Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Self fulfilling Prophecy

While writing the first line of my first blog of the New Year — after a sufficiently long period of hibernation — I’m already feeling that I may be dealing with the topic that is not in my realm of expertise. Not that I claim any great proficiency in many areas anyway!

However, given this irresistible need to get my stray thoughts out in the open, and the fact that my readers have always been kind to me, I’m allowing myself to go on and complete this blog.

Self fulfilling Prophecy — this expression has been haunting me for some time, of late. In the past, I have very sparingly used this concept in my addresses, thinking it to be having limited applications. However, recently I’ve taken recourse to it more frequently — sometimes consciously and sometimes involuntarily as well.

Let me give you an example. Just last week, I was speaking to some fellow professionals when I used it to explain how organisations can lose an opportunity of hiring potential top talent, just because interviewers reject such candidates based on their perception and not the real merit. I’m sure, we all have seen some candidates walking into the interview room with an inappropriate attire. Take this case where a candidate walks in with casual attire. The first perception s/he creates is that his/her approach to work is also going to be equally casual. The interviewer, right in the first five minutes of the interaction, makes it a foregone conclusion that casually attired person will have a casual work ethic and hence won’t succeed in the job interview. The interviewer then creates interview conditions accordingly. It is obvious that the candidate doesn’t finally make the grade! All this happens because of the interviewer’s early conclusion ‘this candidate will fail’. I find it as a good example where the concept of self fulfilling prophecy has a direct linkage.

Although my readers are highly initiated, it will only be proper for me to formally lay down the concept yet again.

Self fulfilling prophecy can be explained as positive or negative expectations or outcomes about circumstances, events or people that may affect a person's behaviour towards them. And such behaviour that he or she creates (mostly unknowingly), invariably leads to the situations in which those expectations/outcomes come true. A simple example will suffice here: A homemaker who expects her maid to be disloyal, will treat her in a way that will be responded with disloyal behaviour on part of the maid!

The concept is very similar to The Pygmalion effect or the "teacher-expectancy effect". The effect is named after George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, in which Professor Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can teach a poor flower girl to speak and act like an upper-class lady, and succeeds.

So, we have seen both positive and negative examples of the concept.
While thinking about this subject, I can’t resist but to bring to my readers’ attention yet one more very powerful example of how this can affect each one of us — the way we pursue goals, the way we plan our actions around those, the way we succeed and the way we fail! etc….

This real life story is based on a premise that when we focus on failure, we actually lead ourselves to the failure.

Following highlighted words are not mine:

Years ago, the Flying Wallendas, a family of high wire performers, received a lot of attention for their death-defying feats. But tragedy struck in 1978, when at age 73, Karl Wallenda, the patriarch of the family, fell to his death while attempting to walk a tightrope between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

What many people don't know is that this incredibly skilled man, who'd completed thousands of successful wire walks in the past, had spent the three months preceding this attempt "thinking about falling".

A newspaper reporter, writing at the time of his death, commented, "When Karl Wallenda poured his energies into not falling, rather than into walking the tightrope, he was destined to fall."

In other words: A tight rope walker has a choice, whether to walk to the destination or try not to fall while walking!

What is the bottom-line for laymen like us?

Positive thinking is not just a romantic and unreal concept. It has a strong in-built power that drives people to achieve positive results.

Equally, negative thinking is also as real! And any pursuance of negative thoughts is sure to lead to failures.

Self-fulfilling prophecy will always exist, but it is for us to foretell — and most importantly resolve — what to practice!!



Unknown said...

Hi Abhay,

This article is an excellent example of something which we all may have experienced at some point in our lives. The differnce is that we dont care or think about such things.

Thank you for bringing this realization in a simple but plain speaking manner.

I agree with your views completely.

Anand Watwe

Unknown said...

Thanks Abhay. Nice to hear (and read)this very interesting article.
The book 'The power of your subconscious mind' argues that you can actually will your mind to a certain result...success or failure.....frankly, if you think you can do it, you can, and if you think you can't, you are right. Again in the 'alchemist' Paulo Coelho speaks about the 'entire universe' conspiring to deliver what you desire seriously......adapted in the Bollywood movie " Om Shanti Om' with Shahrukh talking about 'saaari kayanaat mil kar aapko aapki chahat se milane mein jud jaati hai". This is a favorite subject with me, and some years ago, when a neighbor called on us at Holi, his wife shared with us that her sonography prior to the birth of her youngest son indicated that he would be born without all limbs. A repeat a month later confirmed this. She told us that she constantly prayed to God that he be born normal. She created a 'thought process' around her that he would be. He was. The boy is 7 years now, and in good health. Was that the power of HER subconscious mind? A self fulfilling prophecy? (Just so, would not the practice of expectant mothers displaying photos of healthy babies be a practical usage of this phenomenon? )

Unknown said...

Hi Abhay,

Agree with you. Mind over matter even faith of the individual can be shaped by simple thoughts. There is a book called "Secret" that talks about the limitless possibilities one can achieve simply by imagining them. There is a movie made out of that book by the same name. What ever one wants in his life he can simply ask and the wish is fulfilled. It (The whole universe) is some what like a genie. Very interesting concept. See if you can rent this movie. I believe you will like it.

As we (Human race) have started understanding in to sub atomic particles... we are realizing the limitless possibilities that are norm in this realm. Another movie made on this subject is "What the blip do we know..?" Very eye opening. It is kind of part documentary and part story. But never the less I found it to be very interesting. Believe you will appreciate it as well.
Documentary part is a interview of various PHD holders in the realm of Quantum Physics and their point of view re matter, atom and sub atomic particles.

Watching this movie one realizes that at sub atomic level there is no matter.
One thought that came to my mind was...
Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya
is true in it's entirety.



Anonymous said...

Hi !

Thank you.

With warm regards,

Anil Pimple
Dy Mgr. Instrumentation
P.O. Kasturinagar
Dist. Gandhinagar

Anonymous said...

Good one Abhay.. Enjoyed reading and completely agree with you about “positive” thinking.. There is something about subconscious mind taking up the challenges that makes it real..

Desale, Pravin []

Anonymous said...

Hi Abhay,

This article matches to the tag line for Mirinda from Pepsi.

“Jor ka jhatka dheere se”

I really liked the simple plain speaking manner of your presentation of this unnoticed fact which we all may have experienced at some point of time in our life.

Thanks & Regards
Anand Watwe

Anonymous said...

Your posts are simple but thought provoking and well illustrated with examples! :)

I wonder what role intuition has in self fulfilling prophecies?


Neha Dahiya []

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Thanks Neha...I think that's a good question..let me investigate it a you want to write some thoughts around it?...howsoever stray they might will at least trigger some thinking amongst the readers...cheers

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Milind..Wonderful!Yes, I'm aware of 'Secret' and it's interpretation from the point of view of Quantum Physics. However, I was not aware of "What the blip do we know..?"...I'll get it now...Thanks a ton..Cheers...Abhay

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Hi Rakesh...Firstly thanks a ton for your comment.What you have written about your neighbour sounds truly miraculous and given that I'm no authority in that area, I'm not commenting on the same.However, your point about Coelho's 'entire universe' positively conspiring in your favour is very well made. In fact,to my mind that is a one sentence summary of 'Alchemist'.Again, thanks for your insightful observations.Cheers..Abhay

Abhay Valsangkar said...
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Abhay Valsangkar said...
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Anonymous said...

Dear Abhay,

As I mentioned today at our Zinnov meet, I liked reading your blog.

One thought on your previous “time management” blog.

I had read somewhere that there is nothing called as time management as one cannot “manage time” (or for that matter anything that is not under your control). Time runs – 60seconds a minute, 60 minutes to an hour and 24hrs to a day so on soforth….so what we can do is not Time Management but “Self Management” and the article went on to explain the details…I wish I had the article…it was a very profound paradigm shift for me!

S, Chandra []

Abhay Valsangkar said...

That's great Chandra.Yes, pls send me the article,if you anytime are able to lay your hands to it.Otherwise,let's keep exchanging views...cheers and thanks for your feed-back...abhay

Amit Malik said...

Absolutely agree with you for i believe your thoughts mold your action and influence outcomes and results.

How many times due to fear of failing we actually fail as we never think about winning but how not to fail.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine mentioned 2012 last night to me and it's the first I heard about it so I jumped on here out of curiosity. I think it's kind of sick and sounds like a bunch of skeptical jargon.
I choose to live every day like it is the last because let's be real, WHO THE HELL KNOWS what is going to happen or when it's your time to go on. The past is history, the future is a mystery and now is a gift, thats why it's called the present. It's not healthy to sit around and trip out about when you will die. Stop wasting your time you have now.
]your new chakra system
[/url] - some truth about 2012

Anonymous said...

Dear Abhay Dada

The article on "Self Fulfilling Prophecy" is very enlightening and i found it presented in a very suttle,simple and effective way.
Both me and Reshma enjoyed reading it and as one of the comments truly said , was thought provoking indeed.


Amit Honap

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Thanks Amit..appreciate your response....

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Thanks Amit, I'm glad, you found it useful...and special thanks for always sending your response promptly..cheers...Abhay

Abhijit said...

Hi Abhay,
a nicely carved artwork frm ur den!! wud luv to see many more fr u..

hope u remember me, m frm Hella Electronics, last weekend we had a workshop..

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your comment abhijeet...appreciate it..cheers..abhay

Bhaskar said...

Hi Abhay,
So would you compare this with "The power of wishful thinking" where depending on the +ve ness (or -ve ness) of the thought, we can actually induce results (for success or failure)
Your thoughts on this !!

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Yes, Bhaskar, I guess so. You are adding a good dimension here...Cheers...Abhay

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Roopali Sundar said...

Hi Abhay,

Very simple thoughts, well presented. Most of the times we fail, as the focus is on how not to fall…very true. One perspective here is that, if we imagine that we are going to fail, but come out with flying colors, it’s a ‘pleasant treat’ to oneself. Even more important aspect is that it doesn’t even hurt as a picture of failure is what was imagined and that was proved wrong by your own efforts. It also helps build confidence and not run away from failure or be devastated with it. It’s a different way to manage & condition your mind for greater heights.

Sharing an experience!!!