Wins, Pain, Anticipation and Endings

grumpy_catLast Sunday, I was puttering around the house waiting for my daughter to wake up from her nap and caught myself in a thought-trap. I was thinking:

Well, here’s another ride that I’ll be missing

Note the connection I was making between a small loss (missed ride) and my daughter.

Not Good.

A habit of creating frequent mental losses is guaranteed to make us miserable.


There are four areas I tweak to manage my mood.


Because bigger isn’t (much) better, spread ’em out.

  1. Each morning I wake up (win)
  2. Cup of coffee (win)
  3. Second cup of coffee, heck ya! (win)

Three wins before anyone is awake.

This morning, I tacked on a run. Four wins by 7AM.

Coffee, meals, workouts, articles, work assignments, chore completion => all of these make me happy, so I’ve made them smaller, and more frequent.



The opposite of winning isn’t losing. It’s pain.

  • A whining three-year old => pain
  • The cacophony of three overtired kids in my car => pain

painI have four tactics that I use with pain. I’ll give examples as a father but I use them everywhere (work, athletics, family).

Temporary – everything ends, maintain perspective

Meaning – my behavior is an example I set to prepare my children to care for my demented future self

Schedule Myself – every day has at least two slots for me – a slot might be as small as a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood – I free myself to serve others by acknowledging that I served myself already.

Wins – see my pain as another person’s win // I prefer to deal with kid insanity on my own, rather than with my spouse => makes me feel like a hero because I am enduring to spare another



  • Vacations
  • Bonuses
  • Performance reviews
  • Exams
  • Pitch meetings
  • Prospecting

The corporate world is filled with events where we can anticipate a win.

Anticipating a win feels good.

You can use this effectively within a marriage.

  • Step up to take a bunch of pain (send your spouse on vacation without the kids)
  • Sex dates
  • Date night
  • Couples retreats
  • Large purchases (works great even if you NEVER buy)

Remember that the win need not be large.

Anticipate small wins.

This is what makes Facebook such a powerful medium.



If you pay attention to your pain memories then you might find that the most painful are ones where peak pain happened at the end.

  • Sports (Packers, anyone?)
  • Divorces
  • Bankruptcies
  • Life, then Death

With parenting, I need to allow time to unwind after things go crazy.

Previously, I would be in a rush to get the kids to sleep so I could get to bed. When things didn’t go easily, which was often with my oldest, I would be ending every single day with peak pain. It was exhausting. My oldest grew up and that worked itself out.

However, our middle kid started having difficulty with his bedtime routine. Applying a little behavioral psychology, we shortened his nap, napped ourselves (when required), and made sure we had 90 minutes awake after putting him to sleep. It made the same situation, seem a lot less painful.

Move the pain away from the ending.

Ideally, take it early.


These tactics work well and you can find more info in Kahneman’s Thinking Fast & Slow