Success And Failure

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We retroactively judge actions by results and this is because most of us live under the illusion that there’s an easily recognizable cause and effect chain in everything we do. It’s the hubris of living in an individualistic society, a society where we’re taught that we’re the primary movers in our lives, that we can plan for and contend with all eventualities, that our destiny lies completely within our own hands.

But when it comes to success or failure in endeavors there are innumerable forces outside of our locus of control, forces that play an important role in outcomes. In addition to skill and effort or lack of skill and laziness there’s always the x-factor of luck. People who do just about everything right sometimes still fail and people who do just about everything wrong sometimes still succeed.

You’ll hear many respond “I make my own luck.” That deep psychological need to believe we are fully in control of our own destinies makes us blind to the forces that we can’t control. Instead, we simply skip to the result in order to categorize the actions that preceded that result rather than remembering them for what they were at the time. We place all the emphasis on the outcome.

Better to focus on the process instead of making success or failure the sole criterion for the worthiness or unworthiness of our actions. From the psychological point of view what matter most are the intentions and the concrete behaviors stemming from them, these should be the criterion for success or failure.