Sunday, 26 February 2012

Rational Living - Letting go of prejudices that limit your potential

Ideas engage people and move the world. Our convictions contribute to our effectiveness more than our material resources. If we hold the right ideas, we will progress; if we believe in falsehoods and inconsistencies, we will fail. There is no escape from this principle.

Are your ideas helping you to improve your life? Are your beliefs promoting fear or prompting you to take effective action? Have you acquired a clear view of the world? Can you see reality without the distortions of wishful thinking? Can you face life without envy and discouragement? Are your convictions hindering or supporting your motivation?

We can define ideas that work as those that allow us to identify problems, analyse their causes, and figure out workable solutions. Worthless opinions are those that render us insensitive to danger, lead us to react irrationally to difficulties, and contaminate our emotions with anger or anxiety. Counter-productive views are those that sabotage our initiatives and waste our potential.

The first step to improve your life is to throw away all ideas that do not work; you have to let go of unproven theories before you embrace feasible solutions; you cannot become efficient until you discard all excuses for rigidity and inertia. In order to move forward, we must stop pushing backwards; in order to look at the horizon, we must lift our eyes from the ground. Let us review briefly five widespread convictions that are at odds with reality.

[1] The idea that you need the approval of dozens of people before you can improve your life: gregariousness is an essential component of the human psychology; we all love to be appreciated by friends and colleagues; on many occasions, honours and distinctions are as important as monetary rewards; nevertheless, this is not the same as professing that individuals are incapable of affecting their destiny unless they have obtained social approval.

In industrialized societies, personal initiative plays a determinant role in individual happiness. Innovation and change disrupt social structures; any person who deviates from the standard behaviour risks criticism and ostracism; innovators frequently find these psychological obstacles harder to overcome than lack of access to capital.

[2] The idea that you cannot obtain additional resources and that you have to content yourself with whatever you currently possess: physical resources are indeed limited, but this fact should not prevent you from establishing ambitious goals for yourself. Money and other assets can be borrowed if you demonstrate that you can use them productively.

The global economy is a scenario where resources are continuously shifted from low to high productivity areas. Purpose and initiative play a crucial role in exploiting assets to the maximum; men with visionary business models discover new applications for old technologies and additional customers for existing products. Even if material resources are limited, the only constrain to economic growth is human creativity.

[3] The idea that you are too young, too old, or inadequate to ameliorate your situation: such restrictions never hold true overall, although they might apply to specific goals in certain environments; for instance, learning to play the piano at an advanced age can be a lot of fun, but it makes difficult to pursue a career as a pop artist.

Restrictions can often be lifted or circumvented by changing the context; goals can be slightly modified in order to seek better market opportunities; personal limitations can inspire us to figure out more effective approaches to make or sell products; careers can be redefined; professions can be combined in order to serve clients in surprising ways.

[4] The idea that, if you have not already attained success, you'd better give up because you have no chance: despite the fact that extraordinary achievements are reported daily by newspapers, few people possess the strength of character to encourage friends and neighbours to pursue challenging goals.

Psychologically, watching the outstanding performance of athletes on television is less menacing that seeing a friend start up a business; praising the latest film of our favourite actor feels less threatening than supporting our spouse's dream to become a novelist. We do not mind being surpassed by those we have never met, but we dread the idea that someone close to us might grow faster than ourselves.

You have to let go of prejudices that prevent you from developing your potential; you have to discard traditions that are not in line with current opportunities. We live in an era of abundant resources and unlimited possibilities. By throwing away ideas that do not work, we open the door to realistic plans, workable solutions, and satisfactory results.


[Image by biologyfishman under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]