Superstitious Thinking

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Recently, I was reading an interview with a soap star who won a daytime Emmy this year. And no, I don’t watch the soap but I do love to read celebrity “news.” Hey, not everything can be about communication in the workplace!

It seems that this actor was the odds-on fave in his category, though he didn’t take the predictions seriously. In fact, he didn’t even bother to write an acceptance speech. He revealed to reporters that he hadn’t prepared anything because he didn’t want to “jinx it.” He later regretted not writing a speech because he forgot to thank various special people.

I was amused because so often I’ve refrained from doing or saying something because I didn’t want to “jinx it” — whatever “it” might be! And so many of us engage in this practice of superstition.

My father used to say, “Don’t get your hopes up so that way you won’t be disappointed.” Well, I followed his advice for years and never got disappointed. I trained myself to focus on the negative and to downplay my wishes and hopes. I convinced myself that hoping only leads to disappointment.

I’ve met many people who are reluctant to prepare for the best, because they believe that could somehow increase the chances of “the best” not happening. Isn’t it amazing just how much power we think we have over the universe?

Had the soap star written an acceptance speech, he still would have won since the mere act of writing would not have had the power to make all those winning votes magically disappear.

He engaged in magical thinking and we all do it in some form or another:

Let’s not talk about jury duty because then we’ll receive a summons the next day — hmm, I hope I didn’t just jinx myself! Let’s not talk about it raining on my special occasion because then it will rain. Let’s not get our hopes up because then “it” won’t happen. All of this is the odd belief that we have the power to bring about a negative by focusing on a positive.

What’s wrong with being disappointed? OK, we all know being disappointed sucks. However, had the actor written his speech and lost, he would have been disappointed BUT he would have had those words of thanks that he could have sent to his loved ones. After all, he wasn’t thanking them for winning, he was thanking them for loving him and he didn’t need to wait to stand on stage with a trophy to do that!

What kind of magical thinking are you doing? Is it stopping you from dreaming and hoping? Do your superstitions free you up or trip you up?

Please send your communication questions to me at: jp@jpr-communications.com

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