The Magic Answer

Posted: May 12, 2011 in Psychology
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The Magic Answer

You may have read a book or seen a movie about a secret magical force that sets you up to get anything you ask for. The force is your own mind. If you believe that things are going to go your way, you focus on the positive. If you believe everything is going to go against you, you focus on the negative.

If you believe there’ll be a parking spot near the mall entrance and one appears, that’s luck. But you remember your good luck. If you expect there won’t be a parking space and there isn’t, that’s bad luck and you remember that too. There’s no magic to it.

Napoleon Hill

An earlier and better version of this concept is Napoleon Hill’s secret in “Think and Grow Rich”. Henrik Edberg does a great job of going into the details on his Positivity Blog. Let me summarize it. You can do anything you put your mind to. Given a reasonable level of abilities, anything. If there’s something that interests you and you want to earn a living at it, you can study it and do it for a living.

Perfectionism as Procrastination

So what’s holding you back from choosing the positive? Are you trying to be perfect? Just start moving toward your goals and you will achieve perfection one day. Do you think your own goals aren’t important enough? They are more important than idling in a comfort zone that does nothing for you. Maybe the holdup is too much thinking about what you want to do and not enough doing. Thinking without doing will only get you down. Acting on your dreams is what separates those who do or do not deserve success. Act. Succeed.

Success Immersion

If you want to be a chess master, for example, you need to immerse yourself in chess. When you spend all day answering phones at a call center and all evening watching TV and going out with friends, you’re not putting yourself into a chess master’s mindset. You need to find a chess club and start playing tournaments.

Whatever your interest, find multiple ways to satisfy it. Read about it. Practice it. Teach others. Develop friendships with others who have the same interest. Take positive action and you will find your magic answer.

Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.

  1. Mike says:

    Good post, David.
    Believing in yourself is obviously helpful in succeeding in your endeavors – but not necessary. What’s essential here is doing, acting, venturing – even without much belief of hope. You put it best: “read about it. Practice it. Teach others. Develop friendships with others who have the same interest”.

    So it’s not about forcing yourself to believe in yourself – something many people find difficult, almost impossible. It’s about doing and acting despite self-doubts and lack of confidence.

    I’m quite skeptical of the whole “secret” movement, the power of the unconsciousness and positivism – I think it sells people on some magical view of the world, that promotes dreaming instead of freedom and responsibility of doing. What’s your approach as existentialist to these trends?

    My last blog post:

    • Ivan Izo says:

      Well, Mike, freedom isn’t that great a thing if it persists. It means not submitting to any philosophy or ideology. Where does the person who is totally free find meaning or any call to action? Even a philosophy of life based on freedom must have some content. And then we lose the freedom to choose opposing content.
      Freedom needs to be balanced. An example is in order. Many major religions have had laws where anyone not following the religion is killed. That’s a total lack of freedom. At the opposite extreme, people in capitalist countries are free to switch religions as often as they like or choose none at all. When they don’t believe in any religion, they aren’t going to find any meaning or purpose there. The ideal case is having the freedom to choose, making a choice and giving up freedom for the sake of adding meaning and purpose to your life.
      The magic answer and other trends like that may not have any truth behind them, but if it lets people feel their life has meaning, I say more power to them. As long as a belief system doesn’t inspire the followers to take hostile action against unbelievers, it’s a socially acceptable source of meaning. Sadly, there are many belief systems that inspire hostility and their followers are able to find meaning in the violence. That’s one of the world’s major problems.
      But, back to the case of the individual. Where does freedom fit into a normal life? We choose a career and it’s pursuit is a source of meaning. The money from work allows us to also choose family as another source of meaning. We sacrifice freedom for the sake of career and family, but that doesn’t take up every minute of our lives (unless we make a bad career choice or have a huge family). We still have freedom in hobbies, entertainment, social activities, part time work, and other things we use to fill the idle hours. We can let all of those things fall apart for the sake of freedom and hold onto career and family to give us meaning.
      I used career and family as the individual’s stable philosophies in my example, but other choices could be made. There are those for whom their religion is the only stable philosophy in their life, for example.
      To sum up. My short answer to your question. If anything, including a trend, helps a person lead a more meaningful life and does no harm to others, it is a good thing. Mostly, I would expect trends to fall into the category of secondary activities that are picked up and dropped as a way to express freedom.

  2. Mike says:

    You are making an interesting argument. Ultimately, you are saying that any personal belief may be beneficial in increasing person’s perception of meaning and purpose in life, and should be endorsed, as long as it doesn’t introduce violence towards other people.

    I certainly agree that in some situations, having any sort of belief is better than having none. A parent that has lost his child, and wants to believe in reincarnation will get my full support, whatever my personal belief on the matter is.

    But not all beliefs are beneficial. Some maybe downright harmful for the person in the long run. Examples: a cancer patient that rejects chemotherapy and believes that his illness can be cured by homeopathy; a man that pursues a musical career because he believes that this is his purpose in life, despite total lack of talent, hearing or voice.

    These are examples of personal beleives that are harmful, because they promote unrealistic expectations, and will lead eventually to painful realizations. And I think it is our job as fellow human beings and philosophers to gently reduce people’s reliance on harmful beliefs, and promote healthy and beneficial ones.

    • Ivan Izo says:

      Sorry for the slow reply, Mike. I can see that your objections are valid, but not that they are necessary. You present two interesting examples of bad choices. I don’t believe a person should be prevented from making those choices if those are the paths they want to take.
      The person who chooses a musical career even though they have no talent will not be successful. Not as a musician. They may become a manager, director or producer. But, even if they never realize any kind of career from their pursuit, they will be doing something that gives their life meaning. That’s better than flailing around at a bunch of meaningless jobs. There’s also what Dostoevsky’s Underground Man called “our most advantageous disadvantage”; we are able to choose that which is not best for us. People choose to smoke and eat fast food, knowing these actions may take years off their lives. They’re doing something they enjoy.
      Life is more about the journey than reaching the goal. Once the goal is reached, whether a success or failure, the journey has ended. Then there will be new goals and a new journey.
      The example of the person choosing homeopathy over conventional medicine is also an example of freedom of choice. They believe homeopathy is the better treatment and statistics say they will die because of their choice. It’s still their choice. Which is a better world? Longer lives but choices are made for us by outside authorities or shorter lives because we have freedom of choice?
      There is a faction in today’s society that tries to extend everyone’s lives without giving people a choice; seat belt laws, gun laws, sin taxes, nutritional supplements in foods that the poor buy. All to ensure that people who don’t want to lengthen their lives will have them lengthened anyway. Governments and corporations are in need of a large surplus of wage slaves to support them. And the supply needs to be greater than the need to keep wages down. We only need look at the financial crisis beneficially appearing just in time to increase the number of unemployed right when the baby boomers were retiring in record numbers and about to create a worker shortage. But that’s political science. Moving on.
      We’ve each picked our views on the subject and they happen to disagree. Nothing wrong with that.

  3. Mike says:

    Love your lengthy replies, well worth waiting for them 🙂

    I guess your views are more aligned with libertarians while mine are slightly more paternalistic (I read and liked “The Nudge”).

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