Isn't insanity also defined as the differential between what you think you are able to do and what you actually are able to accomplish?
People make fun of adolescences in this regard. Magical thinking is the phrase used for teenagers who think they are smarter, stronger, faster that the stopwatch suggests. "I can stay up until two o'clock in the morning and still get up for my 8:00 am class." Wrong. "I don't need to study one hour a day for ten days, I can study for ten hours in one day. I'll do fine on the exam." Wrong. "I can have unprotected sex with no consequences." So very wrong. Aren't there enough missed classes, failed exams, and unplanned pregnancies to prove this point?
Is another example of magical thinking believing that magical thinking ends when adolescence does? Or can a disconnect continue well into adulthood?
Here is an example of the thought process of an actual living breathing 60-year-old. Confidentiality forbids my saying too much about this person. Except to point out that he is a respected educational consultant and author. You would likely recognize his name were I at liberty to disclose it.
Let's listen in on his thought process last Saturday. He has just finished volunteering at an ultra marathon in the Everglades. Having handed out cups of water, he is now observing the awards ceremony. A few dozen runners, most of whom look like they have just run 31 miles through a swamp, mill about eating veggie burgers, chatting about how many times they did face plants in the mud.
"What a great bunch of folks" is his first thought. And indeed by any objective standard, this statement is true. Ultra-marathoners are invariably the most modest and pleasant of athletes. They do not complete against one another. They compete against themselves, the brutality of the course, and the inevitability of the clock.
"The winner of the 60 through 69-year-old age group ran 31 miles in six hours." This statement is also true. See? That big clock over there said six hours in big, red numerals.
But here is where our volunteer's thinking becomes murky: "Six hours?" He muses. "I could run 31 miles in six hours. If I trained for a year, I could win my age group."
No, he could not. Ten years ago, he was able to run 31 miles in six hours. On a flat paved course, not through the mud. On a cool Connecticut day, not a humid 85° South Florida sauna. And at age 50, not at age 60.
And indeed, the reality check came the next day when I--er, ahem, of course I meant, "he"--ran three miles. The blatant impossibility of running another 28 miles came crashing down. An actual three-mile run wore me out. I could not run 31 miles. I could not run 31 miles on a box. I could not run 31 miles with a fox.
I could not run 31 miles if I stole Gilligan's jet pack
But enough about me.
Are there any examples of magical thinking in your relationship with your children? Do you think your kids are capable of more than they are? Despite all evidence to the contrary?
Do you think your child could get an A in math, for example? If she only tried harder? If she only studied more?
Is she going to see the teacher for extra help? Has she scheduled time with study buddies? Have you hired a tutor to help her prepare for tests? If so, perhaps you (and she) are doing everything that you can.
(If instead, she is spending all her time on her phone and on social media rather than studying, you might want to give some thought as to how she got involved with these gadgets in the first place. Did she buy the phone with money she earned from mowing lawns and babysitting? I didn't think so.)
It is easy to misinterpret reality while sitting comfortably in a lawn care watching the awards ceremony. Similarly, it doesn't require much effort to think that your daughter can get an A in calculus and go to medical school. Her authentic experience in the classroom may be removed from that of which you think she is capable. As far removed as the likelihood that this 60-year-old can speed 31 miles through a swamp in six hours.

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