Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

airplaneFinally home from having been away for nearly 2 weeks. What does one do with day-long air and sea travels combined, plus all the time spent waiting at harbors and airports? Watch movies? Yep, 7 in total between my outbound and inbound trips (with Life of Pi being the most thought-provoking). Read? Yes, 2 books (including You Can Create An Exceptional Life). Think and reflect? Check.

I was somewhat sad to have to fly back to the U.S., which was a completely new experience for me. When I left Macau nearly 27 years ago, I was so primed and ready to escape in order to create a new life that I didn’t look back. Sure, I had traveled back a number of times since. However, I was always eager to get back to the U.S., my chosen home. At one point, 7 years went by between visits to Macau.

Farewell, Old Story

On this last trip, I realized something had shifted: My consciousness. Because of my spiritual studies and practice over the last 5 years and counting, I’ve come to appreciate more and more how much life is shaped by our thoughts and beliefs, whether we’re aware of them.

candles & orchidIn this particular context, my internalized beliefs about my hometown created a filter through which I experienced my homecoming each time. Specifically, the story I repeatedly told myself over all the years was that I was a misfit in my native culture, my family. Because of that attitudinal predisposition, I kept noticing all the ways in which I didn’t feel at home whenever I was back in Macau and Hong Kong. That’s what our brains are wired to do—look for evidence to support our beliefs. That’s what psychologists call “the self-fulfilling prophecy.”

In the time leading up this last trip, I went through the usual pre-trip anxiety I usually experienced around going back to where I didn’t feel I belong. To deal with the angst, I set a conscious intention to enjoy the trip and to enjoy my time with my family. With that intention set, I also surrendered the longstanding old story of being a misfit; this, in turn, meant giving up the automatic search for supporting evidence for the belief.

New Eyes, New Appreciation

As a result of dropping this lifelong bias, I found myself actually appreciating Macau for what it is and what it has become—the ways it has changed since my childhood and the ways in which it has kept its character through the growth and expansion (as mentioned in last week’s article). Seeing my childhood hometown through a fresh pair of eyes gave me such a newfound appreciation that I found myself being open to living there again! For having rejected Macau for most of my life, that’s a huge change of heart for me.

PerspectiveI also noticed my consciousness shift in my reactions to conversations on this trip. I didn’t want to participate in revisiting old grievances. I wondered how long we wanted to relive all that and for what purpose other than to feed an unconscious addiction to old familiar pain. Moreover, I couldn’t help but notice how often the theme spoken was around all the ways in which people kept disappointing and violating us in ways large and small.

That’s what happens when we’re unaware of our reflexive thought patterns, and words simply roll off our tongues mindlessly. By contrast, when we stop boxing people into our expectations and allow them to be and do their thing as they will, we can see that their behavior is just one possibility out of a range of alternatives. Few things in life are definitively black or white, right or wrong. Our reasons for disliking others’ specific choice of action are our own prerogative for which we can’t hold others responsible, especially if they aren’t aware of our expectations or haven’t agreed to meet them.

A Different Prophecy To Fulfill

In sum, I attribute my overall positive experience on this trip to my shift in consciousness and changing the prophecy I wished to fulfill by intending to have a good trip. It came from having released old grievance stories around my childhood and continuing to cultivate non-striving acceptance—of myself and of others. With that shift, judgment was minimized, which, in turn, allowed me to appreciate the place and the people for what and who they are, respectively, in their own rights.

Over to you: Do you find that your experiences are shaped by your attitudes and beliefs, not the other way around? What self-fulfilling prophecy, if any, might you be ready to release? Please share in the comment box below.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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8 comments
ThinDifference
ThinDifference

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Alice, and how your mindset is intertwined with them. It is an interesting question in whether or not experience influence mindsets or the other way around. It seems our mindset is first. We few upcoming interactions in a certain way, and we can change that mindset, as you point out. However, when we enter the experience, our approach may change but, if the experience isn't different, our mindset may go back to the old way, old attitude. Mindsets are a powerful thing and they can change experiences. At times, though, experiences can overpower our mindsets and then we need to adjust - one way or another. Great food for thought here. Thanks! Jon

JoyChristin
JoyChristin

I *love* this, thank you for sharing!  

Because you consciously chose to set an intention and surrender your old story you had a new experience...and this is truly what is possible each moment we choose...thank you for the reminder! 

ariakabirgmailcom
ariakabirgmailcom

Welcome back Alice. 

It is great to hear your inspirational story.  It is interesting that when our perspective changes then our experience and our story changes.   I enjoyed reading about your experience.  It also gives me hope and inspiration when meeting with certain people from my past.  I just finished taking 30 Days to Your Best Life that you offered.  It was a great program and I have learned a lot and have seen shifts in my experience with difficulties in my life.  I have been able to look at old beliefs and I have been able to let go of the old stories. Thanks for sharing your story.

AlliPolin
AlliPolin

Your post inspires me, Alice.  I'm heading home to be with my family for the first time in a year in a few months.  I've shifted over the year and am ready to show up and embrace the time with my family for three weeks that i'm sure will fly by.  In the past, when we lived closer, grumpiness would set in all too quickly as childhood patterns between siblings emerged.  That used to be the self-fulfilling prophecy I was prepared for every time I went for a visit.  Today, I'm ready for a new experience and know that things will have changed because i've changed. 

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@ThinDifference Jon, great observation about certain experiences overpowering any mindset shift we wish to make. When it comes to significant parts of our lives, such as our families, where there have been decades of history, changing the experience is not that straightforward. What I've found is that cultivating the ability to be an inner observer of my thoughts and reactions is an important part of managing the experience I want to have. That is, I can see that I'm about to slide back into old mindset/reactions. And, in that moment, I can choose not to react in the old way but to take a different approach instead. With ongoing practice of cultivating consciousness, this becomes easier and more like second nature in time. Many thanks for adding your insightful, thoughtful comment, Jon!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@JoyChristin Thank you, Joy! I was driving myself crazy dreading the trip while not wanting to miss my brother's big celebration. That was until I was reminded to set an intention for what I wanted instead. Life does deliver whatever we want; we just have to be clear with our intention. Thanks again for commenting.

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@ariakabirgmailcom Thanks, Aria. It's true indeed that we carry childhood stories within us, often unknowingly. Until we become aware of that and release those stories, we keep recreating the same experiences well into our adult lives. The great news is that we have the power to change those stories by shifting our perspective to change our experience. Also really glad to read that the 30 Days To Living Your Best Life Program has served you so well. Thank you for sharing that! All the best to you, Aria!

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@AlliPolinThank you for sharing your own upcoming time with your family, Alli. I think most, if not all, of us can relate to family dynamics that often challenge us. I think you'll indeed find that your experience on this trip will be different because you've changed. Even if your family may not be able to put their finger on what exactly changed, they'll likely respond differently to you. Enjoy your family visit, Alli!

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