We looked at the very real possibility that we, intentionally or otherwise, might be the very “black crabs” to those around us. While wishing for a little support in making progress towards our goals (like a shove from a black crab, rather than a tug), we may, at the same time, actually be the tugging black crab to someone else’s efforts at positive change and growth. Ouch.
Have you ever felt inner tension at your place in life? Struggled with a desire for “more,” whether it was “more money,” “more job,” “more fulfillment,” “more happiness,” “more friendship,” “more sense of purpose,” “more ____________?” The chances are extraordinarily high that you have. And that you do.
“Black Crab” Big Business
According to one statistic, the self-help industry amounted to over $10.5 billion in 2010. That’s a lot of self-help, don’t you think? Maybe this is why the industry has a perhaps well-earned nickname: shelf-help. Meaning that the delivery system for the eagerly-sought self-help (book, DVD, 3-ring bound course, audio series…) ended up on a shelf, instead of meaningfully absorbed into the self who bought the help, in the first place.
Is it possible, then, that the seeker of the self-help actually impedes their own growth?
Sure. I believe this happens all the time. As I mentioned in my last post, like a crab seeking to escape its bucket, people are driven to reach for more out of life, to move beyond their “bucket” of limitations. Deep down, the belief that there is a wide-world out there, full of opportunity and adventure, pushes us to reach for the lid of the metaphorical bucket. And sometimes, our dreams are dashed because of a dream-deprived loser, suffering from negativity and fear, who is one of the black crabs in our life. But, then, perhaps we are sometimes that black crab in someone else’s life.
However, most often, we let go of the lid. We pull the ripcord. Bail. Implode. Give up. Lose faith. Self-destruct. We “black crab” ourselves.
I’ve experienced this self-induced crab-melt in my life, and I’ve seen it in countless people in my professional life. It’s crazy-making.
Makes you wonder—why is that? That’s where we’re going in the final installment of As the Crab Turns….
What are your thoughts on this? Is self-help good? Bad? Both?
A mentor of mine, Dan Miller of 48 Days, writes about the “Pygmalion Effect” in his wonderful inspirational book, The Rudder for the Day. Dan writes that this phenomenon happens when “a false definition of the situation evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.” Even if the phrase doesn’t ring a bell, this is not a new concept for you. You’ve seen and heard it before.
Henry Ford put it another way:
If you think you can do a thing
or think you can’t do a thing,
Either way, your point of view makes it true.
We also call this a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the business realm, new sales people are often encouraged to “Fake it until you make it!”
What is so fascinating about this phenomenon is how often this perverse equation gets worked out in real life. Notice that the Pygmalion effect begins with a false belief, which generates a behavior built upon that definition which, in turn, proves the false belief. While there can be a positive outcome to this phenomenon, like the newbie sales gal succeeding against the daily evidence that reality is presenting her, even that scenario is built on a negative.
So how does this wrong-headed effect work itself out in real life?
In Dan’s case, he was so expectant that he’d be shocked while installing an outdoor light feature, he experienced being jolted. Twice. With no electricity! It wasn’t hooked up yet.
How many diets fail because of the dieter’s absolute belief that he or she cannot lose weight? Like it is a law of nature?
How many workers stay anchored to a job they don’t like, hate despise, loath, ______, because of their fundamental conviction that the current job market is, well, no better than a stinky road-kill carcass awaiting cleanup? Really? Look back through the past 70 years for magazine covers declaring the end of the economic world as we knew it.
How many people are certain the economy is trashed beyond redemption? What is the possibility that their certitude is actually keeping the economy trashed? That would be unfortunate, eh? Pygmalion thinking on a global scale.
Release the Pygmalion!
Ah, let us count the ways that the Pygmalion effect finds new traction (or old, for that matter) every day. Or, let’s not count them. Let’s change them.
How many positive Pygmalions would it take to reverse the negative economic cycle?
What positive Pygmalion would improve your life, right now?
Maybe it’s time to reassess your underlying beliefs.
Maybe it’s time to change the lens you are looking through at the life before you.
Engage here. What are your thoughts? Experience? How have you seen the Pygmalion Effect in your world?