Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

When we are children, many of us have teachers, parents, or other adult influences in our lives. Many of us experience great positive influence from these relationships. Others, perhaps, not as much. What we are told as children, however, can have a dramatic impact on our future success.

You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To

There were many times growing up when I was told, in the simplest of terms, that I could do anything I wanted, if I just put my mind to it. So, when I said I wanted to be an astronaut, I was told that if that was what I wanted to do, I could, I just had to put my mind to it. Even at six years old, I think I was keenly aware of the warm and fuzzy factor that this statement seems to have.

The problem with making a blanket statement such as you can do anything you put your mind to, is that there is no direction in it; no guidance. What if I had said I wanted to be a telepathic have the ability to transport myself wherever I wanted to go with the help of a transporter device? Would I have been given the same answer? I don’t know, because at six, I didn’t even know what those things were. I’m pretty sure, though, that I would have been told that those things didn’t exist and therefore I couldn’t do them.

This is a challenge that we all face when someone shares a positive, reaching goal that is beyond our own limiting beliefs. We must take the time to realize that our own mental capacities are not the same as other people. We must realize that just because we think it is impossible, it does not mean that it will be impossible for the other person.

Instead of letting our own limiting beliefs be projected onto the other person, we should find a way to motivate and encourage them to learn how they can achieve their dream. They may find in the future that the science of being a self-transporter is impossible. They may choose to accept that impossibility, or they may choose to work tirelessly to achieve the goal. Would you rather them come back in 30 years to tell you that they achieved the dream that you encouraged them to achieve, or would you rather not hear from them ever again, because, like so many others, they just listened to your limiting belief, accepted it, and decided instead to do what everyone else did in life and didn’t amount to anything overwhelmingly special. We all want to be responsible for inspiring others, but we can only do that for people if we keep our own limiting beliefs at bay.

People Can Do Great Things When You Believe They Can

In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted a study to determine if a predisposition in expectations for a student by a teacher created a similar reality in the student’s performance. In other words, if a teacher believed a student was going to do well, or had a higher IQ than normal, then their behavior with the student shifted (many times unconsciously), and the student did in fact perform better than those in a control group that the teach was told were “normal”. For those that are interested, this is called the Pygmalion Effect.

Similarly, when teachers were told that a group of students was not going to perform as well, the teacher’s mentality would create an overall more negative outcome. So, regardless of whether the teacher had a negative mindset towards the students, or had a positive mindset towards the students, the end result matched it.

The influential power that we have over other people is downright frightening at times. When I stop and think about the impact that I have on Caden, when I think he is going to screw up or not do something the way I want him to, his subconscious mind is able to pick up on the negative mindset I have, and, interestingly enough, his positive actions tend to be less. When I go out of my way to encourage him and tell him that I know he will do well and he will do things right, because I know he is more than capable of doing so, his reaction is to perform better and with greater positive action.

You Can Do Great Things When You Believe You Can

I believe this principle is foundational in our daily interactions with others and ourselves. When we wake up in a bad mood (what many commonly refer to as “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”) we tend to carry that negative mood into our thoughts as we start the day and we start thinking that it is going to be a rough or bad day. As we get ready in the morning, we might stub our toe, or we can’t get our hair to cooperate and look the way we want it to. We might miss a spot shaving and not realize it until we are well into our commute to the office.

When we wake up and show appreciation for the new day, and focus on the positives of the activities and challenges that lie before us, we are able to start an opposite chain reaction –one of positive responses and energy. We might still stub our toe, but it doesn’t seem to hurt nearly as bad, or at all, and we are able to laugh it off and continue on as though it is the best day ever.

Both of these mindsets become self-fulfilling prophecies in that when we wake up in a negative mood and believe it is going to be a bad day, we usually end up experiencing a bad day. We make bad choices through the clouded judgment of our negative mindset. Alternatively, when we focus on the positive things that are going on in our lives and on this particular day, we create a day that is positive and enjoyable to experience.

What Our Bodies Say When Our Mouths Don’t

Our subconscious minds are incredibly powerful at communicating amongst themselves. Our subconscious is responsible for the intuition that let’s us know when someone is in a bad mood, or when someone is having a great day. Our subconscious is the reason we are able to have a pretty confident idea of when someone is lying to us or telling us the truth – even if we haven’t been taught any formal analysis tricks for determining if someone is lying or telling the truth.

Our subconscious puts out different vibes through our body language that we may never even realize we exude. A great example of where this gets used (usually to our disadvantage, depending on which side of the table we’re on) is during a poker game or similar game that might involve some kind of bluffing (that fancy word for lying). If you’ve been around poker at all, you’ve probably heard of something called a “tell”. A tell is nothing more than an unconscious body movement or twitch that you exude when you are either holding a good set of cards, a bad set of cards, or a so-so set of cards. Those people that have trained themselves on how to read other people’s “tells” can usually very accurately predict if someone is lying or really has a good hand.

Why does this matter? It matters because if we have a negative attitude toward a co-worker, classmate, spouse or child, they can sense it. They may not even know that they can sense it, but their subconscious definitely picks up on it and their own actions reflect the attitude you are projecting.

We have the ability to influence other people’s performance and how much they strive for doing whatever they are capable of doing. I have to work on making sure I don’t focus on the negative aspects of what Caden doesn’t remember to do or doesn’t do in the right way. I have to remember that he is still young, easily influenced, and that he wants to be accepted, feel important, and feel as though he is successful and capable. If I react negatively to him, those desires get beat down and he may begin to believe he is not accepted, important, or capable of success.

The attitude that I project onto Caden, Lynne, and everyone around me greatly affects how they respond. They may not seem to be influenced when I’m in direct contact with them, but they are. People think through things that are said in conversation, and how the people we’re around “acted” at that party the other night. Many times, we think we are the only people that overanalyze situations. The truth, though, is that most people go through self-reflection of circumstances. They wonder what the other person meant when they made that comment, or gave that “weird” look. We all influence the other people around us. The type of influence we have on them is entirely up to us.