We’ve all heard it.
“All you have to do is believe.”
“If you believe it, you can do it!”
“Anything is possible, if you just believe.”
Well this, my friends, is bull crap.
Case in point: today I ran a red light. I believed it was green (I think I got it mixed up with the 2nd light ahead). I really, really believed it was green. But that didn’t make it green. It didn’t stop me from getting a ticket. It didn’t avert a negative outcome.
This is something that we call a ‘mistake.’ People make them every day. Sometimes with negative consequences, sometimes not. The outcome doesn’t change what they are: mistakes.
But our society has taught us in the last 50 or so years that we cannot pronounce such judgments on life decisions. This idea has evolved so far that there was even a movie in the 80s about a ‘boy who could fly’ — he believed so much and wanted so much to fly that he actually did it. It seems like 80% of Hollywood movies have something to do with the idea as well. I have a feeling that this mostly stems from the idea that young people are often advised that going into acting or other creative careers is a ‘mistake’ and hey, look, these actors made it, that makes the advice patently false!
Well I hate to break it to you, baby, but most aspiring actors/writers/singers/etc. don’t make a lot of money/win critical acclaim/become immensely popular a.k.a. “make it.” They don’t. Sometimes it’s a lack of talent, sometimes looks, sometimes sloth, sometimes just luck or connections. It’s rarely, if ever, about not ‘believing.’
However, I see the need for belief. Where success is technically possible, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and believe enough to put forth the hard work and commitment necessary to give yourself a chance to succeed. It’s just dangerous when “I believe I can succeed” becomes “I believe I should succeed” to the point that we don’t know when to cut our losses and try something else, or we become angry and bitter when success eludes us.
To paraphrase a famous engineer, we “canna change the laws of physics.” No amount of belief can change the laws of physics, or of consequences. But the less direct or less immediate the consequence, the harder it is to understand the law and want to follow it.
For a more contemporary addendum: this also applies to dealing with situations in life. You may want to believe that people can’t get sick, can’t have accidents, can’t die. You may believe it so much that you avoid practical things like vaccines, or screening for illness, or wearing masks, or writing wills. But you’re wrong, and your belief in the untruths can and will hurt both you and others. Thinking that acknowledging and dealing with those unpleasant things is unnecessarily negative is also wrong. We have to deal with unpleasant things. Everyone does. It’s the natural law of the universe. The only choice you have is whether to deal with it earlier and easier, or later and harder.