It's wise to focus on the here & now

It's wise to focus on the here & now

    YANN Martel's Life of Pi is an epic story of survival that could teach Robinson Crusoe a trick or two. The Booker Prize-winning novel charts the adventures of an Indian boy named Pi ship-wrecked in a lifeboat on the Pacific, with only a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company. Now how does one illustrate such a novel that caught the imagination of millions of readers across the globe? That was the question, The Times, London, posed almost two years ago. The international competition attracted hundreds of entries that entailed "oceans of ink and paint" the editors said, in all sorts of artworks including digitally rendered "manga", pen-and-ink drawings, serene linocuts and scratchy, weathered acrylics.

    The winner turned out to be a Croatian artist named Tomislav Trojanac. But when he received the congratulatory telephone call, the 35-year-old artist was taking a nap in his home in the mountainside town of Orahovica. It came as such a pleasant surprise, he said, because I didn't have any expectations really, because, as they say, expectations are simply preconceived disappointments.

    Cognitive psychologists would endorse the artist's insight: when a person expects to receive an honour, prize, or even a salary rise, he immediately takes "partial title" to it as it were. Arguably, the greatest thing the human brain does is 'making the future'. Since it's such a superb "anticipation machine", you begin to reap gratification even from a completely non-existent gift. But when such a person fails to win the muchcoveted prize, he may experience as much sorrow as though he had actually received and then lost the award.

    Intense disappointment is thus generated even when the original expectation is highly unrealistic in the first place. "(Such) people who live the future in the present, experience an anticipated loss as an actual one," says the doyen of cognitive therapists, Dr Aaron Beck. "A woman, when informed that her husband would be leaving for a brief business trip, felt as sad as she did when he actually left. When she thought ahead to the time when her children would grow up and leave the house, she was brought to tears."

    Wisdom, therefore, would lie in focusing on the present, on the here and now. This is the strategy the newly shorn cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni uses, to defeat 'anticipatory' pressures of games yet to be played

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