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Monday, May 12, 2008

Achieve Your Goals By Expecting Miracles Instead Of Debacles

How many times have you had a bad day when everything seemed to go wrong at the worst possible moment? You failed to achieve most of your goals and felt that the universe was against you.

Perhaps, the universe was to blame or perhaps you were to blame because you expected things to go wrong. We might be able to avoid such debacles by expecting miracles instead. In case anyone is wondering, one dictionary defines a 'debacle' as a 'total and often ludicrous failure.' 'Miracle' in this article simply means 'something wonderful'.

Earlier during the year, my first goal of the day was to change the fluorescent tube light which is high on the ceiling over my desk. I expected the following might go wrong:

The small step ladder might break under my weight as I used it to climb on to my desk just as the attic ladder had collapsed under me a few months ago. I might even get my foot trapped within the ladder like a neighbour whose foot was nearly amputated by her own metal ladder. She retained her foot by holding it in place until help arrived but has had endless problems and pain for years as a result of this one unfortunate accident.

If the ladder did not collapse, I thought the desk might collapse if I had to put all my weight on it. My computer would then hit the floor with major damage and so would my monitor not to mention the phone and everything else on my desk. I would also hurtle to the floor breaking several bones and ending up in agony and even a state of paralysis for life!

Even if the desk did not collapse, I might not be able to fit the light tube into the holes at each end of the light fitting and, even if I did, the light might not work and/or the electric fitting might catch fire! The fitting had seemed to glow red as the previous light tube expired!

I am exaggerating but only a little and I would not have tried to change the light tube if I had really believed that everything would go wrong. However, I still believed a watered down version of Murphy's law that some things that could go wrong might go wrong at the worst possible moment and I nearly gave up on my goal before I even started. I could have used a lamp instead of changing the fluorescent light. In the event, everything went right although at times I struggled. The ladder and the desk held up under my full weight and the fluorescent light is now shining brightly above me. Goal achieved.

When I moved on to open my emails, in triumphant mood, I came across one which had a new law inside which I much prefer to Murphy's: "Everything that CAN go right WILL go right. Expect Miracles!"

The mail called it Bijan's law after it's author and added the following comment: "I came across this today and really liked it. I hope you liked it too. It's my philosophy, but I like the way Bijan phrases it."

I, also, prefer Bijan's law to Murphy's law. It can motivate you to get a move on with your goals. However, Murphy's law can still be a useful law in achieving your goals. It repays closer study

Murphy's law is a well known saying that broadly states that things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance. The law, thus, gives us fair warning not to leave things to chance. Instead we should prepare well and practice whatever we are planning to do especially if we are performing in public. We should avoid both hurry and worry.

The British stage magician Nevil Maskelyne discovered this for himself. He wrote in 1908: "It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first time in public, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains."

The law that produces this kind of experience has been around for a long time but after 1952, the name 'Murphy' was attached to it possibly when some measuring devices invented by Edward Murphy went wrong.

The perversity, or apparently deliberate tendency to mess things up, of the universe has long been commented on, and forerunners to the modern version of Murphy's law are not hard to find. For example, an Ohio newspaper printed this poem in 1841: "I never had a slice of bread, Particularly large and wide, That did not fall upon the floor, And always on the buttered side."

Designers of all kinds of products have long recognized the tendency of people as well as the universe to mess things up. Murphy's law has encouraged them to use defensive design i.e. to make things so simple and easy to use that even the greatest idiot can use them successfully.

For example, the 3.5-inch floppy disk once used in many computers will not easily fit into the drive unless it is put in the right way up. In contrast, the older 5.25-inch floppy disk could be inserted in a variety of ways that might damage the disk or drive.

The newer CD-ROM and DVD formats permit one incorrect orientation - the disc may be inserted upside-down, which is harmless to the disc. A defensive designer knows that if it is possible for the disc to be inserted the wrong way, someone will eventually try it.

An awareness of Murphy's law can then help all human beings especially the stupid ones to achieve their goals! I have, since my teenage years, classed myself amongst the technically stupid ones. I now realize that no one should think of themselves as stupid in connection with any skill or area of knowledge because if you consistently think of yourself as stupid you tend to become so and make only half-hearted efforts to improve.

Another example of defensive design can be seen in car design. Car designers have allowed for the tendency of some drivers to drive badly. They have created safety features like seat belts which will limit the damage caused by accidents.

So then, let's expect miracles by visualising the wonderful things that could happen rather than worrying about possible disasters that might well not happen. But let's also be aware of the problems that might bite us, if we do not take all necessary precautions.

Make sure that there are no shark fins around if you go for a swim in the sea and don't forget to check that the swimming pool is full of water before you dive into it. I have heard about at least one person who dived into an empty pool without checking simply because it had been full of water the day before! I am not sure if that story is true or not but would not be surprised if it was.

If you are doing business with somebody, make sure they are not a 'shark' who will just take your money. On the other hand, you need to trust and expect the best from some people or it will take a long time to achieve anything. If you love alcohol, avoid too much to drink or the world will literally become your playground as you fall and slip all over the place like a confused child. If you are a workaholic, get some rest or the same thing will happen!

Hopefully, your life will be full of goal achievement and miracles rather than debacles. Think daily of Bijan's law but, occasionally, remember Murphy's law and take steps to keep any debacles to a minimum.

Expect things to go right as you strive to achieve your goals and you are far more likely to achieve them. It is also worth remembering this great quote: "Life is not numbered by the amount of breaths we take but by the moments which take our breath away." Such moments constitute the miracles - the wonderful things, events, experiences and people - we should be expecting and appreciating every day of our lives.