichkov,” Barcelona’s legendary soccer player, can appear instead of Epictetus, the Stoic.
Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgarian, became as famous for his skills and goals as his temper, becoming sanctioned for six months to provide a stomp to the referee. We are faced here with the metaphorical dichotomy of the elephant and the rider, the emotional vs. the rational.
As much as I like Stoic Philosophy, I will never be a Stoic altogether. As much as I became a vegan (which I am not), I would not stop appreciating an excellent Iberian ham (perhaps the Iberian vegan label would be invented :). Once we find our life philosophy and our identity, we are what we are, beyond simplistic labels or frames.
In the case of manners, I understand self-control in a broader context than here and now. It represents the ability to control your destiny in the long run beyond asking someone specifically to f**k off, as long as your mind doesn’t blind yourself and your actions continue to be directed in part by the rider.
This brings us to another famous classic quote (In Spain):
“Better a minute of blush than a lifetime pale” or “It’s worth more to be once red than a hundred times yellow.” Red means embarrassment or going through a tough moment, and yellow is always getting to an uncomfortable, more moderate position (halfway).
And there are many ways to slam a door and many ways of saying “f**k you”
A “fuck you,” with musical grace, can get us deep.
A good slam is that of Bette Davis in 1952. In its most metaphorical sense, it does not necessarily imply disrespect; it can combine forcefulness, determination, need, elegance, and in the right context, in the face of injustice or abuse, denotes courage. Courage is one of the main virtues of the human being, and I think we should position it ahead of the results in our scale of values, as long as it has a purpose.
Under the classic “you should always leave in good terms,” you won’t generate your own identity. Nor does the option of circumstantially return to a toxic scenario be ruled out, for reasons that should not be decisive, such as, for example, economic return in the short term or by our condition as humans of wanting to cling to something.
Being a two-faced yes-sir does not make you look good; it will almost always end up playing against you in the long run.
In my case, it worked like a charm, and the best opportunities for both work and personal growth have come without a doubt after closing cycles and doors, some of them quite positively to avoid the temptation to return to toxic scenarios.
As Julio Basulto, a writer with no so much of a filter, says :
“Sometimes it is necessary to get away from certain people to get closer to oneself. Losing some people to find oneself. And be disliked by some people to get on better with oneself ”
For our personal growth, please, slam the door once in a while!