If, like me, you watch ‘The Voice’ or ‘Dragon’s Den’ or ‘(Insert Country you live in here) Idol’ or any similarly painful and joyful reality TV show, you will have heard competitors proclaiming that they won because they had ‘absolute faith’ that they would win.
Ben Gulak after being given $1.25 Million by the Dragons said, ‘If you really believe in something, keep going after it. If you want it badly enough there is always a way. You can make your dreams come true’
But if you watch a few of these shows you might also notice that there are hundreds of people with ‘absolute faith’ that they would win and most of them don’t end up the winner.
(Be warned – this clip is painful to watch. Mary Roach who said ‘I want this so bad, there is no way I am not going to get it‘ and then gets a dose of reality.)
and sometimes it is actually the person who is a bit doubtful about how good they are who wins:
(The deeply vulnerable Karise Eden, winner of The Voice Australia, singing with her mentor, Seal.)
So what does this mean?
Believing you will succeed can help you to set challenging goals and persist in the face of difficulty which does increase your chances of success. But if you fuse with the belief that you will succeed and treat it as the absolute truth then you aren’t open to feedback. You don’t even notice subtle feedback and you respond to more direct feedback with defensiveness and anger. Which means that you can’t learn, improve or change tack. So you are actually less likely to succeed.
What is a better plan?
- Be clear about what values you want to express as you go after your goal. Notice the moments when the desire to win pulls you away from being the person you want to be. Then pause and breathe and come back to living your values. For Karise it looks like she has some deeply held values around singing from her heart; opening herself to the vulnerability of connecting with her own pain as she sings.
- Make a plan that gives you the best shot at success. Do some research. Have other people succeeded at something similar? What did they do?
- As you progress seek feedback and adjust your plan as you get more information.
- Have some clear ideas about how long you will persist. What sacrifices are you willing to make and what sacrifices aren’t you willing to make? What will you use as a marker to tell you it is time to quit and move on to something else or that it is worth persisting some more?
And remember, the goals that are most likely to lead to emotional wellbeing are about connection, curiosity and kindness. So perhaps you don’t have to win ‘The Voice’?
3 thoughts on “How Believing You Will Be Successful Leads to Success..or Not”
Excellent post, excellent points, and a darn good suggested strategy at the end. The only thing I’d add is that in my view (which is a complete novice’s view when it comes to ACT and to life), even as good a strategy as the one you present here is not quite as neat and rational and controlled as a numbered list would make it seem.
For example, it is very hard, I think, for any of us to expect that thinking or planning by itself will necessarily provide us with “clear ideas about how long to persist,” or precise definitions of “what sacrifices we are willing to make and what sacrifices we aren’t willing to make.” We don’t have that degree of control nor should we necessarily want it, even if it were possible. Just as you point out that we need to be in the moment to be able to hear feedback from the world, we also need to be in the moment to persist; or to make changes; or to make sacrifices, or for that matter decline to make sacrifices. Etc. and so forth. I guess what I’m saying is that while a plan is good, life itself is not a plan and much emerges in the moment of being that cannot be planned. Surprise counts more than we think. A hard hard lesson for minds to learn; we are such problem solvers. But even in career, not everything is a problem to be solved.
Thanks Randy, That is such a good point! Life is messy and our plans rarely work out as we expect. And psychological flexibility seems to be the best way to deal with that. Darn – I wish I had said that!
I especially like the point you make about vulnerability & being willing/able to show it.