WeCanDoItHeaderImagine that you’re going to a job interview, or to a meeting with a potential new client, or on a first date with someone that you really like. Before taking part in any of these encounters, you would do well to reflect on the dictum of Henry Ford (1863 – 1947), the founder of the Ford motor company: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you’re right.’

There’s no denying that it’s a pithy phrase but, above and beyond that, science has proved that it is true. Our brain is so open to suggestion that we can even condition how we perceive things­ something which Buddhism has been saying for over two thousand years. Buddhism posits that there is no one ‘true’ reality but as many realities as there are observers. Quantum physics and neurological research have confirmed this. According to the Chilean scientist, Humberto Maturana, each of us creates reality through our senses, thoughts and life experiences. There isn’t a world ‘out there’ and a ‘me’ separated from it. You create the world through your mental maps. In practical terms, this means that how you view the future will actually influence what happens in the endjust as Henry Ford said.

The expectations of others also exert an influence on us, as the researchers Rosenthal and Jacobs demonstrated back in the 1960s in an experiment carried out in a primary school. At the beginning of the school year, the teachers were told that one of the groups they were going to teach contained really excellent pupils, while the other one wasn’t very good. At the end of the school year, the supposedly better group got very good grades, while the other one only got average marks, as was to be expected. However, the information given to the teachers at the beginning of the year had been false. In reality, both groups were of the same academic level. This experiment helped to demonstrate the Pygmalion effect, according to which the expectations that others have of you –or that you have of yourselfaffect the final outcome. It also showed that teachers are only human, although when we went to school we seemed to forget it.

All of this goes to show that if you want to get that great job, or that new client, or to woo and wow that person you’re attracted to, you’ll be far more likely to achieve your aims if you really think that you can. Your own self-expectations will smooth (or block) the path.


  1. When you face a task that you find difficult, reflect on how you sometimes sabotage your own efforts. After this, marshall all the rational arguments you can think of to undo your ‘self-sabotage’. For example, say to yourself: Why on earth shouldn’t I get that job?
  2. Relax, and remember a time when you managed to achieve what you were aiming for. Focus on that sense of personal satisfaction, and then think about the situation that you are now facing.
  3. Before starting something that you find difficult, arm yourself with positive reinforcement, such as visualizing a pleasant situation or listening to music. Many of us who speak at conferences, for example, listen to songs before taking the stage in order to start our presentation on the right foot. Others carry around a lucky charm, a symbol or an object of sentimental value. Whatever works for you, find something that gives you strength and self-belief. And remember what the master Sun Tzu said over 2,000 years ago in his book The Art of War: ‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war.’ What you say to yourself before doing something challenging will affect the outcome.


What you say to yourself before you undertake a new venture will influence the final result.

To listen to:

An explanation of the effect of teachers’ expectations on their pupils.


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