This is a story about a frog.
But first, there is an uncharacteristic visit to a travel site where I find myself perusing hotels and their amenities. As I am optimistic that some sort of getaway may be in my future, if only for a few days, I lingered over images of king size beds, white terry robes, and breakfast trays filled to overflowing with fresh fruit.
Then something unexpected happened.
No, not the frog. Not just yet.
As I was browsing, up popped a small blue window with a message. Apparently eight people were looking at the same hotel at that very moment. Down it dropped (to my relief), only to spike up again quickly, this time specifying how many were booking. That message disappeared, followed by another immediately after with an update on the original number.
For a change, I had allowed myself the pleasure of savoring and imagining.
Those insidious little messages? In short order, they effectively obliterated my enjoyment.
Pressure Tactics in Sales
Not only did I feel as if I needed to act immediately – if I didn’t I would lose an opportunity for a good deal – but in a section above the area where I was skimming, an ominous message indicated that similar travel packages were dwindling as well.
I don’t recall the precise words or their sequence – after all, I was engaged in therapeutic daydreaming – but “fully booked” comes to mind. And I recall the sudden squeeze, the externally incited urgency, and an all too commonplace kind of coercion.
We are a culture of pressure pushers. We have come to consider this normal.
I clicked off the page and set aside my Someday Planning, asking myself: Is putting pressure on a prospect an effective selling tactic? Quite possibly so, under the right circumstances. Is this just a variation of the tried-and-true scare tactic?
I’d venture another yes on that one, as both plant a seed of worry that is hard to ignore.
The Ticking of the Biological Clock
Ah, the biological clock. Might you hear one ticking now? Might you be a female in your mid-thirties, not in a committed relationship, and wanting to have a baby? Are the relatives putting the squeeze on when it comes to “finding a nice boy, getting married, and starting a family?”
Right. Been there. Lived that.
Not the single part, but the pressure part. And the “looks” from acquaintances that implied there must be something wrong with me if I didn’t want to get married (desperately) and if I wasn’t already “taken.”
The biological clock thing?
For me it wasn’t an issue until I was married. Since we wanted children, then I was concerned about the ticking clock.
Fortunately, we were lucky in that regard, and one year later we welcomed our firstborn. But if you have one child, I’ll bet you’re getting questions about when you’re planning on Number Two. And happy though you may be with parenthood, whatever you decide about another baby, I’m thinking you could do without the pressure.
Pressure on Kids to Get Into College
When it came to college admissions, my elder son saw an opportunity and went for it. That opportunity involved a great scholarship, a location he loved, and the blissful clarity of Early Decision. While going this route eliminated the possibility of attending other schools he was interested in, the path he chose diffused all the usual anxiety associated with senior year in high school.
Other than getting good grades to maintain his excellent standing, of course.
My younger son took a different approach, in part because he had no options like his brother for the field he chose to study.
His college application process?
Months of work to complete essays and school-specific portfolios, many hundreds of dollars, then five long months of waiting – not only for acceptance letters, but scholarship, grant, and loan awards.
Talk about pressure!
The Boiling Frog Story
I am thinking of the story about the frog. You know the one. It’s folklore, though it sounds plausible enough. If you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water, of course he will jump out immediately. However, if you put him in water at room temperature and gradually bring it to a boil, the frog doesn’t notice until it’s too late.
We can see the metaphor in this story for highly competitive work environments, one with which I am personally very familiar. And it leads me to expressly wonder about the way we live, the expectations we bring to each encounter and activity and role and project – the way we throw ourselves into relationships and career and particularly, child-rearing.
We expect 200% of ourselves all the time, and we seem to think this is perfectly okay.
Do the performance pressures act on us so gradually that we don’t realize we’re in scalding water? Can we take a step back and see that we’re stewing or steaming – and literally to the point of being ready to self-destruct? Can we note the times we do blow – screaming at a slow laptop, or worse – a spouse, a child, an old friend?
Stress, Stress, Stress
These pressures nibble at us from every angle: we’re concerned about how we look and how we come across – after all it impacts our jobs and our social lives; we worry over aging, which again influences how we are perceived; we’re consumed by the pros and cons (and image) of where we live and what we drive, our partners and how they reflect on our choices, and of course – with good reason – our necessary incomes.
We even stress over vacation – not only where we’ll light and how we’ll afford it – but managing to double up the load both before and after. Who hasn’t felt work stress at the very thought of taking time off?
As the months and years roll along, the pressure cooker takes its toll. Stress manifests itself in our words and our bodies, and in our dreams and our nightmares. We suffer insomnia and stomach distress, depression and mood swings. We eat too much, we drink too much, we’re too tired for sex.
We seem to have grown inured to communications that pester, hound, and harass as we’re bombarded by messaging both subtle and direct: We should achieve more, “have it all,” act fast, buy now – or we’re losing out.
We have become the frogs in a great experiment that we didn’t sign up for. But we aren’t actually frogs, are we? Can we recognize what’s happening, step out of the pan, or at least reach over and turn down the heat?
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