One day while gazing at my hands, I noticed a white spot under my nail. I had never seen it before and it got me curious. What was that spot and where did it come from? It didn’t hurt. In fact, it wasn’t affecting me in any way. I just wanted to know. I was 7 years old.
Later that morning, I showed my mother the white spot under my fingernail and I asked her what it was. She looked at me seriously and without skipping a beat told me that it was a harbinger of good things to come. More specifically, she told me it meant I was soon to receive a gift. As you can imagine, my 7 year old self was completely overjoyed. I had no idea what the gift would be or who would bestow it upon me, but I was ecstatic none-the-less.
The next day, like most Sunday mornings, I was required to attend Sunday school. This was not an experience I relished, but I’d learned long before that resistance was futile. That particular Sunday however, when I arrived at school I learned that we were having some sort of assembly. I welcomed any event that allowed me to escape the dull, classroom routine so I happily made my way to the auditorium with the other kids.
I wish I could say I recalled what the assembly was about, but I don’t. If I had to guess I would say it was likely held to help us prepare (read – learn prayers) for an upcoming holiday. Again, I didn’t mind because it beat the heck out of the alternative. Once all the kids were seated, teachers handed out pencils and small raffle tickets. We were to write our names on a raffle ticket quickly and then pass our ticket and pencils to the right. Our tickets, we were soon told, would be entered into a drawing that would take place at the end of the assembly.
I assume in retrospect that this was a behavior management strategy to keep us motivated to stay engaged until the end. For me however, this was the MOST exciting news I could imagine. I could barely contain myself! THIS was the event my mother must have been referring to when she said I was going to receive a gift. Obviously, my gift would be winning the drawing. I sat straight up in my seat and I leaned over to my friend and said, “Guess what? I’m going to win this thing!” She, of course, looked at me like I had three heads. “Why would you think that?” she asked. I immediately showed her the white mark under my nail. Once again, she looked at me sideways as if to say, “and…” at which point I proceeded to share what my mother had explained to me the previous day. Though she didn’t seem convinced of my impending good fortune, I was undeterred in my expectation of winning.
While under normal circumstances, the assembly would likely have felt like it was slow moving, that day it seemed to drag on for an eternity. At last though, the time for the drawing arrived. The teacher at the front of the auditorium began to spin the raffle drum as we all watched with rapt attention. This was a room full of maybe 60 kids, aged 7 – 14 and you could literally hear a pin drop. Finally, the teacher stopped twirling the handle, opened the cage door, reached in and pulled out a name. ‘Anita Kite’ she said. My friend looked at me in COMPLETE DISBELIEF. Not me – I had no doubt in my mind that my name would be called. I walked right up to the front to claim my prize. In all honesty, I have NO recollection of what I won. I do remember vividly however, that news of my prophetic powers spread like wildfire and every kid who sat within three rows of me was meticulously scanning their fingers for a white mark on their nail.
I’ve thought about this story hundreds of times since that day and when I do, I label the experience one of ‘pure faith’. I had not one shred of doubt in my mind that I would win. I KNEW they were going to call my name. In some ways, that WAS the gift. I have asked myself over and over again what actually happened that day. Was it just coincidence that what I believed with my heart and soul actually came to pass? It’s somewhat hard to believe that, right? Yet, if serendipity couldn’t explain what happened, then what other possibilities could there be? It got me wondering, whether our expectations do in fact influence the outcomes in our life? It turns out that social scientists have asked this very question and the data suggest that they do. Wow! Mind blown. That’s pretty empowering especially when you consider that we often squander our agency with self-doubt and worry.
Science aside, I suppose one could characterize my belief back then as naiveté. Perhaps it was. What I wouldn’t give today though to have the kind of blind faith that leaves no room for second guessing (at least about some things). I’ll be honest, I envy that version of me. I envy the experience of believing in a positive outcome with all my heart and soul. I can think of so many moments in my life subsequent to that day when I could have used that degree of pure faith. What would it take for me to reconnect with that blind trust in my ability to succeed? It makes me curious about the experience others who do not struggle with self-doubt have when they embark on a new venture. What can I learn from them?
There’s a great Buddhist story (with creative liberties) about two people moving to a new town. The first person comes upon the Buddha while en route to the town and asks him what the people are like there and the Buddha replies by asking what the people were like in his former town? The person recounts that the people in the town he moved from were liars, cheats and thieves and the Buddha tells him that those are exactly the same type of people who live in the town to which he is moving. A short time later, the second person about to move to the same new town comes along and has the identical exchange with the Buddha except this person states that the people in his former town were kind, generous and compassionate. To this second person the Buddha replies that those are exactly the same type of people who live in the town to which he is moving.
Do you currently take stock of your expectations? What would you change if you really embraced the belief that your expectations impacted how things turned out in your life? What would you do with that responsibility? Now imagine something you want to achieve or a circumstance you want to alter and ask yourself: What are my expectations? Similar to my 7 year old self, you too have amazing prophetic powers. The question is: Are your expectations aligned with winning or losing?