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Many people are familiar with the phrase “self-fulling prophecy.” A brief definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy is having your future actions be influenced by a faulty belief about the situation. So, you falsely believe something will happen and because of those false believes it eventually leads to the behavior you “prophesied.”  This classic, common definition is usually seen in a negative light.

An example of this includes what someone recently told me in therapy. She shared that if she was treated a certain way she would be made to feel a particular way. Then she would feel this way the rest of the week (putting that responsibility on another person is an entirely additional issue). Talk about setting yourself up for negative feelings and behavior!

Thomas Merton said, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” This leaves open the opportunity for “positive self-fulfilling prophecy.” I believe this is just as attainable. Within reason of course.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. I had a birthday recently. People sent me messages encouraging me to have a good day. I thought, “Yes. I will view this as a good day no matter what.” This worked, I think it was because I was certain I was going to have a good day. I focused on positive things and the things I was looking forward to doing. I chose to not let disappointments keep me down. It was indeed a good day! I defined my situation of having a good day as real and the consequences were the same (if only I was consistent in this thinking).

So, I encourage you to consider how to use “self-fulfilling prophecy” in a positive way. Where do you need to set yourself up for success? Your job, family, school, faith community? Maybe all of the above.

Start with a good day today!

Justin P. Lewis, MA

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Nicholas Garlow with HHS HealthBeat.

Teens who feel good about themselves are more likely to grow into young adults who feel better about their health. The study analyzed data from more than 10,000 young people in grades 7 through 12 of the 1994-1995 school year, who were followed until 2001.

Lindsay Till Hoyt is at Northwestern University. 

“Positive well being is also associated with fewer risky health behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity.”

Based on her findings, she thinks:

“It’s really important for parents and schools to promote positive characteristics such as self-esteem and optimism, and to provide social support during this time.”

The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at hhs.gov.

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