Advice: Beware of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

We recently wrote a post entitled “Reality is Subjective,” which proposed the notion that it is possible to mold the kind of reality you want to exist in. When doing so, we suggested that you focus on the positive, choose to treat others the way you would like them to treat you; and choose to be a good person, thus creating a better reality for yourself. As an adjunct to that post, we’d like to talk about the Self-fulfilling Prophecy, and how it can both help and hinder your efforts to create your new and improved reality.

Sociologist, Robert K. Merton, in his 1948 article “Self Fulfilling Prophecy” coined the term as a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true by the very terms of the prophecy itself. We think the Urban Dictionary defines it best as, “Causing something to happen by believing it will come true.”

Let’s look at an example, John Doe thinks all women with tattoos are not cut out for marriage. He is set up with Jane who is perfect for him in every way, but she has a lot of tattoos. John likes her but unknowingly/subconsciously treats her differently based on his belief about tattoos. She then picks up on this, and reacts to the way he is treating her, which reinforces his original belief that she is not marriage material. They break up and John misses out on his soul mate, all because of his silly belief about tattoos (which now he believes even more to be true). The graphic shows how it works.

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Another more classic example is a coach who believes all freshmen are not good enough to play on a varsity team. The coach makes the freshmen sit the bench. When they do get put in the game, they are nervous and rusty and perform poorly. Therefore, the coach’s belief is reinforced.

The opposite is true as well. You can have positive self-fulfilling prophecies. A great example of this is what is known as the Placebo Effect. People believe something good, such as there being a pill that will cure them of their ailments. They take the pill and get better, despite the fact that the pill is a sugar pill with no medicinal qualities. Hence, their belief healed them.

Now you can see what we are getting at. Self-fulfilling prophecies can help or hinder your reality. Beware of common misnomers that can cloud your judgment, like “A leopard cannot change its spots,” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Don’t get caught up in self-fulfilling prophecies unless you can see that they will be for your benefit.

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2 thoughts on “Advice: Beware of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  1. Stan Wellington

    Here is one for you. A son is only a son until he marries his wife, but a daughter is a daughter for life. The self fullfilling prophecy of all bad in-laws.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Lacy Johnson

    I liked your example of the tattoo hater. My marriage almost ended bcs of a sf-prophecy my husband had when we were dating. I guess they are reversible. Here is a good one: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

    Like

    Reply

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