Last week I promised to tell you about my deception of choice. Well, have you ever encountered someone who speaks of something she wishes would happen long before it has? This kind of behavior can look like deceit or outright lunacy. But if you suspend judgment for a moment, you just might find a powerful form of self-motivation–a coping mechanism, if you will, that allows those who are struggling to survive to see a light at the end of their tunnel.
There are people who speak of things that are not as though they already were. They speak of people who are struggling through life-threatening illness as though they’re already healed. They speak of debt as though it’s already paid in full. They speak of what they want to see as though it’s already a reality in their lives.
People who engage in this type of talk would be insulted or hurt at my portrayal of this as deceit, but I’ve done it to try to help others understand this behavior. I am not condoning or dismissing deceit, but I am supportive of this particular type of self-motivation because not only can it get us through tough times, it really can result in self-fulfilled prophecies!
One very public example involves a former NFL star, Michael Strahan. BEFORE winning the Superbowl, Strahan publicly predicted that the final score of the yet unplayed game would be 17-14. He finished his prediction by saying, “If you believe it, it will be so!” His team did win the Superbowl, and the final score was 17-14!
In an interview some time later, Strahan was asked what his future would hold. He replied by speaking of his future in the past tense, saying, “Strahan went on to be many times more successful outside the game than he ever was while playing football.” When asked by Regis Philbin what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, he quickly responded, “Well, who knows, Regis? Maybe one day I’ll be sitting in your chair!” That comment was made a full two years before it was announced that Regis Philbin would be retiring and a replacement would be sought. And as we all know now, of the 7 billion people on earth, it’s Michael Strahan sitting in the chair Regis used to occupy!
I’ve engaged in this kind of thing all my adult life. In fact, speaking of the way I wanted things to turn out rather than of the way they were got me through some very tough times.
When I was freshly emancipated from foster care with no money, no family, and no resources, I declared out loud that I was (not “would be”) a successful insurance broker and real estate investor. That’s exactly what I became. It was as though the act of telling myself who I was, was reprogramming my mind to believe something other than what I’d been told as a child about being no good and unwanted.
When the doctors told my husband that he was going to die, I told him to think about walks we would take on the beach in our 80’s. Every time he would try to tell me what kind of coffin he wanted, I’d talk to him about walking on the beach. Instead of dying, he made a full recovery. Although doctors said he wouldn’t walk again, he walks 5+ miles on the beach several times every week. I have no doubt that we’ll walk on the beach into our old age.
When my only child was addicted to crystal meth and cigarettes—addictions she acquired after four doctors destroyed her hopes of the one thing she wanted in life, which was to be a mother, I talked about my daughter being an excellent wife and mother and about being a healthy non-smoker. On September 7, 2004, she gave up drugs. Last year she gave up cigarettes. She is now exactly what I declared she would be—an excellent wife to the son who has enriched our family and an amazing mother to the grandchildren I prayed for.
Lest I leave you with the impression that there is some hocus pocus involved and that all you have to do is speak the words and they become reality, let me hasten to add that my spoken words were accompanied by faith-filled prayers and hard work—both as though my life depended on them.
Since this particular technique or coping mechanism has helped me get through some very rough times, I highly recommend it to those who are willing to do a few simple things.
First, quit talking about the bad situation or poor outcome or prognosis as though it’ll never get better. You may still feel worry and fear, but decide NOT to speak of these things.
Second, learn to speak in hope-filled terms about how you want the situation to turn out. For example, rather than saying, “He’s doing terribly. The doctors say he has less than 3 months to live.” Say, “The doctors are negative, but I will never give up hope of everything working out beautifully!”
Third, become familiar with the promises God has given YOU. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, there are little books filled with promises of God. Being in the midst of crisis is not the time to start studying theology or biblical exposition or exegesis. So don’t worry about which version, what esteemed professor so-and-so says, or any other philosophizing. There’ll be time for all that later. In the midst of difficulty, simply find a promise in Scripture that speaks to you and internalize it. That means to memorize it and take it as your own—as though God is speaking directly to you. Get it planted so deeply inside of you that you don’t have it, it has you.
Fourth, worry and fear are cousins and their granddaddy is the devil! When you feel worry, fear, or have thoughts of negative outcomes, literally say, “Jesus, you said that I could cast all my cares on you, so I’m asking you to take this from me.” Refuse to engage in worry because worry is the opposite of faith. Faith can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but so can worry. Don’t.
Take these four steps as though they were the protocol and prescription for complete resolution to whatever you may be going through–because they are. Every crisis is temporary, and in the midst of every difficulty lays opportunity. And one last thought…if you do these four things and nothing changes, repeat the prescription. One aspirin doesn’t cure every headache for the rest of your life. What I’m recommending isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s a life-long mode of operating. And once it becomes a lifestyle, your life will be more peaceful and joyful than you thought it could be.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.