Let’s be clear: A superstition is defined, via the reliable Dictionary.com, as “a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing.” In other words, it’s stuff we do just because, well, we think it is somehow helpful for a successful outcome.
I once had the opportunity to work with the legendary Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith at a gathering of a number of successful executives. At one point, Goldsmith shared his observation that most successful people he coached were especially superstitious. He believed the reason was that humans are wired for positive reinforcement – and the smarter we are, the more carefully we look for stuff that is associated with successful outcomes. Apparently, if we look hard enough, we will always find something.
When we find something that might possibly be correlated with success, we tend to latch onto it. Of course, there is nothing really wrong with behaviors that may be unnecessary (or, dare I say, irrational). But, given the value of our time, we should question the practices we adopt without real justification.
Also, as we gain more experience – and age – in our careers, we start to cling to the behaviors and patterns that we are familiar with. Some call this “getting stuck thinking inside the box.” To ensure that we remain open to process improvements and new ideas, we must eliminate the stuff we do “just because.”
A good place to start is by challenging ourselves to minimize superstitious behaviors. It is the plaque that builds up from success, and it confines us.
***This article is based on research by Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.