I don’t like this quote by Langston Hughes, “Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” We believe that our mind can focus on the underlying positive message, but as we learn in coaching psychology, even under mild stress, it breaks down to the negative message: Dear God, what if our dreams die?!
From a coaching psychological analysis, “hold fast” is only a neutral statement, and the remainder of the quote leans to the negative side of the spectrum. This is why I illustrated it, because in general, I enjoy Hughes poetry. However, I cannot allow the tincture of bias to influence my analysis of how I or others coach.
So, from a coaching psychology perspective, we could create much more “consolidation” (influencing internalization a positive message) by writing, “Hold fast to your dreams, for if you do, you will mend each broken wing, and resurrect every fallen dream, like a phoenix from the ashes.” Still poetic, but binding the neutral imperative to a positive affirmation.
If you’re performing your exercise, and I coach you by saying, “don’t let your elbows flair, or you won’t be strong enough to get your number,” statistically you won’t be. If however, I say, “pinch your elbows tight to your ribs, and you’ll nail your number,” statistically you will. Certainly there are some of us who can fixate so strongly upon the negative that little positive influence can be made, and there are some of us at some time in our lives who can focus so strongly upon the positive that no negative can invade. However, statistically, we are heavily influenced.
We would all love to believe that we are uninfluenced by language, by others, but words, syntax and delivery are our greatest allies or our most dangerous foes.
Our choices can be influenced by how criteria are framed. In the famous study on the subject, Princeton University psychologist Eldar Shafir asked a group of students to act as the jury in a mock custody battle between two parents: Parent A was said to have an average income, average health, average working hours, a reasonable rapport with the child, and a relatively stable social life. Parent B, however, had an above-average income, a very close relationship with the child, an extremely active social life, lots of work-related travel, and minor health problems. Parent A was clearly the more conservative choice, with no real positive or negative extremes, while Parent B had two very positive attributes, such as a very close relationship with the child and an above-average income, but also a few modestly troubling ones, like minor health problems and an active social life. So which parent did most people prefer?
The answer, rather unexpectedly, depended on how the question was phrased. When the jury was asked, “Which parent would you deny sole custody of the child?” they awarded the child to Parent A. But when asked, “To which parent would you award sole custody of the child?” Parent B got the kid. The reason for this discrepancy, Shafir concluded, was that the former question draws attention to the parents’ strengths—which favors Parent B, who boasts two strong attributes despite also having some negative ones—while the latter question highlights the parents’ weaknesses—which favors the safer bet, Parent A, who though never rising above “average” in any area has no real negatives.
Your mind is like a muscle. It will respond to how you train it. You are not static and fixed, but dynamic and constantly evolving. Stop worrying about what could go wrong and start being absolutely positive about what will go right.
Train, eat, rest, play, work, visualize yourself being exactly where you want to be. Everyday wake up and make this your daily compass. You WILL inevitably find your goal if you practice this process. Your dreams CANNOT die, your wings WILL heal. You will rise and rise again. Have faith, stay courageous, refocus and keep going.