Are you fooling yourself?

It’s the easiest thing in the world for a man to deceive himself.
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

Most people profess to want to learn more, do more and achieve more. Some even have plans and goals for what they’ll do and achieve. Yet often, we do more in our minds than we do in reality: we believe we do more than we’re actually doing.

If I asked you how much time you devoted to self-improvement or self-development, would you know? If I asked how much time you spent working on the most difficult challenges to your success, would you know?

Most people would get it wrong. We often overestimate the time we spend working on our goals. Even worse, we tend to devote more time to the easy things in life rather than the important things.

While doing research for the 2003 book Expert Performance in Sports, researchers Janice Deakin and Stephen Cobley spent time observing 24 figure skaters. Although all the skaters were equally experienced, they could easily be divided into two groups: the elite and the second tier.

Deakin and Cobley asked the skaters how much time they spent practicing jumps — one of the most difficult parts of figure skating. They all estimated that they spent about 70% of their practice time on jumps.

The researchers measured the actual time spent on jumps and compared it to those estimates. Here’s what was most interesting about the results: the elite skaters spent 68% of their time practicing jumps while the second tier skaters spent only 48% of their time on jumps. It’s also worth noting that all the skaters spent considerably more time practicing jumps they had already mastered rather than practicing new jumps.

I believe this research shows the tendency for most people to overestimate the time and effort they put into self-improvement. It also shows that we have a tendency to stick with what’s comfortable and routine.

If you truly want to achieve outstanding results, you need to focus your time on learning new skills, doing things that are challenging rather than comfortable. The people who spend the most time challenging themselves are the ones who will enjoy the greatest success.

Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.
c. 384 – 322 B.C.

Copyright © 2017 John Chancellor


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