I recently read a story about a collegiate sprinter who made a crucial mistake during his race. While competing in the men’s steeplechase event, he raised his arm to celebrate his victory as he led the trailing runners towards the finish line.
Unfortunately, his celebrations slowed him down enough for a competing runner to catch him and win the race. He lost by one tenth of a second.
It’s a classic story of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. An ironic reminder that when we celebrate too soon, there can be little sympathy for our deserved misfortune.
Goleman’s psychology research explains that this tendency to sabotage one’s own success is of the most paradoxical of human behaviors. He writes of the intricate gamesmanship that involves accepting blame or a loss in order to avoid the risk of a setback that seems even more threatening.
That’s why people tend to use the plot of self defeat just at the moment when they have gained a triumph that. Because deep down, they believe they do not deserve it. The sabotage any improvements in order to preserve their defeat and their victim identity.
The other reason, of course, is complacency. Shooting ourselves in the foot by declaring victory too early. Preemptively waving the mission accomplished banner before the war is over.
Call it instant karma, call it creative resistance, call it the observer effect, but the underlying principle is still the same.
Stay in the moment. Keep your head down until the race is over. The time to celebrate will come later.
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