By Cherie Singer, Strategic Solutions Ambassador at Heinz Marketing
With challenging economic times afoot, it’s the perfect storm where faulty coping tactics like Magical Thinking can rear their ugly heads. Because when we’re in a stressed and troubled emotional state, along with having more limited resources, we can feel depleted, out of control, anxious – and our endurance is taxed.
What is Magical Thinking?
“Magical thinking” – it’s got an enchanting ring to it, right? Unfortunately, this particular brand of mindset doesn’t always create spellbinding results in the world of business. The underlying cause of defaulting to this flawed coping mechanism is often fear, lack of confidence, anxiety. And many of us have been there emotionally, so it’s likely we’ve unwittingly used it from time to time. But there are ways to help ensure we can keep, or move back into, a clearer mindset and stronger strategies.
Magical Thinking can take different forms such as Anchoring, Overconfidence, and Confirmation bias.
“Anchoring Bias” is when we get stuck on an initial idea/solution and then don’t even consider alternative strategies.
In “Overconfidence Bias” we inflate our own ego – believing we’re better and smarter than we actually are.
“Confirmation Bias” is where you wish for an outcome so strongly that you begin believing and acting as if that outcome were already a reality. We’ve seen the terrible consequences of “Confirmation Bias” happen in real-time. Think Theranos, and how this played out with CEO Elizabeth Holmes as she selectively looked for evidence that supported her ideas, even when it wasn’t reliable/credible/plausible (ultimately her behavior progressed into outright deception).
What does Magical Thinking Impact?
This way of thinking results in a heap of negative outcomes – poor decision-making, excessive pride leading to discounting and patronizing others, wasting time and resources on strategies that aren’t viable, etc.
Magical Thinking is troublesome in business and in life – so having a keen awareness around when we unconsciously fall into it – and how it could be playing into our efforts – is key to driving business outcomes.
Not being self-aware can lead us to (magically) think, for instance, that a brand-new sales strategy we’ve developed is strong and effective, even as we watch it crash and burn. And because we’ve invested time and resources into it – we dig in and continue to double-down in an attempt to justify it (“Theranosing”). It can also cause us to inflate our egos as we struggle to overcompensate for internal feelings of inadequacy, causing us to mistreat our employees, colleagues, friends and families.
How to avoid Magical Thinking
To ensure your emotional state does not unintentionally bubble up and negatively impact how you think and act, it’s critical to keep aware and choose better coping tools so that you can maintain a healthy mindset. To avoid potential pitfalls with Magical Thinking, here are some tips:
- Always defer to critical thinking and data driven decision-making
- Take time when crafting strategies to complex problems and garner feedback from those you trust
- Be open to constructive criticism and to revising strategies (or moving on to new, more effective ones)
- Tap into your professional and personal support network for self-care
- Keep on top of your emotional and physical health (i.e., professional coaching, therapy, downtime, sleep, diet, exercise)
Have you or your teams ever experienced Magical Thinking? How did it work out for you? Please feel free to share your stories in the comments.