SCARCITY OF RESOURCES, TRADE-OFFS AND ALLOCATION
ENERGY, MIND, BODY, ATTENTION, HAPPINESS ...
"You can't have it all. Sorry..."
The "Good Fairy" died.
But there is hope, as you can have all of what you really, really want, if you decide well and use your brain.
A SUPER-PRINCIPLE TO KNOW!
The scarcity of resources is one of the super-principles of reality that one should be aware of.
Economics deals with it, though most people fail to realize that economics is about more than money - it is about the "efficient allocation of scarce resources", and how to do it, including the idea of trade-offs. It seems that with limited resources, we have to choose where to allocate them to achieve the most value to ourselves. (If you're interested, considering reading the piece Economics - The Philosophy - '"The Maximization Of Units Of Satisfaction" - that's what it is really about: satisfaction...and happiness! Learning the simple part of economics thinking will serve oneself wonderfully in life!)
OUR BODY AND MIND ARE SUBJECT TO IT
In the book, The Organized Mind, it discusses the operational systems in our body and mind. It has been discovered that we have several systems operating at the same time, but at any one time we might not be aware of (conscious of) one or more systems operating. They "compete" for our attention via an "attentional switching device that decides what should be prioritized to come to our attention. In the same way, the brain and body will allocate (compete for) energy, oxygen, and other resources to where it thinks the need is the greatest or greater.
If you want to have mental power, you must have extra energy beyond what is needed elsewhere. As you use up the reservoir from which mental power is drawn, it declines and you experience all sorts of frustration and poor results. Anxiety draws it down as the body and the mind have to divert resources to correct the threat that anxiety is to the primitive mind system. If we are more rested, we have the ability to use and direct our mind more powerfully. To get more mental power, we cannot just "slug away" at what we doing, trying to force it - as we have little force, which is a function of energy, available to do so. That's why one of the best strategies for being more effective at work or wherever we need thinking and focusing ability is to take a "power nap" - even 10 minutes is massively effective in improving our cognitive ability. It is very "unsmart" not to stop and fill your "tank". It is a damaging decision to assume that we can get one more hour of productivity out of our day by sleeping an hour less - it turns out that, though this seems illogical, we become so much more ineffective that we actually blow much of our productivity. Actually sleeping more (to the point of sufficiency) will have one produce much, much more for the day despite having less time in which to do it!!!!
OUR PSYCHOLOGY AND OUR EMOTIONS ARE SUBJECT TO IT
In the fear response, our body/mind allocates the resources to the big muscles and other functions that will allow us to move faster and be more powerful, while it takes away from what is not needed as a priority for that function. Our digestion virtually stops, our higher brain is pretty much put aside, and our immune systems drop tremendously.
Our energy is allocated basically the same way, to wherever the priorities are deemed to be.
Our attentional resources will be allocated majorly to what is perceived as a big problem that needs to be solved. When we get anxious, we will experience that we "kinda go stupid", making social faux paus just when we want to impress a big wig or a potential lover. We end up experiences the scarcity of attention units, as the anxiety demands attention units and has to take them away from other places having less priority (to the primitive brain, not necessarily rationally). To get our higher brain back into operation, as Kahneman points out in Thinking, Fast And Slow, we have to learn to get its attention by using "tricks" or mechanisms that are effective attention getters - we find that asking questions that require some active thought will enable us to engage our higher brains - pulling the energy and attention units away from something else.
If we are feeling awful and focused on how bad things are, it actually works to interrupt the often downward spiral by simply distracting it, so attention goes elsewhere. Many people spend most of their lives distracting themselves from anxious thoughts or thinking things that might cause some negative effect - so they play computer games (very, very distracting, though one awful feels bad afterward), watch lots of tv (and go into a mild depressive state within a half hour), or do some addiction or "bad behavior"
EVEN THE PROCESS OF DECIDING SOMETHING IS ENERGY DEPLETING
If we start our day off focusing on planning our day and put all of the tasks in the order in which they are to be done, we remove the need to make several decisions extra during the day, so we save energy such that we are left with more willpower reserve and thus more ability to direct our attention willfully and to get more done. It turns out that even willpower is a scarce resource. And if we have more physical energy, we'll do better on willpower because we "feel like we are stronger" - it turns out that the extra energy was available for "exerting" willpower. If we are tired, our willpower also goes down, as our body takes some of the limited resources to deal with the dilemma of being tired (which could have been a survival threat to our caveperson ancestors, so it is still in our wiring).
AND TIME, ESPECIALLY!
The simplest idea is that if we allocate time to one thing, it means that we are not allocating it to another, since time is limited and can only be used on one thing at a time. Ironically, people tend not to think of that and they maintain a vague idea that they can "have it all" - of course, that is preposterous, but I've seen many a good man go down the tubes because he thought he could have it - and these good men blew the potential value of their lives wasting it on low value items. This proper allocation of time to what is of the most value in life is one of the key purposes of the book I wrote Life Value Productivity - An Easier, Far More Happy Way To Live (link to it from Books).
One good man that I know of, in particular, is constantly failing to allocate his resources to what is of far greater value to him, as other things "demand" his attention. He does this to the extent, by his own description, that he has "ruined his life." Until he learns what is necessary to make the proper allocations (and trade-offs, as he thinks vaguely that he can 'have it all'), he will continue to flush his life down the drain for what is of far, far less value. He "kinda 'gets it', but not really, as he continues as he has been doing, saying that he will do what is right "later" - which never really comes.
And that is the pity of it all, as people fail to understand this key reality of life and fail to implement what is necessary to create a greater life!
OTHER APPLICATIONS OF BENEFIT
When people are threatened, they reserve their resources for defense. When they feel a positive feeling (even from watching a funny movie) they are more generous and/or less defensive, as their "pile" of positivity is added to.
In Getting To Yes, the classical great book by Fisher and Ury, negotiations are started off with the declaration that we want to maximize the total value between the parties. So it starts off with a discussion of what they other person wants the most. Listening and showing some concern for the other people's concerns "racks up points", as they say, but it actually adds more positive units into the pile of positive units that the other person has. And we tend to end up with more of what we value, although, of course, we are divvying up "limited resources". Great book.
I used it in one especially tense, defensiveness causing situation - and it took much of the tension away and the other party (and myself) were much happier with the outcome - there had to be a division of the same resources in any event, but the context and thinking from this approach created many more positive units and reduced some potentially negative units such we all were better off despite the necessity of splitting up a fixed size pie!