Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

harvardThere’s a young man going to Harvard who had a 4.0 GPA last semester. That’s no surprise, as Harvard is one of the top universities in the country, and it takes someone with superior academic ability to even be accepted. The surprise is that this young man was born and raised in a trailer park, to a single mother who had him when she was a teenager.

This young man went to public schools all his life, and walked a mile to get to the bus stop every morning, but he never let any of that stop him, and he never felt like he had to apologize for it either. Instead, he broke the cycle and is in the process of making something of himself. Why should that be so surprising? Because unlike so many others, he believes in being other than what he was. He believes in a future of his own choosing, not the one he was born into.


“A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to come true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.” -adapted from the theories of Robert K. Merton

I liken it to the placebo effect, whereupon a person feels the effects of a drug they didn’t actually take because they believe they did take it. It’s all in how you approach your life, not in how others see you. That’s one of the major problems in society, the feeling that everyone else knows us better than we know ourselves. Too often we give in to peer pressure, to the ideas of everyone else about who we are, and about where we’re going in life. But it’s not about them and their views. It’s about how we envision our lives, and we can’t afford to forget it.

sweeping_generalization_bumper_stickerIt’s interesting to me how generalizations can affect our self-perceptions. Society generalizes that if you’re from the ghetto you must be a drug-dealer waiting to happen, that you can’t rise up out of the poverty you were born in to make something of yourself. Society sees someone who was born with privilege and assumes they’re good people who would never do anything wrong. That’s why it shocks us so much when someone from the ghetto becomes a thoracic surgeon, or when someone who was born with a golden spoon in his mouth turns out to be a serial killer. Yet both of these people were just like the Harvard student above. They didn’t allow those generalizations to define who they were, for better or for worse.

Then there are those who give in to the stereotype, who allow that to be their prophecy. Indeed, they thrive on it because it gives them an excuse when they follow along in the footsteps of those who came before, who also never changed. You’ve heard the excuses. “I came from a broken home.” “I never had anyone who believed in me.” “I was given too much too soon.” These excuses are as thin as the air in Colorado because they don’t tell us about who we are, or about who we can become. All they do is validate the choices others made before us, or sadder still, the choices others didn’t make before us. Those people become unwitting pawns to the prophecy that says nothing ever changes, that we can’t be different than how we were raised.

“There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it’s easy.”

Don’t let the easy way be your path just because it’s easy. Believe in your own prophecy for yourself, and fulfill it. You have it in you. You only need seek it out.


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