Circe (Κίρκη), the daughter of the Sun (Ήλιος) and Perse (Πέρση) an oceanic nymph, warned Odysseus that he will not see Penelope or Telemachus ever again if he listens to the sound of the Sirens. In order to make it past the Sirens, Odysseus must plug the ears of his men. Circe tells Odysseus if he wants to hear the songs, he must tie himself to the mast of a ship.
Similar as the Sirens, wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs based on what might be pleasing to imagine, rather than on evidence, rationality, or reality. It is a product of resolving conflicts between belief and desire. Methodologies to examine wishful thinking are diverse.
You want something to be true, even if it isn’t true. You ignore the real truth because of what you want to be true. A very difficult trap to avoid. — Elon Musk (see the video here.)
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs.
How can you detect and understand what is wishful thinking?
What does not work.
a. Listen to friends and family. Ask friends exactly their thoughts on their opinion.
That is of minor importance as friends either wish you bad (intentionally or not intentionally), or they don’t know what you have in mind, what you have investigated so far. Or they have their own wishful thinking about you or about situations. Envy is a big factor here. Those who underestimate the power of envy and the wishful negative outcome of your thoughts and goals set them up to a hurtful end. Expressing your feelings and thoughts is like you bleed next to a shark. Act in silence and surprise them with your results.
b. Listen to common sense and common opinion. That is the last you should do. Common opinion paves the path to failure. If it paved the path to success, then everybody would be successful.
c. Ask the opinions of Gurus on the field. That has the same value as b. as Guru’s care about their personal success and not yours. The easier something is, the less value it has.
d. Ask the opinion of experts. That is good as long as you can squeeze out some objective realities about certain (technical or procedural) aspects of your endeavor. Their opinion should be evaluated under those criteria.
a. Detach from a situation and try to observe it with neutrality. Evaluate yourself as neutral as possible and ask the question: can this really be done? Or it is what I wish? Do I seek comfort in some answers?
b. Do I have experience on the topic, practical, hands-on experience, or is it something that I have only theoretical knowledge of?
c. Is my thinking influenced by the opinions of others?
d. Is it based on beliefs, obsessions, and non-objective facts?
e. Are there emotions involved?
f. Do I try to adopt reality to me, or am I the one that adapts to reality?
Understand what can be done and what can not be done.
A deeper understanding of the world is required. An understanding that does not only rely on the surface of things but on the reality that exists below the surface. Ignoring the true reasons for why things happen makes the difference between being crazy enough to change the world or falling into the trap of wishful thinking.
Whatever shows on the surface, the ready-to-use solutions are seldom of any good use, as they hide (they cover) other motivations behind them.
The true on a successful concept is the truth that you are going to discover by yourself, not the one that is going to be told to you. “Real power cannot be given; it must be taken”.
Understanding the real motives on others is hard enough and requires most of all, life and situational experience. Requires empathy and understanding of the dynamics in a society. What looks nice and good is not always, neither nice nor good.
Wishful thinking takes the understanding of the real motives, one step further, as it requires the understanding of your true self. What is required, is to accept certain realities about yourself first.
That is not an easy task, its frustrating and it can cost you a lot. At the same time, however, is liberating because it gives you the power to change things. If you do not accept certain realities about yourself, you are never going to be able to change them. It is also a starting point. You say to yourself. OK, I am who I am, not good, but now that I know the mistakes, I know I can do something about them.
Ignoring realities, wishful or unwishful, ignorance and selective understanding, and confrontation with facts do not bring you forward.
Facing realities and acting towards goals, created out of ideas based in reality is.
All these years as a sales advisor and coach, I can see the highest value we can offer to our clients to be what I call “the understanding of things”. That is what most don’t offer, instead, they provide the out-of-the-can solutions.