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Burn the Ships

At around 330 BC, Alexander the Great reached the shores of Hellespont (now-a-days northwestern Turkey) for a surprise attack on the Persian Empire, one of his most formidable enemies. Alexander knew that his army was significantly out-numbered and as soon as his men would realize this, they would lose their self confidence and retract rather then fight. So, upon reaching the Persian shore, he instructed his men to burn the ships. 

Fast forward almost 2000 years, in the year 1519, a Spanish conquistador by the name of Hernán Cortés followed a similar plan when he decided to wage an attack against the much larger Aztec empire. Upon arriving on the shores of Mexico, Cortés too, instructed his men to burn the ships.

You're probably wondering; why would they do that?

Because, both Alexander and Hernán understood the human psyche. They knew that by removing an escape plan, their men would focus all their attention and energy on achieving their goal and be compelled to fight as if their life depended on it – because it literally did!

Both Alexander's and Hernán's armies won colossal victories as a result of their bold and un-compromising strategy, and achieved legendary status in the eyes of their fellow country men, their enemies, and through-out history alike.

Each and everyone of us has important goals we would like to achieve in our lives. However, very few of us would put ourselves in a position where we would actively choose not to have a fall-back plan (plan B) as we pursue these goals which would make success the only viable option. 

The human mind has a tendency to create “logical” narratives based on why we shouldn’t follow through with a given venture or a certain goal attainment plan.

For example, our mind will tell us something like; if it was a viable goal, someone else would have done it by now... Or, there will be so many challenges along the way, that the odds of success are far too slim... Or at the very least, there should a contingency plan in place... 

While the first 2 examples require our will power and intuition (our spirit) to over-power our doubting mind, the 3rd example, is a goal attainment killer.

The reason is, that as soon as a contingency plan gets introduced as an option, a whole psychological process gets triggered in our mind, which works counter-intuitive to the attainment of our goal and causes us not to commit whole heartedly in the pursuit of it. 

Our mind has a built in survival mechanism which triggers an “energy conservation” mode. The mind always seeks certainty, and therefore wants to see how things will “play out” organically first before it allocates too much focus, energy, and resources towards the unknown. 

The problem is, that it is precisely this state of comfort that creates a self fulfilling prophecy. Namely, by not putting all your focus, energy, and resources into the attainment of the goal, plan A does not materialize and plan B gets triggered which is more of a defensive plan rather then the original offensive one, and as a result leads to a failed goal attainment outcome.

So, the next time you have an important goal that you would really like to pursue…consider, burning the ships. 

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