The Power of the Pygmalion Effect: You Choose
Or how your view of the world impacts your life
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?