Get this image in your mind: a small, framed, slightly yellowing needlepoint, hanging near the front door of a farm house, and stitched into it, among the flowers and butterflies is the phrase “Home Sweet Home.”
It’s supposed to evoke calmness and happiness and appreciation and warmth. Very Norman Rockwell.
I like to use the phrase “Needlepoint Wall Hangings” for all those New Age and religious sayings that, with best intentions of helping us through difficult times, or with the hopes of being reminders of our highest possibility, are really empty, meaningless, Pollyana-ish, saccharine, wastes of wall space.
While these sayings don’t need to be hung on a wall, there’s a multi-million dollar business of selling posters, fridge magnets, cards, and the like, emblazoned with these trite sayings. Add a picture from nature — puppies, kittens, dolphins, whales — and you’ve got a blockbuster on your hands.
Hang in there, baby!
Did you automatically get the image of the adorable kitten, hanging on to a tree branch?
Millions of those posters plaster walls around the world.
But, seriously, do you know ANYONE who has ever been struggling through difficult times who has looked at that poster and thought, “Yeah! Thanks, adorable kitty! I will hang in there, just like you’re clinging to the tree branch that the photographer put you on so he could take this shot and sell millions of posters!” And then later, after making it to the other side of the issue, returned to the poster with, “PHEW! I don’t think I would have gotten tha 2nd round of venture financing without the inspiration I drew from your tireless hanging in there, kitty! I thank you, and our stockholders thank you!”
Enjoy the journey, not the goal
Here’s a wall hanging we look at when we’re neither enjoying the journey nor anywhere near our goal. Has tossing that tired aphorism ever stopped you in your tracks with, “Wow! I’m $200,000 in debt and about to be thrown out of my house, but what a grand and glorious journey I’m on (seemingly to the street).”
Aside from my dislike of these sayings because they’re, well, useless, most of them are simply wrong.
“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” This quote is attributed to Henry Ford. I find it somewhat ironic that the guy who built the US auto industry is so well known for summing up in a sentence the book, The Little Engine that Could. This quote is just a pithier version of “I think I can, I think I can…”
So, Henry’s quote — tossed around the Manifestation/Power of Positive Thinking/The Secret/You Create Your Own Reality camp like a Frisbee — suggests (and those who repeat it seem to agree) that you must believe you can do something in order for it to happen… if you don’t believe in something, well then it can’t happen to/for you.
Sounds reasonable, right?
Well, the reasonableness is the the exact problem with sayings like this.
Because it SOUNDS reasonable, we rarely take the time to reflect on our own experience, let alone the experiences of others, to see if, in fact, it’s true.
It’s a cognitive bias that once we find a belief we like, or one that supports our existing beliefs, we simply don’t look for evidence that might contradict it. In fact, worse, we’ll take contradictory evidence as FURTHER proof for the original belief.
Let’s look at Henry’s homily more closely.
Can you find examples of things you have NOT gotten or achieved where you DID think “I can”? If you’re like every other human being on the planet, you can probably list those all day long. Find any one of the 80% of new business owners who went out of business in their 1st year. I assure you that until they realized they couldn’t (often for reasons out of their direct control), they thought they could.
Can you find examples of things you’ve gotten or achieved where you DIDN’T think “I can,” or where you thought, “I can’t”? Find just ONE example from your life… then once you do, I’ll bet you can find another. And another, and another.
Just to prime the pump, here’s one of mine: I met a wonderful woman online. We had a great time chatting and decided to go out for dinner. Dinner was fun, the conversation was enjoyable. And I was 100% totally convinced that she would definitely not date me. Why? She was 6′. I’m 5’6″ on a tall day. I didn’t believe that someone that tall would be interested in someone my size. After all, I had heard that from dozens of women in the past. So, at the end of the evening, I said good-bye and started to leave… and she interrupted me with, “Why are you going?” I think the glib answer I came back with was, “Uhhh…. well…. ummm…. hmmm, interesting question.”
Can you find examples of things you’ve gotten or achieved where it didn’t even occur to you to think “I can” or “I can’t”? You may want to get simple, or metaphoric here — food, water, air to breath, the ability to stand up, walk, sit, lie down. Got a list?
I collect interviews with famous people talking about their success… the vast majority say they did NOT believe they would or even could achieve what they’ve accomplished. I have a great example where Charlie Rose is interviewing Lance Armstrong. Throughout the entire hour, Lance had to repeatedly respond to Charlie’s questions about “Did you think you’d be able to win again?” with, “No! Anything can happen in a race. I hadn’t won a race in a year. Even when I had the Yellow jersey I did not have the thought, ‘I can win.'”
Recently I listened to interviews on NPR with Woody Allen and Steve Carrell… who both talked about the amount of luck, fate and chance that has given them much more than they ever thought they could achieve. These guys aren’t being humble, just honest.
Want to know the only thought you may need to get you from “here” to “there”?
“It could be possible”
It’s simple. And, actually, it’s optional. Because, guaranteed, along the way, you’ll think you can, you’ll think you can’t, you’ll think everything in between… and guaranteed, no matter what you think, it’ll either happen or not.
And, frankly, if you stop spending weekends putting Needlepoint Wall Hangings in your house and memorizing every one of their sayings and, instead, you may have some extra time and energy to take some ACTION that could lead toward what you actually want.