Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's Your Sine?

Have you ever found that your third helping of pie wasn't quite as good as your first? In fact, a third slice will generally make you miserable instead! Well what the heck? We're rather capable of learning but the things we learn can change in a matter of minutes! Eat pie. Pie good. Pie make feel happy! Repeat! Wait, pie not happy now? Maybe need more pie? Whoa, why pie make puke?

So perhaps we've all learned that lesson by now. Most of us the hard way... But we never stop to consider the sine-wave nature of everything else in life. Just like subsequent slices of pie make you sick and begin to degrade your joy, so does everything else: video games, work, extracurricular activities, marriage, you name it! So many things start out with a giant boost of awesomeness, but after the initial jolt, it takes more time to get less satisfaction until it slowly droops to not even being worth doing lest you wallow in the depths of despair.

I like to do things in extremes. I can go a few weeks dedicating almost every ounce of my time to one project. After the few weeks, however, I tend to get bored, give up, and work on something else or simply pout in my room that I'm such a miserable failure that can't ever finish anything. I would chalk everything up to a hair-brained idea and figure myself a fool for trying. But just last night it hit me like so many droplets of water from the shower I was partaking of. Such is the case of all good ideas. It's not at all that I'm a failure, it's simply the curse of the sine!

I can actually mathematically prove this philosophy. If you take a whole pie and slice it into 6 pieces, then clearly the 3 slices I spoke of would be half the pie, or pie/2. Now, in math, the letter 'e' has a specific value so we have to remove it from 'sine' and 'pie' so as not to confuse the calculator. Now, type into Google sin(pi/2) and it will give you the value of 1 which is Boolean for true. This clearly demonstrates that the curse of the sine wave as depicted in pie is completely true. Okay, that was just a joke; enough of that tangent--let's put this concept to some practical use!

This may seem rather counter-intuitive, but If we can learn to stop putting our time and effort into things we are already enjoying, then it gives us the opportunity to enjoy it all the more. If you eat only one slice of pie, then tomorrow you'll get even more joy out of eating a single slice than if you would have eaten two. Had you eaten two, then your third on the next day is likely to bring much less joy. You quickly diminish all joy from the pie. But if you eat only one slice each day, you can probably carry on for a few days, a week, maybe even a month without getting nauseated.

But let's apply this to more important things in life--like video games! World of Warcraft has a great capacity for ruining trivial things like your life, your marriage, and your hygiene. This is because the game is so freaking fun at first that you learn, "Game make happy!" For whatever reason, we don't figure it out like the pie incident, however. Perhaps it's because World of Warcraft never makes you puke. But we immediately latch on to the concept that this game is fun and this game makes us happy. Perhaps that was true for the first couple hours, but the next couple aren't going to make you quite as happy anymore.

Suddenly you find yourself trying to achieve one more level or finishing one more quest striving for that joy and satisfaction you gained in your first few hours. You still like the game but you find that you need more and more time to make it more worthwhile and rewarding. Once you reach the climax of joy, it starts to go downhill. You enjoy it less and less but you never really learn that this is the case as with the pie. Putting even more time into it will start to bring negative joy. You'll find yourself becoming the flamer yelling at all the n00bs and wondering why such idiots ever dared entered your heroic dungeon or raid. You're no longer having fun, but you learned early on that you like this game. Why would it change? You never realize that it morphed into something else.

Unfortunately, unlike a true sine wave, it continues going lower until you get off. Once you get off, it has a chance to float back up to the x-axis. At this point, it becomes appealing again and will likely take you on the same ride up and down. But what can we do about this? It's rather simple, really. We can jump ship! When it starts going downhill, simply get off the boat! There are plenty of other things to do in life and you may be surprised to know that hard work has the same effect. We tend to learn just the opposite, however, and permanently get it stuck in our heads that, "Work bad!" But this isn't the case at all! If you do a good job at accomplishing a real-life task, you feel quite joyful in the task. But if you keep at it when it no longer appeals to you, you tend to get more and more miserable and crash.

Work and play can be equally rewarding and equally catastrophic to your life, marriage, and even hygiene. But if you learn to jump ship from one to the other, you can find yourself riding at the top of the waves without crashing. So go, by all means, play! Just stop when it's no longer fun and get some freaking work done you lazy slacker! But when you're tired and the job is no longer quite as rewarding, stop being such a foolish workaholic and go enjoy a little fun-time with your family! And when you're no longer having fun... you get the idea!

Imagine that playtime is a sine wave and work is a cosine wave. Ride at the top and switch waves when they intersect so you go back up rather than continuing downward. In this way, you'll find that you never putter out and die and instead of giving up on things, you take small sabbaticals until you're ready for the challenge yet again. Quite often, you'll find that knowing you're allowed to quit at any time is all you need to encourage you to keep going and feel even better about doing it. The peaks of joy get higher when you actively recognize that you're choosing to do something rather than feeling an obligation to complete something. If you can cosign my philosophy of the sine, contemplate how it affects you, and actually put it into practice--you might just find yourself on a similar tangent of sharing with the world just how awesome and fulfilled your life is. So, what's your sine?

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