If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately leap out. But if you put a frog in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will boil to death without ever trying to escape.
The same thing happens to people.
Twenty years ago, if someone had told you that your daily life would be dictated by 157 emails, a meaningless project from your boss, trivial postings from mere acquaintances on Facebook and missed opportunities to connect with the people you actually love, you would jumped out of that kettle faster than you can say deep-fried frog legs.
We start out lukewarm, yet we wind up thrashing around boiling ourselves in so many meaningless tasks that we don’t have the capacity to be fully present for the activities we truly care about.
Several years ago I worked a two-hour stint in the prize booth at my kids’ elementary school Spring Fling, and I got an up-close glimpse of the price we pay for the “we’re going to get all this stuff done if it kills us” syndrome.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Fling phenomenon, imagine hundreds of kids hurling beanbags through the mouth of a big plywood clown, pink glitter butterflies painstakingly painted on snowcone-stained faces, and junk food galore. What really gets flung at a fling is lots of money – laid down by weary, well-intentioned parents in the hopes that their kids will have a good time and the school will raise enough money to pay for a new gym floor.
You’d think after plunking down wads of cash for the pleasure of watching their kids jump around in the Bouncy House and try to throw Ping-Pong balls into a fishbowl, the parents would be reveling in the moment.
Not so much. Most of the parents I observed were trying to get their kids through the Fling as fast as possible so they could move on to something else. Whether it was rushing off to soccer pictures or trying to get home before the icing on the cakewalk cake melted, “Hurry up, honey, we’ve got to go” was the refrain of the day.
The sad part of this whole scenario was that these parents had spent their time and money to take their kids to the event, but they were so worried about moving on to the next thing, nobody was having any fun.
The lesson: If you take a bunch of fun things and cram them all together in one day, they will cease to be fun, or even productive. It doesn’t matter whether it’s too many projects at work or too many family activities, when you schedule a zillion things in a row, your mind is so focused on frantically checking things off your list, you never fully engage in any of it.
Frogs may have a brain the size of a pea, but they’re smart enough to give themselves some lilypad time in between their rounds of making tadpoles and flicking their tongues out for flies.
Next time you’re tempted to throw one more event into the hopper, remember
the boiling point sneaks up on you slowly. Throwing more into the pot doesn’t always add to your life – sometimes it just makes you want to croak.