Q&A - July 14, 2017

Have you ever awakened in the morning and just knew it was going to be a bad day? Sure enough, you stub your toe on the footboard of your bed, everyone at work seems to be in a bad mood, and negative things just seem to happen all day long. Or have you ever been invited to a party and just knew you were going to feel awkward or out of place? Once you arrived, your worst fears were realized. I believe each of us have these kinds of experiences from time to time, and they help solidify our beliefs about the world around us. But what if we could use this kind of thinking to our advantage?

Q:Dr. Path, I don’t see how you can always be so optimistic about Okmulgee...Don’t past failures tell us something about this town’s future?

I just write a column in the newspaper and do my best to answer questions from readers. I try to look at the positive side of life and to inspire others to do the same. So, how can I maintain such a positive outlook about Okmulgee? I’m not a prophet, but I know what Okmulgee will be like in ten years. I have no ability to tell fortunes or to see the future, but I can predict with certainty how this town will develop in the decades to come. Okmulgee has no life of its own; it has no preordained direction. But I know what this town will become in the future…Okmulgee will become exactly what we make of it, nothing more and nothing less. If we expect great things to happen and work toward them, great things will happen. But if we expect Okmulgee to decline, and we don’t lift a finger to help this town, it will decline and fail just as we expected.

There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy—a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true due to positive feedback between our belief and behavior. A self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person unknowingly causes a prediction to come true, due to the simple fact that he or she expects it to come true.

You can think of the self-fulfilling prophecy as a circular pattern. Our thoughts influence our actions, and our actions influence the thoughts and actions of others, which brings us back to the beginning of the cycle. Admittedly, this pattern can be negative, but it can also be positive. Understanding this principle can help us gain control of our lives and our destinies. Applying this principle can help us steer the direction of our community as well. Remaining positive about Okmulgee and taking actions to improve the town will influence others to do the same. 

Within reason, if we believe something to be true, we can influence that outcome. We may not be able to see the future, but we influence it every day. So, that old “fake it ‘til you make it” advice is a pretty good suggestion.

Keep positive, Okmulgee, and good things will happen. Please send additional questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu