“The future depends on what you do today.”― Mahatma Gandhi
In the 21st century, we have the world at our fingertips. At the push of a button, we have access to information on virtually everything we could possibly desire. Most of us turn on our computer each day and get bombarded with all kinds of sales pitches from all around the world for products and ideas promising to improve our lives with the same effort that it took to turn on your computer. As a result of this instant access, we become spoiled. As a species, modern man has become less tolerant of frustration, less tolerant of waiting for things, less self-confident, and less willing to accept personal responsibility. We expect life to happen at the same speed it takes to boot up our computer or iPhone. The conveniences of the modern world have combined comfort with complacency. As a society, we have become like that child that wants what it wants when it wants it-now. Oh yeah, and that child wants someone else to do it for him.
Over the past 35 years I have worked in education and in mental health. I’ve witnessed the toll that instant access and unwillingness to take personal responsibility has on people. When I was a teacher, I saw the gradual change in children who were raised by parents who experienced the Great Depression and World War II with those who were raised by “helicopter parents.” If you don’t know what that term is, Google it. The impact that this has on education is crippling our children’s development of self efficacy, is shielding them from the realities of life,and robs them of the privilege of overcoming adversity. In mental health and psychotherapy, this desire for success without work has perverted the whole therapy and self-help world. People expect to solve long-standing personal and emotional problems instantly by either popping a pill, or merely wishing that things will get better. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/secret/ ) Unfortunately kids, the world doesn’t work like that. And, even more unfortunate than that, the desire for something for nothing robs us of some of life’s basic joys.
There is a simple solution to all this. So simple that it can be broken down to a mathematical formula. It’s not, however, what you think. The winning formula is:
Beliefs + Actions = Success
The most important part of this equation is the synergistic effect of these two, very powerful, basic human needs. Yes, we all need to believe in things, but we also need to take actions to test these beliefs. Human behavior is, after all, considered a science. The scientific part of human behavior will differ from person to person and even within an individual from time to time, but there are some generalities. What I’ve observed in my two careers over the past 35 years is that true self-esteem comes from overcoming adversity and walking life’s walk by yourself. It is the performing of the action part of this equation that brings both the desired result as well as the self-esteem, pride, and joy that only comes from personal effort. It is the dogged application of this formula that is the secret sauce of life. Think of anyone you know that has what you believe is a successful life. Scratch the surface a bit and that’s a pretty good chance that you’ll see they have applied this consistently, whether they are conscious of it or not. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/life-lessons-american-history/ )
I am by no means saying that there is no place for positive thinking in our world, nor am I suggesting that we put our children at risk. What I am saying is that all of us need to take personal responsibility for as much of what happens to us as possible. We also need to pass this on to the next generation. Some of the immature reasoning and childlike, magical thinking sold by many who work in psychotherapy, self-help, and personal development is laughable. It is also unscientific and not going to work. What separates a successful person from a not so successful person is the actions that they take and the beliefs that they have about failure. If failure is a catastrophe and perceived as final then a person is likely to stop taking action and accept it, and possibly themselves, as a failure.
People who get something without putting in a personal effort are more likely to self-destruct and self sabotage what they have received. For example, studies of individuals who have hit state lotteries for millions of dollars consistently show that an overwhelming number of them end up where they started, broke and wondering what happened. As yet, I’ve seen no research why this happens, but my hunch is that they don’t fully appreciate it because there has been no effort that led to it. People usually self sabotage when they cannot reconcile their self image from their new found success. We see this over and over in the world of celebrity. Someone receives too much too soon from life, it doesn’t fit their self image or conform to their world view, they subconsciously self sabotage and lose everything. They end up, yep, you guessed it, back where they started from. This occurs because they have not had to put in consistent effort over enough time to adjust and change both their self image and their view of the world.
The idea of instant success, manifesting your dreams, and obtaining something for nothing is a myth perpetuated by the media and our reliance on technology. We grow up consistently receiving very positive reinforcements for very little effort. Is it any wonder that it effects our lives, and is it any wonder that the world continues to sell us more of the same? Is it any wonder that too many of us don’t feel good about ourselves?
Everything good that life has to offer starts with an idea or a belief. Without action, these beliefs are destined to remain merely dreams. It is the doing, and the overcoming of failure, that gives life its greatest meaning.
“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”― C.G. Jung
P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.