Stop the self-fulfilling prophecy

Ashley Brooke Boyd | Cartoonist

By Bridget Sjoberg | News Editor

As a new school year begins, it’s common to experience a variety of different changes—teachers, classes, activities and possibly roommates or housing. For freshmen, almost everything will be an adjustment from what they were previously used to.

A new school year is a fresh start and leaves us each with an important choice to make—will we allow challenging new changes to help us grow and learn, or will we decide that something is bad before we give it a real chance?

When we choose the latter, our situation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you enter the school year with a mindset that Waco is boring, you will likely spend the entire semester not branching out or exploring the city during your free time. If you enter a class with a mindset that the teacher will be horrible, you will likely look for ways to complain to your friends or not make an effort to know the teacher personally.

Furthermore, when we mentally decide that something is bad before giving it a real shot, we almost search for things to go wrong in an effort to justify our original opinion. Having this attitude—no matter what the circumstance is—isn’t healthy and commonly leads to a negative outcome.

To best avoid the trap of the self-fulfilling prophecy, ask yourself questions before changes occur or after they happen. Did I have a bias about this situation before I entered into it? Am I relying off of the opinions of others instead of forming my own? Am I making an effort to learn more about a situation before I immediately form a snap judgement?

Similarly, think about how the people you surround yourself with influence the way you feel about certain people or situations. Do you really hate that teacher, or are you swayed by the fact that your roommate last year constantly complained about them?

A negative self-fulfilling prophecy is incredibly common— if we haven’t done it to ourselves we’ve witnessed it happen for our family or friends. It typically plays out something like this— a change happens in our lives that we didn’t expect and we have difficulty processing it.

This change can be something we had a negative bias towards before it occurred, or something we expected to go perfectly for us before it didn’t. When we assume change will result in instant success, it’s easy to be let down and discouraged by things that don’t go our way.

In either situation, we can have a tendency to almost search for things to go wrong or for negative examples in day-to-day life so that our opinions can be validated. But at the end of the day, does this mindset really achieve anything?

It doesn’t. Our experiences don’t begin to improve until we choose to improve our attitudes. When we give various aspects of a situation a shot instead of dismissing them in our minds, we may begin to appreciate and find value and meaning in places that we had originally chosen to dislike. There are obviously exceptions and every situation is different, but nine times out of 10, a shift in mindset can result in a more fulfilling outcome.

As we begin this new school year, we can choose to make anything a negative self-fulfilling prophecy—a class, an event, a group or club, a person, or even a school or a city. We can also choose to give something a fair shot before we make a judgement and decide for ourselves what we believe.

The decision is ours, so let’s choose to think carefully, positively and in a way that embraces change before dismissing it.