I promised you a second post on overcorrection, so I feel like I ought to come up with one —

And I was almost going to tell you this story about an overcorrection I had been making, and then (thanks to my own thinking and writing about the subject last week) decided to no longer make, and the problem resolved itself with awareness+gentleness+time (as I knew it would) rather than the quick fix, better-WORSE-better-WORSE swings that would probably have happened had I tried to overcorrect in the way I usually do.

Except that story involves my bowels, and nobody wants to read about my bowels.

But you might want to read the response that writer and lawyer Pia Owens sent me after the first overcorrection post went up: “I was hoping you would say don’t worry about overcorrection, it’s normal and you’ll overcorrect in the other direction and eventually come to an equilibrium.”

I do agree that overcorrection is either normal or typical, even though I dislike using both of those words in this situation because I’d like to imagine a world in which overcorrection is not the automatic and/or expected response.

Because I don’t think that overcorrecting in one direction, and then overcorrecting in the other direction, eventually gets you to an equilibrium — I mean, it might, but it won’t be the equilibrium you want.

Figuring out how to go from unspecific, impatient, results-based swings to specific, patient, solutions-based adjustments is what gets you to the correct equilibrium.

It’s really the “problem solving is the process of going from guessing to knowing” thing again.


So personal finance, since that is the easiest example to start with:

Overcorrection looks like this:

I AM NOT ACHIEVING MY FINANCIAL GOALS, TIME TO CUT ALL DISCRETIONARY SPENDING FOREVER!

*cutting all discretionary spending forever reveals itself to be completely unsustainable*

MY GOALS CAN WAIT, TIME TO DO SOME EXTRA DISCRETIONARY SPENDING TO MAKE UP FOR ALL THE STUFF I DENIED MYSELF LAST WEEK!

Yes, the two overcorrections do in fact cancel each other out and you will eventually reach what you might call an equilibrium.

Except that kind of equilibrium just puts you back where you started.

The kind of equilibrium you’re looking for requires a change — in your habits, in your behavior, and quite possibly in the way you think about yourself and the world around you.

A long-term, sustainable change that helps move you closer to the goal you’re trying to achieve — or the person you’re hoping to become.


Here’s another example.

There’s a tendency, when two people approach a situation that they know might lead to conflict, for a push to be followed by either a push back or a pull away.

You can visualize this one, especially if I tell you exactly how to visualize it:

Two people, standing in front of each other and staring eye-to-eye.

One pushes, and the other pushes back — or maybe one pushes, the other pulls away, and the person who pushed reaches out to pull the person who pulled away back into the discussion.

Either way, these two people swing precariously back and forth, overcorrecting in one direction and then another. They might do the whole anger-anger-anger-anger-“let’s agree to let it go” thing. They might do the anger-apology-resentment thing, which will no doubt lead to a rehash of this argument a week or so down the line. They might even do the anger-apology-“let’s agree to let it go” thing, which sounds like it’s a winning scenario because you end up reaching equilibrium, but it’s an equilibrium that puts you right back where you started.

Your problem hasn’t been solved; it hasn’t even been addressed, not seriously. Your relationship hasn’t grown; not in the way it could if one or both of you agree to stop glaring at each other and start, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put it, “looking outward in the same direction.”

Or, as I put it earlier this year: The only thing that is real between two people is what they create together.

That kind of co-creation requires awareness, time, humility, openness, and a shared agreement to look for solutions rather than results.

It’s the correct path, not the overcorrect one — and it will lead to an entirely new equilibrium, if you let it.


When I read the first draft of this post to L, he said “they’re going to think we’re fighting.”

We’re not. Our days are pretty much golden, from beginning to end. (I often joke “Time for the best part of the day” whenever we switch from something we love doing, like drinking coffee and tea together, to something else we love doing, like playing the piano together.)

But we are working, both of us, on figuring out how to get to the truth of things — which is almost as important as getting to the truth of things.

Tonight, for example, we’re going to talk about when (or how often) we should play through the piano duet we’re learning (vs. practicing, woodshedding, solving problems). Does playing before you’re ready reinforce mistakes that you’ll have to unlearn later, or does it give you the opportunity to do a high-level assessment of the piece and take notes of the parts that need the most work? Is it a good way to practice listening to each other, or does the fact that part of your brain is stuck on “I’m still guessing my way through this section” make it impossible to listen to each other?

We don’t see eye-to-eye on this, which means we’re probably not looking at the same thing.

And I am delighted to see what we discover together, because we’re probably going to come up with some way to change what we’re doing that will get us closer to both “our goal of learning La Valse” and “the musicians/duet partners we want to become.”

(I’m also delighted that I found an example of correct vs. overcorrect from my own life that had nothing to do with my bowels.)

It makes me wonder if choosing the correct path (vs. the overcorrect one) is easier when you’re working with someone you trust and/or love.

Maybe I’ll write about that later this week, after L and I have taken some time to test the theory. ❤️

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