The term “self-fulfilling prophecy” is generally given a negative connotation but I’m thinking about it in a different way today. Robert Merton, a 20th century sociologist, actually coined the term of self-fulfilling prophecy. His definition, from the book “Social Theory and Social Structure” (published in 1949), states that the prophecy is false but is made true by a person’s actions. In the modern sense the self-fulfilling prophecy is neither false nor true, but is merely a possibility that is made into probability by a person’s unconscious or conscious actions. Simply stated, we are what we think about so, therefore, we create our own reality. Can you think of an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy in your own life? I can think of a couple of negative ones from my own life but I’ll share a positive one today.
I presented my first SELF seminar of the year last Tuesday – focusing on the first two letters in SELF. I explained that I was relating the first two letters to self-confidence and empowerment because I believe they are so closely interconnected that you can’t really have one without the other. I shared a favorite quote, which I had taped on the front of my computer for many years “The longest journey is the journey inward” and talked about how this is also the most important journey you can ever take because it is how you come to understand and, hopefully, love yourself. I gave the group 10 questions to ask yourself when you are at a crossroad or want to change your life from a great book I am reading “The Right Questions” by Debbie Ford. I am a proponent of creative visualization, vision boards and journaling as ways to navigate the “journey inward” and using those tools helped me to create the self-fulfilling prophecy I am living today.
This is the story of my self-fulfilling prophecy: A few years ago I was living my life in “golden handcuffs” – after many years I had achieved success in my career but I was unhappy and began to wish I could change my life. I didn’t want to start a different career or even get a different job in the same field – I just wanted to be free, but it wasn’t financially possible so I felt trapped. I decided the most practical thing would be to stay where I was for six more years and then retire at 62. I’m not the most patient person and there were many days when this seemed like forever! I set financial goals of paying off debt, saving money and cutting unnecessary expenses to prepare myself for living comfortably on a lower income. I did so well with my goals that I was able to retire a year and a half earlier than originally planned. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy to take a reduced pension and then a reduced early Social Security benefit but I had a clear vision of the life I wanted and I was willing to sacrifice some things to get it. Don’t ever let anyone’s opinion deter you from fulfilling your dreams! During those years I also read a lot about changing your thoughts in order to change your life, living in the present moment, and learning to experience your situation differently, etc. (instinctively, I knew those skills would be useful no matter what). I began focusing my thoughts on the future life I wanted to create – one where I was accountable to no one, where I could spend my time drawing, writing , pursuing different interests and doing whatever I wanted to do. I called it my “reinvention” and I started a reinvention vision board on which I pasted photos, quotes, and words that expressed the life I wanted in the future. I visited the future when I visualized and wrote in my journal but I lived in the present and tried to make the best of it. I took positive steps toward creating my future life by establishing an online shop to sell my greeting cards at Greeting Card Universe and starting my first book, “Try Lots of Hats”, which was published in 2010 while I was still working. I also began to focus more on being grateful and appreciative for the good things I already had in my life and staying open to experiences of joy and inspiration. I adopted Stella and we began volunteering with the local Humane Society’s Ambassador Dog Team. About three years after I began visualizing my reinvention it became a self-fulfilled prophecy.
Once you understand that your life today is the creation of the thoughts and decisions you made in the past then you will also understand that the thoughts and decisions you make today will create your future. If you daydream about a different type of life then now is the time to create a self-fulfilling prophecy with your thoughts and think every day about your vision of that life and the steps you can take to get there. Often the decisions and thoughts that created our current life were based on a lack of self-love so a good place to start creating the life you want in the future is to learn to love and respect yourself.
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