We have all had them. Those thoughts that turn into beliefs that somehow become reality. This is the epitome of the self-fulfilling prophecies. A belief or thought that is made real by our attitudes and behaviors, positive or negative. It’s the negative that we want to avoid.
It may have started with a friend or loved one who drops a thought on you that seemed enticing at the time. And three years later you realize that you have been living out someone else’s dream and what turns out to be your nightmare.
Here are five self-fulfilling prophecies you don’t want make a reality.
1. “The Wanderer” – Unwritten Goals
Think of goal setting like having a map for your life.
As The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland points out, “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Get You There.”
That’s where goal setting plays an important part in our lives. However, vague, unrealistic goals can be demotivating. Since only 10% or less of the population actually write down goals, it is easy to see how popular culture puts little emphasis on goal setting. By not writing down S.M.A.R.T. goals, you may wake up 5 years from now in the same frustrating job with the same massive amount of debt and wonder how you got to where you are. Writing down goals gives you a chance to create positive self-fulfilling prophecies and move away from a meaningless future.
2. “The Prejudiced” – Living Out Advice from Prejudiced Family Members
It’s the uncle who you looked up to, but as you turned older you realize he had given you bad advice. For example, your uncle says “You come from the poorest part of the city, there is no way you will amount to anything.” Better yet a guidance counselor tells you, “You have never had a family member finish higher than the 10th grade, you will be running streets just like them.” By listening to these negative statements and living them out, you will have a hard time breaking a bad cycle. Choose whose advice you listen to wisely.
3. “Eeyore” – Letting Your Past Define Your Future
You remember the character from Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore was the pessimistic, ever glum donkey. He looked at his past as a means of predicting his future. Here is a real life example. Perhaps you were initially terrible in public speaking in high school or college. You tried it a few times, but you just gave up and concluded you were never going to be good at it. Fast forward to your job today. You need to give a short speech but are in complete shock and fear of it. You have just lived out your past. Rather than working towards improving, you give up early and live out an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy. Change it around and improve regardless of your past.
4. “Someone Else’s Dream” – Living Out Your Parents Career Advice
In his book 48 Days to the Work You Love, career coach Dan Miller features a story of the surgeon who as it turns out can’t stand working with his patients on a personal level. It’s not part of his personality. So rather than dealing with it rationally he turns to heroin. By the time Dan meets with the surgeon, the only veins left to shoot up heroin are in his heel. In talking with the surgeon, it turns out that his father and grandfather were both surgeons and he felt obligated to live out their dreams and not his. Today, he still worked weekends in an emergency room setting where the relationships with patients were short lived and he found his passion of driving a truck during the week. By living out your self-fulfilling prophecies and not your parents, you find things much more gratifying.
5. “The Paranoid Boyfriend or Girlfriend”
Have you ever met a guy, you liked him, dated him for a month. However, every week he asks if you are going to break up with him and you end up doing so? People with a strong fear of rejection are hard to live with. Don’t be that guy or girl. Build a relationship day by day through trust, faith and love.
What these 5 negative self-fulfilling prophecies have in common is that they all start with how we talk to ourselves. If you keep a positive outlook and take action towards daily goals, you will achieve more positive self-fulfilling prophecies.
As historian Howard Zinn states it best, “Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act.”
Featured photo credit: Tom Raftery via flickr.com