I just finished the book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” (2013) by Scott Adams (the famous creator of the popular comic strip Dilbert). Yes, I’m a fanatic for self-help books especially those written by people who are measurably successful outside the domain of simply being a “Self Help” author/writer.
I love Adams’ comedic yet accessible writing style. The book is filled with insights on how to be successful in your everyday life—despite one failure after another. I was shocked to learn that when he first started making his comic strip, the feedback he got via email (in the early 90’s) was excessively critical. Despite the criticism he received (for what he calls his “poor drawing skills” or perhaps the content of his comic) he had one person push him on and tell him that he was good enough the way he was doing it and that he didn’t need to make any changes, that he should maintain his style. I really liked hearing that because often times we cave in to criticism and constantly change in response to the pressure of others.
I think one of my favorite points in the book is the Big Five Factors of Happiness which he suggests are: a flexible schedule, imagination, diet, exercise and sleep. Out of these I think imagination is the component I never paid very much attention to. Yet, as I reflect on it, I can honestly say that the seasons in my life where I’ve daydreamed and entertained intensely robust, fantastical imaginations, the better my life was (at least temporarily). Adam’s suggests “Simply imagining a better future hacks your brain chemistry and provides you with the sensation of happiness today.” and “Being happy raises your energy level and makes it easier to pursue the steps toward real world happiness.”
It’s as if certain positive images and thoughts can rearrange your thinking and free you up to seeing possibilities you never before thought were possible. This could translate to a more successful life.
It can’t hurt to entertain positive thoughts because such thoughts can bring us to new highs. When we are happier, we may take more risks and try more things. Such decisions could result in something bigger or better happening to our lives as opposed to stagnation.
You can choose to think poorly of yourself, your abilities and your potential or you can choose to think highly of yourself (this is probably a false dichotomy here). Thinking about yourself with a higher regard will be better for your overall success and achievement in this life. We all know that this life is very short; we are constrained by time and the state of our health. Thinking negatively takes you into a state of being a pessimist. Pessimists are known to miss opportunities that optimists are able to see more readily. If our life on this earth is already short, why would we waste time going down a path that leads to fewer opportunities when we could go down the path that presents us with more?
I am probably the ultimate pessimist. I’m trying to reframe my thinking with glasses that have flower petals attached to them, or however the cliché goes. I can envision only sunshine.
This book also mentions the importance of richly delusional affirmations. For instance, in Adams' words an affirmation would be something akin to, “I, Scott Adams will become rich.” I’ve decided to put this affirmation thing into practice in my own life. It can’t hurt, I suppose. Declaring that you will become rich on a daily basis may sound grandiose but it is certainly better than the alternative, “I, Renee, will become poor.” And, if a person is thinking negatively on a daily basis, isn’t it almost like they’re doing just that?
But, just to keep a skeptical approach to this whole “positive affirmation” business, allow me to finish with another quote from his book, “ The reality is that if affirmations somehow steered the universe like magic, science probably would have discovered that force by now.”