Science Proves I’m Helpful

During my recent internet sabbatical I finally made it to our local library. And of course, now I keep kicking myself for not doing that sooner, because, all those books? There to be read for free? It’s glorious.

One of the books I wound up reading is The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar. Really, I was looking for one of his other books, Happier, but it wasn’t on the shelf. Hello, synchronicity.

Why synchronicity? Because, although there’s a significant physical component to what I’ve been struggling with lately, the book helped me see that my perfectionism is also a big contributing factor.

I’ve known forever that I’m a perfectionist, but I didn’t realize that my outcome-based thinking and my all-or-nothing approach to everything I attempt were related to that. Yeah, kind of a duh! moment now that I look back. And who knows, maybe subconsciously I already knew they were all connected, but now I can really see it.

I’ll probably write some more about what I’ve learned, but this post is about the bonus validation I got of the value of my blogging. (How’s that for tooting my own horn?)

Throughout the book, Ben-Shahar shares several studies and their findings. Here’s the one that made me feel all warm inside (emphasis mine, and I added white space for readability):

Professor Ellen Langer asked students to assess the intelligence of a number of highly accomplished scientists.

The first group of students was given no information on how these scientists attained their success. Participants in this group rated the intelligence of the scientists as extremely high and did not perceive the scientists’ achievements as attainable.

Participants in the second group were told about the same scientists and the same achievements, but in addition they were told about the trials, errors, and setbacks the scientists experienced on the road to success.

Students in this group evaluated these scientists as impressive – just like the students in the first group did. But unlike participants in the first group, students in the second group evaluated the scientists’ accomplishments as attainable.

The point? When you only see the outcome, everything looks like overnight success, the result of innate talent and a lucky break. But the reality is that every achievement has many steps along the way, many of which were probably missteps.

What I found most exciting (sorry – is my inner geek showing?) is that all it took for the students to see the achievements as attainable was the awareness of the failures the scientists experienced before they reached success.

That was a serious a-ha moment for me.

Part of me, all along, has known that sharing my process is useful and important for my readers. Another part of me tends to think it’s self-indulgent and that I’m not being teach-y enough.

Either way, I couldn’t really articulate why it was important for me to share my process. And not being able to articulate the why meant I tended to discount the lovely comments and emails where people flat-out told me it was helpful. I guess my inner scientist needed something more concrete.

So, this is why it’s important: It’s to share the steps I took along the way. To show that things go wrong, and there are setbacks, health challenges, flopped launches and fear. To demystify what I’m doing.

All in hopes of people realizing that if I can do it, others can do it, too.

You can do it.

There’s no mystery, here. Just hard work, lots of managing of emotions (often unsuccessfully), and finding ways to move ahead despite the fear.

Meanwhile, I’m just going to bask in the fact that now, when my monsters tell me writing a post about what I’m dealing with is wasting my readers’ time, I can point them to a scientific study that proves otherwise.

If you sometimes doubt the value of writing about your process, please share this study with your monsters, too. Care to bask with me?

And a little update!

I’ve been interviewed by the lovely Karen Caterson over at the Square Peg People blog! I had a blast talking with Karen. We even talked about what was on my second grade report card. :)

Oh, and I’m giving away a free coaching session over there! You can enter by leaving a comment on her post of the interview. The details are at the end of the post!

11 thoughts on “Science Proves I’m Helpful

  1. Victoria Post author

    @Bas – Thanks for popping up! Your comment made my day! :)

    @Andrew – Win, indeed!

    @Catherine – Ooh…”one-woman war on perfectionism”. Love that!

  2. Heidi

    Thank you! so much for sharing this… this is definitely one of those things that I know, in an intellectual sense, but which often eludes me emotionally.

    I think I might just bookmark this post, so that when my monsters are telling me how self-aggrandizing my blog posts are, and how nobody else wants to know about my stupid process, I can refer back to it and say “see! it’s scientifically proven!” Actually, I may just print this out and tape it to my wall ;)
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..Power Napping 20 =-.

  3. sas

    I am very interested in failure and risk taking as a POSITIVE so this post was fascinating to me. I will definitely look into this book.


  4. Fi Bowman

    Well, dare I say it – *we* knew you were helpful before science proved it. (Wow. Is that like faith or something??)

    But it’s also important for YOU to know it, right?

    And being a fellow struggling perfectionist, I’d say it’s also helpful for me to know that showing imperfection is helpful (are you confused yet? I think what I’m saying makes sense.). So maybe I’ll get off that high horse and post a few more of my saggy bits in public.


  5. Lori-Ann

    Writing about what you are dealing with definitely helps! I mean, reading about it helps me tons! And I’m so happy that science can now confirm this!

    I read something recently that went something along the lines of saying that people who play video games are so much better at this (at what? at learning? At being real and raw and honest on their blogs?) because they fail all the time–that failing is integral to the gaming experience and critical to getting better at the game. And that failing and starting again right away is a skill that transfers from games to the rest of life. Have you heard of this theory? I’m practicing it at the moment, because I fail to remember where I read it, or where even to begin searching for the article!
    .-= Lori-Ann´s last blog ..hmp on being shy =-.

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