Haven’t you been warned to avoid magical thinking? The kind of thinking where you make up the story you prefer, and then believe it; as in “My expense report is due but I won’t fill it out tonight. Rick the Boss will understand why I’m late again when he sees what I worked on instead.” or “It’s my business if I raise my voice behind my closed office door. I don’t care what my supervisor said; he’ll understand when he finds out what Accounting did.”
Your Brain Is Listening
The danger of course is not only that your magical thoughts aren’t true and will likely get you into trouble, but by announcing your magical thought to yourself, your brain accepts it as true, and acts like it’s true. Your brain will tend to call similar thoughts true, if they’re consistent with the one you made up. The entire scenario slips farther away from what’s true, and you allow yourself to behave in ways and defend statements you make that have no basis in truth. Magical thinking can seriously harm you, and all the time you think you’re right. It can be tough to pull back from.
Recognize Magical Thinking
You must train yourself to recognize and root out this kind of magical thinking. I teach my clients to avoid magical thinking like this: “List the things in this situation you can independently prove are true. Say to yourself: ‘This list alone is the truth. I agree this alone is real. I do not believe anything not on this list and I discard it.’ ” Try it; I promise it works.
But There’s Another Kind
But there is another kind of magical thinking. The right kind. Like the other kind, it ignores reality, but still, I recommend it.
My desk was lost under a snowdrift of books and papers. I felt I should take an hour to clean it up before I could hope to get any work done. I couldn’t afford an hour, I didn’t want to do it, and I knew that trying to straighten my desk was like entering a black hole of time-wasting.
Magical Thinking To The Rescue
So I decided to use magical thinking. I told myself my desk was clean and I had all the space I needed to get right down to work and get a lot done. So I did. I got right down to work and got a lot done.
As we already know, starting a task and keeping at it is the hardest part and is most of the battle. I used magical thinking to take away my excuse for not starting the task. I used magical thinking to prevent procrastination. I shoved the pile aside and got a carload of stuff done.
Later I felt so good I cleaned off my desk.
What do you think? Can you see a use for this kind of magical thinking in your life? Please comment – I’d like to hear about it.