Our mind creates our world, but our expectations give it texture and meaning.
Every thought we’ve ever had helped shape who we are. The thoughts that filter through our conscious mind are planted in our subconscious like seeds in our backyard. The ones we water and nourish grow.
“What we expect, that we find,” said Aristotle.
So what do we expect to find?
Doubt! We doubt politicians, the system, religion, ourselves, lawyers, journalists, second-hard car salesmen and some doubt Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
Doubt keeps us from having big expectations or ensuring the ones we do have aren’t fulfilled. It’s accepted belief that males are better at math than females, but a recent study found women who were told female genes make them poor mathematicians do poorly.
The reverse is also true: women who were told gender is irrelevant to math skills did well.
Psychologist Claude Steele, who coined the phrase stereotype threat, argues that when someone’s social identity is attached to a negative stereotype, that person often performs according to the stereotype.
He attributes the under performance to a person’s anxiety that he or she will conform to the negative stereotype. The anxiety shows up in various ways, including distraction and increased body temperature, which affect performance.
That proves once again we are limited only by what we believe. When we expect the worst— whether it’s in a squash game or in the game of life — it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In scientific studies, the placebo effect and its opposite, the nocebo effect, re-inforce that belief has power. Often, the placebo works almost as well as the drug being tested, because the person taking it believes it will work. The nocebo is similar: when we expect poor health, that’s what we get.
Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard University, believes that the effectiveness of Prozac and similar drugs may be attributed almost entirely to the placebo effect.
“The critical factor,” said Kirsch, “is our beliefs about what's going to happen to us. You don'’ have to rely on drugs to see profound transformation.”
The body is always eavesdropping on the mind and responds to its beliefs. If we believe that when flu season arrives the virus will land on our immune system and we’ll be off work for three days, we don’t have to guess what will happen.
But if we expect to be healthy, we won’t get the flu. Sound far-fetched? Take a look around your workplace and you’ll notice it’s always the same people who get sick and some who are always healthy.
Better genes or a better belief system?
That’s a simple example. The deeper beliefs and expectations affect how we live our lives and who we become.
“Your life is out-pictured by the sum total of your subconscious beliefs. Wherever you go, you takes those conditions with you,” Florence Scovel Shinn writes in The Power of the Spoken Word.
We have a choice — we always have a choice. We can expect life to be hard with disappointment and despair, or we can believe it will be easy.
Unless we have faith, reason will always trump intuition. We are so rational, so left brain, that we need to know the how, we want the details before we commit ourselves to anything, even to a better life.
But we have to be like the child who wants a bike for Christmas and doesn’t lie awake wondering how the it will get beneath the Christmas tree.
If we create a picture in our mind of what we want, of what we expect and keep it there, it has a much better chance of coming into being then letting it dissolve when the universe tests our faith. And it will.
It’s not like we don’t have experience with faith. It’s not a religion-only concept. We have faith that gravity will work, that the sun will do what it’s supposed to, that the atoms coming into our body will know the dance of the ones they are replacing, that our stomach won’t forget how to digest food, that the Canucks won’t win the Stanley Cup.
We accept that everything we need is on the blueprint in every one of our trillions of cells. From the second of conception, our height, our bone structure, the colour of our hair or whether we’ll have any at 50 was encoded in our DNA.
Some people accept that our brain is hardwired for spirituality, that we all have a longing for something more than new plasma TV or a new Ferrari. Yet, oddly enough, we don’t have the same expectation we showed up with a mental blueprint, that things will go well for us, that the universe is rooting for us.
“Our expectations are like a mental barometer,” Raymond Charles Barker writes in The Power of Decision. “They indicate out subconscious thought patterns.”
We expect life’s high rollers to do well, to write that novel, star in that movie, run a fast marathon, make a million bucks, but we don’t have the same belief that we are programmed for success and happiness.
We have to get out of the way and let it happen.
Some people plan their day before they get out of bed. By the time their feet hit the floor, the believe down to their DNA, that what they expect will happen.
For a week, let’s look for the best in everybody and everything, to expect that things will work out.
We have nothing to lose: our old thought patterns will be there waiting.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.