Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Five widespread ideas that are at odds with reality

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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 that, all too often, we fail to exploit.

By throwing away ideas that do not work, you will open the door to realistic plans, workable solutions, and satisfactory results. Let me review briefly five widespread convictions that are at odds with reality.

1. The idea that the purpose of life is to serve other people

The problem with this belief is that it is semi-true. Interacting with other human beings and providing good service to them is highly rewarding. All of us draw deep satisfaction from the gratitude of customers, friends or family members.

A different story is the desire to help strangers for the sake of achieving ethical perfection. If you pursue this desire too far, it can literally destroy your life.

Cost-effective service to customers can only be sustained permanently when it is provided commercially, that is, on a profit-making basis. Service rendered on the basis of personal sacrifice can be viable in some circumstances, but it will face major difficulties in remaining operational in the long-term.

2. The idea that you need someone else's approval before you can take initiative

Gregariousness is an essential component of 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 should not lead you to believe that you cannot determine your destiny unless your have obtained universal social approval.

In industrialised societies, personal initiative plays a determinant role in individual happiness. Innovation and change inevitably disrupt social structures. Anyone who deviates from standard behaviour will inevitably be criticised.

Innovators will frequently find these psychological obstacles harder to overcome than lack of access to capital. Yet, you should not let criticism paralyse your initiatives.

3. The idea that you have to content yourself with your current situation

Physical resources are indeed limited, but this fact should not prevent you from establishing ambitious goals for yourself. Keep in mind that you can borrow money and other assets 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.

Individuals with visionary business models are discovering new applications for old technologies, and additional customers for existing products. Even if material resources are limited, the main driver of your personal growth is your creativity.

4. The idea that you are too young or too old to improve your life

Such limitations never hold true overall, although they may apply to specific goals. For instance, learning to play the piano at an advanced age can be a lot of fun, but a person in his seventies will find it very 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 our products. Careers can be redefined. Professions can be combined with ancillary tasks in order to serve clients in surprising, more fulfilling ways.

5. The idea that you should give up because you really have no chance

Although newspapers are reporting daily extraordinary achievements in all areas of human activity, few people possess the strength of character to defy colleagues, friends and family members to pursue challenging goals.

Psychologically, most people find less menacing to watch the performance of top athletes on television than seeing a friend start a business. Most men will rather praise the latest film of their favourite actress rather than support their wife's dream to become an actress herself. 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.

Do not let any of those prejudices slow you down. Each day, you can find new possibilities to pursue your dreams. Do not be discouraged by your age, lack of resources, or lack of connections. As soon as let go of counter-productive beliefs, your alertness and effectiveness are bound to increase. Use them to figure out which steps you need to take.


Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books 

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