In today’s world of information overload and instant gratification, subtleties are all but ignored. Society is nearly blind to the beauty of what makes us so special and now willingly engages in counterproductive habits that exploit our vanities and our insecurities. The most recent escalations have penetrated our lives in ways that make them virtually inextricable from reality.
So when the subjects of happiness, productivity and freedoms arise, people are understandably defensive. Studies show that just three in ten people are happy with their lives, but somehow sad, depressing and hopeless pictures are rarely posted to social media. We have become so obsessed with creating the appearance of an enviable existence that we are losing real time and the opportunities to actually live that existence.
And subtly, in the background, behind all that noise, there are hidden cycles driving and perpetuating our obsessions. We no longer notice them because societal expectations and our own self-serving biases hide them from us.
For every action we take, there was an expectation that preceded it. We take actions because we believe they will yield a specific result. And that belief – that something will or won’t happen – is what drives us. It discourages or encourages action. The resulting momentum, for good or bad, reaffirms our belief and thus the cycle is perpetuated.
Every action taken, no matter how small, was preceded by an expectation, a belief. We go to work because we believe we will receive a paycheck. The paycheck arrives, reaffirms our belief and perpetuates the cycle. We go to the gym because we believe exercise will make us leaner. Our bodies respond, affirming our belief and perpetuating the cycle.
There are two problems with this feedback machine. First, many times our expectations are too high. Perhaps our bodies don’t respond quickly enough. We stop believing that going to the gym will make us leaner and so we actually stop going to the gym. At that point the cycle isn’t broken; it is still spinning. But now negative momentum is perpetuating negative thoughts and actions and round and round we go.
Setting realistic goals and managing time-weighted expectations can overcome the first problem. The second problem, however, is much more complex. As we mature, our belief that something will or won’t happen becomes solidified by time. Our actions, or perhaps inaction, have consistently reaffirmed our belief for so long that we forgot what affirmed our belief to begin with. In hindsight we may even lament, “If only I had kept trying, perhaps my efforts might have yielded a different result.” But now, the burden of all that lost time weighs so heavily on us, that we refuse to take action for fear of wasting more time.
The cycle of belief driving action, action creating momentum and momentum affirming belief is a vicious one. It is also one of four cycles of thoughts and actions that control our lives as they flow with and against each other. In my next post, I will reveal how societal expectations and self-serving biases hide our belief cycle from us. Also, I will soon post the other three cycles in separate blog posts along with strategies for overcoming a cycle that is stuck in negative flow.
For now though, think about the expectations you have before you decide to take action. Or better yet, think of the expectation that is preventing you from taking action. You might find that the only thing stopping you is an antiquated affirmation that no longer even matters.
Tra Williams is a celebrated speaker, business consultant and author of the forthcoming book Feed Your Unicorn. He is a nationally recognized thought leader in small business, franchising, leadership and entrepreneurship. Tra works tirelessly with people, professionals, and organizations to help them define success on their own terms and build the framework required to sustain it. For more information, please visit: www.TraWilliams.com.