Faith & Facts (The Stockdale Paradox)

We have faith in the future we are creating. We know that faith, however, is not blind optimism. We must face the facts so we stay grounded with our confidence.

Faith & Facts (The Stockdale Paradox)
Faith & Facts by JLP

Visualization is a powerful tool — often used by professional athletes to envision success in a high pressure situation. Athletes imagine detailed imagery that depicts making the shot, scoring the goal, or getting the strikeout before actually undertaking the action. This same technique can be applied outside of sports too. We focus our mind's eye on landing the presentation/pitch, finding an elegant engineering solution, or negotiating the best deal. This tool allows us to project our targeted goal more vividly, setting up the right mindset for us to be successful. We then execute — relying on our talents, training, experience, and preparation to see it through. We have faith in the future we are creating. We know that faith, however, is not blind optimism. Blind optimism can make us over confident, tricking our minds that our success is a foregone conclusion, resulting in the diminishment of our actual efforts. "Why work so hard for something that is inevitable", we might unconsciously think. No, we must face the facts, our goal may be hard to achieve and we need our best efforts, so we stay grounded with our confidence. Knowing that if we miss the mark, we gave it our all, and we will learn from the effort and be better for the next attempt.

This paradox is sometimes referred to as the Stockdale Paradox:

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. -Admiral James Stockdale

Learn more about the Stockdale Paradox and the amazing story of Stockdale himself, a prisoner of the Vietnam war for over 8 years, in this recent video from author Jim Collins who coined this paradox and wrote about it in his excellent leadership book Good to Great.

See the whole series by using the Paradox Pairs Index