Enough With These “Believe in Yourself” Idiocies
Tl;dr: believing you can do it will create unnecessary stress and pressure and make failures much more painful than they could have been otherwise.
I cringe every time I read the following quotes:
“You have to believe you can make it if you want to make it”; “we are our own thoughts”; “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right in both cases.”
Let me tell you why these are both bad advice and bad practice.
When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with girls. The only thing I thought about was getting a girlfriend.
The only problem was…I sucked at it.
My dysfunctional family and lack of agreeable personality had left me with no one to hang out with, which did not improve my social skills.
Believing Won’t Change Anything
At that time, I was hooked on cheesy US movies that always showed the prettiest girl kissing the weird awkward guy, and I thought this would happen to me to at some point if I believed it hard enough.
So I laid back, relaxed, believed, and enjoyed the ride, waiting for the pretty girl to come and kiss me.
Except that…she never came.
In fact, I’m quite sure no pretty girl ever went and kissed the awkward guy, but that’s a whole other story.
It took me years to stop believing. When my faith eventually started to dissipate, I was in my early twenties and had decided to change my strategy since it wasn’t yielding any results.
I went online and downloaded a course about dating.
It was about 30-35 hours. I watched everything.
In fact, I did more than that.
I summarized the whole thing on a 53-page word document.
I subsequently went out and practiced what I had learned in the course.
1 week later, I had my first “first date” ever.
Thinking or Believing Will Get You Nowhere
While I have read and applied my fair share of material produced by the self-development industry, I disagree with the well-established narrative that believing and thinking will get you “insane results”.
Yep, that’s bullshit.
There is one thing, and one thing only that can get you results.
That thing is called “taking action“.
1 week, an online course, and taking action was all it took to get me results that almost a decade of “believing” had not gotten me.
All you need is a plan and a laser-focused execution.
The difference between the guy with 10 million and the one with 10 billion is not their “mindset”.
It is their plan and the subsequent execution.
The guy with 10 billion had a 10 billion plan. The guy with 10 million didn’t.
Yet both are similar in the sense that they both took action.
They didn’t sit on the ground like idiots believing they could do so.
I Never Believed I Could Do It, Which Is Why I Did It
When I was a teenager, I wanted to become an actor.
I took some acting classes and signed up for casting agencies.
I’d get invited to auditions from time to time. In the beginning, I was so confident in my acting skills (that was the only thing I thought I was good at) that I was certain I’d get the part.
I never did.
Until one day, I went to a casting and simply did what was expected of me, then got out and forgot about it.
A couple of days later, I got a call: the part had been given…to me.
I could hardly believe it.
In fact, I didn’t and I’m still not believing it today.
But I got it.
This pattern repeated with every audition I have subsequently attended.
As the years went by, I started noticing a pattern. Whatever success or experience I was looking for, it would always manifest itself when I was free from the outcome – meaning when I didn’t think I’d get it.
Setting myself up for failure was – rather ironically – my best winning strategy. Here’s why.
My Best Winning Strategy
Firstly, I was free from the outcome. Since I was certain I was going to fail anyway (or at least, that there were high chances), I thought I might just as well have fun and enjoy the experience to learn as much as I could.
Second, I was no longer looking for anything since I knew there would be no victory at the end, which released me from the imperative to win.
Third, setting myself up for failure made me a winner whatever the outcome. Should I fail, I wouldn’t be surprised, disappointed, or sad but content to have the result I had predicted. Should I win…then the victory would be greater than anything else!
Fourth, the absence of pressure enabled me to fully dedicate myself to the work. My actions had no underlying purposes, they existed solely for their own sake (and the sake of learning), which encouraged me to make mistakes and take risks, which increased learning and…chances to win.
Fifth, and this is the most important takeaway, believing I cannot do something will encourage me to work until proven otherwise.
As such, beliefs should not be established prior to the work, but after.
Beliefs, to be believable, should be grounded into empirical reality.
Beliefs can be established only once you have the proof they are true.
How can you believe you can do something if you have never actually done it?
Maybe you’re smart enough to trick yourself, but your subconscious won’t fall into the trap.
Opposite to that stands not believing and taking action to learn how to do it until you can do it and only then, will you be able to believe.
The Bottom Line
Yvanna Chubbuck is regarded as one of the most skilled acting teachers in the world nowadays.
In her book “the power of the actor”, she explains that merely believing you are your character does not work and produces bad performances because you can’t trick your brain into something that it doesn’t feel, see or understand.
The trick she gave, instead of letting the actor enter the character, was to let the character enter the actor by establishing connections between the actor and the character’s story.
I’m getting off-topic.
Believing is a waste of time and effort. It only increases stress and hardens failures, making them more emotionally costly than if you had not believed so much you could win in the first place.
Opposite to believing in whatever you strive to achieve stands expecting failure.
Expecting failures leads to freedom of outcome which is a beautiful thing.
It allows you to do and be whatever you want without external pressures, without the beliefs, hopes, desires, wishes, and expectations.
It enables you to take action with a spirit of adventure and discovery instead of a need for results and victories.
The process of having a belief shattered by empirical reality is called “cognitive dissonance”.
Such as losing a bet, it is far from being pleasant.
The best way to avoid it is to avoid believing that which has not been proven true…yet (?).
And start hustling for making it so.