Sometimes coaches tell athletes to visualize success. They tell them to visualize a win, or a new personal best. They tell them to visualize coming in first place in a race, serving the perfect serve in volleyball, or making every free throw in a basketball game.
You also may have heard before that you should not dress for the job you have, but dress for the career you want.
In the study of communication, there is a concept called self-fulfilling prophecy. In summary, this concept means that if we act as if something is true, and we tell ourselves something is true, then it is more likely to actually become true even if it is false at first.
A study by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson was conducted in which a teacher was to administer a written test to her students. She was told ahead of time that certain students were terrible students and were not expected to do well on the test. She was told there was almost no chance of those particular students even passing. It also was pointed out to her which students were expected to do well on the test. The teacher administered the test, and when it was time to look at the results, it had happened exactly as she was told. The students expected to do well, did, and the students who were expected to do poorly, didn't do well. The catch to all of this? The students were randomly assigned to which group they were in. It appears to be self-fulfilling prophesy that explains what happened when the teacher graded the tests.
Sometimes at my parent's house, we play a free throw game. The goal is to see how many baskets out of 50 we can make as a group. When it is your turn to shoot, you shoot until you miss, and then the next person shoots. When I visualize myself making the perfect shot, with perfect follow through and foot placement, I make more shots. When I am distracted and shoot with no visualization, I don't make as many shots.
I do believe these theories of visualization and self-fulfilling prophesy are true. But why does visualization, self-talk, and acting the part seem to work? Because if you visualize yourself acting a certain way, you are more likely to take the appropriate actions to actually act that way. It's true. You do.
This is a very valuable lesson. But beware, it doesn't just work in a positive way. It can also work in negative ways. I remember being told when I was younger that I was a terrible singer. I allowed myself to believe that comment then, and to this day I still believe I am an awful singer. And I probably really am. If I had either never been told that, or if someone had told me that my voice had potential, might I have treated my singing voice differently? I might have invested in my voice with lessons. I might have joined choir for more than one year. But self-fulfilling prophesy kicked in and I began to believe that what that person told me was true and I never acted in any other manner.
Now that you know this is a tool you can use to your advantage, what are some ways we can all put this concept into practice to improve the community? When I hear someone say there is nothing to do in this town, I can't help but think of self-fulfilling prophesy. Maybe there seems to be nothing to do because they have told themselves for years that there is nothing to do and so they don't go out looking for things to do. But when you ask me what there is to do, I have a hard time shutting up about all there is to do. Maybe because the self-fulfilling prophesy leads me to continually see all there is going on since I believe there is a lot to do.
That is just one example of how self-fulfilling prophesy can impact your view of yourself, your surroundings and your community. I can think of many other examples and I'm sure you can too.
Get out of the cycle of negative self-fulfilling prophesy. Let your attitude and beliefs drive your actions in a positive way instead. Start acting like positive things are true and you are more likely to experience life that way. There is no harm in giving it an honest attempt, so pick a visualization project and get started.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.