Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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Someone believes they will win the lottery and they feel great about it.

Self Fulfilling Prophecy and Optimism

That’s a self fulfilling prophecy AND optimism? True?

No, it’s insane. That’s what humans want to believe. What matters to you is the person with those two biases/beliefs will tend to BEHAVE consistently with their biases. But that doesn’t mean they get results. One can believe that walking into traffic is wise and then proceed to walk into traffic and then land leveled on the pavement.

Let’s answer what needs to be forecast, how to deal with optimism and what to do with your belief that you are capable of getting what you want.

The Self Fulfilling Prophecy is simple. It’s where the human is certain that you will perform a task and end up with a result.  It also refers to the notion of labeling people. A therapist labels his client as psychotic and many psychologists believe the label will “stick” whether the diagnosis is correct or not.  (What has been shown to “stick” and not stick is the subject of a different article.)

Optimism Bias simply means that someone believes that something good is more likely to happen or be true of themselves than others. For example. They believe they are a little smarter, are better looking, drive better, are more likely to have a good job, live longer,  are more likely to have a good life. The bias is similar to other biases. It means that one tends to be certain that their future is brighter than the rest of the world. Humans overestimate the likelihood of good events happening and then underestimate the likelihood of negative events.  What’s important for you to know is that most people have an optimism bias. It’s likely that humans have adapted over the last couple of million years to believe things will be better than they are and that they are more capable than others.

Meanwhile, Self Efficacy is the belief in the self to handle some situation when it arises. It reflects certainty of someone being able to execute certain behaviors to get what they want. The reason you have to know about this is that an individuals belief in their ability to acquire goals…is often correlated with the opposite happening. Some research shows that people tend to overestimate their efficacy to deal with the big picture problem while underestimating their efficacy to deal with the details of that problem. In fact, people who underestimate their self efficacy tended to out perform those with higher self efficacy. (This is a BIG WRENCH.)

The answer to this challenging situation is WISELY SEQUENCED DOUBT.

Reality of Self Efficacy
You don’t doubt you can get a base hit when you are at the plate batting. Doubt comes in the analysis of your game play AFTER the game and then finding your weaknesses and working on them.

Begin with the Self Fulfilling Prophecy.

The idea that you can tell someone else that magic will happen in their life doesn’t mean that their hearing or even acting on it, will make magic happen.  There are SOME people who can send a message (subject of another article) and change the outcomes of other people. It’s not instantly easy however and your “positive prophecy” for someone else can and OFTEN DOES literally cause them to fail.

A self fulfilling prophecy is closely tied to the Pygmalion Effect. The key difference is that the certainty level in the individual with the self fulfilling prophecy must be absolutely certain that they will be able to achieve some result. It’s not about a belief, but rather a certainty, like knowing the sun will rise in the morning and set again at night.

Some self fulfilling prophecies are very likely to come to pass. Others never will.

Today, you find out what kind of prophecies will be fulfilled and what kind rarely are.

To understand all of this, we have to first look at The Optimism Bias. This week you look at the up and down side of Optimism Bias.

This is a simple skewed perception we all have that helps in part determine whether or not prophecies will fulfill.

You and I have an Optimism Bias.

  • You and I believe that we are better looking than average.
  • We believe that we are more intelligent than average.
  • You and I believe that we are better automobile drivers than average.
  • We believe we are better at pretty much everything…than average.

Negative Self Fulfilling Prophecies These are beliefs that we have and they are undeniable because we have “proof by comparison.”

Every single day, you look out THERE and you see people who make the most ridiculous decisions all based upon faulty premises. You and I see that they believe they possess some amazing ability… that they don’t have.

You see parents do this with their kids.

Their kids are having fun in gymnastics, perhaps even practicing an hour each day. The parent begins to hallucinate their child is a future Olympian. You and I know that Olympians are essentially in training almost 24/7 all day every day. Your friend’s child is a sharp kid, does some cool tumbling and has some neat tricks on the uneven parallel bars, but the fact is, she has zero chance at Olympian fame.

But if it was OUR kid, our vision could be just a little skewed.

You and I shake our head as the overweight guy pounds down another 1,500 calories at a meal. Will his diabetes kill him before his heart gives out?

Why does he not see it? Doesn’t he care about himself?

Fact is…you tend to be pretty effective at judging people briefly after you meet them.

Why? How?

Your Clear Lens

You’ve developed instincts (Nonconscious Learnings) through thousands of similar experiences.

In fact, you and I tend to have a pretty good handle on what other people should do in a lot of areas of their life.

But, the reality is that humans aren’t as great at Self Analysis as we are Other Analysis.

You really want to know why your “Positive Self Expectancy” doesn’t come to fruition when compared with the frequency that Negative Expectancy in yourself and others does. It’s true negative expectations are much more likely to come to fruition.

But these negative expectations you’re reading about right now aren’t simple sentences spoken like, “I’ll never pass this test.”   THAT is actually correlated to better performance.

The negative expectation that holds the power to trigger negative results is when the expectation is absolutely certain in the individual. They know  (certainty) they can’t pass the test, they don’t even bother attempting it.

Where does “Hope” Come From?

  • You already believe you will have more money in 2021 than you do in 2020.
  • You already believe you will have more time for “things” in 2021 than you do in 2020.

Piles of research show otherwise. The vast majority of people will not be better off, financially for example, next year than they are this year.

Your current Optimism Bias is already giving you a certain boost in life. If you didn’t experience that, then life would be less hopeful.

Now here is the reality and what you can do about it.

An Autopilot World

The World on Autopilot Most people, for all their “thinking,” are relatively inadvertent. The vast majority of people are on autopilot. Humans almost entirely operate from their nonconscious brain functions.

They do the exact same things every day. They respond to stimuli and engage surprisingly little in proactive behavior.

Most people are quite good at their daily routine. They wake up, shower, shave, get the kids to school, cook, get to the office, answer the email, do their work, punch out, return home, cook, get the kids to bed and while tired, even burned out, they are remarkably competent at these experiences.

In other words, every single day people experience positive affect about what they do. They feel GOOD and COMPETENT about their ability to handle their immediate world. And the fact is, so long as nothing goes wrong, they do a great job.

That helps create the bias that they can do well at most things. And then they try the new thing and fail and realize that they will go back to what they felt optimistic about.

Predictability = Autopilot

Why did they fail and return to their original place?

Because their world is highly predictable.

The toilet always flushes when you flush it. They are good at flushing the toilet. They feel competent.

Now, if you were to place something DIFFERENT in front of someone, you’d see a different result.

This “something” can be anything that is not part of their daily life, something that is NOT taken care of by the nonconscious brain… in fact, anything that is NOT instinctive…and they “freak out.”

For this experience, they tire faster.

They have no energy because they have built up no tolerance for new activity mental or physical, that burns mental energy which chews up a lot more calories than jogging ever will.

Something NEW happens and most people fall into a state of stress.

When life is NOT predictable most people…do indeed freak out.

The person who talks about “control freaks,” that drive them crazy, is in general, really is telling you that they themselves do the same exact thing every single day and they have almost no deviation where they are consciously required to “wake up” and consider facts about a decision.

Meanwhile the control freak is constantly navigating new waters, coming upon obstacles and directing traffic to CONTROL and  overcome them.

Let’s be clear and honest. Some control freaks are darned difficult to be around. They can take TOO MUCH control and make life maddening for those around them.

But most control freaks aren’t crazy at all. In fact, they are the people who make the world go ’round.

Meanwhile, almost all of normal people’s behavioral CHOICES come from “intuition” or “instinct.”

They don’t need to evaluate flushing the toilet. It’s intuitive.

They flush.

It flushes.

They know they are competent.

They are certain their instincts/intuition are better than other people’s. (In all areas of life.)

How do they know?

They observe people under stress and see them struggle.


Because they don’t notice people when others are NOT under stress.

Why are people who make a lot of mistakes ideal to hire or marry? …Begin to Notice

There is no device in the brain to trigger an alert for “WATCH OUT FOR THE KID SLEEPING ON THE BED.”

Most people’s brains are only trigger consciousness when there is a deviation from the norm.

Less deviation = Less stress.
Less deviation = more observations that are predictable.
Less deviation in life = more certainty about the environment.
Less deviation in life = more familiarity and comfort.

Ask someone if they are intelligent:

They will tell you that they are indeed quite sharp and they have evidence because they make almost NO mistakes in the course of a day.

Mistakes = Waking Up

Mistakes Show Effort People who make few mistakes are the WRONG people to hire.
People who make few mistakes are not used to thinking.
They are reactive by nature and thus they live with a fear of failure.

If you are a manager and you have the opportunity to hire someone who tells you they make a lot of mistakes vs. someone who tells you they don’t, you pretty much always want to hire the guy who says he makes plenty of mistakes because he is really telling you his brain is not on autopilot. He is comfortable or at least familiar with new experiences. THAT is the leading indicator of greatness.

Remember the person who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes is the person who doesn’t experience failure very often. They don’t fail because they don’t do anything they can fail at.

This person is living with their eyes shut. They are walking in their sleep.

There’s not anything wrong with that, of course.

They never are required to wake up because they flush and it always flushes.

Deviation means something DIFFERENT happens.

Deviation means UNEXPECTED.
UNEXPECTED, UNFAMILIAR and UNCERTAINTY kick in the most powerful of all human drives after reproduction.
You call it the flight/fight response.

And you don’t like it.

The Status Quo Life

Most people live their lives avoiding ANY DEVIATION.

Think about it.

There are millions of people who work at jobs that require no deviation from the norm on a day to day basis.

Here’s a real life cultural experience that exemplifies walking in one’s sleep.

The 35 year old at the county office, believes they “have a pension.” There’s a decent chance they’ll actually get that pension. But they should probably have a plan B.

They’ve heard this 100 times but instead of doing something different, they AVOID the uncomfortable and continue to do what they are “competent” at. They won’t deviate. They fully believe someone else will deviate so they never have to.

These workers aren’t alone in blind adherence to the Status Quo…to an Optimism Bias.

Believing “things will be fine” makes people FEEL better and it’s only reasonable that people feel better most of the time.

They tend to have a “positive outlook on life.”

That “positive outlook,” is one way they determine quality and satisfaction in life.

Is that “positive outlook” a trap? …

Does “Happiness” Exist?

Perhaps they ask you, “are you happy?”

Does Happiness Exist

Happy is one of those fascinating definition-less words that ultimately means “have you experienced very few failures lately?”

You and I want to “feel happy”, too. Everyone does.

However, people want to feel happy and at the same time deny the starving children in Ethiopia and Somalia. And the starving Mom’s. The dead Fathers.


They have an Optimism Bias.

Reading my Facebook today I read many such mentions of, “Your life today is a gift from God.”

Who knows? I certainly I have no idea if that is true or not. But my thoughts go to the child who just starved to death in Ethiopia or Ogaden or India.

The denial of reality causes people to not see pain, suffering.

Another Facebook friend posts, “Health care is a Human Right.”

That should make anyone laugh.

First thing you wonder is why they aren’t at least feeding one family in Africa if they truly believe that.

Or perhaps only in some places is “Health care a Human Right.”

They want to feel good and they DO feel good about themselves.

They run their life in such a way that if they feel comfortable and things are familiar, they are in their zone.

Think about it.

Belief of Entitlement

As long as THEY get their pension, it really doesn’t matter if someone “after them” doesn’t. As long as they get “theirs.”

And why is this yet-to-be-collected money from someone else who might be equally as deserving, “theirs?”

It’s a belief. And it’s got to be a very strong belief. Like a belief in God. Believing someone has a right to a pension or health care is quite another thing.

They believe they “have a pension” and they believe they “will get it.”

They believe they are entitled because they were “promised it.”

Because of this, our 35 year old friend has no need to live in any frame of mind other than Status Quo. Everything will be taken care for them like a child in diapers. They will get changed.

They truly believe that because the government or the company promised it, that they deserve it, are entitled to it.

But you and I see the obvious. There is no “it.”

Big mega-companies and of course governments of all types and sizes are constantly going bankrupt.

Big Bankrupt Business

They have billions of dollars that will be due to hundreds of thousands of 35 year olds, most of whom will never see that money. It’s just the way business goes. For people who are used to deviation, difference, unfamiliarity, and discomfort, this is all simply part of life.

For people who are not used to deviation, not used to difference, are not familiar with embracing change, the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable…they have a strong bias to “believe” something which is not ultimately possible…

They anticipate getting paid to not work. (Pension) This notion of being paid not to work has been in existence in the United States for about 70 years. Prior to that, in all of human history…no one was ever paid to not work. Why?

It’s not possible to sustain. It can’t work mathematically.

And the math is remarkably simple, but most people can’t ever even compute that problem.

That’s unfamiliar.
It’s different.
It’s deviation.

And then that Reaction-Only Individual would be entitled/deserved to be entitled to SOME KIND of compensation that doesn’t require them to do something uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

Ever hear the phrase, “another job in your field?”

Have you ever heard something more ridiculous?

Only in the last 50 years has that concept been a consideration.

It’s not in the Bible.
It’s not in evolution.
It’s largely only in the United States.

It is so strange and foreign to human thinking that it requires a very specific cultural weakness to even utter the words.

If you and I were to ask the woman in Ethiopia….the woman in rural China who earns $2 or $3 per day…they will tell you that they have never heard of such a notion because pretty much only in the United States does it exist.

This bias toward Self Protection is completely understandable.

The Optimism Bias causes people to believe _______________…

Most, but not all humans, believe they are insulated from negative events and people by being part of the hive, the collective.

The Optimism Bias causes people to believe that everything will be OK and those who try and tell them otherwise have a “negative attitude.”

The Optimism Bias

To do the math requires deviation from non-conscious control of the motivations of human behavior.

In other words, it’s not that they couldn’t figure out they won’t get their pension, it’s that when they do the math they will realize that they are about to do something dishonest. They are going to take someone else’s hard earned money so they have it and the person they steal it from doesn’t.

The math is ignored.

After all, they might think, the Pension Fund of America will kick in if the company or government doesn’t have the money, right?

That could be true as long as only a few people “lose their pension.”

Let’s just solve the entire equation now. If even 20% of employers fail to fund their promises, there are no employees working to steal the money FROM.

The first employee that gets a job would have to give all of her money to people who don’t work.

It’s not even math when it’s this uncomfortable.

It’s not a matter of intelligence.

Think about this:

There are only a small percent of people who have an IQ > 132. 2% to be precise. They are geniuses.

Everyone else is pretty close to a normal human.

Those humans all have the ability to discern and deviate but only those who are open to deviation, difference, unfamiliarity will be able to do the math. It’s not about how smart they are, it’s about their willingness to observe a horror movie and be really, really scared.

Optimism Bias

Now, perhaps the individual is stating affirmations like, “I am wonderful” and “I am at peace.”

This accomplishes nothing except keeps the conscious mind shut off for even more minutes in the day.

This, of course, is not all bad. The upside is the person is possibly more at peace.

The downside is the person is dysfunctional when faced with difference, change, stress, being in a situation they are not in control.

It is 100% understandable.

What’s happening now is that workplaces are discovering that Mindfulness and similar daily mental meditations are not helping work performance but hindering it.

It is absolutely normal human behavior.

Unfortunately, this normal human can never grow beyond where they are.

They believe they will, but they can’t until they train themselves to be uncomfortable and in unfamiliar settings.

Their day to day existence forbids anything other than assembly line thinking. There is no variation.

What percentage of the people in the world are actually Unconscious?

The Golden 10%

Ouspensky wrote that 90% of the masses are unconscious and only 10% are conscious.

There are no official numbers. I might not agree with the Russian Philosopher’s assessment. But, I would certainly agree that 90% of people are operating non-consciously over 90% of their waking hours.

An example.

I’ve cut the lawn…or a lot of people’s lawns since I was a little kid. It was only these last few years that for the first time in my life I don’t cut my own lawn every week in the non-winter months.

For me, every Sunday morning was “gotta cut the lawn, see you in an hour.”

Cutting the lawn for me is a non-conscious mind activity.

I am operating on autopilot. You pull the cord a few times and you go cut every blade of grass you come across until you are done. You go in the house and get a shower.

Non-conscious. Same day. Same exact cutting pattern.

Same exact direction of the pattern. Same…everything.

You can either sleep while you cut or think about something else. This doesn’t mean you don’t perspire. It doesn’t mean it isn’t work.

It is.

But it is familiar. It is a hamster wheel of familiarity and I am 100% competent at cutting the lawn and damn proud of the fact.

In fact, I believe I cut the lawn better than almost anyone.

I’m positive I do. I look at my lawn. I look at the neighbors.

His is OK. Mine is good.

The important part is not that I’m better than my neighbor, it’s that I’m competent at my chore.

Take me out of that element and I won’t be competent.

I know how competent I am because I look with disdain at someone who couldn’t even start the motor… forget cranking up that hill every week. I am competent and I deserve recognition for the fine work I do each week cutting my lawn.

This is how corporations and governments train the vast majority of their employees to think. As long as they can perspire, know they are competent at cutting the government/corporate lawn, they KNOW they are competent and deserve to be paid and praised for work they can do without thinking. And then continue to be paid when they stopped working, “for a living.” It is funny when you think about it.

Our vocabulary, our metaphors haven’t caught up with reality.

The worker is going to be terrified when they can no longer work where they work doing the same job over and over for the rest of their working life until they get paid to not work for their life.

Just thinking about it will create anger and distress in their mind. Their adrenaline will pump. They will get frustrated. Thinking about such a moment is deviation from the Status Quo and as long as they don’t have to deviate, they will be free from distress.

Gain Control: By doing what?

We Want Control

Each and every day, we want more control in our lives.

That requirement of control means that we have an Optimism Bias that says we’ll have more time next year. More money. And for SOME people who switch off autopilot (which = switch on stress) they probably will.

Influence: Switch OFF Autopilot to move forward

Switch OFF the Autopilot

For everyone else the computation is simple:

If people’s Self Belief, if their Self Prophecy switches OFF autopilot, then positive or negative, they can and will change.

If the Self Prophecy does NOT switch OFF autopilot, the person will not change until the job and pension are officially gone.

I know it’s difficult, but it’s probably worth getting a head start helping people understand this notion.

It’s pretty simple and it might save their future life.

It’s that simple.

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