We’ve all been seduced by the promises of a “magic bullet.” I happen to work in two fields that are overwhelmed with programs and plans for quick results and low effort—Finance and weight management. Get rich quick! Lose weight quick! Make thousands in just minutes a day! Get ripped in just minutes a day! It’s all quite familiar. And unfortunately, many very intelligent people will fall for this kind of pitch. We’ve all found ourselves wishing that a weight loss magic bullet could really work!
Magic Bullet claims are often difficult to qualify and quantify. The promised results can be highly subjective so the “proof” of their efficacy relies solely on the person who tries them. The degree to which we want something to work and deliver on its incredible promises is pitted up against the degree to which none of us want to be seen as gullible dupes.
The weight loss industry in itself provides a fascinating construct for examining the nature of our belief systems. Countless products and services are sold with the claims of fast, easy, effortless weight loss, year after year even though we really know they won’t work. Ask anyone if they believe there’s a pill you can take to drop pounds quickly without giving up pizza and ice cream and they’ll likely say no. But they could see a very persuasive “fat burner” TV commercial and they’ll be whipping out the credit card for a weight loss magic bullet bottle of capsules that contain nothing more than a fiber supplement!
I believe a significant reason why we continue to fall for outrageous claims is because we do not accurately identify the real cause and effect that underlies the outcome of a Magic Bullet’s use. In my book, I write about what I call the “Domino Habit,” something you change in your daily routine that inspires a mindset to make more changes.
Let’s say you start a very basic five-minute exercise routine and you’re pretty good about doing it every single day. Even if you devote just these few minutes each morning, you will have a sense of pride in yourself that you’re “doing something.” That will foster feelings in you that you are a person who makes good choices and you make an effort to take care of yourself. That will start to affect other choices you make, including what you eat. This is what continues to sell the idea that you can get “big results” from a “small change.” One individual change by itself will rarely translate into much of a result. But as that small change expands into something bigger and triggers more change, the cumulative result will become apparent.
You may not even realize that the morning exercise routine got you walking around a bit more during your day which got you eating a little cleaner and lighter which has you sleeping better and then the needle on the scale starting moving a little…Imagine now that you start telling people you are getting all these great results from a daily five-minute exercise routine. There’s the flaw in the logic!
Similarly, when we adopt some particular change to our routine that may in itself be utterly ineffectual, it can inspire and trigger other changes that become the real cause for the ultimate effect. The failure of the original change to bring about any result can literally be masked by the results of the behaviors it may inspire. This is the power of the placebo effect at work. From various kinds of capsules and “superfoods” to centuries-old folk remedies, most substances that present a placebo effect are simply ineffectual and won’t hurt you if you consume them.
The placebo effect is two-fold: First, you do something that you believe will have results, like taking a fat-burner capsule or a homeopathic supplement. You believe the Magic Bullet will produce results and you WANT it to. You also don’t want to feel like an idiot for believing in some ridiculous snake oil. You will begin to perceive the results that you want. If a product says it will boost your metabolism, you’ll likely decide that you think you feel a bit more energetic. If it says it will reduce your appetite, you’ll likely decide that you think you’re a bit less hungry. Really, you’re just thinking about it more than you did before. Many people will decide to attribute various feelings and experiences to the Magic Bullet because they want to believe it works. And they don’t want to feel stupid.
Second, the action of using the Magic Bullet introduces a meaningful ritual into your routine and puts you in a mindset that you are “doing something” that will have a positive effect on your body. You are inspired to think of yourself as a person who makes positive choices for your health. This is how you may begin to do things that can be responsible for the real cause and effect of the results, but you will want to attribute it to the Magic Bullet.
If Magic Bullets to wealth and beauty were ever real, we’d all be rich and thin! Money and beauty/health are two areas of our lives where our desires are so powerful, we can be driven to do irrational things. Our desire for something will determine the lengths we’ll go to get it but even wanting something very badly can still leave us struggling. For some of us, it can seem like no amount of effort or determination can conquer the challenges of trying to control our bodies and our minds. Doing the work to discover what makes each of us unique can ultimately be more effective than trying to circumvent who and what we really are.
The field of personal development and human potential sells the idea that we can all possess unlimited potential to do whatever we choose. It can get us all hyped up and excited but this is not reality. We all do have our limits. Becoming aware of our limits and parameters, accepting them, and working within them can be more effective and powerful than struggling to fight a losing battle against them.