Self-fulfilling prophecy is bad prophecy

The other day, I was doing the dishes and I set a cup at the edge of the counter. I looked at it thinking, “This is going to fall over.”

I then convinced myself that it would be fine, I was almost done anyway. Of course, moments later I knocked it over with another dish.

It’s tempting to think that somehow by thinking the cup was going to tip over, I caused it to tip over. A form of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is bad prophecy.

The thing is, we make these assertions and predictions all the time. We operate from one guess to another without any thought when we are wrong.

And we are wrong most of the time.

We’re wrong when we imagine we are going to get in a car accident when we are driving down the road. We’re wrong when we imagine the worst outcome every time we sit down with the boss at a performance review. We’re wrong when thinking the teacher is going to call on us when we don’t know the answer.

Sometimes, we do get in a car accident or have a bad performance review or our name is called.

When it does happen we say to ourselves, “I knew it!”

If you really did, then why would you go through with it?

It’s because we didn’t know. We told ourselves a story that it was going to happen and this time it did.

When we insist on telling ourselves these stories, we are conditioning ourselves to be more cautious next time.

So, over time, we tell ourselves stories to be more careful. To be more alert, more watchful for the worse. To not make a ruckus. To not be seen. To blend in. We tell a story to preserve ourselves. Because when something bad happens (and it always does), we can insulate ourselves with another layer—another piece of evidence to point to that the world is a dangerous place and we are not safe.

Better prophecy comes from better explanations. Better explanations come from better knowledge.

We pretend that our outcomes are fixed because we limit ourselves into imagining only one possible outcome.

We live in a world of infinite possibilities. Act accordingly.