At the end of last  year, I reflected on the reflection questions that I posted online.  (Yes, I actually do use all the exercises I recommend to others…).

I’d been working hard on my business all year, thinking a great deal about new directions and adventures. Plus, I am the author of the reflection questions and have been doing them myself for the last 5 or more years. So, I didn’t expect any surprises in answering the questions.

But I was surprised. As I did the exercise, I kept coming back to the theme of magical thinking, and realised (reluctantly) that there were still some shreds of it clogging up my business.

Magical thinking is ‘believing that one event happens as a result of another without a plausible link of causation’.  Examples abound, as we are hard-wired to look for patterns in our environment, to want to be in control and to avoid surprises. So if we wear our lucky charm to an exam and do well, we want to believe that if we wear it next time too, all will be well again. If we wish for something and it comes true, we tend to believe that somehow our wishing caused the event to happen.

It’s a fascinating topic, and there are benefits as well as downsides to all this – without magical thinking, we would never go to parties, let alone blind dates. We’d be less creative and find it much harder to spot useful patterns. (Too much magical thinking however, leads to psychosis, so there’s definitely an edge…).

Magical thinking and I go way back. When I was four or five, I decided I was an alien, and haunted our back garden every night waiting for my ‘real’ alien parents to beam me up. When I was 12, I decided if I did well enough at school, everyone would love me and life would go well. When I was 20, it was all about princes on white horses and when I started my business, I just knew if I worked hard the rewards would flow.

Over the years, I have done much weeding of the magical hotspots in my life and work, and I thought they were all eradicated. And in the main, this is true.

But to my surprise, I realised that I had a pocket or two left, places where I still believed that wishing for customers would magically make them appear (even without any actual work on my part) and that doing good work was all it took to be successful. Sadly, no.

My piles of pixie dust are pretty small these days, but often it’s the small things that make a big difference. So, my theme for 2014 is ‘whatever it takes.’ No more delusions, no more excuses, no more avoiding the things I don’t want to look at.

Do you have any pixie dust that needs to be (gently) swept aside?

Joanna Maxwell


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