Prospect Theory is a financial idea defined as the following:
A theory that people value gains and losses differently and, as such, will base decisions on perceived gains rather than perceived losses. Thus, if a person were given two equal choices, one expressed in terms of possible gains and the other in possible losses, people would choose the former.
It is also known as “loss aversion theory”.
But I find it is an interesting theory in general and it can be applied to all aspects of anyone’s life. In my life and because this is a blog about living and coping in the lovely world of chronic illness, I’m giving this theory some serious thought as it applies how my life has changed since my diagnosis. Despite being sick and having to change a lot of my life out of necessity and not choice, I can still see more gains than losses.
These gains are unexpected, unplanned and without exception make my life better and make me a better person.
I know today, because of Sarcoidosis, that I have far more empathy for the human condition. Not that I didn’t before but it’s different now as I also notice that I am far less judgmental a person for I would not want to be judged for having this disease. Yet, I know I am. I know I am by a lot of people. People who tell me that I “look too good to be sick”. What I know now, is that you simply cannot judge someone’s insides by how they look on the outside.
Just because I am sick, doesn’t mean I have to give up and sit on the couch in sweatpants all day. I can and do try to look my best for my mental health which is just as important battling chronic disease as managing ones physical health.
Anyway I digress. Back to how I am applying Prospect Theory to my life.
I have more patience with myself and others. Although, admittedly this one is still a work in progress. The patience with myself part anyway. I still want to be my old self but I’m not. And I actively forget that a lot and get myself into trouble by overdoing it from time to time. I’ve not yet mastered the concept that the word “No.” is a complete sentence. In my mind, I still want to do, do, do. But this is okay with me. I sort of feel like the minute I want to stop trying is when I will be in real trouble.
The patience I must learn to master is that I cannot do things the same way. Something that I used to do in an hour might take three. Something that used to take a day might take six. But I am noticing a shift and it is positive. I’m not as hard on myself as I used to be. And therefore not as hard on others.
I have a recognized daily gratitude now that I didn’t used to be aware of. Every day that I can actually get up and be part of life is a good good day! But this feeling of gratitude runs very deep now. I see it in small things I used to miss. Things like the smile on my dog’s face as she naps after a walk. Or in the beauty of the deepest blue of the sky. See, I used to plow through life, head down and pushing my way from one thing to the next, very task focused barking orders at everyone.
But my life, in this forced slowness now, gives me a chance to see things so differently. And in this, I see reasons for gratitude all around me I missed before. This is a big theme in my life since getting sick and probably something I will write a lot about. I really want everyone to learn this on the level that I have but maybe you can’t until something unexpected happens. I don’t know. I do know I wasn’t going to learn it until Sarcoidosis. But now, I know I am better for it.
Worry. No point to. What I mean by this, I guess is that I am learning to stop asking, “What if”. I don’t care anymore. What will be will be. And what is meant to be will be. I used to force a lot of things. I used to push. I used to think too much, which I suppose is a nice way to say that I used to obsess over things. But I cannot change what I cannot change. Worry is not control. And asking “what if” doesn’t stop it from happening. Life is meant to be lived today in this moment right now.
Here is another interesting prospect that has come into focus in a new and more lasting way, the awareness that I have choices. What I mean by this is that I can chose my perspective of any given situation. I am not a victim of circumstance. Or at least I don’t have to remain one. Stuff happens in life that’s not fair and isn’t pretty and while I may not initially find these things joyful they can be helpful. This is the stuff of personal growth. No pain no gain and all that…blah,blah,blah stuff.
But it’s true! It really is true. When I have an initially bad reaction to something that’s okay. And it’s okay because what I know now is that I can change my perspective as I learn to cope with life’s unplanned and unexpected changes and I can and do learn to be a better person for it. I could just as easily go the other direction and become embittered and angry. We all could. But I don’t have to and I choose not to. I want to be happier in life. We only get one shot at this, right?
I’m not sure I ever knew I wasn’t happy before I got sick. I mean I wasn’t a miserable person. But I was a heavily preoccupied person burdened by worry and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility to everyone else. A part of me was actually lost as a “well” person. And strangely, now forced to care of myself in a way I never did before as I focused on everyone else’s needs, I am happy and it’s not selfish.
I used to think it was selfish to put yourself first. But what I have learned is that there is a true difference between taking care of yourself, your whole self and being selfish. There is a kind of putting yourself first that actually makes you a better person so that you can truly be present for others. Thanks to my illness I get this now and I am much more fully present with the people I love and care about.
So focusing on gains rather than loss is a good way to live life!