A Recipe For Success

Recipe for Success. Psychology Fanatic article header image
Recipe for Success. Psychology Fanatic
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We all want to succeed. Well, okay, most of us do. There are the rare situations where life has repeatedly knocked us down and we no longer can stomach the disappointment so we just give up all goals of a better life. In these cases, we need special help to reignite the flames of desires that have died. However, for the rest of us, goals still live on, pushing and hoping for a better future. When those goals are realizable, mindset is everything. The proper mindset creates the recipe for success.

Change requires underlying belief in a future that rouses energy to act. Without that arousal, hope dies along with the goal. In psychology we refer to this as outcome expectancy. Our expectancies are a compilation of episodic foresight, self-efficacy, and social learning. Our human mind can envision a possible future of self, believe in our ability to achieve that vision, and pull information from our past and the modeling behaviors of others to engage in a practical path that leads to that vision.

Willpower and Waypower

In C. Richard Snyder’s hope theory, he refers to waypower and willpower (Murphy, 2020). Willpower refers to our intrinsic motivations to act, while waypower refers to effective planning to meet those goals. Basically, motivation doesn’t matter is our planning leads us askew of our desired destination. Snyder defines hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on interactively derived sense of successful agency (goal-directed energy) and pathways (planning to meet goals)” (Snyder, Irving & Anderson, 1991).

Without a realistic goal and a realistic plan to get there, our goals will never materialize. A successful recipe for success requires a realistic goal, motivation to act, and a basic idea of how to get there.

Externalizing Obstacles

A major obstacle to success is how we respond to elements interfering with our planned path. We can externalize and complain. Our accept and devise a plan around or over the difficulty. This sounds pretty basic, except these processes occur largely in the unconscious. Accordingly, we automatically default to certain patterns of thinking that life and push or limit and stagnate. Consequently, our success is often determined by unconscious forces unless we make efforts to bring these forces to the light of awareness.

Key Definition:

Externalization is attributing causes to discomforting events to outside circumstances. In psychology, we externalize through use of the defense mechanism of projection.

Externalizing is so noxious. It works to preserve the ego while ensuring failure. Our minds mistakenly believe try to protect self image by limiting failure. However, the true staples building self image require successful behaviors and goal attainment. In an odd and paradoxical fashion success requires continuing forward towards desired dreams when our unconscious mind insists that in order for success an externalized obstacle must be removed (by some one else).

These externalized obstacles are easily identified. Typically, they come in the form of “if only…” beliefs. We falsely envision of a future of success under false beliefs that if a certain element of our lives is changed. Joseph Burgo Ph.D., wrote, “people who believe they will finally be happy ‘if only’ something occurs are usually idealizing that future event because they feel unable to address their actual difficulties, sometimes external but more often internal” (Burgo, 2012).

often, our ‘if only’ is a convenient way of avoiding the pathway necessary to succeed. Basically it is an ego saving excuse—a defense mechanism, devised to protect us from our own weakness and fears. We can avoid without acknowledging that we are avoiding.

“Success requires moving forward despite missing the element we believe is necessary for success”
~T. Franklin Murphy

Past and Present

These ‘if only’ statements smoothly pull from the past or work on particulars in the present. The past ‘if only’ statements typically draws upon past events that have already occurred. “If only my parents paid for my college, life would be so much easier.” This practice places blame on events that already occurred. They are the givens of our life. The present “if only” statements resent present reality, using an element of reality as the single reason for our failures.

A recipe for success requires working through these noxious excuses. Our predictions of a life without these past and present impediments usually are woefully off. While others can do little to remove a ‘if only’ from the past, they can supply money, time and resources to provide the ‘if only’ in the present. However, sad experiences has shown that usually the ‘if only; is a mirage. Once removed patterned behaviors continue to dominate, and success still eludes the person unwilling to risk failure.

The teenage boy that moans to his single mom, “I would do better in school if only I had a faster computer” continues to fail because internal skills and motivation still remains undeveloped while the mother struggles to pay off another unnecessary bill. The unfaithful husband continues to cheat long after his wife makes difficult adjustments to satisfy his ‘if only’ demands.

Being This is the Case

A recipe for success requires a ‘being this is the case’ approach. This approach accepts the reality of the situation, both past and present and finds an alternate route. Perhaps, we could call it an ‘even though’ attitude. “Even though, I had a less than adequate childhood, I’m going to succeed anyway.” “Even though I don’t have the fastest computer, I’m going to devote time to my school work.”

This attitude provides motivation and resilience to the inevitable interference of unplanned events and obstacles. It maneuvers around unconscious protective mechanisms, not allowing them to be an excuse for inaction and avoidance.

Making the “If Only” a Goal

Sometimes, our ‘if only’ may represent a legitimate obstacle that is preventing success. In these cases, perhaps, we should adjust our goal to obtain that ‘if only.’ Let me explain. Suppose, we can’t commute far because of lack of transportation. Our limitation is preventing success. We may bemoan ‘if only’ I had a car I could get a better job. The lack of transportation may laterally impede our success. Our recipe for success may require adjustment to include the priority of buying a car. This may require other sacrifices.

The problem is when ‘if only’ is our excuse, we typically exert little effort to remove it. We actually enjoy the benefit of not having to strive for something that presents the possibility of failure. Removal of our ‘if only demand’ actually creates a new reality that frightens us. Receiving what we thought we needed often becomes a source of great sorrow, we must once again cognitively dance around our fears, and find another excuse. This process repeats over and over again until our failures and fears follow us to the grave.

A Few Words by Flourishing Life Society

Changing cognitive patterns that our well-entrenched is no easy task. Typically, difficult life events in the past contribute to these maladaptive patterns. Change requires seeking professional help and surrounding ourselves with healing environments. However, change is possible. Millions of people do it daily.

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Burgo, Joseph (2012). Why Do I Do That?: Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives. New Rise Press. Kindle Edition

Murphy, T. Franklin (2020). Hope Theory. Psychology Fanatic. Published 2-1-2020. Accessed 9-14-2023.

Snyder, C., Harris, C., Anderson, J., Holleran, S., Irving, L., Sigmon, S., Yoshinobu, L., Gibb, J., Langelle, C., & Harney, P. (1991). The Will and the Ways: Development and Validation of an Individual-Differences Measure of Hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(4), 570-585. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.60.4.570

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