Sunday, December 8, 2013

Expect More. Get More. Care Less.

I almost entitled this piece, “Expect less. Get less. Care less.” Expecting less helps shield us from disappointment. Lowered expectations often lead to worse results. Poor results need to be faced stoically.

Discussing this with my beloved wife, M.S. patient Tina Su Cooper, we agreed we should recommend a more positive approach.

Expect more. Doing so makes you work harder, more optimistically, toward your goals. Others often try to live up to our expectations. Low expectations produce worse behavior. Expecting that another person will treat you unfairly can make that person inclined to treat you less well.

Get more. Not only does positive thinking improve our mood, it seems to attract what we are seeking. This “law of attraction” doesn’t always work, but it probably does improve our chances.

Care less. We all prefer positive outcomes. If we let outcomes control our happiness, however, we are vulnerable to unhappiness when things do not go our way. Kipling advised that we meet triumph and disaster stoically, and “treat these two imposters just the same.” Imposters? Some defeats are to our benefit: “Every knock is a boost.“ Some victories are Pyrrhic, costing more than are worth, encouraging us to go in a wrong direction thereafter.

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” Harness positive thoughts, but “keep your powder dry.” For example, IBM announced this August that it was moving its retirees, like me, from their generous medical plan to Medicare plus partially subsidized supplements. For many, the change was neutral or beneficial. For Tina and me, it would be disastrous, falling far short of the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that IBM has been providing for Tina’s round-the-clock skilled nursing care these past nine years. After contacting IBM, I scurried around, planning the depletion of our savings, our retirement funds, and money from our two families, preparing for the worst, while hoping IBM would make an exception for exceptional cases.

In mid-November, we learned that Tina’s in-home skilled nursing care would continue to be covered fully. IBM had listened to the concerns of its retirees who were in special situations, and the corporation has modified its plans. Our response: “Thank God. Thank IBM. Thank God for IBM.” Our Thanksgiving came a week early.

When we were informed originally that IBM would not be covering Tina’s in-home nursing care, we were advised by friends to pursue legal remedies, to fight. The alternative was to expect that, once aware of situations such as ours, IBM would do the right thing, as it has. Litigating might have been useless or even counter-productive.

Care more? A case can be made for caring more. One lives more intensively that way. Love is worth it. Negative emotions are not. Ideally, we would savor each success and shrug off every failure. Ideally.

In pursuing our goals, everything counts, including optimism, yet we ought not care too greatly: we are only here temporarily.


Submitted to 20 Nov 13

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