If you don’t believe you’re ever going to amount to anything, then you probably won’t; it is worth developing healthy levels of confidence and self-belief if you lack them. Sometimes, focused energy is a very helpful thing, but it doesn’t guarantee any results. And you should be prepared for when things don’t work out. Plan for success; prepare for failure. And the universe doesn’t care either way.
— Derren Brown, Happy
Back in the 1970’s Americans learned that Soviet athletes spent over half their training time on mental preparation techniques. Since they did so well in the Olympics, that approach spread around the world and is now commonplace — not just in sports, but in every endeavor that requires dedicated effort. It’s not voodoo. If you think and feel like a winner, you’re more likely to win. The mind and body are inseparable, and harmonious focus beats distraction every time. In other words, it’s a key element of doing your very best.
A runner who runs the best time of their career will not necessarily win the race. Somebody else’s best time might be better than theirs. This bit of wisdom is captured in the dictum, I’m competing with myself. You’re always competing with yourself because you control the whole package, but you may not be able to do better than others. If you’re a 5 foot 2 inch endomorph, it’s virtually impossible you will ever slam dunk a basketball; if you’re tone deaf, it’s not likely you can be a great musician; if your IQ is below average, you probably won’t be a good theoretical physicist. You may choose to participate in these activities, but it would be irrational to expect to excel. Nowadays, it is sometimes considered in poor taste to point out such limitations. But the theme of this post is that there is still an objective material world that functions according to objective material rules and we are part of it. No amount of positive thinking will change that fact.
I’m well aware that there are many who disagree with the previous paragraph. They span quite a wide range: advocates of the possibility of doing impossible things if you have enough faith, such as time travel, physical flying without a plane or wings, levitation, controlling other people’s behavior, visits to the afterlife, miraculous cures, wealth on demand, and so on. They may have quasi-scientific perspectives, such as advocates that the premise of The Matrix might be true; they may be leaders of religious cults who market the miraculous power of prayer; they may be self-help coaches who say things like “you can have whatever you want if you harness the power of positivity”. They may argue that solipsism is true. They may claim that some dimensions of truth are only accessible through the use of hallucinogens. They may state that schizophrenics are onto something. They may state that reason and logic are unreliable. Of course this last statement makes it fundamentally impossible to argue with them. So I won’t.
This blog and my approach to coaching are grounded in the conviction that joy and fulfillment in life are fully accessible through “conventional” means and to everyone. Mindful observation of the world around us, including our own feelings, thoughts and behavior, and the use of reason are the keys to happiness. Embrace of the limitations and responsibilities embodied in the Serenity Prayer is the key to a good life. Respect for oneself and others is essential. It is better to give than to receive. This is all evidence-based. If I truly embody the truth of this paragraph, then I have no motivation whatsoever to escape from life in this, the best of all possible worlds.