Boiled frog

How we live our days is how we live our life.
Annie Dillard
1945 –

If you placed a live frog in a pot of boiling water, the frog would do everything it could to escape; it would be instantly aware of the danger of staying in the pot. But if you place a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and gradually increase the temperature, the frog won’t try to get away. The change is so gradual that the frog won’t react until it’s too late. (Note: please don’t try either option at home, or anywhere else, for that matter.)

So what does this phenomenon have to do with life? Quite a bit, actually. Far too often, we behave just like the frog. The hot water we’re in changes so gradually that we don’t notice until it’s too late.

For instance, an unhealthy diet or a lack of exercise won’t do lasting harm to the body on day one. But by the time we recognize the consequences, serious damage has taken place. At that point, the damage may even require surgery to fix. Or it may be irreversible.

Similarly, most of us don’t max out our credit cards in a day or a week; it happens little by little over months or years. But in time, the accumulated debt becomes unmanageable and the borrower’s credit score and quality of life suffer.

Relationships are much the same; they don’t collapse as the result of one disagreement. They gradually deteriorate due to neglect or abuse over a long period of time. When we finally recognize the rift, the emotional wounds are often too deep to repair.

Take a hard look at almost any big problem you have in your life. Examine how it evolved. If you’re honest, you’ll find that the problem didn’t happen overnight. Its origin has deep roots. There was probably a time when some small actions could have settled the issue. Now that it’s grown, solving the problem will require much more effort. In some cases, you may be addressing the concern too late: the water might already be boiling.

What’s the answer? Learn to notice the gradual changes taking place in your life. Pay attention to problems and address them while they’re small and easy to correct.

Neglecting small problems allows them to become large problems–so repair them while you can and get out of the water before it’s too hot to handle.

It’s the easiest thing in the world for a man to deceive himself.
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

Copyright © 2016 John Chancellor

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