So, what’s a belief? A belief is a feeling of absolute certainty about yourself, others and the world around you.
The primary key to your success is a bulletproof belief in your self-worth and your own abilities.
I believe it was Henry Ford, who said,
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.”
The irony is you and I live in a world of uncertainty and yet we must act as if we have certainty in order to get what we want. It reminds me of a story that one of my mentors shared with me whilst attending one of his, “Legacy Trainers Training Program.”
I want to share it with you because it sums up this section beautifully: The Pygmalion Effect.
Have you ever met someone who seems to have luck wherever they go? I have a friend appropriately nicknamed, “Lucky.” It seems that no matter what Lucky does, or no matter where he goes, good fortune follows him. I’m not just talking about finding pennies on the street. Lucky is the kind of person who can create millions of dollars with ideas that are surprisingly simple yet no one else seems to think of them. It seems that Lucky just happens to meet the right people at the right place at the right time. I remember sitting down with Lucky one afternoon just after I had met him, and I asked him how he got his nickname. His response was as simple as his moneymaking ideas. His answer? “Because I am!”
Why do some people like Lucky seem to have all the luck in the world, while others seem to hit walls everywhere they turn? Have you ever experienced this in your life? What determines why you are on a roll or in a rut? The answer is as surprisingly simple as Lucky was. The answer to this question comes from within you. You are the one that determines whether you are in a rut or on a roll. The important thing for you to find out is how you can more consistently produce the rolls over the ruts. This determinant comes from a dynamic called the Pygmalion Effect, and it’s a primary force by which I govern my life. The origin of the Pygmalion Effect is as interesting as the effect itself, it came from Greek mythology.
The story begins on the island of Cyprus. Long ago, in the city of Amathus, lived the great King Pygmalion. King Pygmalion was an incredible leader and renowned sculptor, but unfortunately a very lonely man. His standards for a perfect mate were so high that he was never able to find a woman who could fulfill all his wishes. King Pygmalion saw so much to blame in women that he resolved to live a solitary life, yet his constant yearning for companionship and love created a great void in his life. No matter where he searched, he could not find true love.
Never able to find this love, one day the King set out to create a sculpture of the perfect woman, and he began with a perfect piece of Ivory. All sorrow and loneliness left his heart as he worked on the sculpture. When he finished, he had created a work of art with such beauty and perfection that he fell in love with it. She was the perfect semblance of every trait and characteristic he had hoped for in a partner, less one – she was of ivory and not of the flesh. While indeed made of ivory, his creation was so perfect it looked like the craftsmanship of nature. So real was she, he would place his hands upon her face as if to assure himself that she was still made of ivory, yet even his caress could not convince him it was not flesh. He would bring her daily gifts of love – bright shells, beads, amber, polished stones, forest animals and flowers of numerous hues. He adorned her with amazing treasures – rings for her fingers, earrings, and rare pearls for her neck. He made sure that she rested on the finest of pillows and was warmed with the best of downs.
His passion and love for her were so strong he prayed to the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite to bring her to life. “Ye Gods, who can do all things, give me, I pray you, for my wife, one like my ivory virgin.” Knowing that his prayers would be answered, he announced to his Kingdom that he was to wed his creation. Everyone thought he was crazy, and perhaps he was, but he never faltered, and always began and ended his days with prayers to Aphrodite. As the wedding date grew nearer, his advisors urged him to call off the wedding for fear that the King would be made a mockery. Yet his certainty never waned. Instead, he sent his bride to be fitted for a dress and commissioned the finest seamstress to create the perfect gown. Still, everyone talked of his mental instability, and his staff began to grow unfaithful. King Pygmalion began to banish his naysayers and demanded that his entire staff be loyal to the soon-to-be queen as well as to him.
As each day drew nearer to the wedding, everyone watched the King lose his reputation and his power, but never did he lose his faith. Aphrodite was so touched by his intention and certainty, that she raised a fiery point into the air and brought life to his creation. As Pygmalion returned home, he gave his usual kiss to his statue. But this time it felt warm! He pressed the statue’s lips once more and laid his hands upon her back. The ivory felt so real, so warm and soft he knew his prayer had been answered; she was indeed alive! The virgin felt his kisses and blushed amid opening her timorous eyes as she fixed her gaze on her lover. Aphrodite then blessed the nuptials she had created, and from their union was born Paphos – a daughter with such beauty a city was named in her honor. To this day, the city of Paphos is recognized as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Greece.
Since then, when someone expects something with so much certainty, and so much conviction that it actually happens, it is called the Pygmalion Effect.
This Greek myth describes the power of intention and certainty. Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a researcher from Harvard University coined the phrase, “Pygmalion Effect” after numerous scientific studies concluded the existence of these phenomena, but the inspiration of his studies came from Robert K. Merton, the sociologist who coined the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy” in a seminal essay published in the Antioch Review in 1948. According to Merton, a self-fulfilling prophecy is an expectation or prediction that is initially false, (remember that later) which initiates a series of events that cause the original expectation or prediction to come true. Merton described this phenomenon as having 3 phases:
- You have a belief in something (false at the time it is held)
- You behave in a way you would not have normally done in the absence of that (false) belief in your mind.
- The behaviors displayed in phase two actually create events, which make the belief then become true.
This dynamic can also work in reverse. It is my feeling that most, not all, of the negative events in the world are created from a “Negative Pygmalion” effect. So many people these days expect to be robbed or mugged, that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not limited to crime either. One of the most powerful examples that Merton argued for self-fulfilling prophecies, now referred to as the Pygmalion effect, was the collapse of a solid and solvent financial institution – the Last National Bank. The collapse began in the early 1930’s when a rumor (false at that time) that the institution was on the verge of bankruptcy (phase I). That led to a massive withdrawal of savings by panicked depositors (phase II), which in turn led to the actual collapse of the bank (phase III).
So, back to my friend Lucky. The reason he is, in fact, lucky is that he believes that he is. I realize this may seem too easy on the surface, but the system has been in place since 1948, thanks to Merton. If you want something to happen, believe that it will! Then, behave as if your belief is true, and it may just manifest. Remember – King Pygmalion believed that his statue would come to life, but that wasn’t true either.
Have you ever experienced the Pygmalion Effect in your life? If so, I certainly hope it was for the good. If you are experiencing events or situations in your life that you don’t want to have happened, ask yourself this: Do you expect them to happen? What are your beliefs regarding the events happening in your life? Remember those people who seem to have nothing but good happen to them? They believe things, too. Ask them if they expect good things to happen, and almost invariably they will say yes. I realize it’s illogical, but it works. They seem to be “invincible” to negative happenings and it all begins with a feeling of certainty – a belief.
Now, I realize that it leaves open a huge philosophical debate, and you might well find as many examples in life about how a positive intention “didn’t work” for yourself or someone you know. But the truth is, negative expectancy just doesn’t serve you or the world. Einstein once said, “I’d rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right.” I guess that’s my philosophy too, and one might say I’m crazy for believing in something so strange, but then again, so was King Pygmalion.
I love this story, I hope you did too but here’s the key, what you need to explore here is what you believe in and is your belief serving you by moving you in the right direction, or is it holding you back from expressing and being your true self?
Adopt a positive approach to life and create good assumptions in all areas of your life. This will be of great benefit to your overall life and wellbeing.