You’ve heard the notion of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” right? In a negative sense, it’s a false expectation about something or someone that may affect your behavior in a way that causes those expectations to be fulfilled. Not good.
It’s like a manager, for example, who expects employees to be slackers and, in turn.
Sure, it starts with our own thinking patterns–grounded in our beliefs and values. But it gets worse when verbally expressed as words that reinforce false beliefs. In other words, the very language we choose affects how we experience our world, and how others experience us.
There are subtle ways that our minds can convince us of something that isn’t really true. We all do this, both consciously and subconsciously, which can limit our ability to grow as people, workers, parents, and leaders.
This could spell trouble.
1. You have all-or-nothing thinking.
You may at times be guilty of seeing things as black-or-white, right-or-wrong, with nothing in between. If this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, it may essentially lead to perfectionist tendencies reinforced by words like, “If I’m not perfect then I’m a failure.”
2. You over-generalize.
You may use words like “always” or “never” in relation to people, events, or circumstances. It may come out of your mouth as a low-esteemed belief of “I’ll never get that promotion” even though you may be the most qualified.
3. You see things as worse than they actually are.
This means erroneously seeing things as dramatically more or less important than they actually are–which can often create way more drama for you and those around you. It may sound like this: “I forgot to send that document before the deadline! That means my boss will never trust me again, I’ll lose out getting a raise, and my co-workers will disapprove of me.”
4. You are your own victim of “shoulda coulda woulda.”
You may be guilty of over-analyzing to death what should have (shoulda), could have (coulda), or would have (woulda) happened or been done. This futile use of words focuses on the past, thus providing no solution to an actual problem in the here and now. It may sound something like this: “I could have worked harder on that account–I should’ve put in 80-hour weeks to get it done.”
5. You unjustly give others a negative label.
It may be that a co-worker wronged you. Perhaps it was an honest mistake, but you’ve decided that hanging on to your grudge, rather than forgiving, vilifies the wrongdoing and justifies your behavior. Because you’ve placed the “idiot” label on that person, it only hurts your ability to further collaborate and make amends.
6. You jump to conclusions.
You may be accused of making terrible assumptions and negative predictions about the future without evidence or factual support. You may say something like, “I won’t be able to afford my mortgage if I take this vacation.” (Truth is, you know there’s enough money stashed in savings to last five months.)
7. You disregard the positive.
Because your tendency is to be critical, you will discount the positive in people’s efforts and good intentions by over-accentuating the negative. Saying, for example, that a high-achieving colleague isn’t deserving of accolades because “anyone could’ve done it” is a good example of disregarding the good in others.
8. You play the blame game.
Blaming yourself when you weren’t entirely responsible or blaming other people and denying your role in the situation is a classic example of this toxic thinking pattern. It shows up in examples like, “If only I were younger, I would have gotten the job,” or “If only she hadn’t called me on it, I wouldn’t have been angry and shot back.”
9. You dwell on things too long.
Allowing (dwelling on) one negative detail or fact to spoil your enjoyment, performance, happiness, hope, etc., is a toxic thinking pattern that will limit you. Example: Your team feels like they’ve had the most productive meeting in months, but because your PowerPoint presentation didn’t work, it spoiled the whole meeting for you. You can’t let go of it even though other people weren’t fazed by it.
Your turn: What would you add to this list?