Threshold is a noun.
There are two definitions:
A. A strip of wood, metal, or stone forming the bottom of a doorway and crossed in entering a house or room.
B. The magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, a phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested.
There is one thing in common in the above two definitions.
Both refer to taking action to cross over to reach a place where you want to go.
The first definition can be treated as a metaphor for a hurdle that you have to cross over to get on your path.
We all have thresholds in our life — sometimes they are dramatic and sometimes they are just in the form of a casual conversation with someone. You cross the threshold and the trajectory of your life changes completely, thus making that threshold a game-changing phenomenon.
Not only we have thresholds in life, they play a pivotal important role in how enriching one’s life is.
Ignoring thresholds will not make them disappear. They exist and will continue to exist for the rest of your life.
While you can’t wish thresholds away, what you can (and must) do is to become aware of them and choose the resets at the right levels.
The Default Drifts to the Average
I was at the store one day when I met my friend with her year old son. The young boy hesitated a bit before coming to me and within a few minutes we were friends. Within a few seconds he was laughing and giggling away to glory. It didn’t take much to make him laugh either.
The other day I was sitting in front of the library thinking about something and there were small kids playing around the water fountains — running and jumping every time the water fountains started.
The bar to be joyful was very low when we were kids. As we grow up, we started raising the bar and we never stopped it.
Look around yourself at work and at home — within seconds you can tell where is the bar for being joyful for every person you know. It’s not hard to know. People rarely deviate from that imaginary bar and every now and then, they raise the bar a little bit.
Some people don’t even notice that their bar is too high for them to enjoy anything, I mean ANYTHING in life. I feel sad for them as after some time it becomes so part of their life that they start thinking “that is how they are” as if there is a chip in their brain that has set the bar for joy to that height.
The default threshold level keeps rising and finds a stable point somewhere around the average threshold level of people that are around you — the people with whom you have conversations on a regular basis.
You will probably not notice it because at that threshold level, there is an inbuilt social approval because you are just like one of them.
You are part of the tribe.
Even when the price you pay for it is very high.
Revisiting Thresholds (and Resetting them)
We can look at thresholds in various walks of life. In this article, let me look at a few areas that will make a difference in your work and life almost immediately. The three areas are I chose are:
- Being Joyful
Let us look at each one of them in a bit more detail
In general, people have low thresholds for pain and disappointment for any kind and high thresholds for joy.
Today, it might look like this:
When you reset the thresholds, you simply switch the two — meaning have a super low threshold for experiencing joy and a reasonably high threshold for pain or disappointment.
The Next Level
Think about this for a brief moment
What makes you happy?
This seems like a million dollar question.
Some of you may know the answer instantly and some of you may have to struggle with it for a while before you get a solid answer. I have asked this question to hundreds of people and the answers have varied from person to person.
Two Influencing Factors
If we try to de-construct, we might end up looking at two key influencing factors and they happen to be
a) External circumstances
b) Internal circumstances
In both cases, there is an undesired state and as you guessed it right — a desired state.
When both the internal and external circumstances are at a desired state, then it seems like one is happy.
Diametrically opposite to this is a place where both external and internal circumstances are in an undesired state leading to a hopeless state
When the external circumstances are at a desired state and the internal circumstances are at an undesired state, one has got work to do and probably one is complacent.
When the internal circumstances are at a desired state but the external circumstances are not, then, in general, one would feel victimized.
So, it seems like the quest has to be to very quickly get to a place where the external and internal circumstances are at a desired state.
Well, that would be wrong!
Honestly, the above question is a trap and choosing to answer the above question as is means that you have fallen into the trap. However logical the above explanation feels, the fact remains that in choosing to answer the question you have agreed to put “some conditions” for your happiness. Once you are on that path, you implicitly acknowledge that the default state for you is not to be happy.
Well, you can change that.
First step is to strike off the seemingly logical explanation completely.
It does not make sense.
When you put no conditions for happiness and acknowledge that by default you are happy, the world looks different. In other words, you are resetting the happy or joyful threshold to ZERO.
You might confuse the people around you because they are looking at the world from another angle where the default is to be unhappy and the quest for them is to reach the desired state in the external and internal circumstances. But we are not talking about pleasing everyone around you — so there is no need to worry about what others think of you, especially when it comes to things like happiness and tranquility.
When your default state is happy, and you see something beautiful, what should happen? Nothing — you will be “more happy.” The world IS different with this mindset.
Will things go wrong and knock you off from this state? Yes and that is life and you might go away from the state of happiness to anxiety or frustration, but then again, you are the one who will decide how long you will stay in those states of anxiety and frustration. You can stay there for minutes, hours, days or weeks. The choice is yours and it is a CHOICE.
To go one level deeper, there are internal circumstances and your internal responses to external circumstances. Your response (not reaction) to external circumstances is a choice. So, when it comes to something like happiness, you have TOTAL control as everything is internal.
Being a lifelong learner is not optional anymore.
It is also not something that you do to thrive, but simply to survive.
Most people will learn when the job at hand demands something new from them. People respond to various levels of external urgency thresholds.
It is tempting (and convenient) to think that all you have to do is to lower the external urgency threshold and everything will be just fine. In a relative sense, it is fine compared to those that have a higher level of external urgency threshold.
But, you are NOT competing in a limited geography where all you had to worry about was to be better than people that are around you in a geographical sense. The competition can come from some remote part of the world with an internet connection.
The choice of the threshold itself has to change.
We all have to lower the internal threshold to learn even when there is no immediate urgency to do so. You still need to be thoughtful about “what to learn”, but “whether to learn or not” should not be a discussion item.
The topic of creating can take up an entire series of books.
I want to focus on an aspect of creating in the world where everyone can be an instant publisher to bring their thoughts and ideas to the world.
Yesterday’s model looked like this:
The barrier or threshold to entry was very high as there were very few outlets to get your ideas out. The threshold or barrier to attention was very low for the same reason — there were very few outlets to consume content. Plus, most of the outlets required a payment to get in (eg: newspapers and magazines). So the cost involved was the total of the cost of creation and the cost of getting attention for what you created.
Things have changed drastically from the time blogs and social media became prevalent. In the next image, you can compare the model of today with the model of yesterday.
Today, the barrier or threshold to publish is very low and almost no cost. There are literally unlimited channels to publish. However, for the exact same reason — availability of multiple channels to consume content, the threshold or barrier to garner attention is very high.
Now compare the cost of getting your ideas out
As you can see, there is hardly any difference — it is just that it seems easy to get things done today.
The threshold reset has to happen inside where you increase the quality, relevance and value you pack in your creation has to be very high to get the attention you are looking for.
The Last Word
Threshold Reset is the magical switch that can move the needle in almost any walk of life. In this ultra-busy world, the very first step is to stop, reflect and think what are the right thresholds that need to be reset to make that magic happen.