Let’s pick apart the statement, “If you believe in yourself, then you can do anything.”
I think this is about right. I’ve certainly written a lot about how important it is to have the right mind set on any journey.
But I think as a principal for life, it is often misunderstood. (Hippies, I’m looking at you here.) And at its worst, it becomes a dangerous lie.
With the ‘if… then…’ structure, we get two possible types of conditions. Necessary and sufficient.
For example, take the statement, “If you cook an egg in boiling water, you can eat it.”
‘Cooking the egg in water’ is sufficient. It means you can now eat the egg. But it’s not necessary. There are many other ways to prepare an egg.
Or, take the statement, “If you put petrol in your car, you can drive to Perth.”
This points to a necessary condition. Your car needs petrol to drive anywhere. But it’s not sufficient. You need a lot of other things to go right to make such a long journey.
The danger then is that when we hear a statement like “If you believe in yourself, then you can do anything,” is that we mistake necessary for sufficient.
I’d argue that believing in yourself is a necessary condition. You need to have a positive mindset to recognise and take advantage of the opportunities life has to offer you. Without it, success is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
But it’s not a sufficient condition. If all you do is sit around on the couch all day vigorously believing in yourself, you’re not going to achieve anything. Self-belief alone is not enough. It needs to be backed up by action.
And it’s this flaky, fuzzy-headed thinking that really gets on my goat. And while I feel sorry for the people who get suckered into it, I have nothing but contempt for the self-help insta-gurus who are shamelessly separating fools and their money on the promise of false dreams, and 2-minute nirvana.
We live in an age where fanciful, magical thinking has taken hold, and seems to be growing day by day. Maybe that’s what happens when institutional religion loses its grip. Some folks go to militant atheism. Some folks start believing in fairies and unicorns.
And it’s a trend that the self-“help” industry has jumped all over. Grow rich, lose weight, and make friends with celebrities, all with just 7 power-thoughts a day!
We can see the seductive power in the promise. All you have to do is think. Just think the right way and everything will be roses. You don’t even have to leave the house.
We are not born with an appetite for work. In fact, we’re biologically wired to do what we can to avoid it. If we’re lucky, we develop a bit of ticker as we get older, and even come to enjoy the feeling of a good day’s work.
But this in-built laziness makes some of us easy fodder for the shameless some of us.
There’s more money to be made in promising people will never have to ‘work’ at anything ever again – more money to be made promising to take all responsibility from people’s hands, than there is empowering people to do the work themselves.
And it still never ceases to amaze me how willing and eager people are to hand over the keys to their lives.
But you get nothing for nothing. Unless you’re willing to constantly put energy into a project – no matter what form that energy takes – it will never grow and succeed.
And maybe that’s what happens to generations raised on movies and fantasy. We believe anything is possible, but also that that anything should come quickly and easily – with a snap of the fingers or a wriggle of the nose.
But magic is what happens within the laws of physics. Not outside them.
And now I’m not completely ruling out any role for magic in life. I’ve been on the grateful receiving end of too many ‘coincidences’ to put it all down to chance. But if there is magic in the world, then it seems to come in response to clear intention and action.
Thoughts alone just aren’t enough.
And there is power in magic too – in allowing for the unexpected and the extra-rational to show up in your life and give things a shake. Even just at a poetic level, a magical way of seeing the world is an amazing source of inspiration.
I mean, how else do we really understand the mystery of human creativity?
But allowing a sense of magic and wonder to instil itself into your work is a long, long way from the escapism that characterises the worst of magical thinking.
My problems are too deep, too painful, too hard to deal with on any real level. Please send me a magical solution so I don’t have to deal with any of it.
Here you go. Here’s a dozen affirmations and a crystal. If it doesn’t work, then it’s probably because you didn’t believe hard enough.
If you simply just keep praying for someone or for positive thinking to magic away you’re problems, then you’ll never grow.
Our challenges are here for a reason – to teach us something. But we can only unlock those lessons by going into our problems. Not by going around them. And definitely not by sailing over the top of them on a rainbow unicorn.
Pretending that you’re a magician is endearing if you’re a kid.
If you’re an adult, it’s just lazy and foolish.