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Starting Over and the Power of Prophecy

After adversity strikes, use the power of prophecy to begin again.

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As one who has studied adversity and trauma for over 40 years, I’ve studied individuals who have lost jobs, academic pursuits, homes, marriages, and loved ones. In many instances, they have been forced to start over, to rebuild their careers, finances, homes, relationships, in short, their lives. I’ve been amazed at the resiliency of some and saddened by the persistent despair of others. In this post, I will share my thoughts on not only how to make major transitions easier, but how to start over.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” One of the founders of American psychology was Harvard philosophy professor William James. He declared, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which more than anything will affect a successful outcome.” New beginnings almost always start psychologically. Optimism is often critical, but optimism alone may not be enough. Harnessing the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy may be the difference between starting over and growing stronger, happier, and more successful than ever before, or never getting started at all.

In 1948, Robert Merton (1948) coined the term self-fulfilling prophecy. It was an expansion of the Thomas Theorem which said, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." Simply said, the self-fulfilling prophecy states that a prediction, whether in thoughts or words, directly or indirectly, causes itself to become true. Rhonda Byrne wrote compellingly about a similar notion in her wonderful book The Secret. If you expect failure, the likelihood of failure increases. If you expect success, the likelihood of success increases. But why? How does expectation become prophecy? If you think you will fail at something, you are likely to attempt the task with minimal effort, enthusiasm, and tenacity. You are more willing to accept initial rejection or failure. Or worse, you are likely to not attempt to be successful at all. On the other hand, if you think you will succeed at something, you are likely to attempt the task with greater effort, enthusiasm, and tenacity. You are less willing to accept initial rejection or failure. You are more likely to see those occurrences as exceptions to the rule, and as simply precursors of the inevitable success!

Russell Jones published a brilliant review decades ago entitled The Self-fulfilling Prophecy. In it, he documents the power of the expectation to either increase or decrease (according to the expectation) the following: 1) the experience of pain, 2) blood flow to the brain and the stomach, 3) academic performance, 4) athletic performance, 5) panic attacks, 6) success in relationships (remember confidence is a key variable in interpersonal attraction), 7) activity of the immune system (thus vulnerability to disease), and yes, 8) even the chance of sudden death.

If prophecy can do these things, imagine what it can do when it is harnessed to help you start over.

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Harnessing the Power of Prophecy

Here are some simple suggestions that will help you harness the power of prophecy.

1. Make a commitment to begin again. Don’t look back, other than to learn how to move forward. The windshield is large and the rearview mirror is small for a reason.

2. According to Wilhelm von Hamboldt, “Language is the formative organ of thought.” And thought usually precedes action. Change your language from that of loss to that of growth. Resist negativity. Eliminate “I can’t” and “Yes, but” from your vocabulary. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis of Linguistic Relativity states that we understand reality only through the lens of language. We dissect and make sense of the world and all of our experiences by way of the language we use. The language of equivocation leads to hesitancy and insecurity. Yet, the language of assertiveness leads to extraordinary effort. So when you find yourself using the words, or thoughts of negativity stop and find more constructive words.

3. The single best predictor of resilience is being connected to others. Seek out people who are what you want to become. Observe them. Muster the courage to speak to them. Spend time with them. Soon you will become them.

4. Fake it until you make it. Be respectful, but carry yourself with pride. Without arrogance or self-absorption, subtly act as if you are special. People will observe and will begin to treat you so. You will soon create a Halo Effect for yourself.

5. Soon the Halo Effect itself will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So you want to change your life? You want to start over. Harness the power of prophecy. But never forget, the purpose of prophecy is not to predict the future, the purpose of prophecy is to create the future. You don't have to wait for adversity. You can re-create yourself starting today! Surely, when strength of mind is present, destiny must follow. Within reason, you can become whomever you wish.

© George S. Everly, Jr., Ph.D.

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