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The Power of Your Prophecy

I wish I could remember the exact source of this story, but I know from memory that I read it and it’s actually true. Here’s how the story goes. There was a woman teaching in an inner-city school. The inner-city school was notorious for the things inner-city schools are notorious for — lack of resources, overworked teachers, and ultimately failed students.

And most people wouldn’t blame the students for doing so poorly in their school work. After all, look at their environments. They were destined to fail, right? Well, not according to this teacher. Instead of coddling her students or trying to dumb down the material so that they’d get it, she simply demanded more of them.

She had grade school students reading advanced literature well above their grade level. A class that formerly was full of failing students now had students who excelled beyond the wildest expectations of everyone except for the teacher.

Sadly, you can see how the exact opposite scenario might play out. Across the country, there are certainly a bunch of students who fail because of low expectations from their authority figures. No one expects them to succeed, so they don’t. And this is a problem we have in society as a whole. This is a problem I’ve continued to talk about over and over again.

See, it’s not just the fact that in many ways society is set up for you to fail, but you also have to deal with the psychological component of low expectations that comes with it. Society assumes you’re destined to say in the same position, so you assume it. So does everyone else around you. Soon, being mediocre becomes normal. And often you’re made out to be insensitive if you expect more of yourself and other people.

Like I often say, I’m not optimistic about the collective, but I’m optimistic about you. Why? Because I know the power of this concept all too well.

Society assumes you're destined to say in the same position, so you assume it. So does everyone else around you. Soon, being mediocre becomes normal. Click To Tweet
The Pygmalion Effect: How to create a positive self-Fulling prophecy

“The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area.”

Pretty simple right. Whenever you already expect to do well, you tend to do well. Think about the moments in your life where your circumstances shaped your mind to be more confident. You just have that feeling that you’re on a roll. Once you’re on a roll, you expect that roll to continue and it does. Not because of the circumstances themselves, but because of the way you feel about them.

If you get on a long enough roll, you change use this effect to change your entire life. This is what happened to me. I’d spent years just not expecting all that much out of myself. Then I started to expect more because I got fed up with my current situation. Like I always tell you to do, I had conversations with myself that lead to raising my expectations.

The initial part is the toughest because you don’t have a ton of evidence to conure confidence out of thin air so you can have those expectations. So, what’s the trick? You’re going to love this answer. Just, have the expectations. You have skills. You have some level of talent. You don’t have to use other people around you and society as a whole as a gauge for how you should behave.

That was the key for me. I unlearned the idea that societal expectations were normal. Just because a bunch of people believe and behave the same way doesn’t make it right. You can create a set of expectations based on the things that matter to you deep down. Map your expectations about the common things you truly care about.

  • Meaning – Deep down, you want your life to mean something. Doesn’t mean you have this incredible passion, but you want that feeling of impact. Well, how are you going to impact others without raising your own expectations?
  • Confidence – We all want to be able to walk through the world with the sense of confidence that comes from knowing we’re able to handle and manage our own lives well. Think about how high and low of a bar that is at the same time.
  • Desire – Life isn’t all about success, but you are a human being who is predisposed to wanting certain things. And that’s okay!

High expectations. This is what it all boils down to. The trick is dealing with the counter-narrative that keeps you from having them.

What you’re worried about

You’re worried that having too high of expectations is going to lead to negative feelings down the road when you fail. On the one hand, while living a life below your potential doesn’t feel awesome, at least you don’t have to deal with that feeling like you’re falling from a high cliff that comes with setting high expectations for yourself and failing.

So we trick ourselves into living below our potential to protect our ego and our identity. And then when we do try to set high expectations for ourselves, we only kind of sort of do it so we still have that out. We can pretend that we really cared, really tried, really believed, but deep down we know we didn’t.

You’re worried that if you puff your chest out, you’ll be too vulnerable and something will happen to you. Odds are, though, the exact opposite will happen. So few people in this world are able to fully open themselves up to the world and have high expectations that when someone really does it, the world just bends to their will. You’ve been around people like this. They’re so confident and so certain that you automatically accept their frame of reality.

So, again, there’s a chicken and egg thing going on here, but you alleviate that worry by going all-in on those expectations. The hedging and the hesitation will just make things worse. So how do you build? Set high expectations for yourself today. Doesn’t matter how many days or weeks or months or years you’ve had lower expectations for yourself, raise them, today. Then repeat the process until it works,

After a long enough period of time, your expectations for yourself in the present will be so far beyond what they were in the past that you won’t even believe you used to tolerate less. The type of lifestyle I used to live five years ago seems insanely intolerable to me now. But I’m the same exact person, technically. Same vessel, same body, same brain, but different mind, different spirit, different will, different beliefs, different reality, different universe of expectations.

You’ll see and experience that one day if and when you come full circle. Beliefs are powerful. More powerful than even the most fervent believers in the power of belief give them credit for. So, believe in yourself.

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