It’s helpful to be able to predict what will happen in any given situation. We are aided in this by one simple rule. It doesn’t always apply and it is often the goal of personal development to ensure that it doesn’t apply, but for the most part we would do well to remember the following:
If it’s happened before, it will likely happen again.
An interesting analogy, known as the Gambler’s Fallacy, gives an idea of how we draw false conclusions about patterns. On a roulette table some people fall into the trap of believing that because some numbers have not occurred for a while, they must come up soon. It’s the law of averages, surely? Things will be different next time.
Wrong. On a roulette table, where probability is the only factor, there is no reason to assume that past events should bring about a different outcome in the future. Eventually, the rarer numbers will appear, but the law of averages works on a much larger scale than some people are prepared to accept.
Similarly and more relevantly, there is no reason to believe that a sporting team is due a victory because they have lost so many of their recent games. In actual fact, if defeat is what they have known, then it is highly likely that unless they change something about their game, defeat is what they will continue to experience.
In the years before I began my training with Karaj, I’d had a few problems with my back, which included some very painful and exhausting episodes. I remember the day Karaj said to me, ‘Your back will go again.’ I trusted his judgment but didn’t want to believe him. Moreover, I wondered how he could possibly know. Simple. Because it had happened before.
As it turned out, he was right. My journals are full of comments about how well I was doing with my exercises and how much progress I was making towards a life of increased strength and fitness. But, in October 2001, out of nowhere, the problem reoccurred with more pain than ever before. It was not an easy time, but it was made slightly easier because it was not a complete surprise. The severity and the consequences were surprising, but the fact that it happened was not.
Applying this same logic to our personal development; if we go into familiar situations there is a likelihood of familiar outcomes, as mentioned in this entry. This knowledge helps us to prepare for situations whilst remaining focused on our desired outcome. It helps us to chart our progress whenever the results differ from what has gone before, and it prevents us from losing heart because, when familiar things happen, we are less likely to feel frustrated.
Being able to predict what will happen also helps us to be patient with ourselves and our progress. All too often we are in a hurry to change things and we end up with the feeling of having taken two steps forward and one step back. Instead, we need to relax and proceed step by step. Then, when things turn out differently, we can smile to ourselves because it means we are actively influencing our lives.