A diversified portfolio (such as a 60% stocks / 40% bonds balanced fund) is much more predictable and reliable than an all-stocks portfolio, and the returns are perfectly adequate. The extra returns on 100% stocks vs. 60% are 1.2% per year (historically) according to https://personal.vanguard.com/us/insights/saving-investing/model-portfolio-allocations
To get those average higher stock returns, you need to be thinking 20-30 years (even 10 years is too short-term). Over the 20-30 years, you must never panic and go to cash, or you will destroy the higher returns. You must never get discouraged and stop saving, or you will destroy the higher returns. You have to avoid the panic and discouragement despite the likelihood that some 10-year period in your 20-30 years the stock market will go nowhere. You also must never have an emergency or other reason to withdraw money early.
If you look at "dry periods" in stocks, like 2000 to 2011, a 60/40 portfolio made significant money and stocks went nowhere. A diversified portfolio means that price volatility makes you money (due to rebalancing) while a 100% stocks portfolio means that price volatility is just a lot of stress with no benefit.
It's somewhat possible, probably, to predict dry periods in stocks; if I remember the statistics, about 50% of the variability in the market price 10 years out can be explained by normalized market valuation (normalized = adjusted for business cycle and abnormal profit margins). Some funds such as http://hussmanfunds.com/ are completely based on this, though a lot of money managers consider it. With a balanced portfolio and rebalancing, though, you don't have to worry about it very much.
In my view, the proper goal is not to beat the market, nor match the market, nor is it to earn the absolute highest possible returns. Instead, the goal is to have the highest chance of financing your non-financial goals (such as retirement, or buying a house). To maximize your chances of supporting your life goals with your financial decisions, predictability is more important than maximized returns. Your results are primarily determined by your savings rate - which realistic investment returns will never compensate for if it's too low.
You can certainly make a 40-year projection in which 1.2% difference in returns makes a big difference. But you have to remember that a projection in which value steadily and predictably compounds is not the same as real life, where you could have emergency or emotional factors, where the market will move erratically and might have a big plunge at just the wrong time (end of the 40 years), and so on. If your plan "relies" on the extra 1.2% returns then it's not a reasonable plan anyhow, in my opinion, since you can't count on them. So why suffer the stress and extra risk created by an all-stocks portfolio?