"I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until I became that person. Or, he became me." -- Cary Grant
I'm leading with that wonderful quote by Cary Grant because he really captured what I consider the power of magical thinking: how it allows us to envision something larger than life, and then, slowly but surely, gives us the courage to become the miracle we most desire. By "magical thinking," I'm referring to a thought process that ends with the realization of a fantasy. I'm talking about letting yourself think that yes, indeed, you could become an actor or get into medical school or start a business or whatever it is that you've been dreaming about.
Before you roll your eyes and assume I'm some kind of hippie, I assure you: No, not so much. I'm an entrepreneur, which is a fancy way of saying I'm a broke(ish) small-business owner. However, having started this business from scratch, I know allllll about magical thinking, since without it, I'd probably be practicing law in a run-down strip-mall somewhere and taking a lot of happy pills to "convince" myself that I do love my life, and shouldn't Google my local cult's membership rules and regulations.
I can assure you that it was only due to the power of magical thinking -- okay, and yes, rampant ambition, determination and a sprinkling of megalomania -- that allowed me to believe that yes, if I committed to my (cough, cough) "business" (cough) "plan," someday actual people would actually want to pay me in actual U.S. currency for my actual services. I either had a dream or I was desperate, but whatever, same difference, I just committed to making this magical thinking a reality.
Whenever you're starting something big -- whether it's writing a novel, or focusing seriously on your dream of working overseas, or career-transitioning -- you actually have to engage in magical thinking, in order to have the courage to do the hard work necessary to achieve your dreams. Let's admit it: Despite all the happy horsesh*t on Facebook, changing your life is terrifying. Why do you think most people would rather buy the T-shirt, or post "empowering" quotes on Twitter rather than do the day-in, day-out, frightening, liberating, exhilarating, confusing, empowering action? Seriously, if changing your life was easy, do you really think we'd have three-for-one happy hours, or that anyone would seriously care about Kate and Wills' baby? Please. They'd be fully engaged in their own exciting lives. Creating the life you most desire is a terrifying experience and it's a never-ending cycle of hard work. End of story.
Thus, the need for magical thinking, otherwise known as hope. Otherwise, you'd give in to the frenzied Dennis Hopper-strung-out-in-Apocalypse-Now stream of consciousness monologue ricocheting through your head. You'd give in to your worst fears and lose confidence in yourself and your abilities... and I'm not okay with that. #nomegusta
And here's where the dark side of magical thinking comes in: As much as you need to keep yourself pumped up, unless you commit to your goals, and, crucially, to learning from your mistakes, that kind of thinking can easily become lying to yourself as you ignore reality and lose yourself in a not-so-magical fantasy. That is another, in a long list of things I am not okay with. You deserve more. We all do. What I love about magical thinking is that, if you work hard enough, if you're honest enough, you can use it to take you, step-by-step, to a life more magical than anything you could have originally believed.
I'm going to think it's not so magical for me to want to know what you think, either in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!