“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
This famous quote from quintessential American success story Henry Ford encapsulates the very core of why positive thinking works, and why it is one of the most often touted tool of personal development literature. It also highlights, by contrast, what is wrong with the (in)famous book and DVD “The Secret”, cited recently by another blogger as one of the most successful infomercials ever.
Positive thinking works not because of any cosmic or pseudo-scientific forces at work, but because our thinking can be one of the most crucial limits on our capabilities.Advertising
Let’s first take a closer look at what Henry Ford said, and how that wisdom can work for us, before looking at what’s wrong with “The Secret”.
Apply Ford’s wisdom to achieve your dreams
Ford told us that if we think we can do something, we’re right — and if we think we can’t do something, we’re also right. The surprising conclusion of that quote highlights the fact that if we tell ourselves we cannot do something, we’re restricting ourselves. There is no way we can succeed if we believe that we will fail. It’s just shooting ourselves in the foot.
But by believing in our own success, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Does that mean that I will be able to fly just by thinking that I can? Of course not. It is only by hard work, by finding creative solutions, by persistence even with repeated failures, that we will be able to fly. Ask the Wright brothers.Advertising
Sure, you say, this stuff is obvious. But if it’s so obvious, are you applying it to your daily life? Have you taken the time to define your dreams, and the steps that it will take to get there? Have you asked yourself if you believe in yourself, and if you believe you can achieve those dreams? And what steps are you taking today — not tomorrow or next year — to make those dreams a reality.
If you are doing all of these things already, I congratulate you. You’ve taken the steps necessary to be a success. But if you aren’t, ask yourself why not? What is holding you back? Too much stuff going on in your life? Or maybe your dreams are something that you’ll get to “someday”, but not today? Or maybe you don’t really believe you can do it. You need to analyze that and make some changes.
Btw, Ford was great when it comes to success quotes. Here’s just one more of many: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”Advertising
The Problem with “The Secret”
Now let’s take a (brief) look at the very popular movie and book, “The Secret”. First, let me say that there are some very good concepts in the Law of Attraction, which is highlighted in “The Secret” — basically, the Law of Attraction is just new packaging of some older, but successful, concepts, namely the power of positive thinking and visualization.
Positive thinking, as discussed above, can be a powerful force in making your dreams a reality. And the method of visualizing your dreams has been proven repeatedly to be a great way to making them come true — in athletics and business and everywhere in between. By seeing something, in your mind, in vivid detail, you are making it more likely that you will find a way to turn that picture into reality. Again, it will still take hard work and creative thinking and problem-solving, but this is one method for getting there.
But “The Secret” takes these concepts and turns them into pseudo-scientific concepts, shrouded in a conspiracy theory. Which cheapens the whole deal, IMO. The movie uses “electromagnetic waves” and concepts of quantum physics to explain why the Law of Attraction works.Advertising
The problem is that it takes real scientific phenomena and twists them in ways that have not been proven. There is no scientific evidence that the electromagnetic waves that we actually do send out into the universe have any effect in changing the world around us in the way that we want the world to change (or have any discernible effect on these things at all).
Why Positive Thinking Works
The thing is, none of these pseudo-scientific facts are necessary to explain why positive thinking and visualization work. The explanation is very simple, and it’s encapsulated in Ford’s quote:
- First, if you think you can’t do something, you won’t. It’s that simple.
- Second, if you think you can, you’re more likely to do the things necessary to make it happen.
- Third, if you have a very clear picture of what you want, you are more likely to find the path necessary to get there than if you don’t really know what you want. It’s simply defining your target, as opposed to not knowing where your target is.
That’s all. Nothing fancy, nothing pseudo-scientific, no conspiracies — just simple, powerful concepts that actually work. Concepts that you can, and should, apply to your every day life right now.
Leo Babauta blogs regularly about achieving goals and becoming productive through daily habits on Zen Habits. Read his articles on the Top 50 Productivity Blogs, doubling your productivity, keeping your inbox empty, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.
Last Updated on March 31, 2020
Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed
Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.
Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.
There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.
Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.
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Why We Procrastinate After All?
We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.
Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.
Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.
To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.
If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.
Is Procrastination Bad?
Yes it is.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.
Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.
Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.
It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.
The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).
Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.
For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.
A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.
Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.
Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.
How Bad Procrastination Can Be
Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.
After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?
One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!
That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.
Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.
In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.
You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.
More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life
Procrastination, a Technical Failure
Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.
It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.
It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.
Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)
Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com
|||^||Ray Del Savio: IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN A PAIR OF CREATIVES TO GET INTO THIS ANNUAL.|