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Resetting the Mental State

While people are buried deep within the workload, they grumble and complain like normal, lazy people should but they keep chugging along with a constant motivation and purpose. At the end, somehow seeing the light at the end of the tunnel weakens this drive rather than provide that extra push to make it to the finish line. If people could reset their emotions, emotions of the sacrifices made and the hardships suffered, I believe people could accomplish much more and do so in a better mood.

Continuing with my format of entries motivated by life experiences, this post is motivated by observations I’ve made recently. The first week in May was the culmination of not just my academic year but my college career. Needless to say, I, like the rest of the Mudders, did not do much of anything except work. Clinic presentations on Tuesday, 140+ pages of the clinic report due Friday, four finals to take, 20+ page project for econometrics, and various odds and ends to take care of. Likewise, my sister’s academic year reached its peak, so to say, with AP exams to be taken. Cases were seen all over where my classmates as well as my sister were showing signs of burnout. I’m sure everyone, who works decently hard, have experienced this. Whether if it’s the end of a semester, four years of college, four years of high school, or just the end of the work week. Yes- TGIF. What’s interesting about burnouts is that people are more irritated about what they still have left to do when they are closest to the end.

Knowing that the end is within reach leads to a false sense of security so people begin to relax before that time has come. The work at this point is just as difficult as the work leading up to this point and probably even more so. The problem is clear then- the motivation peaked out earlier than the workload the motivation is supposed to handle. It is my belief, and I’m sure there have been research done in this regard, that the human psyche is to blame here.

The human mind is very powerful and often it seems to me that people are not able to handle such power. For me, knowing I was at the end of a project, the end of a semester, and the end of my college career inspired me to work harder to push to the end. Being in the same situation, however, other people did not allow this accumulation of time and resources that had been dedicated to this cause to push them forward. Instead, these people allow all that they have done in the past to weigh them down, believing that they had already spent too much and do not have enough to go on. Now, if they had the strength to push through the hundreds or maybe even thousands of hours, all nighter and whatnot, it is unlikely that the last few hours, consisting of the same sixty seconds, would that much more costly to spend.

Now I’m not saying my outlook at the end is the best way, though I do believe it is better than breaking down. Somehow I just prefer to enjoy the feeling of accomplishing something, whether it be a sentence or an analysis, than being angry at what work is left. The problem with my outlook is that an extra push at the end cannot last forever. If this were a job I had to do for forty years, the push would result in physical collapse long before the forty years were up. Yes, the mind can take its toll on the physical body if you let it.

A better way, I believe, is the usual day-in day-out work progression, what us engineers and scientists like to call the steady-state. The definition of steady-state calls for things to be the same regardless of the time. Thus, at the end of the year people would still be working with the same clarity of mind and work rhythm as they have been all year long. Where the human mentality comes in and screws things up is the accumulation of experiences throughout the year and its interpretation of these experiences. Put simply, the emotions take over rationality.

In a hypothetical situation, people might be able to work a lot long and with better mental health than they do now by working at steady-state. In this hypothetical situation, emotions would have to be reset. What this means is that the feelings of hardships encountered in the past would have to be forgotten or at least separated from in reality. The rest of the experience including first hand knowledge of the work that only someone how was involved would know would still be intact. To illustrate this point, my clinic project in some ways was a continuation of a previous clinic project. Instead of having to start where the previous team did, we were able to take the next step. If we had to do both the previous team’s project then continue with our own, even with two year’s time which is the combined total time of the two projects, it is likely we would have accomplished much less of what we accomplished this year. In some sense, our team began with a neutral set of emotions. We were the previous team with reset emotions. We had all the tools and knowledge to continue this project with clarity of mind and a lot of motivation but our minds were not worn down with by time and obstacles that the previous team had.

A few people might be able to achieve this kind of emotional reset, but for most of us, it is difficult and unlikely. Still, I believe this is a goal to work towards. Past hardships and knowledge of the sacrefices made feeds the emotions so strongly that it overcomes the person and debilitates them. Learning to truly put the past behind us and focus on what is at hand would make the work that all of us have to deal with much more pleasant and maybe even enjoyable.

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