We all know someone who always seems to be doing something incredible. They're starting their own business, they're traveling the world, they're attaining something for themselves that most people never will - they're remarkable! Have you ever asked them how they do it? They probably just shrugged it off, didn't they? You were probably told that there wasn't a secret to their feats, that you just had to get out and do it, weren't you?
In the past, I would have let those words pass me by, making excuses for why I couldn't follow in the footsteps of the accomplished. "I can't just drop what I'm doing here!" "I can't afford to spend all that money!" "It's not as easy for me as it is for them!" With this mentality, it's no wonder I didn't have it in me!
The Root of Failure
I didn't realize it at the time, but the excuses I made excuses were based in fear. Mainly, the fear that I wasn't good enough to make these feats happen influenced me to look the other way and to shrug off the 'difficult' as 'impossible'. Yes, I didn't have the self-confidence needed to trust myself! Instead, I blamed anything other than myself! I didn't even realize it, but in doing so, this repetition left me reinforcing my habit of mediocrity, and setting myself up to fail from the very get-go!
I couldn't obtain this elusive success because I wasn't a person who envisioned success - I was a person who envisioned failure!
Those previously mentioned people who climb mountains, travel distant countries, and pave their own tomorrow - well, they weren't kidding when they said doing those feats came naturally! For them, of course they did! Not because they're more talented or were born better than those who can't follow their footsteps, but because these people wholeheartedly believe in themselves! They have the confidence to succeed so they do. That's all there is to it!
The idea behind the self-fulfilling prophesy explains why this is the case. Simply, it states that what we believe will happen will actually happen. I completely believe it, I've witnessed it first-hand. But before I get anyone immediately refuting the idea because it sounds too "mumbo-jumbo-ish", let me explain WHY it makes perfect sense!
I don't think anyone will debate that what we believe affects the way we behave and the actions we take. If you believe it will rain, you might grab an umbrella on the way out the door. If you believe it will be sunny, you might throw on a t-shirt and shorts! Whichever action you take, it will impact the outcome of your day! If you believed it wouldn't rain and it does, then your outcome is most likely involving drenched clothes! Meanwhile, if you believe that it will rain and grab the umbrella, your outcome is most likely a bit drier.
Now, when we apply these two ideas together in conjunction (to a reality that we can impact), it isn't difficult to see that the self-fulfilling prophesy might hold some weight and should be seriously considered!
Still not convinced?
Say you've got two guys who, for the sake of this example, are exactly the same. Both have grown lazy and weak. Each person wishes they could bench press twice their body weight - in their current state they don't even come close! Guy #1 believes in himself. He knows that if he sticks with a workout, is intentional about his diet, and stays true to his training then he'll get there. On the other hand, Guy #2 makes excuses. He believes that he was just born with bad genetics (this is a real and COMMON belief regarding health!) and that it doesn't matter how much he works out, he'll never be able to bench twice his weight.
Guy #1 hits the gym regularly, sets benchmark goals for himself and consistently reaches those goals then sets new ones for himself - each building up to his final goal of benching 2x his body weight! Guy #2 starts off just as strong as Guy #1, but just aimlessly exercises. He doesn't have a game plan, he quickly loses motivation and his gym sessions become few and far in between. He doesn't have any motivation to work out because, after all he believes, "Why should I work out? Getting in shape is impossible for me - I literally CAN'T do it!"
Eventually, Guy #1 can bench 2x his body weight - then he surpasses that! Meanwhile, Guy #2 is more or less exactly where he started. Guy #2 looks at Guy #1 not to see someone who overcame the difficulties on this path to fitness, but as a guy who is "lucky". Guy #2 doesn't see the error in his ways, he just thinks to himself, "Man, I wish my body could do that..." Guy #2 STILL believes it can't be done, that it's impossible despite Guy #1 having done it!
THIS is a defining example of the self-fulfilling prophesy - both people's beliefs became reality. Henry Ford said it best, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."
This is primary a finance blog, so let's shift a bit more to a topic surrounding wealth.
Using the above example, let's replace the goal of benching 2x bodyweight with the goal of making a million dollars or (probably better suited to our needs) attaining financial independence. Guy #1 believes it so he takes the needed steps to attain it. Guy #2 doesn't see the point. He gripes at the mention of early retirement, felling contempt that "the system" forces him to toil for someone else for all his youthful days and then some!
Who do you think is more likely to succeed?
Now let's say that these two people need initial financial support from an investor. They've both started their own startup companies and have the same needs. Who is more likely to succeed? Who would YOU rather support?
Now, I don't know if I'll invest in Guy #1 - that will come down to his business plan, the level of risk vs reward that I'd be accepting, etc. But I do know IMMEDIATELY that I can't rely on Guy #2! After all, if that guy doesn't even trust himself - why should I?!
As a culture, we're attracted to people who believe in themselves. Maybe it has to do with us wanting to 'fit in' , their confidence convincing us that this is the right place to be. Maybe it has to do with an animalistic desire to outperform our peers, driving us to attain a higher social standing by surrounding ourselves with a higher social status of friends! Regardless of the reason, we love a winner. And we shun a loser. Guy #1's a winner, ultimately, because he believes in himself. It isn't hard to see that Guy #2 will fail. No one wants to be on that sinking ship.
Guy #1 once again triumphs because he knew he would. And Guy #2 fails, just like he knew he would.
So the key element to take away from this should be simple - believe in ourselves and everything will work out, right? Well... I wish it were that simple.
These habits that we've developed through excuses, complaints, and a lack of self-confidence can't just be switched off. We can't immediately switch from a bad state to a good one - the human brain doesn't work that way. Just like establishing good habits in our lives, we need to establish good habits in our minds!
We need to eliminate the underlying thoughts associated with those bad habits.
Remember, mental change can't be switched 'on', it will take time. However, physical traits can be modified almost instantly! To take advantage of this, we need to accustom our brain to healthy, self-confident ideals by changing the way we speak.
Instead of saying, "I can't do it, it's impossible!" we need to say, "How can I do it? Who do I need to be to obtain my goals?" Instead of, "I wish I had the time for that!" we need to say, "It might mean deviating from my daily routine, but I'll need to prioritize this to achieve it!" Lastly, we need to stop belittle others! Belittling other's achievements doesn't inspire confidence in others, it just convinces you that the gap in between where you stand and where the one you're belittling stands isn't as great as it actually is!
For this upcoming week, I'm proposing a challenge - not just to those who are trying to build self-confidence, but to everyone. For the next week, do not allow yourself to say any type of "I can't" statement. Instead, replace that line with one more constructive that doesn't make an excuse. Finally, for this entire period you aren't allowed to badmouth ANYONE. No celebrities, no musicians, no coworkers (which is probably a good rule to be followed all the time!) Tally the number of violations you encounter and keep a mental note of that count - you'll want to shoot for 0!
By doing this, we'll start to break down our bad habits and establish new, healthy ones which can allow the envisioning-side of our brains to stop failing and inhibiting success and, instead, pave a better tomorrow!
Readers, will you be joining be in my week-long challenge? If so, let me know! Also, if you've already experienced this shift in thinking, what did it for you? What's your defining story?
Note: Sorry for the delay on this article - I had to write it twice! The first time, I thought it saved and shut off one computer to switch to the other for final editing while preparing for bed. Long story short, it didn't autosave as expected and I lost the whole article! Me being the software guy I am, you think I'd know to manually save by now... I'm sorry. I won't be making that mistake again... Tomorrow I'll have another new article up to replace the article that otherwise would have been written today!