Home | Flourishing in Life | Psychology of Wellness | Adaptation | Deception Article Archive | Fooling Ourselves
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2016
Acknowledging Deceptions; Changing Trajectories
Positive attitudes boost performance; but if our performance is ill designed we still fail.
Citing positive mantras generates energy to combat critical and destructive thoughts. But when our mantras deviate too far from reality, we dull receptiveness to learning. We need more positive reinforcement, but others, perhaps, need a little more reality. Thoughts—whether positive or negative—influence behavior. How and what we think has impacts on how life feels and how we act. We want to feel good but not at the expense of a better future. We must bounce back and forth from soothing our ego for imperfection while prodding our motivation to do a little more.
Thoughts play a prominent role in the action loop, encouraging action to fulfill the thought. If we believe we are bungled and botched, we likely flounder, messing up assignments, and fulfilling the tainted picture we hold of ourselves. The same is true for positive thinking; when we trust in our abilities, we likely will act to succeed. The practice of citing positive mantras challenges negative beliefs, re-programming self-defeating thoughts encouraging more constructive action.
Positive mantras, however, are not magic. When too dependent on mantras, we may over-look other important ingredients for success. Lasting and effective change requires more than a few simple phrases. We must follow thoughts with properly directed actions. Acting with confidence, but when that confident action is misdirected, we will fail. Along with positive thoughts, we must remain humble enough to see fault and learn from experience. With sufficient knowledge, practiced skills and the self-discipline, we can achieve many great things.
Without proper knowledge, positive ruminations may reinforce confidence where we lack the skills and knowledge to be confident. We need some doubt in these situations to seek necessary help. Without the necessary self-discipline and skills, we may convince ourselves to feel good, but then sit idolly waiting for the universe to deliver rewards that will never materialize.
We must make difficult choices, defying natural inclinations, to change the set trajectories of our lives.
"When too dependent on mantras, we may over-look other important ingredients for success. Lasting and effective change requires more than a few simple phrases."
I can repeatedly tell myself how intelligent I am but if I neglect reading and learning, my intelligence remains stagnant. I may think I am brilliant; but remain stupid. Positive self-talk can motivate but also can inhibit. Several decades ago, after reading “Think and Grow Rich,” I discovered prematurely thinking I was rich encouraged unnecessary spending. Instead of implementing the necessary habits of saving and investing, the positive thoughts landed me deeper in debt. For positive thought to succeed, we must be motivated in proper action—following the proper means is essential to arrive at the desired end.
I recently read an article whose title promised the three things needed to succeed. The article listed the following: specific goals, associating with the people we aspire to be like, and visualizing the benefits (even test driving expensive cars). These may be motivating but the author blatantly avoids listing the hard work, knowledge and self-discipline of success.
By entertaining hope without applying appropriate action, we evoke conflict. Reality will collide with expectations. The riches and happiness evade our misguided hopes until we properly act. The conflict—believing but not acting—eventually discourages the dreamer. Beliefs eventually must contend with reality. Believing I’m rich doesn’t pay delinquent bills. The conflict challenges our positive thoughts, requiring a re-examination of behaviors, or more engrossing deceit. We can’t force ourselves to believe we are successful while living in squalor. The bill collectors knock at the door, the bank accounts remain barren, and our hopes reflect the sorrow of unfulfilled dreams. We continue to live the nightmare unless, of course, we begin the real work of change.
We seek simple solutions to complex problems. We chase after fast and dramatic results while ignoring the proven and difficult path to success.
When we sort through the dozens of pieces, carefully placing them correctly, we solve the complex puzzle of richness and satisfaction. Positive thinking is one piece; an effective instrument in the well-being tool box. But a single tool has limitations—easily misused; not because the tool is faulty but because it’s incomplete. Sometimes we need a hammer, other times a wrench. Often, we will need both.
Success, while defined in many ways, is a state of being achieved through the proper actions to bring the hopes into the reality of our lives. This process requires skills—of thought and action. Positive thinking motivates. Positive thinking may strengthen self-discipline. But ultimately for the gifts to be bestowed, we must engage the behaviors upon which those gifts are predicated. Our thoughts can encourage action or grossly fool ourselves into inaction. Don’t be a fool.
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