Don’t you just love the idea of starting something new, of getting off to a fresh start? But nothing revs up the search for a clean slate more than the start of a new calendar year.
Unless maybe it’s the start of a new decade.
Most people I know were glad to see the end of ’09 and very glad to see the end of what I call “The Oh-ohs.” After all, feelings of dread and fear and outright calamities were all too common for the past 10 years, even if you weren’t touched directly by war and recession.
To make sure things turn out differently in the months ahead, I’ve been looking for good omens everywhere. I even manufactured them where I could, by doing things like cooking lentils for a New Year’s Eve midnight supper.
It’s ridiculous, I know. Although I’m a big believer in the health benefits of a nutritious diet, I really don’t think that eating a certain legume on a certain day is going to have a direct and measurable effect on my income.
But I find it reassuring nonetheless.
Pondering all this has prompted me to consider the many ways I get involved with magical thinking. Maybe you do it, too. Do you like to schedule important events on certain days of the week? Make project budget proposals end in lucky numbers? Wear certain socks to important events?
If you do these sorts of things, I bet you don’t really believe you’re changing the future. It’s just that we have so little control in some situations, we invoke good fortune however we can.
Goofy as it is, I don’t think such superstitious behavior is really problematic, because how can you take it seriously?
It’s the magical thinking that seems almost rational you’ve got to watch out for. Perhaps you think getting a job with a certain company is what will bring you security or think a recruiter will find you the position of your dreams. You might even believe that if you work hard enough, you’ll finally get that promotion.
My suggestion would be to look at those assumptions as carefully as you’d look at a bowl of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Ask yourself what these thoughts are based on. Do you have any evidence that would substantiate your beliefs? Do you have evidence that would undercut them?
If this onslaught of rational thought de-stabilizes some of your favorite assumptions, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon them completely. It just means you need to take additional, concrete steps to assure the kind of outcomes you want. Try looking for positions at other companies, checking up on a recruiter’s placement history and having a serious talk with your supervisor about promotion opportunities. Then you can make other plans if you need to.
And knock wood, of course.
by Danielle Dresden