Habits and Happiness 13: Success is (probably) Squiggly

Habits and Happiness 13: Success is (probably) Squiggly

One of our principal cognitive delusions is that success and achievement is linear. In fact it is, to use a non technical term, "squiggly". We make progress we fall back we make progress again we fall back. However through the squiggle of new starts and setbacks we can detect a pattern of progress. It’s easy to get disheartened as I have when not losing weight as fast as I wanted to.

The England team with their injury setbacks and failure to beat the USA must also feel down. However learning is quite often painful and I now have the insight to understand that though since September 2009 haven’t lost much weight as I wanted , I have built the personal resources necessary to really start to lose it soon. That’s taken a long time but setbacks make you stronger. We all know of the self help verities that mistakes are the midwife of success. Slacking on or failing in achieving a goal is also crucial to achieving it . Only the most shiny- eyed optimist sees success as an uninterrupted path of progress. I have learned for example that my level of beer drinking at the weekend and especially around football undoes the good work of eating healthily and exercising during the week. Going mega at the CIPD canteen also stops me so I learn to have a light evening meal. There are always temptations such as the World Cup but I keep my world cup drinking for when I "need" it like watching England. As a Scot who doesn’t share the national schadenfreude for England’s world cup misfortunes, I have to sit through the cycle of hubris, more of the same, denial, and collapse which usually attends an England performance. Jim Collin's new book " How the mighty Fall " has lessons in this regard.

Sometimes we should be content with the progres we have made. The brilliant economist and practitioner of "sooccernomics" Stefan Symanski and the FT journalist Simon Kuper in their book " Why England always Lose", show that when England get to the quarter final of the world Cup they are overachieving, though try telling that to the press. Simply put winning a major tournament even as a fancied side is very difficult.

To reach the semi is real success. (about a 30% chance) . (Based on multiplying the probability of getting to different stages beyond the last 16), the final is (20%) and unexpected brilliance. The last time England won it they were the host nation. For me, though I am not happy about my weight, I have lost about half a stone in old money (about 3.5 kilos), I am on track to lose more I also had a back scare recently which is a big wake up call. That all adds to my resolve and makes me stronger. My weight loss line is squiggly but through the noise I can see some progress. England should easily beat Algeria in the next round, after their setback with the USA, and they should also beat Slovenia. They should qualify for the next round. If they get to the final I will buy an England Bobby Moore Cancer Research top and I will wear it with pride. Hopefully it won’t be as tight around my midriff either!

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