Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been. When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day. What follows is one piece of that advice. I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.
It’s called the Pygmalion Effect—also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy—and it’s real. If we expect a positive outcome, we’ll probably get it. If we expect a negative outcome, it’s likely to happen.
A lot of research has been done on school children in this area. Robert Rosenthal and Lenoir Jacobson performed studies at elementary schools where teachers were given the names of a select group of high-achieving students. The teachers were told that because these kids were so intelligent, they would probably excel over their lower-performing classmates.
Sure enough, those smart kids performed like smart kids. They got good grades, and they generally showed significant improvement on end-of-the-year tests. There was only one catch: the “smart” kids weren’t really any smarter than the others. In fact, they had been chosen completely at random.
The real difference had been the expectations of the teachers—and as a result, their treatment of the students. Later studies have confirmed this effect in adults as well.
Your expectations become your own self-fulfilling prophecy. This applies to events both big and small. The reason is simple: if you really believe that you will do a great job, your subconscious mind will guide your behavior to be consistent with that belief, and you will indeed be an outstanding employee, student, or whatever.
If, on the other hand, you view yourself as not being good at something, you’ll have no motivation to improve. What would be the point? You know you can’t do it, so why waste your time trying to get better?
Do you see where this is going? Just knowing about the self-fulfilling prophecy can be a tremendous help to you in your life. Remember: you have complete control over your own thinking. It naturally follows that you have control over your own expectations.
So what’s it going to be? You can expect misfortune—and almost certainly bring it on—or you can expect great things from yourself. Just remember that you have no one but yourself to blame for your own expectations.