As we come to the end of one year and the start of another, our thoughts often turn towards what we accomplished vs. what we failed to accomplish. If we got what we hoped for, it was a good year, and if not, we suffer the pangs of regret. This is what noted author and business expert Dan Sullivan refers to as “focusing on the gap instead of the gain”.Instead, we want to reverse this and focus on the gain, not the gap.
This tendency to focus on the gap is quite normal and what most people do instinctively. We didn’t get that promotion, our relationship ended, we had a health setback, a friend disappointed us, our bank account is lower than expected, the furnace broke, etc., etc., etc. In other words, our expectations clashed with this thing called reality. And we feel bad. Some of us gain comfort by sharing these bad feelings with anyone who will listen but this is counterproductive for the person sharing the misery as well as the supportive listener.
Charles Krauthammer had a great way of expressing this, “The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment.” Krauthammer knows of where he speaks. Paralyzed at the age of 22 due to a swimming accident, he went on to become a psychiatrist, political pundit and bestselling author. More important, he never let his accident slow him down. Throughout his life he maintained his optimism, humor and decency.
Here is the life-changing point. I feel bad, you feel bad, not because we didn’t get what we wanted (the gap). We feel bad because of the interpretation of the event. One person says, “It’s raining, my day is ruined.” The next person says, “It’s raining, and while I’d prefer it to be sunny, I will just find something to do indoors.” In this case, the same event (rain) led to an entirely different interpretation. You and I can’t do anything about the rain, but we can darn sure do something about our attitude about the rain, or whatever else life throws at us.
What I want to do more of in the coming year is to focus on the gain – to keep in mind the many good things that are happening and the ways my life is improving. For the vast majority of us, the gain will almost always be greater than the gap.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from what Dan Sullivan says about life in the gain vs. the gap:
When you’re in The Gap, you feel as though you haven’t accomplished anything at all. This is because even though you’ve moved forward, the ideal remains distant from you. The ideal is a moving target. It might even get bigger, leaving you worse off than where you started if you measure against it. You’ve also used up time and energy getting to where you are, so if you don’t measure the progress, you’ll feel like you’ve wasted that time and energy and have fallen even further behind. But if you turn around and measure your progress against where you started, then you’re in The Gain, and you’ll experience a sense of having moved forward, of having achieved something, and you’ll be motivated to continue on to your next stage of growth.
Sullivan has it exactly right. Living in the gain instead of the gap is a habit and as Brock Michaels talked about in his article, Change Your Habits and Change Your Life, once you replace the harmful habit with the positive one and focus on the gain, the results can transform your life. I look forward to seeing you in the gain.