Superstitious Spirituality

Been reading"What Got You Here, Won't Get You There" over the weekend. Great read with lots of stuff for me to think about and try and implement into my leadership; I'll review it more when finish.

One thing I read early in the book hit me from a spiritual perspective. In the book, Marshall Goldsmith discusses how successful people tend to fall into the trap of superstitious beliefs about their success. He defines superstition as,
the belief that a specific activity, followed by a positive reinforcement, is actually the cause of that positive reinforcement
I had a few crazy superstitions while I was playing hockey, and they are developed as the result of doing an activity and having success in the game, and then redoing that activity before the next game hoping for the same success. Some of my superstitions where: putting on equipment for my left side before my right, eating McDonald's on the way to the rink, listening to the same songs during warm-ups, taping my stick a certain way, and tucking in my jersey a certain way. I'm sure there were more. Point is, I did all those crazy things thinking they might have some effect on my success in the game.

Successful leaders can easily fall prey to the same superstition trap. The belief can sneak in that success was achieved because of a certain leadership behavior. Therefore, the leader repeats that same behavior over and over attributing their on-going success to the action being taken. Goldsmith rightly points out that, while there certainly are types of leadership behaviors that should be repeated, successful people must be careful that they don't forget some success is "in spite of" things rather than "because" of them.

I started thinking about this from a spiritual perspective. There is a tendency among Christians to attribute warm feelings towards God, or the experience of his blessing in our life, to a set of activities that we perform. Quickly, the superstitious mind set takes over and a person becomes trapped, repeating the same activity over and over again hoping for the same spiritual result. These activities take all kinds of forms:

- quiet time in the morning
- certain praise music
- addiction to retreats
- reading the same authors
- prayer w/ a special cloth or oil
- magical prayer words

What we have to realize is that we experience God in all kinds of ways, and sometimes we experience his blessing "in spite of" our behavior, not "because" of it. God is God, which means he is free to answer prayer, fill us with an out-pouring of his Spirit, heal, bring blessing, or manifest himself in all kinds of magnificent ways, without an superstitious beliefs among his people. Any positive spiritual reinforcement we get from an activity must be understood in the idea that God chose to act on his own, and we cannot expect a similar results simply by repeating that same activity another time. Doesn't mean we shouldn't repeat certain actions, we just shouldn't demand that God respond the same way each time.