THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY
An optimistic view of future events can go beyond the interpretation of things that happen, it can actually contribute to a more positive outcome of the events themselves!
Psychology has extensively written about the phenomenon called “the self-fulfilling prophecy.” It is based on the well-documented fact that prophecies we make about future events often become true because we make them come true.
For example, we prophesize that we are going to fail our Algebra course — and sure enough, we do. We predict that no one is going to like us at our new job, and sure enough, they don’t. We get roped into attending a fancy cocktail-party. We’re convinced we’re going to have a lousy time — and sure enough, we have a lousy time.
Now if such things happen often, we might be tempted to attribute such inspired forecasts to a mystic or psychic power we possess. After all, how can we predict such future outcomes with such uncanny accuracy?
The answer is: we subconsciously make it happen!
Unwittingly, we tend to fulfill our own prophecy. Take the above hypothetical…
You’ve certain you’re going to fail Algebra. Your conviction makes you highly nervous in class — you’re so apprehensive that it’s difficult to concentrate. You hardly bother to study, since you’re sure that it’s useless. Your fear paralyzes you when you take the exams. And sure enough, you fail the class.
You’re convinced that no one is going to like you at your new job. You, therefore, approach your first day there nervous and cautious. You don’t speak to anyone unless it’s necessary; you don’t bother to try and make social conversation; you react with skepticism at friendly advances by your new coworkers; and you generally convey an aloof and cold personality. Sure enough, by the end of the day, your new coworkers have decided they don’t like you.
You just know you’re going to have a lousy time at the cocktail party, thus you arrive in a negative frame of mind. You’re reluctant to converse with anyone. You feel uncomfortable being so dressed-up. You isolate yourself in a corner, thinking about the movie you’re missing on the cable channel. Others sense your disinterested mood and ignore you. And sure enough, you have a lousy time.
Clearly these outcomes weren’t a matter of precognition, they simply happened because the predictions made them happen. Once a prophecy has been made, our mind takes over. If the prophecy is believed strongly enough, then we will act and behave accordingly. If we act and behave in ways that are consistent with the forecast which the prophecy contains, then wheels are set in motion to increase the likelihood that the prophecy will, in fact, come true.
Optimism and pessimism about the future are the ultimate extension of such “self-fulfilling prophecies.” A person who makes the pessimistic prophecy that “today is going to be a lousy day” will probably act so negatively, defensively, and suspiciously that it will tend to create the “lousy day” he or she predicted. The person, however, who makes the optimistic prophecy that “today is going to be a great day” may well be so cheerful, enthusiastic, and productive that it will work to create a happy day, indeed!