- February 7, 2013
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I recently met up with an old friend at a coffee shop after not seeing her for over twenty years. As she was telling me how great a certain aspect of her career was going, “knock on wood,” she suddenly stood up and walked out toward the sidewalk to knock on a tree. I thought, okay no big deal. She sat down again and I noticed she was holding her backpack on her lap while trying to sip her coffee. I leaned forward to help her put the bag on the floor and she clutched on to it tightly and said, “No I never put my bag on the floor, it’s bad luck!”
If your head’s not in the game then neither are you
I began to wonder- is she superstitious within the range of normal or is she crazy? This is a woman who is very intelligent and quite successful in the entertainment business. So, what’s wrong with some superstitions, other than looking and sounding a little bizarre to those of us without them? Maybe her beliefs help her perform better in certain scenarios. We know that a person’s psychological stability greatly impacts his/her performance. Just look at Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant. As external circumstances have changed in their lives (and likely messed with their heads), their performances have suffered. If your head’s not in the game then neither are you. That’s why we have sports psychologists, life coaches and other professionals to help keep athletes and other performers focused. So, if having a superstition gives you a psychological edge then, really, there’s nothing wrong with it. Most actors, sports figures, and many other professionals have some sort of ritual or superstition (lucky meal, shirt, jersey, etc.) that leads them to believe they have an edge. And for the most part it works because the psychological boost it gives them allows them to perform at their best.
Superstitions only become a problem when your rituals or behaviors interfere with your day-to-day functioning. If rituals or behaviors cause you to arrive late or miss important meetings, or if they interfere with relationships in your life, then they are not assets. And if you don’t have access to the stimulus needed to calm your anxiety (imagine Tiger Woods misplacing his ‘lucky socks’) the superstition has the potential to interfere with your performance. So it becomes a double-edged sword. Balance is vital- letting superstitions assist and not thwart you. Alcohol in moderation can be healthy, but in excess, like most things, it can cause problems. Superstitions are exactly the same animal. In moderation, they cause you to believe that you will do better, which can give you self-confidence and improve your performance. However, if they become an addiction or obsession they are a hindrance and unhealthy. If you’re not sure seek professional help or just ask your friends to be honest if you appear to be going off the deep end. Keep yourself in check and be sure to use the superstitions you do have to your advantage!