Leave the Outcome to the Gods

I have a belief, maybe a superstition, particularly if you define superstition in the learning psych way – a behavior that’s hard to change because it is randomly awarded. When I tell someone I want to do something, and they wind up to pitch all the reasons why it’s too hard, that they couldn’t do it, or that someone they know who’s really super gifted/cool/smart/whatever couldn’t do it, I tune them out. I just stop listening. If it’s not a conversation directed at me, say, it’s something going down on an email list, I stop reading the emails. Why? Because it seems to me that when I don’t know all the reasons why I’ll fail at something, then I’m less likely to fail.

Thing is, I believe in the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. If I think I’m going to fail, then I probably will. If I fail after trying on my own, then it feels like a cleaner failure, somehow, like it was truly a failure and not my own brain creating a negative reality. I’ve thought from time to time that maybe I’m going about it all wrong. Maybe forewarned is forearmed and stuff. But I think that the chances of me failing go up significantly when I arm myself with a list of “can’ts”. Call me crazy.

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t hear a genuine concern, particularly if it were related to physical well-being or even possibly breaking a law (though I admit I worry more about the former than the latter). And certainly I do ask for more info when I come up against particular difficulties. But if it’s just relating other people’s experience – or perhaps more accurately, their failures – then I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to know what odds are stacked against me. I just want to do my best, trust in myself to deal with obstacles as they arise, and keep moving forward. I want to find obstacles on my own – and not look for ones that I might not have encountered had someone else not shown me their shape.

In the past, I’ve taken this approach and ran into a wall due to my own lack of planning. My attempt to move to Seattle last December comes to mind. When it becomes abundantly clear that something isn’t going to work out no matter how hard I try, then I let go and let the Universe show me what needs to happen next. Usually it takes quite a few godsmacks before I back down, but I’m not dumb. When it is perfectly clear that the magic 8 ball is currently reading “NO” then I stop. And make room for what’s coming. I guess it’s a combination of trusting what comes and perseverance. I have to say that it’s worked pretty well for me so far, though I occasionally panic and flail.

In the past I’ve also listened to people and been scared away from even beginning because I’m so afraid to fail. My hobbled writing career comes to mind here – I’m so afraid of hearing something I write isn’t good, or of having the “wrong” writing habits, or of a million other seeds of negativity that have been planted during my insatiable absorption of other writer’s experiences. So afraid, in fact, that I still haven’t submitted anything major to any major place, that I haven’t finished a novel though I’ve had good ideas and why on some deep level a voice still whispers that I’m not really a writer because _____________. So yeah, that’s what I associate with listening too much to the warnings of others.

Anyway, what this brings me to is wondering how this works for my friends. Do you gather all information and listen to all experiences before embarking on major life journeys or do you act with all your heart and leave the outcome to the gods?

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