My dad used to have a saying, “That’s what you get for thinking.”
It drove me absolutely nuts. Was he saying I was stupid? That I shouldn’t think?
As with many things, age and experience have shown me that: 1. I was completely wrong and 2. I should’ve listened to Dad more.
Usually when he trotted that out, he was telling me not to overthink something. There’s time for thinking and there’s time for doing, and if those things get sideways of one another, it’s likely you’ve either missed an opportunity or screwed up, or both. Oh, and by the way, stop overthinking and do what I told you to, how I told you to do it. Now, please.
Sometimes, he was telling me I didn’t know everything. That was a bitter pill, particularly in the teen years. “But, Dad, I thought there weren’t any police officers on that particular stretch of highway. And aren’t those speed gun thingies illegal, anyway?” That’s what I got for thinking.
The third instance in which he’d trot it out is much more complicated and took me much longer to figure out. It’s related to reason No. 2 in that it’s proof, once again, that I don’t know everything. It’s more closely related to another tried-and-true axiom — do the right thing.
Sometimes, the right thing is harder. Often, we try to weasel our way out of it by thinking of reasons not to do it. I thought you didn’t want that, so I threw it out. I thought you wouldn’t mind.
I thought he was talking to someone else. I thought it wasn’t my fault. I thought you said this, not that. I thought you said it was OK.
Easy to see why this one took longer. It’s less tangible. It floats around in the ether and shows itself in bits and flashes. It’s a lot easier to see when it’s being done to you than when you’re doing it. More than that, it’s made up of lots of other really hard things to do, like listening, hearing and communicating.
Challenging though it may be, it’s worth it. You may not get to sleep in Saturday, but you get to do something your spouse or children really wanted to do. You get to give someone the perfect gift. You get to lend a hand when someone’s down.
Probably the most rewarding part of this whole process is that, by turning off that tap of constant reasoning and rereasoning, and just doing the right thing, you’re cutting off some selfishness at the root, before it has a chance to grow and cloud your vision of the world.
Few people have the mental faculties to do this all the time — I don’t — but even accomplishing it every once in a while can make the world a better place.
It’s what we get for thinking.